J.Rawls is a man with a demeanor as laid back as his trademark jazz influenced production. This year will feature not only the release of an album by Lone Catalyst (J.Rawls and J.Sands), but his own solo project “The Essence of..” as well off of Groove Attack records. Aside from those projects he is also one half of B.U.K.A Entertainment. The label has several 12″s scheduled for release thus far this year. I had a chance to catch up with J.Rawls to talk about topics like being on a foreign label and his definition of his style on the mic.
Jbutters: Copywrite from MHz described Columbus’ hiphop scene as one dope open mic and a bunch of ill cats. Why did you choose to stay in Ohio as opposed to going to a city with a larger scene like some other crews?
J.Rawls: This is home and this is where I like to be. I can travel if I need to. Its going to make them blow up faster because they’re in the place to be and we’re not but for me this is home and where I’d rather be. I can create because I have a better vibe here. I am not down with the New York vibe and I don’t have to worry about that, I can concentrate on creating my own thing.
JB: Plus it also helps build up the area your coming from.
JB: I read through your bio and it seems a lot of your success has come just as much by hitting people off at the right time as it did with talent. What other options did you have if things didn’t work out the way they did?
JR: I don’t know, I really didn’t have any other options. I’d probably be working in some corporate office for the rest of my life. I just got kinda lucky. Its who you know, you can have talent and not know anyone and not go anywhere. Then again you could have no talent, know everybody and be a star. I’m very blessed.
JB: Being on Groove Attack (German label), do you see any differences being on a foreign label as opposed to a domestic one?
JR: Heck yea!, the main difference is we don’t get as much push in the States as we would like. That’s one of the issues we’re dealing with now. I really want more push in the States that’s what we’re looking for. That’s the biggest difference that comes to mind.
JB: Has it opened many doors for touring overseas?
JR: Yea definitely, but those are few and far in between. Europe has a touring season from May to September, and after that there is really nothing to be done up there.
JB: Are you releasing the Lone Catalyst album off of Groove Attack as well?
JR: Yea it’s coming soon. Actually you can get it now from Hiphopsite. We’re trying to create a lil buzz for it.
JB: If it were up to you would you have chosen to release the Lone Catalyst album first?
JR: I would have liked to drop the Lone Cat album first. Different things kept it from happening like that, so we just had to do it the way we could. I’d rather have something out then nothing at all.
JB: A lot of people working through distance have said that it puts a lot of focus on quality and improves networking. Do you agree? What are some of the positives and negatives of you and J.Sands working between states?
JR: The negatives are of course we don’t see each other all the time and because we live in different states it’s harder to vibe. The positives are that we can grow and breathe. We don’t have to be up under each other all the time so that helps. Then when we get together its much more magical because it’s like lets make it happen. With email and cell phones its like he is down the street so it don’t matter
JB: What are some examples of some beats on your album that you wouldn’t necessarily find on a Lone Catalyst?
JR: A lot of the beats because J.Sands is real picky when it comes to beats. He picks a certain steez so it’s real easy for me to come up with a J.Rawls album because other artists like the ones he doesn’t pick. A lot of the ones on the “The Essence of…”, like Meniscus, Sands probably wouldn’t have dug too much. A beat that he isn’t feeling another artist might because I like to do different styles and try different stuff.
JB: How did you decide who was going to rhyme over which beats?
JR: I gave everybody a few beats, they chose what they were feeling and the subject matter. It came together pretty well.
JB: What do you think is something that is missing from a lot of today’s production?
JR: #1 is samples and #2, in a lot of today’s music cats sound like they rushing. There isn’t much originality today. They will find a quick, easy sample that everyone has already heard and use it instead of diggin. I think diggin is an art and a good thing.
I met All Natural through J. Sands at Scribble Jam in Cincinnati the same year Eminem battled Juice
JB: I know you also rhyme in addition to producing. What type of MC do you consider yourself when it comes to style and topics?
JR: I’m not your average ordinary cat. I don’t really feel I have the voice to emcee but I do feel I have something to say. Anytime I hear a beat that makes me feel like saying something I’ll rhyme to it. All of my songs will have a purpose not just some dumb rhetoric. There will be a point to it. That’s the kind of MC I consider myself to be. I’m gonna hit you with style and harmony. I’m not going to scream at you, I’m gonna subtly hit you. There is going to be a J. Rawls “They Can’t See Me”‘ remix. I’m gonna kill em real stylish and that’s my steez.
