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J-Zone - conducted by Philip Oliver  


J-Zone

June 2000

These are the transcripts of an interview with J-Zone, conducted by Philip Oliver on June 28th, 2000. J-Zone was the first emcee to release anything (in this case an EP) within that "Tha-Real" (MVRemix' predecessor) had given a "10/10" to.


MVRemix: I'll be honest I didn't know much about you before 'Bottle of Whup Ass.' This EP was the first material I had heard from you but I understand this isn't your first EP and you released 'Music for Tu Madre' (Music for ya mother) a few years back, so for myself and others out there can you tell me about yourself, that project and "Bottle of Whup Ass"...

J-Zone: I had spent my whole childhood playing various instruments and collectin' records. I got into hip-hop when I was 11, in '88. I started DJ'ing and dabbling with writin' rhymes about 91, and started makin' beats in '92. I was doin' little one-man demos in high school, and I eventually met Vance Wright (Slick Rick's DJ). He had a studio and he taught me how to engineer. I went to college after that (SUNY Purchase) in New York and majored in music production. My first EP, "Music for Tu Madre" was actually my senior project for college. I did all the beats, engineering and cuts. I rhymed on some of it and had some guests on the mic. I put it out on vinyl after everyone kept tellin' me to, in 1999. It was critically acclaimed, but I didn't know about promotion, hittin' off DJ's, nuthin'. It was only on vinyl and tapes (I actually did the tape covers at hole in the wall print shops, standin' there foldin' and cuttin' the j-cards. I did mad grunt work) The record sold itself. I just dropped it to mad distributors and did a lot of consignment. As a result, the buzz was scattered and it was a little tough to find. This new EP, I'm tryin' to push harder and I only got 2 guest MC's. It's more focused and where as the first EP wasn't meant to come out, this one was.

MVRemix: How do you feel about getting a perfect 10 at "Tha-Real" for the EP? (Considering only albums like 'Illmatic' and 'Resurrection' have gained that grade)

J-Zone: I'm honored that you like my music. It's an ill feeling to be ranked with classic albums like that.

MVRemix: So how has the EP been received elsewhere?

J-Zone: Pretty good. As usual, it gets more love overseas. I just got back from touring in Australia and it amazes me how little of a role politics has in music. Over there, if you make good music, the word spreads and people buy your shit. Here, you need mad promo items, big name guests, radio edits, videos and a lot of press to get props. The market is flooded.

MVRemix: Apart from reading reviews and hearing snippets of the album, how else you gonna convince people to pick up this EP? You got 10 words to convince readers in this interview!

J-Zone: Buy it. If you don't love it, you love N'Sync.

MVRemix: Your pretty much a 'realest' emcee as I call it, meaning you don't try and front, you just talk about what a lot of people go through and not what they aspire to be, I mean your not taking yourself too seriously, something which pisses me off about hip hop with some artists, do you miss that element in hip hop these days?

J-Zone: Hell yeah. All I hear on records is high profilin'. Fuck that. My car is dented up, I got no game, I'm backed up like rush hour...shit, I jerk off like ya'll drink Poland Spring in the summer. I don't care. I front for nobody

MVRemix: So are the stories your telling on the EP true or your just changing experiences so they sound dope when told through verses?

J-Zone: Both. Some of it is fantasy and ill thoughts, some of it is 100% true.

MVRemix: What's up with your artwork for the EP?

J-Zone: My grandma, Evil E, appears on both EP covers. The old one, she had her middle finger up, smokin' a cigar with a bat and a 40 oz. The new EP, she's on a 40 oz label with a bat. It makes people pick up the record and wonder, "What the fuck?" It's unique and a 50% chance of a sale. No disrespect to anyone, but I'm sick of the subway motif covers, the graffiti covers, or a picture of the MC just sittin' there. Honestly, I find most hip-hop all out boring, even the album covers. Everyone is clonin'.

MVRemix: Do you feel there's any other artists out there right now on the same level as you?

J-Zone: No!

