[Interview] J-Zone: I Got A Story To Tell
RubyHornet: There’s a correlation between your affinity for rare music, and vinyl and I think the niche-ness of your music. It seems like you were destined to make that same kind of art. It’s almost destiny that your music exists in that same way.
J-Zone: Well, yeah. When you grow up and your favorite artists are Tim Dog, Son of Beserk, The Afros, I’m just looking at some of the records in my collection right now. When you’re influenced by that, unless you can find a super niche and revive it, those groups that I named didn’t make it at a time when Hip Hop was a lot more open. The early 90′s, things were a little more diverse. All that shit was on a major label, but it was just totally different. And, if they couldn’t find a market then, then I damn sure wasn’t going to find a market at the turn of the century when things were underground-commercial. jiggy-thug, backpack, everything had a one word adjective. If you didn’t fit neatly in a box, you weren’t gonna make it. When you’re in an era that was so black and white and my influences are The Afros, Tim Dog and stuff…
When I was in it, I didn’t see it. When I was making those records I was like, ‘yo, this shit is funny, it’s clever. Why aren’t people feeling it?’ I would play that shit out when I was DJIng and I would have two jokers in the club going crazy and everybody else was like, ‘what the fuck?’ I was like, ‘why don’t’ they see it?’ My records started going harder and harder in that direction. The early stuff was more a combination of early indie rap, it was a little more grounded. By the time Huggy and Al-Shid went their separate ways, there was nobody around me to keep me in check so I just kept going harder and hard into those influences. By doing that I alienated a lot of my original fan base and I just didn’t see it, I didn’t understand it. I loved the Afros so much, I love the Son of Beserk so much, I love all that shit so much. All the people close to me love it that much, but that’s why we’re friends. We have similar tastes. When I was writing the book, I was kind of laughing. At that point I was already removed from it and Live @ The Liqua Sto was selling 40 something copies in the first month or whatever. I’m laughing because I’m looking back and I was surprised and upset… I’m taking a look around at everything in Hip Hop and how can I expect this shit to get the same accolades as Atmosphere or Little Brother, or whoever was big at the time. I can’t expect that shit. My expectations were too high. A lot of that shit even back then was a niche. I think patterning my stuff after a wide variety of influences that were obscure, and everything from my shit was taken from stuff that was antiquated and niche market, a small handful are going to think it’s the best shit in the world but the public at large is not going to care and that’s exactly what happened. I have a small fan base of people that are hard into that shit and the average Joe really couldn’t give a shit. But now I understand that.
RubyHornet: With the book being out, do you ever look at it a little different and get the itch to do another single or try a comeback?
J-Zone: To be honest, I haven’t really gotten an itch. As far as beats go, I can’t say I stopped. Once in a blue moon, when I get the bug, I’ll turn my equipment on. I probably made 5 beats last year. I made a couple in April and a couple in the summer. I haven’t made a beat since July. The rap thing is done. I’m not going back down that road. Production, I can’t say I stopped, I don’t know if it’s a hiatus or whatever, I just know when I feel it. The passion I had for that shit about 10-12 years ago, I was down here all day. Now I’m learning how to play the drums and that’s a challenge. Years of playing break beats you start to wonder how this stuff is done. I’ve been teaching myself how to play the drums, just for a hobby. It feels good to be doing music just for fun and on my own terms. It’s not like, ‘shit, I got bills due, I better make 50 beats this week and start sending out CDs.’ That’s what took the fun out of it. Now that’s it on my own terms, hopefully I’ll get back to doing the beats full swing. For now, I DJ when I can and I work on the drums. If I get an idea, then I come down stairs and make a beat.