While most rappers are either rhyming about shooting people, selling crack, pimping women, or how rich they are, J-Zone rhymes about how cheap he is, how he loves to date women with more money than he has so they can buy him dinner, and about his Mazda Protégé, which is falling apart.
Sure, he loves and needs money but he approaches the themes of money and pimping with such an exaggerated style that the result is uproarious. J-Zone has always been a beat-maker first. He has produced for Eastern Conference Records and created some stellar beats for Tame-One’s “When Rappers Attack” album. He has also done production for The High & Mighty, R.A. The Rugged Man, Al Shid, Cage, Princess Superstar, and others.
On his own label, Old Maid Entertainment, J-Zone released the albums “Music For Tu Madre”, “A Bottle Of Whup Ass”, and “Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes”. In 2003, J-Zone has released his tightest album to date, “Sick Of Being Rich”. Producing every single beat by himself, “Sick Of Being Rich” has guests like Celph Titled, Masta Ace, King T, and J-Ro of Alkaholiks. Not only does the LP include his crew but his pimped out alter-ego, Captain Backslap.
While many East Coast or New York emcees rhyme about selling drugs or kick battle rhymes, J-Zone considers himself a “personality” rapper. He is trying to bring the fun back into hip-hop. Most of his songs have hilarious themes, stories, and characters.
Although he is influenced by everything from underground to mainstream hip-hop along with funk music, J-Zone has a special love for West Coast gangsta rap like E-40, Suga Free, and B-Legit. Obnoxious, loud, brash, and a little crazy, J-Zone is truly bringing the fun back into hip-hop. He’s not afraid to say anything and he’s also not afraid to laugh at himself. On an autumn evening in 2003, I had an in-depth conversation with J-Zone about making beats, hip-hop, Queens, Westchester, women, rhymes, basketball, samplers, drum programming, the golden era, and much more. J-Zone may be cheap with his money but he’s generous with the time he spends on his music. When it comes to music, he’s a rich man. When it comes to fly girls, clothes, cars, and jewelry, he’s ballin’ on a budget.
MVRemix: What goes on?
J-Zone: Chillin, man. I’m lampin’. I just got back from London. It was cold and rainy over there. It’s always cold and always rainy. There was a blackout over there. I went through a couple of blackouts in like 2 months because there was a big one over here in New York.”
MVRemix: Your new album is called ‘Sick Of Being Rich’. Tell us about it? Who is on it? Can you explain the title a bit?
J-Zone: I just got tired of having so much money, man. I had to get it out of my system. It ain’t easy to ball so hard. I wasn’t planning on making another album after ‘Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes’ and was trying to shop beats but the beat market isn’t that great right now in terms of money and opportunities. I did a joint for Biz Markie and my own Old Maid label. I started just messing around. I started writing and I made 12” last summer for ‘Ho Kung-Fu’ and that did well. People said that they wanted to hear more. At first, I said that I was through with it and that I’m sick of being rich. Most of the songs were made with me, by myself, with me in the basement. I make the beats I want to make and write the rhymes I wanted to write. The reason why the album is so ridiculous is because I never really meant to put it out. I just did it for fun. I said to myself ‘I’m gonna rap about this dumb sh*t. I’m gonna get on a record and be a nut.’ I did it and after a while, I was feeling it.”
MVRemix: How are people reacting to this new album?
J-Zone: With this new album, I’m noticing a shift. There are some people who never heard my stuff before, like it and some people, who loved my old stuff, don’t like the new one. I just make what I want to make. If I notice that certain people are feeling a direction that I’m going in, I’ll try to work it and plug that audience.
MVRemix: Out of all of your albums, which one do you like the most?
J-Zone: A lot of people disagree but I like this album the most because it went back to me having fun. My first album and this album were the most enjoyable to make. They weren’t about pleasing anybody. They weren’t about expectations. They weren’t about beating a deadline. We turned on the beat machine, picked up a pad, did what we wanted to do and didn’t give a f*ck.
MVRemix: Do you have a favorite song on ‘Sick Of Being Rich’?
