Issue 50 (2003)
“Iverson’s my man but I refuse to root for any team with Keith Van Horn on it. That’s big bird on crack. Everything about him is terrible”
“The Blazers are my favorite team. I love em. Mischievous and gutter like a muthafucka”
“The Spurs are the worst looking team ever. Nobody on The Spurs knows a barber. David Robinson still has a flattop… Them motherfuckers have no hairlines.”
Candid, off kilter, and funny as ever the self proclaimed 2003 Bobby Brown is back. These quotes are just a sample of some of the all the wall comments we’ve come to expect from J-Zone. He still doesn’t give a shit about freestyling or battling, his new mantra is “Fuck You Pay Me,” his favorite rapper is a pimp, and he is dead serious when he professes his love for music most of us wouldn’t be caught dead listening to. Welcome to the J-Zone Interview.
With the success of “Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes” J-Zone figured he would finally be able hang up the mic for good and concentrate on production. He hadn’t picked up a pen in over a year since Pimps dropped, but slowly inspiration, a lack of production opportunities, and a chance to make a couple dollars convinced J to return from behind the boards. The result is one more ig’nant release to add to your collection.
“I was making a lot of beats and for the first time in my life I had a beat cd with twenty-five beats on it,” recalled Zone. “I was shopping beats. I was pretty confident that after Pimps I could start getting some work and I did, but things weren’t coming out on time. I did some shit for Biz that still ain’t out. Things weren’t coming thru as quick. I was doing 12”s with Shid, but I needed to make some money. Fat Beats licensed Pimps from me and got it into chains. They said it got a good reaction and they wanted to do a full length album with me from jump. At first I said no, but then I was doing a lot of shows overseas and the reaction was good. Everybody was like what’s next. I was sitting on a gang of beats and more concepts started coming into my head. I’d be on the plane for 8 hours coming back from a show and I’d just start writing. I wound up putting together the “Slap b/w Ho Kung Fu” 12” last summer. I was bored and I was going thru a lot of things so I just sat down and wrote it. The reaction to that was real good and everybody was like you gotta do one more.”
His newest creation, “$ick of Bein Rich,” is astep in a new direction for Zone and one that could surprise a few of his hardcore followers. All of his previous works were collaborations with the rest of his fellow Old Maid Billionaires, most notably Al Shid and Huggy Bear, over bugged out beats filled with random rudeness on every song. The latter really hasn’t changed, but the normal coconspirators barely play a role on the new album. Shid only appears on one song and Hug is absent from the project all together.
“Shid is trying to develop his own thing,” explains Zone speaking on Shid’s smaller role on the LP. “Me and Shid have been down for years and we’ll always work together, but he has his label called Land and Water. He’s got his own crew and he’s focusing on that. We’ll always be down and continue to work, but it comes to a point where you want to stretch out and try to do other things. We still do shows together, but this time around he is trying to focus on getting his thing off the ground. With Hug we’re still cool on a personal tip, but we don’t make music anymore. We had a lot of creative differences. There’s no beef between us at all, but right before the single I did with him came out (about a year ago) we decided that musically we’re not on the same page anymore. I’d rather us remain cool personally and not make music than try to make music and be at each other’s throats.”
With the in house family seeing limited time this go around coupled with the financial backing of Fat Beats records, J was able and willing to bring in some well known guests. The move was twofold. Not only would Zone be able to work with some of his favorite artists, he’d be able to use this platform to advertise established emcees flowing over his production. He brought in Masta Ace, King T, and J-Ro of the Liks to appear on the album along with fellow underground stars Copywrite and Celph Titled.
“People always come up to me [saying] I like your beats, but you know what would be ill is if you had such and such on your beat,” begins J. “I always really liked Ace and I always really liked King T, but two or three years [ago] I didn’t have the money or the connections and I wasn’t as well known so at that point it was kinda like a pipe dream to have them over my shit. But when I got into position to do it [I knew] a lot of people wanted to hear that. I also wanted to show people that it’s not just Hug and Shid, [other] people can rap over my shit [too]. To this point I had a Wu Tang type of thing going, like how the RZA would mainly produce beats for his own camp but never really did any outside work. That’s kinda how I was, but if I really want to make it as a producer I have to show that I can remix people’s records, that I could work with other people [from the] east or west coast. I think this album will establish me as a producer more than any other because it’s proof, you got all these different people on my shit.”
One of the best examples of how well someone outside his crew can sound over his beats is Masta Ace. On “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme” Ace flows seamlessly over a vintage J-zone beat that will have fans of both artists craving more. Ace drops two verses about money hungry hoes that will immediately have you wondering how the hell Zone convinced Masta Ace to get on the album and buy into the concept.
