Since his award-winning collaboration with Lauryn Hill in 2005, J.Period has become widely regarded as one of the hottest DJs in the game. To date he has worked with Kanye West, The Roots, Nas, The Isley Brothers, Big Daddy Kane, and CL Smooth and has upcoming ‘˜best of’projects planned with Mary J. Blige, Stephanie Mckaye and CL Smooth. The 2006 Mixtape DJ of the year made his way to Sonar as an opener for Big Daddy Kane at Scion’s Metro Show in Baltimore. This kid tore it down dropping hit after hit after hit that any true fan of hip hop would appreciate going from hip hop to reggae to soul from Nas to the Roots to the Artifacts. This cat is a real head and definitely fits into what Halftime is all about. We got up after his set and chopped it up a bit about the mixtape business.
Halftimeonline.com: These days the mixtape game is really packed and it seems you have focused on specific type of tape. Talk about that a bit and how you first broke onto the scene.
J.Period: Honestly, I do a lot of types of tapes but people know me for a particular type of thing because that’s what’s gotten to the major labels. I got my start djing a long time ago doing pause tapes and house parties in high school and college. I went out to NY and started playing clubs and stuff and I just got tired of playing the same stuff over and over again so I started making these mixtapes. I put them in a couple stores and it was alright. Then in 2003 I got invited to a listening session for Nas’ God’s Son album and he ended up showing up. A lot of times DJs will get drops from artists so I brought my recorder and he ended up doing a whole interview session with some college DJs and I taped the whole thing. Then I thought it would be ill to take all this interview material and combine it with the best of Nas and make a mixtape out of it. That was the first time I did that and the concept just caught on. I think it was a combination of a couple of things. Number 1 I do this because I love it. I put a lot of energy and time into it when I make tapes [while other] DJs these days are either just trying to make a buck or just churning them out. They think the way to make it is to put out 8,000 tapes. I was back in the cut watching and waiting, doing my kind of thing and one of those things caught on with people. So I’ve really been able to pursue that in a big way but the goal from jump has always been to tell the story of hip hop and if I do a best of then I’m going to do it with a particular artist. I interviewed Kane and Mary J. Blige and Nas and Lauryn Hill both endorsed their best of mixtapes. From there it’s just about getting to the artists that I respect and think that more people should see. Mainstream stuff is only a certain kind of thing and it just changes from one thing to the next like a fad but real hip hop you can hear it and instantly appreciate it. It’s the shit that excites me so that’s what I want to get people excited about.
Halftimeonline: Knowing that but then understanding the business side of the game did you begin to figure out how you could parlay these tapes into different ventures or were you just like hey it’s for the love and if something happens then it happens?
J.Period: No question at some level I’m also a business man. I have to be in order to support doing the thing that I love for a living. It’s about the whole package I’m presenting. Whatever I’m putting my mind to whether you’re The Roots or Stephanie Mckay it’s pretty much about the quality of the music and that’s it. I think that anything you do you have to think about 360. You have to think about how you’re perceived, how you’re marketing looks, what your packaging looks like, or how you present yourself when you’re on a mixtape or at a party. All of that stuff leaves an impression and you have to do those things. However, the goal is to not change what you do because people are watching just do what you do and if they watch then fine. You don’t change for them because it’s not coming from them it’s coming from me.
Halftimeonline: Looking at the game from the dollars and cents perspective what were some of the areas that needed to be addressed before you could get the tapes in stores and be a financial success?
J.Period: My allegiance is to the artist. Every artist knew about what I was doing, endorsed what I was doing, said I could do what I was doing and in some cases out of thank you I would send them the tape. Here is a perfect example we’re out here on tour with Kane and at the shows of course we’re gonna sell the mixtapes but out of respect to Kane we’ll split the profits with him. It’s a partnership with the artist. They know about it and it serves a purpose for them. Three years ago before I did the best of Kane he had fallen out of the limelight. I put the best of Kane out and it starts popping up places and then it’s not just about me you see Kane on Hip Hop Honors and he tore it down. So you’re like I forgot about this guy. This is the guy that schooled Biggie, Jay-Z and everybody so how could you forget about him. From that standpoint it’s the same thing with CL Smooth. I’ve done two projects with him and game recognized game. He got me excited about hip hop when I was younger because he has something and when you see him onstage he has a heart and loves hip hop and it comes across. Even someone like Lauryn Hill when I did the CD I let her know about everything I was doing. She doubted me at first because a million people come at her but once I proved to her that this was being done for the right reasons she was cool with it. Now when the label hires me to do it it’s ten times easier because they’re endorsing it officially and the artist already has my respect because one by one I’ve been giving these out. So for me it’s not about selling them it’s about getting them to people so people will know and then I can go to a record label and say this is what I have done by myself imagine if you were behind me on this. It’s serving everyone’s interest so I’m not doing it for the wrong reasons. My way of getting thanked is that they let me do it until I get to that point.
