What makes a great producer and/or mc? In my opinion, it’s someone who loves/respects the culture and knows the history of it – and let’s not forget they gotta be nice with it. J57 checks off all those boxes. A former Fat Beats NYC employee, J was mentored by DJ Premier and Marco Polo. A member of the Brown Bag All-Stars, he’s quickly becoming a go-to producer and rhyme slinger. After listening to his latest release, the 2057 EP, I had to reach out to him.
In the interview below, he talks about how he connected with Brown Bag, DJ Premier’s influence on his music, his upcoming projects and more.
Introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m J57. I’m an emcee/producer originally from Long Island but been living in Brooklyn for the past nine years.
You’re currently in Australia – can you share with us what you’re doing there?
I’m putting in studio work with Aussie heavy hitters like The Thundamentals, LMXEC, and more. I also found time to link up with the homies Joey Bada$$, CJ Fly and Statik Selektah to work on my solo album (where I rap over my beats).
How did you get involved in hip-hop? Who were some of your influences?
I became a fan of hip hop at a very young age. But, I didn’t ”participate” until 11th grade in high school when I started to freestyle and beatbox in ciphers at parties and high school, etc.
You’ve mentioned that DJ Premier is a mentor to you – how did you first meet him?
I met him when I worked at Fat Beats but became tight with him while at SIRIUS/XM at “Rap Is Outta Control” when he would fill in for DJ Eclipse, when he was on tour.
How has he helped you develop as a producer?
He’s helped my mentality as well as being able to see how he levels his beats on the mixing board; seeing how loud he puts the bass, the bass-kick, snare, hi-hat, etc. I would go home after a long session with him and just imitate what he did level-wise for a long time and that really helped my sound for sure. What I mean by mentality is, I picked up on a lot of key words that he always used to describe producers he thought were dope, by calling them “creative” and stuff like that, so it made me want to push the envelope even more. His work ethic is unparalleled and his passion for making quality music, as well, so I learned a lot from him in those departments, too, just from being in the same room with him.
What’s your relationship with Marco Polo?
I met Marco 10 years ago at Fat Beats and became tight with him right away. He always took me under his wing, which I’ll always be grateful for. I used not to put basslines on my beats because I was awful and didn’t understand how to put them in key. He noticed and took me to Marco Polo bassline camp about 5 or 6 years ago. He’s the type of person that would give you the shirt off his back, if you’re down with him and has always given me his old records for samples, which has been such a great. To hear a sample he flipped and figured out how he flipped it.
I would go home after a long session with him (Dj Premier) and just imitate what he did level-wise … that really helped my sound…
You’re a member of the Brown Bag All-Stars – how did you get involved with them?
We started Brown Bag AllStars back in the summer of 2007. We were all friends that worked at Fat Beats / met at Fat Beats and decided to get in the lab one day and the rest is history.
Do you ever find it difficult being both an MC and (extremely) active producer?
It was close to impossible to do both for a good 7 years; there were years where I just focused on making beats and rapping took a backseat. There were times where I wouldn’t make beats and just focus on rhyming…but now I have it all figured out. I’m finally 50/50 and just as passionate about both…and loving it!
One of the projects you have coming up (that we’re particularly excited about) is the Brown Bag x Pro Era collaboration project. Can you give us any details about it? What can we expect?
That album is the A La $OLE x J57 project. I first got in contact with A La a little over a year ago. He was on tour with the homie Joey Bada$$ and Joey was playing one of the joints I produced for him while on their tour bus, so he wanted beats. I dug his rhymes, so we organically linked up and decided to do a project. It’s just some dope beats and rhymes. We’re very like-minded as people and we’re both as hungry as you can be, so expect us both to bring our “A Game.”
You also have an upcoming record with one my fave artists, Homeboy Sandman. What can you tell me about that project? How did you connect him?
We’re almost finished with our EP, and it’s fucking dope. I met Sandman in 2008 or 2009 at Fat Beats and started working together from then on. He’s one of my favorite people in the world; as an emcee and as a person. We have a joint on there that he said Peanut Butter Wolf went crazy over…..so I can die happy now haha.
What else do you have coming up in 2015?
Koncept & J57 “The Fuel” EP
Brown Bag AllStars album
Antcs EP (indie group I’m in with a singer named Vein aka Jesse Mechanic)
Tigereye (indie group I’m in with Joe Rogers and ATR)
MAK3RS EP (indie group I’m in with a singer/producer named Matt Stamm)
J57 “We Can Be Kings” LP (where I rap over my beats)
J57 “L/NDM1NES” EP (instrumental)
J57 “0057: FlaskLIFE” EP (instrumental)
Mike Two EP Produced by me
Top 3 albums ever – go!
The Mars Volta “De-Loused in the Comatorium.”
Radiohead “Kid A.”
How do you balance being part of so many groups and active DJ on Sirius XM?
My life is extremely scheduled from the second I wake up til the second I go to sleep. I kind of don’t have time for much out side of music, which sucks, but it could be worse haha. I have every minute planned out a week in advance to get as much music made as possible each day. Don’t have time for spontaneity.
Do you have any last words you’d like to leave our readers with?