The Zone Report (Undercover Magazine)


Once you pop in a disc and hear songs about baldheaded women, dudes with bad hygiene, and disco dancing all laid down with an arrogant yet comical appeal you know you must be listening to the new J-Zone record. Over the last five years J-Zone has made a name for himself putting out LPs with quirky beats and hilarious tongue in cheek commentary while trying to fatten his pockets by gaining more work as a freelance producer. Last year’s “$ick of Being Rich” helped him do just that as his collaborations with Masta Ace, J-Ro, and King Tee led to projects with Akinyele, Casual and 7L and Esoteric. His newest venture, “A Job Ain’t Nuttin’ But Work,” was to be his final transformation from part time emcee to full time producer. However, instead of leaving emceeing behind and delivering a Pete Rock style compilation album circumstances brought Zone closer to the mic than he ever expected.

“The concept of the album I was gonna do was called ‘My Favorite Rappers,’” explained the NY bred producer. “I got in touch with eighty-five percent of them and they all liked my beats so I was really ready to go. I wound up taking a trip out to Cali that was fruitless. Half of the guys that I spoke with to be on the album never showed up to the studio and the other half wanted six to ten thousand dollars a verse which I couldn’t afford. The only person who came through for me was Devin the Dude. I came home real discouraged and I was angry so I was like fuck it, instead of getting these guests I’m gonna put all the weight on my shoulders and emcee. This time around I really focused on the writing and revamped the production to get it tight.”

Once Zone got back from Cali he called up Demigodz front man Celph Titled and a couple regulars from his past albums, Al Shid and Dick $tallion, to enlist their help putting together the new project. With their participation and a verse from Devin he set out to make the best record possible working from November to April everyday between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.

“I made this album when I was mad, so I was real motivated,” says Zone. “When I got mad I just said I’m gonna sit down and put in work. When I finished “$ick of Being Rich” I wasn’t writing rhymes because I was so focused on doing a production album. I did this album in five months and I just stayed with a pad in my hand and every time I went through an experience if I thought I could make a song out of it I wrote about it.”

A perfect example is the 80’s inspired “Disco Hoe” which finds J-Zone recalling a trip to a dance club. It’s instances like these where Zone especially shines, finding the humor in everyday situations and translating them to wax. “I go out a couple times a month but I hate dancing,” Zone jokingly confessed. “You go to these clubs and these chicks want to cut on the 80s music and do these stupid ass dances. So I figured I could make some hilarious shit. I went home [one night] and I was listening to some records and I heard some drums that was kinda like a disco break. I’m like how ill would it be if I just did a disco beat J-Zone style and talk about this dancing problem I’m having.”

“Then I got tired of paying taxes in a city where you have potholes on every street,” he continued, pointing out another inspiration for one of his new tracks. “You get a ticket for sitting on a milk crate but the taxes still go up. You go to hiphop shows in New York City and half the crowd is rappers themselves and they all want to battle you. The fans are afraid to applaud or get involved in the show. I just got tired of living in NY because it’s become one big Disneyland so I did the song BullshitCity.””

Zone not only spent more time behind the mic, he also incorporated a lot of things production wise his fans might not expect. In ’99 he swore he’d never have hooks or use a keyboard but this project has both, albeit in his own unique way. “I learned how to break all the rules and make it work for me,” Zone expressed. “It’s a challenge to me to take everything faux pas in hiphop and make it dope. Everybody looks down on The Neptunes singing on hooks, making dance oriented beats and using a keyboard. I did these things and I said I’m gonna be so off the wall that it’s just going to become acceptable.”

In addition to trying out some new techniques Zone also tinkered with his sound and attempted to close the gap between the style associated with his records and the more traditional beats that he produces for other artists. “I didn’t use any records like I used before,” he revealed. “I just took elements of rock and funk and put it together. It’s a way more aggressive, funkier sound but it’s still bugged. The bass is way heavier. I just wanted to get a different sound because I felt like I was getting pigeonholed. I’m not so close-minded anymore. I don’t just use records from the 50’s and 60s. I’ll take a 80s record and flip it and you won’t know. I hook it up in my own way where I put my signature sound on it.”

After “A Job Ain’t Nuttin But Work” drops this fall expect a follow-up to last year’s “Ign’ant” CD, a mix of off the wall gangsta rap music. “I just finished Volume two last week,” announced Zone. “If you buy “A Job Ain’t Nuttin’ But Work” from Sandbox you’ll get it and then I’m gonna put it out myself. When people hear it they can see where I get a lot of my ideas and funny concepts from.”

Pick up “A Job Ain’t Nothing But Work” out now.

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