J-Zone: My favorite song has got to be ‘Choir Practice’ just because I like the beat and I grew up on King-T and J-Ro of The Liks. I’ve been a fan of them for so long and it took so much work to get that song done. When it was all done, I did appreciate it more. Also, ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ is one of my favorites because I was always a big fan of Masta Ace. I grew up on his sh*t. Me and Celph Titled clicked really well so ‘Eatadicup’ is funny too. ‘Too Many Babies’ is real funny too. Dick Stallion is my partner and we just wild out. We were like ‘Let’s get in here and sing and be totally obnoxious!’. That whole intro was improvised. We did that in one take. That’s how we act amongst ourselves. We talk sh*t. Our phone conversations sound like that. That record is probably the closest to how we act when we are having fun. The bottom line is I had a lot of fun recording the album.
MVRemix: What song took you the longest to do?
J-Zone: Definitely ‘Choir Practice’ because I wanted to do a joint with West Coast rappers on there. I always loved rappers from the West Coast. I like that it sounds different having West Coast rappers over my beats. It can either sound real dope or real awkward but it gives the album a nice variety. The first person I thought about getting was B-Legit. He has the best voice in rap. That guy’s incredible. I reached out to him, sent him some beats to ‘Choir Practice’ and a couple of other beats. It took him months and months. I couldn’t reach him and he would then eventually get back to me. We were playing phone tag. I couldn’t catch him. Before I knew it, the whole album was done. So I called up my man from Formula.com and he had a good connection out there on the West Coast and he put me in touch with King T. He was mad cool. Basically, we got that sh*t hooked up. He was real busy for a while and I couldn’t reach him. The deadline was approaching. There was a point where I didn’t have any verses from anybody. King T was busy running around and couldn’t mail it to me. I needed one other guy and my man Danger Mouse knew Alkaholiks. He gave me J-Ro’s number. I called up J-Ro and by chance, he was in Harlem. He had 2 days to go back to Cali and just by the luck of God, he happened to be in New York. I came and got him, gave him the beat CD. The minute I called him, I was like ‘I’m going to Manhattan right now to give you the beat CD.’ He was like ‘Yo, I’ll have this knocked out for you in 24 hours.’ He came to my crib and did it in like 3 takes. It was amazing how that sh*t happened.
MVRemix: How did the show go overseas? How are shows usually overseas?
J-Zone: The show went real well over there. The overseas crowds are very appreciative. They held it down. They got energy and they appreciate things. I always love rocking over there.
MVRemix: Many artists like Grand Agent, Phife Dawg, Five Deez, and The Lone Catalysts sometimes release albums overseas in Europe and Japan that are only released there. Would you ever do that?
J-Zone: People sometimes release albums just for that country. Yo, man. I’ll put my music wherever they want it. Right now, I’m just trying to make the music that I want to make.
MVRemix: How did you first get into making beats?
J-Zone: I was always a funk person. Ever since I was a kid, I was always into instruments. I played bass. I was heavy into funk and old, old James Brown. I loved old records in general. I was actually collecting records when I was like 9 or 10 years old. I was bored and didn’t have sh*t to do. I always wanted to be a bass player for an old funk band. I had this big afro when I was a kid. After a while, in the 80’s, I didn’t know anybody out there in Queens who did that. I had no one to share my bass playing interests. I wanted to start a band. I was like ‘F*ck it’ but then a friend of mine introduced me to hip-hop. I knew about Run-Dmc and U.T.F.O. but in 88 and 89, he was playing the Slick Rick album and the Jungle Brothers albums. I was like ‘Oh sh*t! That’s that funk record they sampled. That’s crazy!’ I wanted to start doing that. So, when I heard Marley Marl and Mark 45 King sampling records and making beats, that interested me. I started f*cking around in 91 and 92.
MVRemix: You did an internship at Powerplay Studios? How did that happen and what was that like?
J-Zone: In 1992, I did an internship at Powerplay Studios in Queens, New York during the weekends. I was young. I was like 15. I used to sweep floors but while I was there I saw Large Professor and Akinyele doing the ‘Vagina Diner’ album. With that experience of watching them work, I learned a little bit. It influenced me to go out an buy my first sampler. I bought an SP-1200 in 1992. I was in the 10th grade then. Ever since then, I was making beats.
