J-Live conducted by Hugo Lunny  

J-Live Interview

December 2001

These are the transcripts of an interview with J-Live. The interview was conducted by Hugo Lunny on December 6th, 2001. J-Live is well known as a talented emcee from the NY independent scene. His heavily bootlegged album 'The Best Part' was never properly released, but still is praised heavily and has aided create J-Live a very nice reputation.

MVRemix: How did you begin?

J-Live: Um...I was born in 1976. Haha.

MVRemix: That's a pretty good start actually.

J-Live: Mama said I cried a lot, Doctor smacked me. Haha. I guess I started out around about the age of 12 in Junior high school, I started rhyming. Started spinning - got a little Gemini starter kit...Screwing up, spinning along, liking Hip Hop.

How did you grow up? I mean was your home situation a poor one? A wealthy one? What was the situation you grew up within?

J-Live: Just me and my moms, she did a great job. I mean we wasn't poor but we sure weren't rich either.

MVRemix: How did you manage to get your material "out there"?

J-Live: In '95 I had an internship with Rawshack. They put out 'Braggin' Writes' and 'Can I Get It' a year after that. J-Live Interview

"I do what comes naturally to me as a writer. Whether I choose a character to describe or to be autobiographical or to just try to be riding with a concept or... Well, from there, the beat."

MVRemix: How well was that received?

J-Live: Well, 'Braggin' Writes' got me into The Source's "Unsigned Hype," a lot of underground radio play. And 'Can I Get It' kind of doubled that, so then I got signed to London in '97.

MVRemix: Did you have any jobs prior to doing what you've been doing?

J-Live: When I first put a record out, I was a sophomore in college. When I graduated I was teaching in Brownsville; 7th grade English. And then I went over to Bushwick and taught 8th grade English.

MVRemix: Do you still teach?

J-Live: Nah, I'm taking this year off because I'm trying to do music full time right now. It's like a lot of touring and stuff, so...

MVRemix: So, what happened with regards to your album being released? I mean I remember hearing about and seeing it heavily bootlegged both on and offline.

J-Live: Well, I mean there was a lot of bootlegging because the record was released to the press in '99. Right before London and Universal parted ways. So, the record was shelved. I was on Universal while London was on Warner Brothers.

MVRemix: Because I just remember hearing and seeing about bootlegs and things of that nature and everyone actually complimenting it. But, nobody was able to get a legitimate copy

J-Live: Right.

MVRemix: Didn't they release some sort of semi-official release with half the tracks a few months ago?

J-Live: No, that was also a bootleg.

MVRemix: Are there any plans to release it properly or are you just working on releasing new material?

J-Live: Well, I am working on new material. I've got an album that's called 'All Of The Above' that's coming out in March. It's possible that there will be a legitimate release of 'The Best Part' in January. But we don't know that for sure, we're not really able to speak on that.

MVRemix: So now I'm trying to get deeper into your character to find out what sort of a person "J-Live" actually is. So, would you say "the glass" is half full or half empty?

J-Live: What do you mean? Which glass?

MVRemix: I mean in a metaphorical sense, how do you see things, positively or negatively?

J-Live: I'd like to think that the glass is 60% full. It's cool around half, I try to be accurate.

MVRemix: Are there any incidents of note that you could say have helped shape your character?

J-Live: Well, my culture is 5%. My mother raised me well. I enjoyed my college experience very much. I've enjoyed traveling the world as a result of Hip Hop. So I guess you could say those four things shaped the man who you see.

MVRemix: Where do you find you're best received around the world?

J-Live: See, that's a tough one. I mean the last few tours I've done. Well, tours used to be show dates. Where I would go out, have a weekend here, a weekend there. I would say have a week out in Europe, then a two week tour in Europe, then a three week tour in Europe. I'm actually getting ready to go out there for a month. I've got a lot of fans out in Cali. A lot of fans here (NY). Overseas, I suppose England and Germany know me the best.

MVRemix: That's not a bad following. I mean, I'm from the UK so I know how the scene is in London.

J-Live: But, I mean, even outside of London. I mean I'll go to Ipswitch or Leeds or something and there'll be 20 year old girls knowing all the words to my songs. So, it's kind of cool.

MVRemix: How do you feel about the changing face of Hip Hop? I mean economically it's much bigger than it used to be...do you feel there's room for everyone? Or is it that just the few will become prosperous and others will keep trying?

J-Live: I think it's just a microcosm for life. Because you have a situation where the lack of contrast leads to where people don't get every colour of the spectrum in the mainstream. That's why they call it "underground," because you have to dig it up. So, with that being said you have the situation where the average person has "X" amount of music shoved in his face and "X" amount of music that he doesn't ever get to hear. So, I mean that's the face of Hip Hop right now. Within the "mainstream" or within the "underground." I mean if you look passed those pigeonholes; you have good music and bad music. You have people pushing the envelope and doing things that are generally innovative and creative. And you have people who are just on an assembly line trying to sell records instead of trying to make music. And, that's true in the mainstream as well as the underground. The underground has its assembly line too. I think a lot of people don't realize that when they tell you; "Oh this is pop!" or "This is grimey!" or "This is avant-guard!" They don't necessarily realize that it's a lot more to do with the budget of the label and the interests of an artist.

MVRemix: Do you strive to make a record, which in your eyes is worthy? Or are you trying to also please people?

J-Live: I do what comes naturally to me as a writer. Whether I choose a character to describe or to be autobiographical or to just try to be riding with a concept or... Well, from there, the beat. It's just basically what I like. I'm not going to rhyme to what I dislike. I like a lot of different types of beats. They vary from I guess where they're from. Be it Bossonova, or Jazz, Funk, Reggae, what have you. That reflects me. A lot of people describe the first album as being eclectic - that's just because of the type of music I listen to. After you finish with rhymes and beats, delivery kind of comes from how you get comfortable developing your style. Like, I'm starting to write songs which are geared on trying to move a crowd. So when you combine all those things together - I feel like I have a niche, where I have a strong fan base of people who are looking for what I do. So, I'm not really concerned with people who are not interested. I mean as that fan base grows outside of time, so be it. But I'm not going to go outside of myself to develop it.

>>> continued...

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