interview

Interview With Rapper/Producer J57

What makes a great producer and/or mc? In my opinion, it’s someone who loves/respects the culture and knows the history…

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.

Interview With Rapper/Producer J57
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…
– J57

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.”
Nas “Illmatic.”
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?

Go to J57Music.com right now to check out more of music! Thanks!

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns
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Get to Know London Rapper: Kid Bookie

“Energy Transcends” was the phrase that stuck with me after an insightful conversation with the highly motivated, London based rapper:…

“Energy Transcends” was the phrase that stuck with me after an insightful conversation with the highly motivated, London based rapper: Kid Bookie.

After watching Bookie’s music video for the single “Who’s Next,” I became intrigued by the UK artist. The image that stood out to me from that video was of a sign reading: “you’ve been brainwashed into liking trash,” because immediately after showing it, he spits bars that would make any Soundcloud rapper terrified. Kid Bookie proved to me in six seconds that he had a deep respect for lyricism in Hip Hop, and that he was not afraid to voice his opinions towards those who mishandle it. After watching a few more of his videos I learned that Books had recently toured with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. This was truly icing on the cake. So I called him up.

The first thing I noticed about Bookie was how hungry he is to be heard. This man truly cares about his art and he told me how appreciative he was that I recognized his talent. Immediately I asked him about his quote from the “Who’s Next” video: “you’ve been brainwashed into liking trash.” And his answer clarified how deeply involved with Hip Hop he truly is.

Books said that “Even if you’re not rapping, but you have an element of musicality because you studied music, and you know what goes in a beat, that shows me that you care. And people don’t care these days, but people who do care, you find them. You have to study your predecessors.”

 
This is pretty much an extension of the J. Cole/Lil Pump conversation, where people are acknowledging the increasing gap between “clout” rappers and true lyrical artists. But Bookie had no malice for these types of “rappers” in his statement. As he put it: people will find those who put blood, sweat, and tears into their music.

When I asked about the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony tour I was impressed to learn that the group actually reached out to Bookie first. The London MC modestly said that the OG’s respect him, despite being relatively underground. And it was clear the respect went both ways. Bookie described growing up watching his father rap, and hearing Grime artists all around him in. But he made it clear that he is not a Grime rapper, or fully aligned with London’s underground scene. The MC told me that he resonated more with artists like XXXTentacion and those with an aggressive, artistic energy about them. When Bookie and I previewed a track he had been working on I could spot the influence. With a combination of fast paced spitting, melodic singing, and super aggressive scream-rap, it became apparent that the young MC has a strong portfolio in the making.

When I asked Bookie who inspired him growing up, he told me that before he even picked up a rap CD, he listened to rock. System of a Down, Slipknot, Korn, and Blink 182 were just a few of the bands the MC said influenced his music. We spoke about the importance of the rock/rap relationship and how Hip Hop has adopted the energy that was introduced in the 80’s and 90’s via the punk scene. London was arguably at the forefront of this scene, and Bookie proves he is a product of this through the energy he puts out. As I listened to his upcoming tape “Publish THIS” I could hear the rock influence; but it’s his variety of flow, subject matter, and carefully calculated lyricism that makes it an airtight project.

My conversation with Kid Bookie gave me a promising hope that there are budding MC’s out there preserving Hip Hop’s gritty, lyrical roots. With the self-proclaimed underground album: “Publish THIS” scheduled to drop May 31st, Bookie wants you to know before he’s dead, no matter how early or late it be, he will change the world through his music.

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Daniel Najar Is In It For The Love

Growing up as a Jehovah Witnesses, Hip Hop’s artist Daniel Najar journey began while going door to door one weekend…

Growing up as a Jehovah Witnesses, Hip Hop’s artist Daniel Najar journey began while going door to door one weekend with his family. “One day a lady let us into her house, and she was explaining to the older guy I was with that her son was rebellious and listened to rap,” he tells AAHH. “Her son shortly came out of his room, and I could hear ‘The Real Slim Shady’ by Eminem in the background.”

His fascination with Eminem — and The Marshall Mathers LP — led him to explore the catalogs of multiple artists, before getting into the game himself. “I ended up having a very crazy life of my own, and at the age of 24 I began to take rapping seriously, pursuing a career in music,” he says. 

“I feel that I can add some value into Hip Hop … I look forward to sharing my life story with the world,” he continues.

“I look for beats that match my emotions or how I’m feeling at the current time,” he says of his deeply personal approach to creating music. “I spend hours every week looking through beats to find something that gets me inspired and motivated to write.”

