[Interview] J-Zone: I Got A Story To Tell
RubyHornet: Right after I read your book, I read the book Common put out. It’s a much different take on the music industry and experiences. I read a quote from you in a previous interview where you said, “I think 98% of people in the music industry will relate more to me than to Jay-Z.” What’s been the reaction from your peers in the music business?
J-Zone: The greatest responses for the book have been from my peers. A lot of them are guys who are like me, or maybe didn’t even get as far as I did. They’re trying to tell people what the music business is like and nobody will hear’em. ‘Well, finally somebody is telling my story.’ I get a lot of that, ‘you’re basically telling my story too.’ My story isn’t unique it’s just rarely told. I told the guy from Spin that and he agreed… There’s nothing exotic. It’s a story that everybody knows but is the elephant in the room. Nobody wants to talk about it. Even guys who are successful, Danger Mouse, Prince Paul, Questlove, Slug, these guys made it a lot farther than I did and they all enjoyed the book. Even though they made it big, some of the stuff can still be relateable cause people don’t see some of the shit they have to put up with to stay on top. Calls from rappers at 4AM, ‘yo I need money.’ Dealing with these dudes like, ‘yeah J, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do this.’ And you go to a meeting and they don’t show up. They don’t really respect your time and shit. We’ve all dealt with that shit. A lot of musicians have definitely been like, ‘wow, that’s my story.’ They didn’t want to tell it or they just didn’t get around to telling it.
RubyHornet: You mentioned Twitter and the blogs, and when you were coming up it didn’t exist… Now though a lot of artists can be an 18 year old kid in their bedroom making music and some lo-fi mix that they made gets picked up and all the sudden a label signs them and they just sit for years and just live on the blogs. It’s like a parallel universe that just exists online. Do you follow any of those situations?
J-Zone: I can’t knock it cause I’m from a different era… 20 years ago I would’ve been like, ‘that’s bullshit!’ Because I come from an era of paying dues and working your way up. As a rapper coming out of New York you didn’t get any pub until you did some shows. New York crowds are hostile. They’ll boo you, they’ll jump you, they’ll throw shit at you. When I was coming up, that was a reality. If you sucked you got beat up. It was a different era and that made you battle-tested and tough. Before you ever stepped on a stage or got behind turntables, you better have your shit in order. We were just trained because there was less technology. there was less DIY stuff going on. From my standpoint, looking at that kind of stuff, guys that are just on blogs, never release music, never perform and are just on blogs, to me, I can’t relate to it and I can’t see it. But it’s not so much that I have animosity or bitterness to it. It’s just a different era to me. If I sit up here and blast these guys then I look like a bitter old man. And if I try to act like I understand how that works and I’m with it, then I look like I’m doing whatever I can to assimilate. I can’t relate to it, I can’t see it, but I can’t speak ill of it because it’s just a different time. It’s a different era, it’s a different way of doing things. I came up in a different time and that’s what I know.