MVRemix: Do you have a favorite drum machine or sampler?
J-Zone: The SP is a classic but I like the MPC-2000 just because of the versatility. I’ve been using that for the last 6 years and there is nothing that I can’t do on there. I’m not a guy who is overly technical so I don’t need all of that timing and compression but it has enough memory and chopping. It’s really good to chop sh*t. It has a lot of options.
MVRemix: For someone who is just getting into samplers, drum machines, and beat making, what is the best way to approach a sampler?
J-Zone: The best way to learn it? Rule #1 is do not read the manual. Just start f*cking with it. Mark my words. Either A, have somebody teach you. Or B, turn it on, just skim over the manual, and just start working. When you run into a difficult problem, then go back to the manual and look up how to solve it. Don’t read the manual cover to cover and try to do it. You’ll drive yourself crazy. Once you do that, the first thing you should do is learn how to program drums. When I was coming up, most producers were just looping up break beats. I didn’t learn drum programming until I was maybe 2 years into already making beats. I started out by chopping up breaks. Now, everybody is programming drums. So, you have to learn how to do that. If you listen to a lot of records, the drum programming is what separates the amateurs from the professionals. After that, learn how to chop music. Everybody chops but learn chopping techniques so you learn how to do different things. Also, get a sense of rhythm before you do anything at all. Make rhythms before you say to yourself, ‘I wanna use this ill loop.’ Get a sense of rhythm and learn how to program drums. I hear a lot of demos and the drum programming is off. I don’t care how hot the loop is. I don’t care how good you chop up the sample. I don’t care if you play it forward or backwards with the keyboard. If the drum programming is sh*tty, nothing else matters.
MVRemix: In the early/mid-90’s the drums and rhythms were really thick and layered but more of the popular stuff in the late 90’s either had real simple beats or light sounding drums. Would you agree that some production is becoming simple?
J-Zone: Yeah. Somebody mentioned to me something the other day but I never thought about it because it was kind of like second nature. In my beats, I have a lot of drum fills. I would sample drum rolls and just throw it in at the end of a verse. That’s just something I always did. As you grow older, you grow with the times. Things change and you modernize your sound. One thing I always liked was drum fills. I love drum breakdowns. Sh*t like that, you don’t really hear anymore. In some songs I hear, they don’t try to sequence the sample different or chop it different. A lot of songs don’t even have drops. Don’t get me wrong, Ghostface Killah has some brilliant songs but sometimes, it just a loop that runs. It sounds great. It works for him but it doesn’t work for everyone else. Ghostface sounds like simple brilliance. With other people, it sounds like amateurism. It all depends on how you approach it. Simplicity is a great thing but you have to know how to do it and use it right. I have beats on the new album that are mad simple. I have some that are more complex. Simplicity, just like complexity, is only as good as you make it. You can have a million and one sounds but if your beat sounds like stir fried sh*t, it don’t matter. Simplicity is very effective sometimes. Take any beat on ‘Hard To Earn’ by Gangstarr. Some of those beats are very simple but they are effective. Look at ‘D. Original’ by Jeru The Damaja. That’s like the simplest beat I ever heard. The piano is just two chords. It sounds like somebody is sitting on a piano. ‘F.A.L.A.’ by Gangstarr is just the same piano key over and over again. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding… A lot of Premier’s sh*t is dope but he also knows how to use simplicity well. I hear people complaining that some of the beats on the new album are not complex enough. I try to tell people that there are no rules to hip-hop. It’s all about making records that are effective. There may be a song on my album where the beat don’t really change but maybe I felt that it didn’t have to. I try to do what fits.
MVRemix: How did you get the name J-Zone?
J-Zone: I got that because I used to always have a walkman on. I never took it off and people used to say, ‘Yo, J be zoning.’ My name used to be J-Dog. Since Tim Dog came out, I was a huge Tim Dog fan so I started to call myself J Dog. A year later, Snoop Dogg came out. There was this dog and that dog, Phife Dawg. Everybody was a dog. I played sports and I got that name from Tim Dog. Basketball. ‘Yo, dog, pass the ball.’ When I started making music, I couldn’t use dog anymore. I had a million and one different names. I can’t even remember all of them. I have to look at some of my old demo tapes. One day, a friend of mine was like ‘Jay, you be zoning with that walkman.’ Every time people talked to me in the hallway, they said stuff like, ‘Jay, you be in a zone.’ They would call my name and I wouldn’t hear them. J-Zone. It just clicked. Ever since 1994, my name has been J-Zone.
