At 18-years old, Jason Goolsby was wrongfully restrained by Washington, D.C. Metro Police officers. They responded to a call alleging suspicious activity outside of a Citibank in the Southeast quadrant of the city. If you check the transcript of the pre-emptive 9-1-1 call, you can understand the lack of probable cause and the absurdity of detaining three adolescent boys, who at the time of the incident, were “waiting at the door to let people in…”
This was over three years ago in 2015. Protests followed with the trending hashtag, “#JusticeForJason.” Law suits were filed. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser reneged on a promise to sit face-to-face with Goolsby. And since then, 2,946 American citizens have been shot and killed by police.
“I feel like life has always been fairy tales. Now when I talk to kids, I don’t try to scare them, I just try to let them know that shit is real,” Goolsby told me.
Goolsby is more commonly known as Jay, or Jay Cousteau, at least in D.C.’s creative community. That’s how I met the rapper/streetwear designer/party-thrower in November—unaware of his past.
Cousteau is the name of the artist collective in which Jay belongs. Founded in 2015, it is a band of multi-faceted creators spanning music, fashion, graphic design, and photography. They are a rambunctious group of youth as seen during their brother and founder El Cousteau’s set at U Street Music Hall the day after Christmas, but they also support the community hosting annual holiday toy drives.
“We’re on the same team. Everybody has their own thing, but we all fall under one family tree,” he said regarding Cousteau.
Approaching 22-years old, the Northeast, D.C. native spent the better part of 2018 curating and releasing content. Maketto, a multi-purpose, boutique restaurant and retail spot on H Street, Northeast, has become a central creative outlet for the rapper, hosting pop-ups and music events at the venue. We’re sick we missed his summer extravaganza featuring rising talents including Odd Mojo, Lil’ Dream, and El Cousteau as well as established DJs Filet Mignon, Koleco, and Manesqueeze.
“When people say D.C. is crabs in a barrel that’s excuses,” he said. “We can eliminate the crabs in a barrel.”
Collage, ransom note-style letters accentuate Jay’s most recent musical offering, Chuck Brown Cousteau. It is a nod to D.C.’s most famous Go-go musician while also positioning the Cousteau collective as the next torchbearers of District culture. “I always pay homage to my city,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest statement Jay made last year, though, was the release of his “Cousteau” sweatshirts. Black hoodies emblazoned with a red “Cousteau” across the chest hid a message only visible from the back of the garments with their hood raised, reading “Mind Your Fucking Business.” It is a powerful statement when you consider the racial symbolism of black sweatshirts alone, but also as you understand Jay’s racial context in Washington, D.C. Yet to be honest, just as the hoodies allude, I don’t think Jay is concerned with people knowing his past. The fact that I gathered pertinent details about his incident with police from old news reels, and not Goolsby himself, reiterates the sentiment that Jay is not defined by his past nor does he want his past to define his work today.
Peruse Jay Cousteau’s SoundCloud and listen to some of our favorites below.