Hip-Hop Core : You've just been added to the roster of Big Dada through the release of "Woe To Thee O Land Whose King Is A Child". Do you think that these new prolific and opportunist European record labels (Lex, Big Dada, B9000…) are a better fit to the kind of music that for instance you are doing ?
Bigg Jus : There's an appreciation that not as polluted in European markets which makes it attractive to an artist like myself. Yet I switched up because I was burnt out from running a label and lack the massive colossal ego to promote and market myself properly.
HHC : What's your opinion on the health of the US independent scene? West coast underground artists (like Living Legends, Shapeshifters or Project Blowdians for instance) seem to be put in the limelight these days and to get a very positive response everywhere. What's your outlook on this phenomenon? Is it felt in the same way in the US as it is here ?
J : Definitely .. the best underground labels seem to be artist run collectives ... Peers that understand the direction and bring enthusiasm to the fold that's needed to chart new directions. Old record exec's are concerned with their own careers thus nothing happens. They wouldn't know a hot record if it melted charring the flesh from their hellish cold greedy fingers.
HHC : In your opinion, is it easier to be an independent artist today in the US than when Co-Flow begun around 92 ?
J : Much easier. A path has been laid for them to follow.
HHC : Concerning NMS, I've read that originally this project with Orko was not supposed to be this political missile directed towards the Bush administration. When and why did you decide to take this political route ?
J : We definitely had other intentions to make this incredibly innovative record... Since we were on limited time, we created a routine and schedule every morning we turn on the television while eating cocoa pebbles to hear the most outrageous claims for war. It just consumed us to the point that if there was only time to make one record before all hell broke loose what would it be about….. so we decided to warn the people.
HHC : How did you hook up with Orko Elohiem exactly? What motivated you to do that? How long have you been interested in the works of your new mate? I believe you already wanted to release one of his projects when you were on Subverse, isn't it ?
J : Orko and I have been trying to hook up for years but he was in Cali and I was in NYC. This project happened to be the right one at the right time. Jah always knows.
HHC : Practically, how did you work together on this project and how did you assign the tasks ?
J : Orko is an overachiever and came with over 200 beats already done... We originally intended to produce the beats together but he had enough killers for 2 distinctly different sounding albums. So instead of spending time creating one album we teaming up on production afterwards and now enough material for 4 albums. Tasks were jus - recording/enginering/record shaping and orko - beats/ hooks/concepts, but the process constantly evolved to where its became intuitive.
HHC : Can you tell us a few words about the producers Wes Diplo, Infinity Gaunlet & Kane USA who participated in this first NMS release ?
J : Wes is on some different new age space crunk shit always unique great ear. Infinity is the young g on the come up who makes beats on playstations/ Kane usa is focusing on video production but is a true renaissance cat with a lovely distint sound.
HHC : The second volume of NMS "Imperial Letters of Protection" is already announced for this fall. What will be the general shape and goal of this one? Did you work in the same way as for the first one, with the same persons and with the same ideas in mind ?
J : Imperial letters sound like a 2005 record. It's classic and modern simultaneously. Effort is put in lyrically styling pertinent information while a taking broader social stance with production thats distances it from others.
HHC : Let's go back in time. You first solo LP "Black Mamba Serums" has only been distributed in Japan and is hardly available in Europe. Can you explain us why? Is it a choice or an obligation ?
J : I originally put it out in Japan as sort of a collectors record for true heads. I felt it was an honest complete album. Due to circumstances, It was not able to be released in a timely fashion.
HHC : On "Black Mamba Serums", there are only few new tracks compared to the track listing of the "Plantation Rhymes" EP. Why did you want to release an EP prior to you first solo LP ?
J : Black Mamba Serums was originally scheduled for release on Sept 11. 2001. By that august I had some uneasy premonitions, like dark forces were in the wind and decided to pull back. But it was an important release for subverse and they needed put something out by me, so I took some of the more intriguing material and put out the limited edition EP and released it on the day shit hit the fan.
Our office is only 4 blocks away from 2 towers To sum it up I felt like I made the right decision by not putting it out..... Now heads who heard it seem to just now understand the freedom of concepts and appreciate its merit so I wanted to give people a chance to purchase it. There is a difference between the Japanese version with new material from that period and the old one but there's a balance in trying to keep the integrity of original. After all, it's a 2 part album with the second part building on the principles of the first so be prepared.
HHC : Tracks like 'Fr8's' or 'Athena' are quite different from the core of "Black Mamba Serums" (for instance 'Gaffling Whips', 'Heavenly Rivers' or 'I Triceratops'). Have they been recorded later than the rest of the album ?