MVRemix: Where did you grow up? What was it like?
J-Zone: I grew up in Westchester. It was strange. There wasn’t a lot to do. The school I went to was kind of yuppie-ish. I would go to school in Westchester because I lived with my mother. On the weekends, my dad would take me to stay with my grandmother. I really didn’t want to live in Westchester because it was kind of yuppie-ish and I felt out of place. I played sports and that was my connection. That’s how everybody knew me. I still felt out of place because I was really into the music scene. I wanted to go to school out here in Queens. The school in New York City during the early 90’s were bad. Even last year, somebody got stabbed in the high school around here. My parents didn’t want me to go to a city school and I don’t blame them. In retrospect, I’m glad I stayed. I was boring as sh*t but all I had to worry about out there was get my education, go to class, go to practice, and come home and f*ck around with my DJ equipment until I fell asleep. Once I got to be a junior in high school, I got my internship with Slick Rick’s DJ. He had a local studio in New Rochelle, which was the next town over. Brand Nubian is from New Rochelle. Once I got that internship, it didn’t matter because once I got out of school, I would hop on the bus and stay at the New Rochelle studio until 11 o’clock at night. I would do my homework on the bus. When I was in like 10th grade, I wanted to stay with my grandmother in Queens. There was more hip-hop going on at that time but my parents didn’t want me to go to school out here.
MVRemix: What was one of the first hip-hop songs you fell in love with?
J-Zone: The first song that made me think hip-hop was it was LL Cool J’s ‘I’m Bad’ because there was just something about his confidence. When I heard that I thought that he had an ego as big as all outdoors.
MVRemix: As a producer, who are some of your major influences?
J-Zone: First guy was 45 King. He was the first person to make me say ‘Wow! This is what I want to do.’ Him and Marley Marl. When I actually got my equipment, DJ Muggs, Sir Jinx, DJ Pooh were all influences. I loved that old Ice Cube and King T sh*t. They were the West Coast version of The Bomb Squad. I also love Bomb Squad because of the sheer chaos. I think Bomb Squad is probably one of the best. DJ Quik is great. I think he’s really versatile. Timbaland too, just for the fact that he knows how to program drums so well. He’s the master at programming drums but people hate on him because he’s not underground. I don’t look at sh*t like underground or mainstream It doesn’t matter. I think Manny Fresh has good programming skills. People don’t believe me when I say this but I think ‘I Got That Work’ by Big Tymers is one of the best albums of that year. All the joints on ‘I Got The Work’ by Big Tymers are dope. Manny Fresh is sick. I like everybody from Rza, who is straight dirty and dusty, to Manny Fresh, who is more polished. I look up to Manny Fresh also because he’s actually really prolific. He’s like Rza in the fact that he does his whole camp and can keep going. All of that old Cash Money stuff is banging like the stuff from B.G. and Juvenile. ‘Bat A B*tch’ by B.G. is banging!
MVRemix: As an emcee, who are some of your major influences?
J-Zone: Milk D of Audio Two. I am trying to do a song with him. In New York, he was the original arrogant, rash emcee. If you are looking for the roots of J-Zone, listen to Audio Two’s 2nd album. You know, he actually produced and rapped on an album for some country artist but I think the album was never released in the U.S. I like Ol Dirty Bastard too. I don’t really look up to emcees who are lyrical. I look up to emcees who have personality.
MVRemix: Do you go into the studio with pre-written rhymes and themes or do you hear the beat first and write then and there?
