Versatile production duo Jonathan Hay and Mike Smith, aka Smith and Hay, have made a name in hip-hop, R&B, and jazz. Since releasing their recorded debut single, the ballad “Maybe,” in 2017, Smith and Hay have collaborated with the likes of Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, Parliament-Funkadelic’s Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey, and heavyweight session musician Jerry Hey, along with numerous newcomers including vocalist Ranna Royce. A deluxe edition of the duo’s guest-filled lounge-rap album Jazz. topped Billboard’s Jazz Albums chart in 2018, and within months was followed by comparatively street- and pop-oriented Whoodlum Ball, which involved veteran MCs and younger vocalists amid references to the Archies and Elvis Presley.
Jonathan Hay grew up listening to his mother play piano, and experimented with hip-hop and electronic music in high school. He got his start in the music business as a publicist, and developed a reputation for his bold, controversial approach to spreading the word about his clients, which included fabricating salacious rumors about their lives and careers. Hay has worked with Death Row Records, Sony Music, Rihanna, Wiz Khalifa, Ice Cube, and many other major artists. Hay met Mike Smith when the songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer approached him about working as his publicist. (Smith had worked with RZA, T.I., the Game, and DJ Khaled, among others.) Soon, the two became collaborators as they launched a record label, SMH Records, and became involved with BET’s hip-hop talent search show One Shot.
The duo’s work together naturally extended to the recording studio. In 2014, Smith and Hay joined forces with King Tech for When Music Worlds Collide, which featured a variety of noted hip-hop artists, including Inspectah Deck, Cyhi the Prynce, Royce da 5’9″, and Kool G Rap, and many more. The album was released in May 2015, with a revised and expanded edition, Deluxe: When Music Worlds Collide, following in July 2016. Eager to prove that their talents didn’t begin and end with rap, in September 2017 Smith and Hay issued Jazz., an ambitious effort that mixed jazz with elements of hip-hop and R&B. A reworked and expanded edition, Jazz Deluxe, followed in January 2018 and topped Billboard’s Jazz Albums chart. Only a few months later, they cracked the Billboard 200 with The Whoodlum Ball. Presented by DJ Whoo Kid with vocalist Ranna Royce present throughout, the album likewise involved numerous guests, including RZA and Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey, and contained references to songs popularized by Elvis Presley (“Can’t Help Falling in Love”), the Archies (“Sugar, Sugar”), and Marcy Playground (“Sex and Candy”).