J : Everything was recorded between 1999 -2001 with the oldest track 'Dedication to peo' done in Christmas of 1997. So there s breathing room and time to reflect on work and see what new textures could be added.
HHC : What goes on inside you mind that inspires you to create such moving soundscapes, changing nearly constantly ?
J : I want to reinstate some kind of randomness in the rap music i.e. I want to leave a door open for accidents or breakdowns in the sometimes too rigid mechanics of the hip-hop music. It's about self reflection freedom imagination b boy ability and a touch vulnerability cos the hardest niggas have feelings too.
HHC : It seems that you are trying to put more and more emotions in your flow by modulating your voice and your tones in order to share your feelings beyond simple words. Am I wrong ? Is it unconscious ?
J : It's something that I Just got caught up in doing ....Tracks like 'I triceratops', which is one of the last songs done, has emotion that was reverberating thru me in the summer of 2001, like there was some kind of impending disaster ahead..... Shit was hella deep.
HHC : A lot of people where considering Subverse as a potential contender for Rawkus' throne. Nevertheless, the label is clearly going through a crisis. Can you give us some insight on the reasons of this situation ? Are you still a part of the Subverse team of have you completely abandoned the ship ?
J : Once again Sept 11 played a huge role in the existence of the company. I don't think we had any idea how detrimental it was until much later. Nobody get rich selling underground units. By that September, it was already sink or swim time .....When the planes hit, just being in the neighborhood with the souls of thousands of dead bodies stinking bad plus military checkpoints and shit, was hella disturbing and frustrating ... When a huge deal we were working on fell thru that November because of the social climate, I decided it was best to create new energy elsewhere. I already set the studio up in atlanta so i left the city. Adversity only makes me come stronger and harder.
HHC : Do you pay attention to what El-Producto is doing with Def Jux ? What do you think about it ?
J : I think he's doing his thing.... It's tuff being the main label guy. There's a lot of growing pain in peer relationships mixing with business. But overall, he has a good ear and talent. A little more advertising dollars and he'll blow big time.
HHC : As you probably were expecting it, I'd like to talk about your Company Flow days. If you don't mind, I'd like to know how you feel about this adventure. Did you leave the group with a feeling of fulfilment? What exactly led to the disbanding of the group ?
J : My time in Company Flow was truly just that …. an adventure. I originally on came aboard to do Funcrusher and put it out independently …Libra Records, the label that put of the first single, was run by a really good friend and a shifty business partner I was working at the label while roommates with El-p and saw firsthand how they were treating artists like crap. So there was confrontation about it where everyone drew sides..... I got stuck in the middle So I ended up losing a close friend yet putting out an incredible album. When it blew, we got lost in promotion and touring without a definition of who we were as individuals and a group … People/press were already getting there meathooks in us. I wasn't with the program. I always looked at it like a one off project album. Yet a new company flow alnum with everybody's craft maturing would be fucking insane. I ponder the thought.
HHC : I've heard El-P say that to make a name for yourselves and to send your demos you were using the Tower Records mail order service where you were working at the time. Can you give us more information about these "hustling" days and about the first years of Co-Flow ?
J : Yeah .. The good old days...... We also caught a major break on the clear vinyl EP we first put out … The manufacturer somehow only charged us with a single vinyl price on 4000 double vinyl records. So we passed the savings onto the distributors..... thus insuring moving units and profit right out the box. Cats were no joke……
HHC : With Subverse, you released "Black Bastards" and "Operation: Doomsday" and finally made them available worldwide. Is there any hope of seeing you in the studio with MF Doom any time soon as you are now both signed to Big Dada ? (If not for you, do it for us please…)
J : Yes.... Me and Doom are going to be doing something really sick that will put the game out of reach. It's being formulated now but I can't go into it.
HHC : Are you the kind of artist which isolate himself from the rest of the world and doesn't listen to any other music than the one they record ?
J : I'm afraid yes... I don't like to get even subconsciously influenced by listening to a record especially any hip hop album. I usually have a million ideas running around so I try to accomplish them as purely as possible.
HHC : What's the last record that you've really appreciated ?
J : You just reminded me on just how long ive been in a zone working ... I don't honestly know... I listen to a lot of older shit roots/rockers, classic hip hop, dub, jazz, 80's Prince, Radiohead, Sade, Shostacovich etc…
HHC : Apart from "Imperial Letters of Protection", what do you plan to do in the coming months or years? Do you plan to reiterate this NMS-type of collaboration or are going to concentrate on your own career ?
J : 2004-2005 schedule :
- 2 nephlim albums
- Top secret large scale project with doom and others [main focus]
- Black mamba serums part 2 [last of series]
- Possible Company flow album. It's up to you. If you want it.......make some noise.
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