J-Zone: I usually think of the concept first. Then, I write the lyrics to silence. I cannot write to beats. I write the rhyme with no music in mind. I just write it. Then, I pick up my beat CD and I try the rhyme on every beat. Whatever one fits the best, I make it work. If it doesn’t work with anything, I’ll just wait. ‘Bling Around The Collar’, I wrote that rhyme just to write it. It didn’t have a beat but I had this beat on a beat CD that I liked that I mastered and tracked. One day I was f*cking around on the sampler and I chopped the record wrong. It was this lady singing another language but the way I chopped it, the lady sounded like she was singing ‘bling bling’. I just sequenced it so it said ‘bling bling – hard’. Since I was sampling that and making a song about fake jewelry, I re-did ‘Fake Gold Chain’ to that beat. So, first, I write a rhyme to silence and then I try to imagine a beat to it. 6 months down the line, I may come up with a beat that would go good with some old rhyme.
MVRemix: In your bio, you state that you dealt with ‘messed up hoes’ that turned you into an ‘obnoxious bastard’. What did they do to you?
J-Zone: I’m never the type of person to fall in love quick. I’m pretty much a loner so I don’t really open up to people much. After watching friends open up in relationships and get hurt, I really don’t open up to people. I met this woman, opened up to her and it was the first time I really fell in love with somebody. She f*cked me up and played me out. She f*cked my whole sh*t up. It kind of made me even worse. I didn’t trust people. After I went through all of those trials and tribulations with her, I started working on ‘Music For Tu Madre’. I was working on that album while me and her were up and down, back and forth. She would drive me crazy. I was all f*cked up in the head. That album was the only thing in my life that was fun. I was graduating college and I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got out. I was sweating this b*tch that broke my heart. I got lost in my music. I also realized that you cannot take a bad experience from one person and take it out on the next person. If I was to meet a girl, I would not wild out on her just because some other b*tch dogged me. But for me, there’s no ‘I love you’ sh*t. For me, that sh*t takes forever. I won’t go around and take it out on every girl I deal with just because one girl is a b*tch. It made me more careful and slower to trust people.
MVRemix: Your first album ‘Music For Tu Madre’ was your final project senior year in college. What grade did you get on it?
J-Zone: The school I went to was a weed-smoker school so they didn’t give out letter grades. It was a pass or fail thing and I passed.
MVRemix: How did the school version ‘Music For Tu Madre’ differ from the one that was finally released?
J-Zone: When you graduate from Purchase College, you have to do an hour long performance. At that time, I didn’t want to be a performer. So I asked that instead of performing for an hour, if I could make an hour’s worth of music and they were fine with that. I did an album that was 60 minutes long. When it came time to press the vinyl, there was no way to fit all of it on a record. I would have had to do a double vinyl and I didn’t have the money to afford it. So, I clipped 3 or four songs and a couple of interludes. It was dope long like De La Soul’s ‘3 Feet High And Rising’. It was mad long, like 20 something tracks.” I clipped it and left the better songs.
MVRemix: You did a song on your new album with Masta Ace. How did you hook up with him and what was that collaboration like?
J-Zone: I met Masta Ace through Wordsworth. I did a record with Wordsworth that is actually coming out now but was recorded over a year ago. Wordsworth was on Masta Ace’s ‘Disposable Arts’. At that point, I recorded most of the songs for my album. Wordsworth 2-way’d Ace from my house. 2 days later, Ace emailed me. I sent him my stuff and he really, really liked ‘Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes’. I sent him the beat CD and he picked 2 beats. He wound up using the one for ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’. He was mad cool and did his sh*t in 2 takes. Contrary to popular opinion, he came up with the concept. I know that just because he’s dogging out chicks, everybody automatically assumes that I told him to do that because I’m known for that. I didn’t tell him to do that. He picked a beat, called me and told me it was done. I asked, ‘Is it some freestyle sh*t?’ and he was like ‘Nah, it’s about these hoes trying to get in my pockets.’ I was like ‘Oh sh*t! Wait till this comes out. Everybody is gonna say that I made Masta Ace do this!’ I wasn’t going to change it either. (laughs). It was great because the way the album is, it fits right in!
MVRemix: You have done many collaborations. What production collaboration are you most proud if?
J-Zone: Definitely ‘Choir Practice’.”
MVRemix: What emcee/group would you like to collaborate with in the future?