Halftimeonline: A lot of mixtape DJs are getting major label deals but the beauty of the mixtape is often that there aren’t any restrictions and also the speed in which you can get out exclusives. Working with major labels doesn’t necessarily afford you that option. Would your approach change if you were to put out a J. Period album?
J.Period: I already have a deal that’s almost in place to do something like that and another deal with someone offering me a deal to do something like that. One’s a small label and one’s major label. For me it’s about approaching it with the same creative control and input as I approach my mixtapes. If I can do what I do and you’re gonna put it out then ok but I’m not gonna change what I do because someone tells me to because I’m stubborn and I have hip hop’s best interests in mind. So I approach a major label tape like any other mixtape in that I want it to be a classic. Every mixtape I’ve made is classic to certain people in some way. I set out to make mixtapes like artists used to make albums where every track is like bam and for eighty minutes it doesn’t stop. So my album will be that. It will be every track non stop bang, bang, bang and how can you deny that? That’s the bottom line so the artists I’ve worked with on mixtapes will definitely show up because when the time comes for me to do my thing they know what I’m about and will hopefully help me out.
Halftimeonline: I was reading about how the buzz you’ve created has led to some sponsorships. What is involved in a company sponsoring your mixtape and how is it beneficial for both sides?
J.Period: It depends. A lot of companies that approach me are clothing companies because I’m visible so they give me gear to rock, I’m rocking some shit right now. I’m not rocking it because they told me to but because it’s fresh. If you’re gonna give me something that’s fresh then sure I’ll rock it. The clothing companies will give money for product or they might pay for manufacturing and press up the CDs and make it possible for them to be given away. I did a mixtape for Good Music, Kanye’s record label, and there was no budget. I made the tape and got someone to sponsor it and pay for the manufacturing and in exchange they get their logo on the CD as a presenter and we’re giving them out at Kanye’s Grammy party in L.A. so that’s a win-win for everyone.
Halftimeonline: Let’s talk about the show tonight and the way you approached it playing all the ill shit. Not knowing the crowd what did you plan to do and how did it change once you started reading them?
J.Period: Tonight was fun! I started in a comfortable place and progressed at a comfortable pace. I got to play the joints that I wanted and the crowd stayed with me. I could be doing a million other things so if I’m gonna do this I’m gonna do it. So when you’re up there looking at the crowd if they are even down for thirty seconds you have to hit them in the head again. Then they’ll be like oh shit and occasionally you’ll go through joints you know they will feel for at least one verse until you get to the joint where they are going crazy for and push on that. It’s like a relationship. You’re paying attention to the crowd, seeing what they respond too and you’re making it flow continuously. Normally on my mixtapes it blends so you put it on and it just rocks. At a party that’s what I try to do but tonight when you interact with the crowd you can stop and make sure the crowd is paying attention and then hit them again. My approach is to keep it moving. If you keep it moving from place to place and era to era all over the place you’ll eventually catch them. In the meantime they will get exposed to all kinds of shit they may love but never get a chance to hear. It’s not that much thought that goes into it though. I get a hunger when I’m out there to just hear certain songs and those songs make me want to hear other songs. I can try and think ahead but most of the time it’s just a feeling.
Halftimeonline: So what do you do that separates you from other mixtape DJs?
J.Period: Attention to detail. I’m a perfectionist so everything I’m gonna approach I’m gonna approach it with everything I have. My signature is I challenge you to listen to one of my mixtapes and not continue to listen to it and feel it. If you’re a fan of hip hop you’re gonna find something in it. I’m someone who appreciates good music. I’m a fan of hip hop first and foremost and I want to push myself. When I’m by myself making a mixtape I push myself with everything I have and if they don’t like it then so what because I gave it everything I had. That’s my approach basically.
Halftimeonline: Do you listen to the radio?
J.Period: Yea, I listen to old school at noon with Mister Cee! Ha-ha. Nah, I DJ in clubs so I have to know what’s going on but I don’t necessarily listen to the radio or other people’s mixtapes either. I’m kinda in my own world and judge everything individually whether it’s Hi-Tek or Jay-Z. If a song moves me and I feel it I’ll play it. Honestly, a lot of people appreciate what I do because a lot of shit on the radio is repetitive garbage and if you’re in the club with a couple drinks in you, you don’t really realize that. But if you’re alone in a room why would you want to play that stuff. Play something that stimulates your mind.
Halftimeonline: What advice would you have for upcoming DJs trying to create a niche in the mixtape game?
J.Period: Be true to yourself and come up with a plan. A plan is not to be undervalued. Step back and look at the game and watch. It’s not rocket science but you can either approach it carelessly or really pay attention. At some level if you respect hip hop and what you do then most times you’ll be rewarded.