Jawsh 685 – born Joshua Nanai – is the third of four children born to a father from Samoa and a mother from the Cook Islands, who met in New Zealand. (685 is the country code for Samoa, although Jawsh has never been there.) Manurewa, in South Auckland, has been a magnet for Pasifika communities for decades. “A lot of people like to talk openly about where I come from,” Jawsh said. “It’s not as bad as what people say.”
Her parents listened to “old island music”, Elvis Presley, and also Britney Spears and Mariah Carey. But he mostly listened to siren jam on YouTube, where some channels specialize in publishing the latest ones, all independently produced and released.
When he decided he wanted to make them himself, he contacted the only producer he knew, who wouldn’t give up all secrets. So Jawsh decided to teach himself. As with many production styles, there are distributed sample packs that contain lots of core sounds for building songs.
Working on a broken laptop and using the ubiquitous FL Studio production schedule, Jawsh said he made the original “Laxed” in about four hours. Unlike many traditional pop or hip-hop producers who might focus primarily on rhythm and leave songwriting to others, Jawsh has included melodic lines in his production.
Basically, he had mapped out a plan for a singer to take and add, which is exactly what Derulo did. Over the course of this year, Derulo, an early 2010 pop-R&B star, had become something of a TikTok phenomenon, micro-attuned to app trends. In May, after Jawsh’s song became a TikTok showpiece, Derulo put the lyrics in it – calling his version “Savage Love” – even though he and Jawsh had not yet reached a formal agreement. Eventually, though, the two artists’ representatives struck a deal to properly release the song with Jawsh as the lead artist and Derulo as the featured guest. (Derulo representatives did not respond to requests for comment.)
Despite the friction, Jawsh was thrilled to see that a star of Derulo’s stature had become trapped in his composition. “It’s exciting to know that you created the melody, and then now you hear someone singing words instead of the melody itself,” he said.