J-Live conducted by Hugo Lunny  

J-Live Interview

December 2001

MVRemix: How do you come up with your content?

J-Live: Different things that I feel are important to talk about. Different things which I feel have never been done. Those are the two main routes I go by, I mean "Them That's Not." That song has never been done in that way, yet that's something that I feel was very important to talk about. You know, songs like 'Don't Play,' I don't think people will ever realize how much...I mean there's certain things about my lyrics which unless I sit there and explain them to you. You won't really appreciate. And when I'd explain it to you, you'd be like "What the hell is he doing?" The third verse of 'Don't Play' - the words that are rhyming...are a reversed order of the words that are rhyming in the first verse. Nobody really picked that up unless they were really deep into the lyrics. But those that are reading this article now can go back and listen to the song like "What the hell?"
'Wax Paper,' that's a song which on the surface is a song about two assassins where one of them is just out for the money, and, the other one is in love with the art that he's doing. Then on the other hand, some people will notice that the first sixteen or twenty bars are filled with terminology relating directly to the Technics 1200. It's just one big metaphor about how being a DJ I used to be able to rhyme to being an MC who happens to DJ.

MVRemix: Do you have any favourite words?

J-Live: Nah, they're like my children. I can't really choose one of them. Haha.

MVRemix: How has September 11th effected you?

J-Live: Its effected me a great deal. I mean just the day to day lifestyle in New York has changed dramatically. I have friends who have lost friends. Thankfully nobody that close to me has suffered. However, my brother and my manager's wife were working on Wall Street at the time, so...The label that I'm on right now is located right across the street from the World Trade Center. And in all, it's just fucked up generally. On one hand its brought a lot of people together, on another hand its woken a lot of people up to issues. But, I'd say it has effected me a great deal.

MVRemix: What do you feel about what's being done in trying to "resolve" the issue?

J-Live: I think that what's important...for the people that have directly been effected in my world. Is that they don't take things on the same value. I have a song called 'Satisfied' that touches on certain issues like how a lot of police officers died that day, and that's tragic. And how a lot of firefighters died that day. And that's tragic. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the issues that black people have with the police department just suddenly disappear. It doesn't mean that because Guiliani had such poise at the time, that all of the gripes about him are going to disappear. Whatever you want to say about Bush - a lot of people who are Bush advocates right now, right before it happened were still griping about how he got elected and his agenda. I just think that you have to recognize tragedy for what it is. But you can't let it blind you as to things that happened before the incident. It doesn't make the people who are working against that, "all good" all of a sudden. They're not all good.

MVRemix: On another note, let's say a...happier note. Is a freestyle, a freestyle if it's written?

J-Live: Hahahaha. Me and my girl debate about that. Not necessarily debate, but it's a constant topic. I'll put it to you like this...When I grew up, people were writing rhymes about how dope they were. That was pretty much 60% of Rakim's subject matter. 65% of KRS', 70% of Kane's subject matter, 80% of EPMD's and 100% of Special Ed's. Right? So you've got all of these rhymes about how dope you are...when are you supposed to kick them? I think "freestyling" is freestyling. If you're freestyling, you're rhyming off the head. You're coming up with something that you have not written and in the heat of a battle you need that so that you can diss the shit out of your opponent. But I think there's something to be said for all of these rhymes that people are writing for battling if they're not going to use them then you're missing out. I think people's writtens should get a lot more merit than they do in the heat of a battle. It's kind of like doing your homework. You can come and present infront of a class without any preparation and you'll still get an "A." But that doesn't mean that the kid that did his homework should get shitted on. I think freestyling in itself is very important, but there's something to be said for a person who takes the time out to write down how dope he is. No matter who he's going up against because you don't know who you're talking to when you write these rhymes. It's an ill topic. Personally, I think there's a lot of real dope freestyle-emcees that can't write verses. And a lot of dope freestyle-emcees that can write verses but can't write songs. And a lot of dope emcees that write verses but can't freestyle for shit. It's just a matter of which ceremony are you mastering at the time. If you're going to be an emcee there's many different ceremonies you have to master. Some have mastered the ceremony of getting radio play. Some have mastered the ceremony of being a battle emcee off the head, some have mastered writing songs - I'd say that's more of my specialty right now. As a songwriter I'm looking outside of Hip Hop for my influences right now. Whereas before, I would say I want to be a songwriter like KRS or Rakim or Chuck D. Now I'm saying I want to be a songwriter like Marvin Gaye or Sade or Stevie Wonder. J-Live Interview

