Suffering from a stutter so severe that it can keep him from completing a sentence, 13-year-old Jake Zeldin struggled to stay positive during his formative younger years.
Leaving the Hard Knocks Behind
During a summer away from home three years ago, however, Jake found an unlikely solution for rising above his speech impediment.
Before he spent that metamorphic summer away from home, Jake endured endless taunting at the hands of cruel classmates and, sadly, even teachers. Today, the Toronto, Ontario, native effortlessly spits rap lyrics onstage to the delight of screaming fans. He goes by "Lil JaXe" — the "X" in his musical moniker a nod to something the teen never knew he had... the X factor. So how did he, after some of the world's most noted speech therapists failed to do so, cure his crippling stutter? Actually, he didn't. In an as-of-yet unexplained occurrence, Jake's stutter vanishes entirely when he raps, only to return when he drops the mic. We caught up with the lyrical cutie to talk about the power of being positive, mingling with music icons and, of course, girls.
SheKnows: You shocked your mother, Robyn, when you announced you wanted to become a rapper. How did you discover your talent?
Lil JaXe: When I was 10, I went away for the summer to overnight camp and, while I was there, the camp had a rap battle. I was always interested in music and thought I would try it out. The words just started flowing out of my mouth, and I could not believe what was going on.
"I have proven that you can really do anything you want to do if you try hard enough. "
SheKnows: Your stutter completely disappears when you rap, but you still deal with it daily. Has rapping given you more confidence?
Lil JaXe: Yes! Rapping has really improved my confidence and self-esteem. I have proven that you can really do anything you want to do if you try hard enough. It was my goal to be heard and discovered, and I kept trying until it happened.
SheKnows: Bullies used to be a big problem for you. Do the haters bother you less now?
Lil JaXe: Sometimes I still have problems with bullies, but most people respect my passion and my dreams... and it doesn't hurt that I have some really famous and important people in my corner!
SheKnows: What kind of things do you like to rap about most?
Lil JaXe: I like to rap about my story and being inspirational to others. I like to keep it positive and happy and, for the most part, clean. I really like to put a message in most of my songs — to live your dream, or to be strong, or to live life to the fullest.
SheKnows: You've managed to meet a ton of music superstars such as Busta Rhymes, Katy Perry and even your idol, Drake. How does it feel to be in such cool company?
Lil JaXe: I have wanted to meet famous people and show them what I can do since I was 10. I have met some great, fascinating people who are so kind, and who support me and really believe in me. It is quite cool to be able to meet and hang out with them in person.
Lil Jaxe's favs
SheKnows: We're total "Thomas Edison" fans... and we're not alone. The video has drawn hundreds of thousands of clicks on YouTube. What was it like working with R&B singer Karl Wolf?
Lil JaXe: I met Karl in September 2011, when I waited 2-½ hours in the rain to meet him and rap for him — it was my dream to get noticed by him. In December, he made my dream come true when he signed me to a management deal. I had this song that was called "New People" at the time, and Karl listened to the verses and had the vision to call it "Thomas Edison." It was super cool working with him to record the song and the video.
SheKnows: You're going to be featured on a children's compilation called Pacha's Pajamas, which includes contributions from rap legends Mos Def and Talib Kweli. Do you feel like you've arrived?
Lil JaXe: I don't totally feel like I've made it yet. I am so honored to be featured with those great rappers who I respect and look up to so much, but I feel I still have a long way to go. I am hoping for a record label contract, and then maybe I will feel a bit more accomplished.
SheKnows: You've gone from being picked on at school to becoming one of rap's rising stars. What would you say to other kids going through a tough time who feel like giving up?
"...My message is not to let one small thing or disability get in your way. Follow your dream no matter what happens and no matter who turns you down — just keep your head up high. "
Lil JaXe: I often get emails from kids and young adults who are going through similar issues, and my message is not to let one small thing or disability get in your way. Follow your dream no matter what happens and no matter who turns you down — just keep your head up high. The lows are low, but when the highs come they are really amazing, and it is totally worth persevering the bad to get there.
SheKnows: When you aren't rapping, how do you spend your spare time?
Lil JaXe: I love to draw, paint and create clay sculptures. I hang with my friends, and I love going to the movies. Most of all, I love to freestyle with people.
SheKnows: All right, we have to ask lest our daughters, nieces and/or little sisters strangle us... do you have a girlfriend?
Lil JaXe: At the moment, I do not have anyone because I am focusing on my music and career... however, I keep my options open in case that amazing person walks through my door.
SheKnows: Anything coming up we should know about?
Lil JaXe: I just released my new song on YouTube called "Young Fresh and Foolish" ten days ago — and it already has over 52,000 views! I hope to release my new song "Made It" by the end of the summer.
All images courtesy of liljaxe.com
Watch: Thomas Edison ft. Karl Wolf
Lil JaXe, Karl Wolf, and Beat Merch team up to make Lil JaXe's first official music video, "Thomas Edison."
More celebrity interviews
New mom Hilary Duff on losing weight after Luca and keeping the love alive