HHS: Didn’t you retire as a rapper a while back? Are you going to be like Too Short and keep coming back to the game?
J-Zone: Yeah, I retired in 2001 after Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes. I wanted to stick to production, but the beat selling game ain’t shit nowadays unless you got major label pull. It’s not too lucrative. Plus, I began to realize that I had more fun doing beats for myself than shopping beats to other artists. I don’t like to wait around, send out beat CD’s and wait…with all that waiting, I was like ‘fuck that, I’ma keep rappin on these shits and work on albums’. At first I was reluctant to rap, but once I found my niche and got comfortable with my own rappin style, I decided to keep doin it as long as I’m havin fun. Now I enjoy rappin, but I still won’t do no freestylin or battlin. And I’m still a producer first.
How do you think you have grown as a producer since Music For Tu Madre? It seems along the way your style has changed. Is this intentional or just being influenced by new stuff?
I still have elements of my trademark sound, but I’ve altered it a lot, especially over the last year or two. It’s both intentional and a sign of new intrests. My roots are in funk. I grew up listening to old Kool and the Gang, BT Express, James Brown, Slave, Ohio Players, etc…I wanted to go back to my funk influence. Plus, I felt I was gettin pigeonholed with my sound, like ‘yeah, every song has a million soundbites, accordion samples, slapstick, circus style beats’. I wanted to change it up and get back to funk. My sound is still bugged out, but it has more of a funk/rock flavor as of recent. I
just wanted to hear and try something new. Everybody wants me to go back to “Candy Razors” or “Orphan Babies” type of shit, but I just got bored with that sound. That was 5 and 6 years ago. I think I’ve grown and improved a lot as a producer, but mad people say I fell off, so I guess I fell off. (Laughs)
What is your favorite cut on the new album?
Different ones for different reasons. “A Friendly Game Of Basketball” is my favorite concept, “Heavy Metal”is my favorite beat, “The Zone Report” has the lyrics that mean the most to me, I really got shit off my chest on that song. “Disco Ho” and “Baldylocks” are the funniest ones. But overall, I gotta say “Edit These”, because it ranks high for me in all aspects (concepts, beats, lyrics and humor).
I noticed Huggy Bear wasn’t on this one and you guys have parted ways, what happened there?
Major creative differences. We just grew far apart musically and it was a situation where it was better to remain cool with each other personally and part ways than to try and force a working relationship. No beef at all though, it wasn’t personal. But, if both people aren’t mutually feeling the music they’re making, the music suffers and you get tension, so we went our separate ways. I always got love for Huggy and Al-Shid, cause we came in this together. We went through the free shows, sheisty promoters and paying dues together, so that mutual respect is always there and to fuck that up for the sake of makin rap records ain’t cool.
Is there any rapper out there than can beat you at b-ball? What kind of player are you?
Fuck no. Bitch, I’m NBA-bound, ho! The only rap personality that can beat me is Bobbito. Bobbito is NICE! Bob will bust my ass! I’m a mid range shooter, I shoot the 12-15 footer. I’m really streaky though. If my shot is on, your ass is toast. But if I’m off and I’m shootin bricks, I’ll just use my speed to tire you out. I run Rockaway Beach 4 times a week in the summer, that shit is like 6 miles. I’m in good shape and most rappers smoke a lot, so if my shot is off, I’ll just run the court like a mad man and tire you out and take it to the hoop. Basketball is my second love to music. I wanna coach high school ball one day, if I’m not laid up on an island with somebody’s baby mama drinkin Long Island Ice Teas and countin’ money.
Did you watch the men get killed in the olympics?
That shit wouldn’t have happed if I was playin in that bitch.
What’s something about you that would surprise most people?
I’m approachable. Some fans are scared to say what’s up because of the Captain Back$lap character, but I only act that way when you approach me wrong. Like don’t run up and ask me to start freestylin or tellin me to give you a beat CD cause you’re the best rapper ever. That’s annoying, I’ll get real pompous fast. But people will step to me and say whats up and be surprised when I stop and have a conversation with em. I’m always cool to the fans cause they keep me up in this game. Just don’t run up on that dumb shit and I’m the coolest cat you’ll meet.
You helped out on MF GRIMM’S The Downfall of Ibliys album and have worked with him since. how did you get to know and work with GRIMM?
He graduated before me. He used to come back to the school after he graduated and I’d engineer recording sessions for him. He brought Grimm up to record that “Landslide” “12 for Fondle Em Records, I engineered that session at my college. I had been a fan of Grimm since “So What You Want, Nigga?”, so I gave him a tape of Music For Tu Madre before it ever came out. He called me the next day like “Yo, we gotta do some shit.” We became cool and he helped me get a lot of connections for Music For Tu Madre. Downfall of Iblyiss was recorded at my house, but before I got to do a track with him he got locked up. When he got out I got right at him, cause it was overdue and we did the “Taken” b/w “Dancing” single. I got much love for Grimm, cause he looked out for me when I was comin up when he coulda put himself on. I was always his engineer, but it was cool to have him rock on my beats. That’s my dog.
How was it working with Biz Markie?
Hahaha, Biz! I drove all the way to his studio in Maryland to track the beat for “Chinese Food” cause I didn’t have Pro Tools at the time. I walk in and the first thing he says is “Yo man, I thought you’d be Chinese!” We went into the other room and he played me like 30 songs he was workin on. Some of them were incredible and they never came out. I played him my latest beat CD and he picked 2 beats, but he wound up not usin em cause off time issues. They wound up bein “Ho Kung Fu” and “Gimme Gimme Gimme” from $ick Of Bein Rich. He autographed my Diabolical Biz album cover for me, I laid the “Chinese Food” beat to Pro Tools and broke out. That was one of the highlights of my career. Just me and Biz chillin for an hour playin beats. If it all ended for me tomorrow, I couldn’t be too mad. I got to work with and get the mutual respect from all the people I grew up listening to. Biz, Masta Ace, King T, Devin the Dude, J-Ro, Akinyele, Prince Po…you can’t put a price on that. I’m a fan first, an artist second.
Who do you want to collaborate with now?
Suga Free, Project Pat, Redman, Slick Rick, Kool G. Rap, Too $hort, Ghostface, MOP, E-40, Ol Dirty Bastard and Milk D from Audio 2.
Do you think the fact that you are seen as an “underground” NY guy that you don’t have a chance to work with some people you would like to?
Definitely. That’s what I mean about pigeonholing. If you look at the list of people I named above, you’d probably think I was kidding about half of them, but I’m dead serious. Just cause my records are funny and harmless, that don’t mean I can’t do a beat for MOP, cause I’d love to! Project Pat is Dirty South, Suga Free and E-40 are straight west coast, but that don’t mean shit to me. To work with them would be a challenge and a dream come true. I’d kill to work with artists out of my “subgenre”, cause it helps you grow as a producer.
What upsets you off about hip-hop right now?
That fuckin segregation, like I was sayin. The division. Why can’t I do a beat for Ludicris? Cause he’s on MTV and I’m “underground”? That’s wack. Back in ’89, De La Soul, LL Cool J, NWA and Slick Rick all toured together. Look how different each of those artists are. Why the fuck can’t we have that now? Shit don’t make sense. You gotta only like and work with artists that are grouped with you and if you wanna step out and show interest outside your labeled group, they say you’re a sellout or a perpetrator.
And finally this being an election year do you have any comment on politics and where the nation is at right now?
Bobby Brown for President! ODB for Vice Prez and Baby and Manny Fresh for House of Representatives. Rock the vote!
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