“I had been doing some stuff with Wordsworth and I asked him about Masta Ace because he was on Ace’s last album and he was like I’ll two way him right now,” remembers Zone. “He two-wayed him from my house and I wound up hooking up with him. When I first met him he was like I heard your name, but I haven’t heard any of your stuff. I sent him “Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes” and he really liked it and he was surprised. He said I hadn’t heard anything like that in a minute and I really like your shit. That meant a lot [because] he was a big influence on me in terms of skits and doing like a concept album. He said I’m really down to work with you. I gave him a beat cd and he picked two beats and at the end of the week he said which one he wanted. It’s crazy because [since] he did a song on money hungry hoes I know the first thing that is gonna come to everybody’s mind is J told him to do that. I’m letting it be known right here in Elemental I gave him the beat and I didn’t say shit. It must be my beats that bring that out. Ace did that on his own. I did not expect that and I wasn’t inclined to change it either.”
J is a true fan of every artist on the album he grew up listening to their music and is honored to be able to work alongside them. Besides working with Ace, getting Likwit crew godfather King T on the album was another milestone.
“For me its personal gratification to work with these dudes,” says Zone. “I had their tapes in high school. I had all the St. Ides commercials on tape. My first brew was a St. Ides and that shit was nasty as hell, but I owe that to King T. I never thought I’d be working with the man who had me drink my first St. Ides. I’d love to do an EP with King T. I think if I had a chance to sit down and work with him we could make some dope ass shit.”
On each of his prior releases Zone has been learning the promotion process and doing everything possible to put out a successful record. In the past he has concentrated on doing more shows, setting up the album release by putting out a single first, and putting together clean edits and promotional materials like stickers and posters. This time around getting the big names was a key step, but it’s not the only thing he is doing to ensure the album is a success.
“This is the first time we’re gonna have a publicist,” Zone points out. “The first time around I didn’t know what publicity was. Anybody who reviewed it bought it. The second time around all the people who bought and reviewed it I got in touch with them and sent it to them. The third time around my partner Contakt and I did the publicity ourselves. We sat here and burned the cds track by track and sent it out to all different types of people. This time around we have a publicity company working it. I took some time to do some new publicity photos so they are not putting up pics from twenty years ago. I made sure the artwork was tight. I mastered it to the best of my ability. I really went all out as fat as an independent release can go.”
If everything goes according to plan J-Zone will be able to finally get his ostrich coat off layaway and lamp at Pimp Palace East dedicating all of his time to his production efforts. In the past year or so he has done beats for Biz Markie, Tame One, Cage, and R.A. The Rugged Man, to name a few, and while he may be all jokes on the mic he wants artists to know that as a producer he is all business.
“I sound like an ignorant stupid fool on record, but ultimately when it comes down to making records I’m real serious about what I do,” J earnestly states. “I want people to know that if you do a record with me I’m gonna give it 100%. I’m not gonna slack on the shit. If you hire me as a rapper I’m gonna get you in a lot of trouble because I’m gonna say some dumb shit, but if you hire me as a producer I’m gonna go the extra mile, so it’s really up to ya’ll.”
Being a rapper
Emcees want to battle. I’m a rapper. I wake up at 9 am I write two verses. I get into the studio drop the rhymes [and] by 12 noon I’m done rapping for the day. My rapping hours are from 9am-12pm. Everyday you can catch me here laying vocals and if you catch me at a show I’ll be rapping at the show. [When] you pay your money [and] get in I’m gonna give you the best show I can possibly do, but when I come to the in-store, when I’m on the street, or when I come off stage don’t start beat boxing, don’t start doing none of that. If you have a check I’ll be glad to do it. I’m a producer that likes to rap from time to time and as long as people don’t see me as anything more than that then I don’t mind doing it.
The Gorilla Pimp$
We had an album called “Hotter Than Fish Grease Vol. 1” and we’re doing part two “I.H.O.P (International House of Pimping)”. With Gorilla Pimps we just let it all hang out and have fun. We created two characters, Captain Backslap (a.k.a. The Tom Jones of Rap) and Dick $tallion (a.k.a. The Black Frank Sinatra), and rapped about bullshit. If you keep doing beats all day you get stale, so artistically you gotta do something that’s so far out it will clean the slate for you and allow you to come back fresh.
Unlike a lot of people it ain’t all about skills. It’s about personality, voice and flow. There are a lot of lyrical lyricists, but they have no personality and that sucks. It’s everything. It’s not just being a battle rapper or having punchlines. All jokes aside, honestly, I think rhyme wise, deliver wise, flow, voice, and wordplay Suga Free is the best rapper out right now followed by Project Pat. Those two guys are my favorite rappers. “I’d Rather Give You My Bitch” is the best rap record I ever heard in my life. That’s a classic to me.
“Bling Bling” being added to the Oxford Dictionary
I think it’s a beautiful day for the people at Cash Money Records. For all the people that tried to dis Cash Money they got a word in the dictionary. Now when people who don’t listen to hiphop see “Bling Around The Collar” on my record they can go look in the dictionary and see what I’m talking about.
$ick of Bein’ Rich
Buy my album 17, 18, 19 times. I don’t care if you buy it and use it as a drink coaster. Even though the album is called “$ick of Bein’ Rich” I’m trying to make a couple mill so me and Baby the Birdman can get a float at next Mardi Gras and throw dollar bills into the crowd.
Pick up “$ick of Bein Rich” in stores this Summer and look for future collabs from J-zone with Celph Titled, Copywrite, and Louis Logic.