Burlington-born rapper North Ave Jax is aiming for global stardom

Jackson Sevakian’s goals are not modest.

“Long term, I just want to be a global superstar,” said the Burlington native who is making a name for himself in the music world under the stage name North Avenue Jax. “I want to be able to travel the world.”

His dreams have always been big, but the 20-year-old didn’t always feel like he had a chance to make those dreams come true. Then an executive at a major label imprint, Interscope Records, discovered Sevakian’s music and flew him to the label’s headquarters in Atlanta the next day to sign him to a deal.

Now, videos of the Burlington High School dropout’s songs have soared to more than a million views online, and he’s set to perform at the biggest concert hall in his home country. North Ave Jax – the nickname reflects his upbringing in the New North End of Burlington – co-headlines a bill Saturday April 16 at Higher Ground.

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“I feel like when you hear music like his, it cuts out all the noise,” said Kelly Butts-Spirito, a friend of Sevakian’s since they were students at Hunt Middle School, who helps the rapper in his career. “It’s like, whoa, it’s legit.”

Flo Rida, Jay-Z change his life

Sevakian said he had been surrounded by music all his life, having been exposed to rock music by his father, Aram Sevakian, a drummer. Jackson was part of a freshman rock band that played at 242 Main, Burlington’s legendary and now defunct youth music club.

He remembers being in the Barnes & Noble bookstore in South Burlington when he was 8 or 9 years old and putting on a pair of headphones to listen to a CD by rapper Flo Rida. He heard the song “Low”.

“What is it? It’s the best music I’ve ever heard in my life,” Sevakian recalled. “What makes it so special is that I found it through myself.” Then he got into Jay-Z and started his way into the world of hip hop.

Sevakian’s other passion was basketball, which he played at Burlington High School. Eventually, however, the music began to take over his interests and he lost interest in basketball. He said he was kicked off the team and dropped out of high school.

Sevakian said he does not tolerate dropping out of school. “I felt like I had a different focus, which was the music,” he said. “Just listen to the guts.”

“What’s important about this,” Butts-Spirito added, “is that there are different routes.”

Burlington's Jackson Sevakian (5) jumps for a lay up during the boys basketball game between the Burlington Sea Horses and the South Burlington Wolves at South Burlington High School on Friday night December 13, 2019 in South Burlington, Vermont.

Signed to division of Interscope Records

Sevakian loves Vermont for its four seasons and natural beauty, he said, but found the state too isolated from the rest of the United States to feel like he could make it in the music business. .

“I didn’t fully feel the confidence until I left,” said Sevakian, who now lives in Atlanta.

Butts-Spirito, who attends college in Brooklyn, said he also felt that isolation in Vermont. “You feel like it’s not possible,” he said.

He said it seemed like adults in Vermont thought it wasn’t possible, but Grammy-winning record executives who saw a video of Sevakian on Interscope’s TikTok page earning over a million views thinks its success is possible.

“Me and Jackson, school wasn’t a strength, organization isn’t a strength, but creativity is a strength,” said Butts-Spirito, who filmed videos in Vermont for the songs. of North Ave Jax “Trust Nobody” and “Play Dumb” and presents Saturday’s show through its concert promotion entity Love, Kelly. “Everyone has their own strength.”

Now that he’s found his calling in the rap world, Sevakian wants to make sure other young people in Vermont don’t feel like he’s been stuck. Many of the acts supporting his show at Higher Ground are young hip-hop artists from Vermont.

No matter how big his shows and his career, Sevakian said, he wants to come back to Vermont to show young people that they can have the opportunity to do what he does.

“I hope there are kids who are much better than us,” Sevakian said. “It would be the coolest thing in the world, to have such an effect.”

If you are going to

WHAT: SSGKobe and North Ave Jax with Rich Amiri, Real Ricky, KAMI OKI, HAKIMXOXO, Johnny Wanzer, King Cobras and The Elites

WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Saturday April 16

OR: Higher Ground Ballroom, South Burlington

INFORMATION: $25 in advance, $30 the day of the show. www.highergroundmusic.com

Contact Brent Hallenbeck at [email protected] Follow Brent on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BrentHallenbeck.