J-Zone: There’s a couple. Milk D of Audio Two, Suga Free, Project Pat, Devin The Dude, and E-40. Those are my top five choices. If I did a collaboration with Too Short, I might quit tomorrow. What else is there? If I could get Too Short, Milk D, Mc Eiht and them, that would be great. I don’t give a f*ck about how many units they sell, I just know what I like.
MVRemix: Because your work is personality driven and also very cinematic, I always thought that you would work well with Sticky Fingaz. Would that ever happen?
J-Zone: I would love to work with Sticky Fingaz. I’m not really feeling his new album but I love ‘The Autobiography Of Kirk Jones’. I would love to work with Sticky Fingaz. He’s from my neighborhood too. He’s from South Jamaica, Queens. He probably don’t know who I am but if I ever got the opportunity, it would be great,
MVRemix: Did you ever think of moving to California?
J-Zone: Millions of times. One time I went, I was about to move the next day. The weather. The women! The f*cking women! I didn’t see anything less than a 7 on the whole trip! I’m sure with any place, you move there and it’s not cracked up to what it is. I’ve lived in New York and the only thing I love about New York is my house and I love New York City basketball. If it was up to me, I would stay here for the basketball season and then bounce. I love my house and like my neighborhood. When I retire, I’m retiring to Cali.
MVRemix: You are a big sports fan. What are your favorite teams?
J-Zone: I’m a big basketball fan so in the NBA, my favorite team is The Trailblazers aka The Jailblazers. Everybody on that team smokes weed, gets in trouble. They don’t deny it. They are just the most gutter and most ghetto team ever. I love the motherf*cking Trailblazers. I’m thinking about moving to Portland for 4 months out of the year so I can watch them do that sh*t.
MVRemix: What was the last incident of racism you experienced?
J-Zone: When I was 15, I got beat up by some police. The description was just a Black person. That was it. That was the only description that they went on. A jogger got mugged in my neighborhood. The neighborhood where I stayed at with my mother did not have a lot of Black people at all. I was all mad light skinned. They saw me running to catch the train and I guess that they thought I was running from a crime scene. I got slammed up. I was like 15. My hair was nappy and they put it down on me.
MVRemix: Abortion – pro-life or pro-choice?
J-Zone: You know me, I’m pro-choice. I think that a woman has the right to say what they want to do with their body.
MVRemix: Where were you on Sept. 11th, 2001? How did you deal with it? How do you think it has affected or will affect hip-hop?
J-Zone: Actually, September 11th was some crazy sh*t. That was the release date of ‘Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes’, the independent version. I was on my way to Tower Records to put some in the store on consignment. I was warming up the car and my grandmother screamed out the window that they hit one of the Twin Towers. I came inside, looked at the TV and thought it was an accident at first. 10 minutes later, the next plane hit that sh*t. I tried to call Tower Records to tell them that I obviously was not able to come into the city but all of the phone lines were dead. I live one mile from Kennedy Airport, in the boonies. I drove to Kennedy Airport, which is like 35 miles from Manhattan, and you can still see that cloud of smoke. Where I live is like Far Rockaway. I’m way out. Even the next day, I still saw that huge cloud of smoke. It was crazy.
MVRemix: What CD or LP has been in your CD player or turntable recently?
J-Zone: Wow! A lot of them. The album ‘Goin Out Like A Soldier’ by Willie D. You know me, I love funk so I’m always playing that funk. Old Kool & The Gang records and rare sh*t. I listen to Suga Free at least twice a week. That guy is just incredible. I keep Project Pat in my car. He’s mandatory listening for me right now. I listen to a lot of old school stuff too. I always keep King T sh*t around. I interviewed Too Short a while ago for a magazine so I’ve been listening to my own custom made ‘Best Of’ Too Short compilation tape I made for my walkman. I’ve really been on some Too Short sh*t lately.
MVRemix: Favorite alcoholic drink?
J-Zone: Long Island Ice Tea, baby!
MVRemix: Who is Captain Backslap?
J-Zone: He’s like a pimped-out character that I made up who tries to date girls and tries to take their money or get their money.
MVRemix: What do you think hip-hop needs these days?