Currently, he’s working on a project called On The Rise. “I’ve released all the tracks I’ve finished to my Youtube Channel and all the streaming sites,” he noted.

“Everyone in the world has a layer to them you will never see,” he explains. “When you create music you are forced to reveal the things you would normally never share with anyone … making music is extremely personal and puts you in a vulnerable position.”

“I want to show people if they believe in themselves anything is possible,” he shares as a noble goal in the industry. He’s definitely in it for the love — you can’t hate on that!

Check him out, below.

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interview, Interviews

Cold War: An Interview With Rising Upstart Cautious Clay

We spoke to Cautious about his musical influences, creative process, and a fated trip to Korea that changed his life.

Cautious Clay burst onto the scene last September with the release of his debut single, “Cold War,” and hasn’t looked back since. The former leasing agent marketer has progressed at a torrid pace since the impressive drop, accomplishing more in nine months than most artists do in an entire career: he’s racked up millions of plays on Spotify alone, performs throughout the country, and is already being hounded by major labels. He re-released his debut EP, Blood Type, attached with an extra track, “Stolen Moments,” in April and is already slated to release a new EP by the end of May. We spoke to Cautious about his musical influences, creative process, and a fated trip to Korea that changed his life. You can check it all out, below.

Not even a year ago, you were working as a leasing agent marketer. What was it like working a 9-5 as a passionate musician?

I was fortunate enough to find a way to make a living out of college. But, besides that, it was still something that I realized, even though I was making money, it wasn’t in a way in which I was happy. As cheesy as it sounds, I’m kind of a guy of my convictions and I didn’t relate to anyone else at my job. It was super soul-sucking.

And what made you finally take the leap of faith and quit?

Long story short, I had been making beats and stuff for several years and had a lot of weird ass beats up on my Soundcloud. The head of a Korean label sent me an email almost three years ago, in 2015, saying he wanted me to come out to Korea to work. At first I said, “That’s ridiculous,” and I ignored it. A year later, my manager was going out to Korea for a vacation and asked a friend of his if there was anyone he should meet while out there. He was introduced to the same guy that cold-emailed me years ago and they were like, “We have to get him to Korea.”

I was still working in corporate throughout those years and basically had no vacation time, I had like one or two days, and I took unpaid days off too and was like cool, I wanna do this. I basically ended up producing eight songs for these semi-big Korean artists; that was super surreal for me. The fact that I did that, I was like okay this is a sign. The beats were just some stuff I was working on like on a plane ride or making randomly, so I realized if I really just put 100% of my efforts into this and focused, maybe I could make a career out of this. One of the songs I produced ended up being nominated for a Korean Hip-Hop Award.

Growing up in Cleveland, how did the city influence you musically, i.e., Kid Cudi or Bone Thugs-N-Harmony? Sometimes your voice sounds eerily similar to Kid Cudi’s, although you’re different stylistically.

It’s funny you say Bone Thugs because they lived in Mayfield Heights, not too far from me. I think in terms of inspirations growing up, I would say that Cudi was surprisingly not a huge influence, I had always heard about his stuff and kinda listened to it peripherally but I never really got into it, funny enough. Not that I don’t like him as an artist, but he was never super inspiring for me.

You said in a past interview that you’re heavily influenced by Hip-Hop. Which artists in particular?

Today, there’s some artists I really like even just because of a couple verses that they’ve done. I really love Earl Sweatshirt’s verse on, “Super Rich Kids.” I think he’s incredibly talented and I really fuck with his stuff. Obviously Andre 3000 is amazing. Sometimes stylistically I’m really into Ugly God too, he’s of a genre that I love because it’s the most self-deprecating, he’s just funny.

And which artists overall?

I was super into a lot of different stuff, a lot of stuff my parents turned me onto early on, I kinda didn’t accept at first as most kids wouldn’t, but it kinda comes back around. I listened to a lot of RnB, Pop Punk; Green Day, Lil Bow Wow, 50 Cent, a bunch of pop of just in the early 2000’s and late 90’s was around the house and in my ears. In my teens I was a really big jazz head and played in a jazz band.

Which artists would you most like to collaborate with?

I’m really stoked actually to collaborate, I think I might be working with Duckwrth pretty soon, I really like his stuff. I would definitely say Kendrick Lamar, he’s so sick, that’d definitely be the dream collab. Otherwise I’m kinda open to different ideas in terms of collaborations. Someone like Alina Baraz might be cool or SZA. Maybe even in a production sense it could be interesting.