Can I Get It'? You never know. I mean someday, if my career takes it to that level than I may do some kind of best of or revisit a bunch of songs. That's a song I'd love to revisit. If I had another chance to flip it in a different way. So you never know. I'm more concerned with making sure people are familiar with my newer material."

MVRemix: When your material is reviewed by a critic and the critic isn't feeling it. How do you react to that?

J-Live: I haven't seen much of that. Haha. I know that there are certain songs within my circle (my manager, my label, my friends) that I get proper criticism from. That are songs which I find out are either gonna be alright or...do you really need somebody to love or hate them? You just take it in stride. People aren't going to love everything you do. That's just the bottom line.

MVRemix: What are you currently working on?

J-Live: The new album. It's coming out in March, called 'All Of The Above.' On production it's me, Spinna and Yusef Dinero. I'm trying to keep a short list of producers so that the record will have a certain vibe to it. But it's still pretty eclectic like the last one.

MVRemix: Are you going to be doing any more work with Pete Rock and Primo?

J-Live: Perhaps someday, but not on this particular project.

MVRemix: What are you most/least proud of creating?

J-Live: Most proud of - I'd say 'The Best Part.' Least proud of, maybe 'Can I Get It.' 'Cause I feel like that song, had I had it to do over again I would have had a beat that more fit the song so that you can appreciate the story. I like that song, but it's the song I go to the least out of all of them.

MVRemix: That kind of cancels out my following question, because I was going to ask you if that's going to resurface again.

J-Live: 'Can I Get It'? You never know. I mean someday, if my career takes it to that level than I may do some kind of best of or revisit a bunch of songs. That's a song I'd love to revisit. If I had another chance to flip it in a different way. So you never know. I'm more concerned with making sure people are familiar with my newer material.

MVRemix: Do you have any plans to change yourself in 2002 - like a New Years Resolution?

J-Live: Nah, I figure if you feel the need to change something in October, you change it in October. Haha.

MVRemix: Other than the album being released. What is going to be going on with you in the next year?

J-Live: I'm hopefully going to be more involved in the "Do Things For The Kids" foundation, 7Heads. Get a couple of after-school programs going at the school I used to teach at. Just make myself more available to the kids out here in this neighbourhood. Get to a lot more "Open Mics," so I can see what everybody's doing. I plan on touring as much as I can - but it's a pretty simple life for me right now.

MVRemix: Do you have any non-musical aspirations? I mean, I'm wondering whether you would choose to write books, or scripts or something of that nature?

J-Live: I'd like to develop a curriculum actually that can kind of get kids going with using Hip Hop as a tool for literature. So studying Hip Hop as a form - lyric by lyric - it's kind of a spoken art. Taking lyrics on paper for close reading the way that people do. In terms of books - I dabbled in writing articles with a website a while ago, and that was fun. So, if I had the time I'd probably get back into that. Try and be a true Hip Hop journalist instead of just a fan of the magazines. Those things are probably in my distant future.

MVRemix: Are there any last words you'd like to put to your fans and/or potential fans?

J-Live: Just to those that have 'The Best Part' no matter how they got it. Thank you, I hope you liked it. And if it comes out, feel free to go get it again because I'm sure there'll be a couple of things different on it. Enjoy what's coming up next because I think we'll be pushing the envelope a little bit more. I don't know if it's better per se but it's definitely different and a continuation of what's going on from '99 until now.

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