J-Zone: I think it needs more open-minded people. A lot of people think I’m a clown and I know that my music is an acquired taste. It’s not for everybody. Not every emcee has to have ill punchlines. Not every emcee has to be revolutionary. Not every emcee has to be complex. Stop taking it so seriously. You’re not really a pimp! If I was truly a 100% bonifide pimp, I would be on the corner selling hoes. I wouldn’t be in the studio making records. ‘County Check Pimpin’ is a phrase for being broke motherf*cker who sucks on girls. That’s what I do. I date girls who have more money than me. (laughs). That’s what I do. I go out with chicks and try to get them to pay for it. That’s a phrase me and my boys came up with, ‘County Check Pimpin’. That means that you are broke but you are living off of someone else’s sh*t. I called the album ‘Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes’ because they don’t. I got sick of paying taxes for a city that can’t fix the f*cking potholes! I have my moments when I am serious and my moments where I am joking, which is most of the time. They take it so literal like they really think that I think I’m a pimp! Come on, man! Be realistic. I’m a clown! I joke around. You think Arnold Schwarzenegger really goes around shooting people? The thing with hip-hop is that it’s part fact and part fiction. Parts of my records are the truth and parts are exaggeration. The thing about my records is that you know what is exaggerated, or at least, I think you should know. You can tell. It’s so ludicrous what I say.
MVRemix: You produced some songs for Tame-One. You truly helped in giving him a new sound. ‘Tame As It Ever Wuz’ is an incredible track. How did you hook up with him and what was that collaboration like?
J-Zone: Thank you, man. That was through the guys at Eastern Conference. They were like ‘We signed Tame-One and we want some beats.’ I went in, played the beats, and he picked those. The funny thing is, those beats are old. I did those beats when ‘Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes’ came out so you are really hearing beats that are around 2 years old. It’s funny because everyone likes it and now, I’m getting nervous about my album because my sh*t now is different. Everyone is like ‘Wow! Those are great beats!’ and I don’t even really have any beats like that now. That’s the nature of the game. Tame is cool. He called me up and thanked me when the album came out. He’s mad cool. He’s a down to earth dude.
MVRemix: Word association time. I’m going to say a name of a group/emcee and you say the first word that pops in your head. So, if I say ‘Chuck D’, you may say ‘Revolution’. Okay?
MVRemix: Louis Logic
J-Zone: Elton John.
J-Zone: Muslim. (Laughs).
MVRemix: The Beatnuts
MVRemix: Phife Dawg
J-Zone: Wheatgrass juice.
MVRemix: Gil Scott-Heron
MVRemix: George Bush
MVRemix: What classic hip-hop song would you like to remake?
J-Zone: ’Get Your Mother Off The Crack’ by Audio Two and ‘Still Talking Sh*t’ by Easy-E. Those two right there.
MVRemix: Your grandmother plays an important role in your life (and even on your album). How has she responded to your music?
J-Zone: She’s proud of me and she’s real happy. She don’t like the fact that I cuss a lot but she has to realize that I got it from her. (laughs).
MVRemix: Are you still burning up your grandmother’s driveway with you car?
J-Zone: Man, she be running her mouth off about it. I’m ready to go out there with a bag of concrete and pave that sh*t. I’m getting sick of that sh*t. Even when I park it off the strip and in the back way of the yard, the gardener would come and have to get the lawnmower past my car. So, I have to wake up early and move it. That grass is a pain in the *ss! I’m going to go out there with some herbicide or poisonous sh*t if I hear one more thing about that grass.
MVRemix: In your song ‘5-Star Hooptie’, you rap about how bad your Mazda Protégé is falling apart. Do you still have that Mazda Protégé?
J-Zone: I got another Mazda Protégé but it’s a newer one.
MVRemix: How would get that car to pass inspection?
J-Zone: My mechanic is mad gully.
MVRemix: Your label and production company is called Old Maid Billionaires Entertainment. Why?