 
As a poly-instrumentalist, front man and songwriter, what’s the creative process like for you in terms of collaboration? Do you do most everything alone or like to include others in the process?

That’s a great question, I’m kind of grappling with that right now because I do get hit up for a lot of production and collabs, and it’s easiest sometimes for me to just be by myself and just make everything on my own. But there are some situations where I’ve been collaborating with people lately, on my next project I have one co-production, everything else is on my own. That’s a good example of someone having a cool sound, something I admire, and I’ll work with them for that particular reason. But in general I definitely feel like it’s difficult because I am a producer, so if a producer wants to work with me you gotta be good, cause I can already do this.

Blood Type seems to cover lots of topics regarding relationships, specifically, people struggling to stay present in the digital age. Would you say the whole E.P. is based on this theme or is the project more so general observation?

I would say it’s more of a general observation and that’s just a part of it. I try to toe the line and not be preachy in how people lead their lives, I like to have more of a reflective mentality about it. Everyone has a different perspective on things and I wanted to show my interpretation of how I see things. That stems back to the title, Blood Type, representing my identity in a grander sense. It’s purposefully trying to highlight my perspective on relationships and on things people might wanna consider or think more about in their own lives. I’m not trying to say you’re bad for using Tinder, of course, use Tinder! But kind of like hey, this is where we’re at and this is okay but also just realize that you can live your life in a lot of different ways.

From a songwriting perspective, are all of your songs based on your personal experiences or do you draw inspiration from elsewhere?

Mostly, 80-90%, my experiences because for me, that’s the easiest way to feel that what I’m saying is authentic. It’s weird for me me to try to do something if it doesn’t feel right. I think today is the coolest time to just be yourself, so, that’s all I can do.

Stay independent or sign?

I think I’m definitely gonna stay independent for the near future, but down the line, if an opportunity comes about that makes sense for me, I would definitely consider that.

What’s on the horizon for Cautious Clay?

Yeah, right now I’m actually working on putting out my next project at the end of May. It’s something I’m pretty stoked about, it’s a 3-4 song E.P. There’s gonna be a video and some pretty cool artwork that my friend Lane is working on, he did all of the artwork for the last project. I’m playing a show at Bowery on July 24th. I’m just stoked to keep it moving, it’s a fun one for sure.

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CHIKA: A New York Star On The Rise

Almost a week ago, J. Cole’s epic album “KOD” dropped and so did a video that went viral from a…

Almost a week ago, J. Cole’s epic album “KOD” dropped and so did a video that went viral from a New York rapper named CHIKA, who responded to J. Cole’s song “1985” from his new album. Remarkably, her Twitter video now has over a million views.

CHIKA chopped it up with Above Average Hip Hop and discussed her music background and what inspires her.

I’ve been rapping since I was 14. I started writing poetry and I wanted a way to incorporate it into the songs I wrote, and eventually it just became what it is” she says.

I’m inspired by people & society. There’s plenty to write about, plenty to comment on, and a lot of things that need to be heard. In my opinion, music is the best way to do that,” she adds.

https://twitter.com/oranicuhh/status/987726695062036480?s=21

It’s evident that CHIKA has a lot to say and wants her voice to be heard. Her Twitter page is also proof of that. She has countless rap videos that discuss wealth, the black community, love and a slew of meaningful analogies.

I want to be remembered. Not for who I am, but for what I bring to the game & changing how people think. I just want the respect that my fellow lyricists get and the opportunity to touch people in some way,” she notes.

CHIKA is originally from Montgomery, Alabama. She recently relocated to one of the world’s music capitals – New York, to focus on her music career. She also comes from a very supportive family and keeps them in the forefront of her mind when times get rough.

My family also keeps me motivated. I have parents and a sibling with special needs that I want to be able to take care of. When things get really hard, I think about that. They have tried their best to support me, so I‘ll bust my ass to support them,” she mentions.

In her latest viral video, she discusses how there are people in the rap game who take their platform for granted. Mentioning that there’s so much in society that needs to be addressed and it’s not. CHIKA is fighting for a spot in the game so her voice can be heard and lives can be changed. Similar to how J. Cole, who she admires, pierces the souls of his fans with his lyrics.

By the looks of it, CHIKA is definitely off to a great start in her music career. It won’t be long before she’s ranking top 10 as the next influential rapper in the game.

https://twitter.com/oranicuhh/status/989550438038097921?s=21

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