MVRemix: Who do you think is getting too much shine right now or real undeserved attention and props?

J-Zone: I feel Lauryn is overrated. I just pissed off a million people by sayin that, but...oh, well.

MVRemix: I noticed the production on the album is fucking tight, you produce yourself right? Well what equipment do you use and how you come up with your sound? Cos if anything its pretty versatile and where the hell did you get all those sound clips and odd samples from?

J-Zone: Yeah, I produced everything. I use an MPC-2000 and a basic studio set-up. I just listen to all types of records, watch ill movies and listen for the unorthodox. I'm not with that $100 for a loop shit.

MVRemix: And did you do all the cuts and scratches yourself? Because they are pretty impressive, you like to take control of the whole project?

J-Zone: I did the cuts too. I have a vision when I make music and I feel I can execute my vision best. I trust my ears.

MVRemix: And the guests, are Huggy Bear & Al Shid signed to your label? Or just some of your peoples you are putting on?

J-Zone: Huggy Bear and Al-Shid are the dopest MC's I know. I put 'em on all my projects to expose them and add a balance. I'm producing solo joints for them now. Expect 12"'s from them by the fall.

MVRemix: If I had to pick one track as the tightest I would say its "The Smurf Syndrome," as hard as it is do you have a favorite track on the EP?

J-Zone: I like different songs for different reasons. I can't narrow it to one. "190" is one of my favorites though. Al-Shid flipped the concept well.

MVRemix: When I spoke to you after hearing the EP you were said that there may be a compilation coming out on your label, what can we expect from that?

J-Zone: I'm more focused on beats now and developing Old Maid Entertainment, my label. I got a lot of new material, but I think calling my next project a J-Zone project would be a little misleading. Expect a lot from me with the beats, tryin to produce and remix for other artists and tryin to bring out Huggy and Al-Shid. Expect me to keep breakin the rules too! I hate conformity in music.

MVRemix: And what else can we expect from you as an artist?

J-Zone: As for rhymes and focusing on being an artist...it depends on my mood. I only rhyme when I got stuff on my mind. I won't rap about wack MC's for a whole album.

MVRemix: We ask everyone this but how do you feel about the Internet and hip hop? Recently I got pissed off with it killing it in a way, through bootlegging which cancels out the good aspects, you got any experiences good or bad with the net so far?

J-Zone: It's great that a kid in the middle of the boonies can hear and buy my music. But it sucks that the same people talkin' about "Support indie hip-hop", are puttin' up my whole album for MP3 download. I caught a few sites pullin' that shit with my stuff. I pay for and do everything myself, so it's unfair. But if they take my profits and I don't have money to put out more music, then they have the audacity to wonder why I got a 3 year hiatus? People think that just because I may not make music for the sole purpose of makin' money, that I should be broke. If I don't get paid, you don't get new music and I don't eat. Ras Kass said it best: "Make a radio hit, heads criticize it/ underground classic nobody buys it." You can't win in hip-hop and bootleggers should be stabbed with rusty scissors.

MVRemix: And what about these Internet emcees? Do you think its just a chance for mediocre artists to release their crap to a bigger audience or actually get some valuable feedback and shine through this medium?

J-Zone: Haha. That hard drive MC shit is weak. Lyrics are 50%, flow is the other half. You can't tell the flow on a screen. Kids do that corny shit in the comfort of their bedrooms. Get on stage and risk gettin' booed. Make demos, do songs, then we can talk.

MVRemix: Finally this is a chance for you to give a shout out to anyone out there before we go? You got a website to check or an email that you can be contacted on?

J-Zone: A shout out to "Tha-Real" for givin' me some light, even though I'm not the most promoted well known person. Many thanks. Peace to all supporting J-Zone and the crew and peace to Eazy-E, Ol Dirty Bastard, Prince Paul and all pimp/gangster rappers for bringin humor and entertainment to the game. BUY THE EP! It wont leave rotation in your deck, and that's a promise. My website is www.zonesite.net.





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