J-Zone: It’s named after my grandmother. I came up with that name on the spot. I took the album to get pressed on vinyl and they needed a label name in order to get the order through. I didn’t have one at the time. I remembered when I did that senior project for ‘Music For Tu Madre’. Originally, the cassette had that picture of my grandmother on the front. I was just sitting there in the conference room at the pressing plant. I thought ‘It’s just one record. It don’t matter what I call it.’ So, I decided Old Maid because my grandmother is an old maid. 5 years later, I incorporated the business and registered it with the city and everything.
MVRemix: What is the biggest misconception people have of you?
J-Zone: There are a couple of misconceptions. I’m open-minded when it comes to music and people think that I’m kidding when I say I like people like E-40. People always want to know what race I am. I am Black. I said it before. Also, I am far from a pimp. I just have a character called Captain Backslap and he tries to date girls and take them for their money. I’m not a bonifide street corner pimp. If I was, why would I be making rap records? Snoop says he’s a pimp while he’s married and has children. People have to realize that just as Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t go around shooting people and Sylvester Stallone doesn’t go around beating people up, everybody has a complex in rap. It’s taboo in rap to fantasize. If I were to make a record about my life only and not exaggerate, it would be like I wake up, brush my teeth, play basketball, watch ‘Law & Order’, go to sleep or call up some b*tch and try to get phone sex. If I just took those things in my daily life and tried to talk about just those things for 60 minutes, you’d be sleeping. I try to take accents of my personality. When I go out, I’m a cheap bastard. I do try to date girls with more money than me. (laughs). I take the reality, blow it up, and make it funny for you. Still, people take everything so literal. Celph Titled is one of the coolest I have ever met. If you take is records literally, you would think that he would come at you with a missile. I’m a cool motherf*cker too if you approach me right. I’m not going to slap the sh*t out of you for saying hello. Rap is half about being who you are and half about character. It’s f*cking entertainment. Don’t take it so seriously!
MVRemix: What is the biggest mistake you have made in your career?
J-Zone: I haven’t made any mistakes because even the stuff that I have done that was not the best thing was something that I learned from. So, I don’t consider it a mistake. There’s nothing that I have done I haven’t learned from.
MVRemix: What have your girlfriends thought about your music?
J-Zone: They all know me really well. They know that the J-Zone character is always inside me but they also know that I’m not a spiteful or malicious person. They know that I’m a joker and I have some deep-rooted serious problems. They also know that as much as I talk trash to them, I would never hit them or do anything like that. I’ve never been abusive and I’ve always been a real good person. They think it’s funny. I date chicks with a sense of humor. Every girl that I ever dated loved my music. If they didn’t love it, they were at least not offended by it. They listen to Jay-Z and The Lox or whatever sh*t but they can laugh at stuff. I never dated a girl who wanted me to stop. They all know that I’m not an *sshole but if they cross me, I can become that person.
MVRemix: What future collaborations should we look out for?
J-Zone: I did a 12-inch for MF Grimm. I mixed it today and it will be out in November. I think the A-side is called ‘Taken’ and the B-side is called ‘Dancing’. It’s going to be on Old Maid along with Day By Day. My single for ‘Choir Practice’ has 2 unreleased b-sides. One is about basketball and one is about drinking, which of course features Louis Logic on the hook. That comes out early October. I have a lot of collaborations in the pipeline but I’m not going to speak on anything until the paperwork is done. Look for me working with some unexpected guests.
MVRemix: You worked with MF Grimm on his album ‘The Downfall Of Ibliys’ that he recorded in one day, before he went to jail. What was that like?
J-Zone: He did that album here, in my house. He recorded it here. The beats changed. When MF Doom got the masters, he switched the beats for a lot of them. What MF Grimm did was sample a lot of beats from beat CDs that people sent him. I did his vocals and I sent MF Doom all a cappella stuff and he remixed a lot of it.
MVRemix: What do you want on your epitaph (your gravestone)?
J-Zone: F*ck y’all!’ Nah, I want ‘F*ck you, pay me!’
MVRemix: Any final words for the people who are reading this?
J-Zone: Have fun with this music sh*t! People are taking this sh*t too God Damn serious! Go get yourself a Long Island Ice Tea. Go out and get drunk. Have fun and live life. We’re not promised tomorrow so get on out there and have fun. Don’t come at me with all of that bullsh*t. Pay me!