JB: You’re one of the few cats that has, or at least admitted, to making mad contacts through sections of magaziness like Vibe or Stress. What other ways of networking did you use to get in contact with the diverse group of MCs on your album?
JR: I met Mr. Complex through Apani whom I met through Wes Jackson of Sevenheads. I met Cognito from Mass Influence first from talking to him at Fat Beats Atlanta. We hooked up and did a few shows with them and they became fam. I met All Natural through J. Sands at Scribble Jam in Cincinnati the same year Eminem battled Juice. Its all about networking. I got Matt Fingaz number out of Vibe, I called him up and we linked up a little bit.
JB: With both the Lone Catalyst album and “Essence of..” coming out around the same timeframe did you exhaust yourself making all the beats or did you just have a lot of material in the archives?
JR: A lot of the beats were in the archives. I try to make beats every time I get a chance so I had a lot of beats around. I’d tweak a beat here and there but a lot of those were done, I would just fix them up a little bit. The way music is the stuff that you hear today, people probably made a couple years ago. It takes that long to get out so you guys wont hear the stuff I’m doing now for a couple years, that’s how I work.
JB: What’s the significance behind the label (B.U.K.A) being named after one of your friends?
JR: He was my best friend. He went to jail for something dumb and it was just our way of showing love. His nickname was Buka, Brothers United Keeping it and we changed it to Afficial.
JB: I heard you’re supposed to be doing production on Last Emperor’s album.
JR: I did some production but he lost his deal with Interscope and when Rawkus signed him those songs got cut. So I guess nobody will ever hear them. They took me and Diamond D off and maybe Prince Paul.
JB: Any other spots you can be spotted doing production?
JR: 3582 (Me and Fat Jon), All Natural album, The Unspoken Heard album, plus I’m going to be working with Wordsworth and El Da Sensai.
JB: Being influenced by so many genres of music do you have a problem with your style being labeled?
JR: You’re going to be labeled anytime you put yourself out there, you as a journalist will be labeled because that’s just the way people do. I don’t mind it all. Jazz is probably one of my favorites so its going to feel jazzy to people. That’s my roots from down in the basement with dad.
JB: Do you feel the need to really flip it on people just to change up direction?
JR: I always try to do something different. There is a joint on the Unspoken Heard that is real hard and real raw. Then there is a joint on the Superappin compilation that I did with I.G Off and Hazadous that is real rugged and people don’t expect that from me. I can do it I just don’t like it all the time.
JB: Besides email what other ways are you using the Internet to your advantage?
JR: The website (www.lonecatalysts.com), articles and reviews, the internet mags are the best. We just trying to stay out in the public eye as much as we can. If you get labeled a certain style or genre, which is underground for us, you cant get into the Source, Vibe, or XXL so we take what we can get. I don’t necessarily consider us underground we just haven’t had a chance to be on a major label.
JB: If I’m looking to buy a beat from you what type of input do I have on the production?
JR: Usually the way I do it is I send you a beat tape and you see if you feeling the steez. Once I give it to you, you pick out the ones you like and then we can sit down and figure out what we can do. If you want to make some changes, I’m open to suggestions and criticism and then we can go from there.
JB: What’s a normal price for a beat?
We usually base it on budgets. Between 2 and 3 g’s is usually how it goes.
JB: Are you very selective with who you sell beats to?
JR: I wouldn’t call it selective but I’d like to hear what you do and what you talk about. You’re not going to talk about raping women or something stupid over my beat. You can tell a witty story, something funny or even talk about crime but have a point. Like I.G. Off and Hazadous, they did some rugged stuff over the beat but it was dope and I love it.
JB: A lot of artists are looking to make that one complete album that’s dope from start to finish. Do you feel you have succeeded in doing so? If not what do you feel is necessary for you to get there?
JR: I think its close. One thing I think is necessary to get there is that we need to record in a bigger lab to get that better mix and bigger sound. We always keep growing and I think that is part of it as well.
JB: What artists are scheduled for release on B.U.K.A entertainment?
JR: We got Camu*Tao from MHz, his 12″ is out right now, we have Homeskillet releasing a 12′ under his real name and we have another Lone Catalyst single coming out through Rawkus distribution. We’re doing a small tour in Europe in May. We also have a B.U.K.A entertainment compilation called “Bringing it Home vol. 1″, which will spotlight ala lot of cats around the way who otherwise wouldn’t get opportunity to be out there. We just gonna keep hitting em.