Fifth Element Artist Feature: J-Zone
Written By Kevin Beacham
I can’t exactly recall how I first connected with J-Zone, but it’s probably safe to assume that it went something like this; I read a review of his upcoming EP in some Rap magazine. They had a number in there for more info, so I called it. Once I had J-Zone on the phone, I told him that I had a radio show in Chicago and I also own a Promotions company and if he was interested he could send some extra copies of his record and I would spin them on the radio, as well as put them in the hands of the right DJs and Radio Stations. J-Zone thought that sounded logical enough and sent me a small stack of his “Music For Tu Madre“ EP and I did as I promised. That was the reoccurring story for me thru out the 90s whenever I stumbled across an indie record that intrigued or impressed me. That J-Zone record did both…
From the cover alone, you knew there was a high chance of at least getting something interesting or entertaining; An older lady with blunt in mouth, 40 Oz of something in one-hand and middle-finger up on the other. Once you crack open the plastic and put it on the turntable, you immediately get a sense of where J-Zone’s mind is at. The “FM Blues” intro has him attempting a radio listening comeback with less than thrilling results, as he only discovers pimps, players, hustlers and killers placed in-between, the often better sounding, static. He uses this to fuel his motivation to finish his own project.
Besides the outlandish humor heavily served thru out, the most noticeable characteristic of the EP is how solid the production is. The drums are punchy and choppy and are supported by an assortment of unique sounds, oddball vocal samples, and throwback quotes cut up nicely on the turntables, all done by J-Zone.
The EP focuses on topics such as the state of Hip Hop, stuck up girls, bad life decisions, problems with law enforcement, racism, small time pimpin’ and self-deprecation; subjects that mostly would follow J-Zone for the rest of his MC career.
After ‘98s “Music For Tu Madre”, J-Zone followed with his next EP in ’00, “A Bottle Of Whup Ass”, which serves as a nice companion piece for the debut. The next few years saw a steady stream of 12” single, Production Credits, and Instrumental Vinyl releases. In 2002 he came with his official album “Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes”, which was the first in a one album per year run for the next three years; “$ick Of Bein’ Rich” (2003) and “A Job Ain’t Nuthin’ But Work (2004).
Through all of this, it is all too easy for the casual listener, whether you agree with the sentiments presented in the music or not, to concentrate all their attention on the over-the-top antics and shock value humor. However, this would result in losing sight of how technically sound it all is. J-Zone maintained somewhat of a signature production sound, but freaked it just enough to keep it captivating. Plus he was inventive with his arrangements, keeping each moment of any given track sounding refreshing with a variety of switch-ups and beautifully awkward drum drops.
As an MC, it’s clearly evident through his writing style that J-Zone is just naturally funny. With that in mind, when I heard that he had decided to hang up the mic and diverting his writing skills to a journalistic approach, I knew right away that he may have found an even better forum and wider playing field to run rampant with his verbal antics. This certainly proved true and is fully realized in his book, Root For The Villain. I’ve already given my fan-boy like praise for his book HERE.
Perhaps the most overlooked weapon ever-present in J-Zone’s arsenal would be his DJ skills. Dating back to “Music For Tu Madre”, you can find J-Zone showcasing some flavorful scratch techniques. Even though, I recognized and appreciated, not only his use of scratching in his tracks, but also the applied skills, I still didn’t think of him as a DJ in the most literal sense. However, eventually as he started to wind down from MCing he began to release a few mixtapes, like his famed “Ign’ant” Rap series. I finally got to witness his skills first-hand this past December when the homie DJ Rude One flew me out to Chicago to DJ alongside the legendary DJ PNS and Mr. J-Zone himself. I was completely impressed with J-Zone’s turntable ability. His mixing with crisp, his selections were superb, and his energy was contagious. Soon as I got home to MPLS I was thinking of how to get J-Zone out here to terrorize some turntables so the Twin Cities could check the man in action and then it hit me….Soundset!
Being that J-Zone is such a jack of many trades, I thought we would attempt to maximize his time in the Twin Cities. Beyond his DJ set at the B-Boy/DJ Tent, he will also be doing a Root For The Villain Book Signing at the Fifth Element the day before Soundset (5.26.12) as part of our official Soundset Pre Party! J-Zone also agreed to “blow the dust off the MPC” and cook up some beats for the Last Of The Record Buyers showcase at Soundset, where he will unveil new beat creations alongside Jake One, Willie Evans JR, Zavala, Young Federal, and Psymun!!
J-Zone = Turntables, Books & Beats, all part of Soundset 2012!
MORE INFO ON THE SOUNDSET PRE PARTY:
From 5-8 PM on Saturday 5.26.12 will have the official Soundset Pre Part at the Fifth Element. Here’s an opportunity to not only check out the store but hang out, get autographs, or take photos with some of the artists from Soundset. Plus we’ll have the J-Zone book signing, a production showcase, a freestyle session and who knows what else we’ll go down!! RSVP NOW! It’s FREE and ALL AGES but once the store reaches capacity we will not allow any more people to come inside so get there early!!
Confirmed artists include: DJ Pratt on the turntables! Plus JEL, A.G. (Of D.I.T.C), Chief Kamachi, Dumbtron (Willie Evans JR & Paten Locke), Auddio Draggon, Audio Perm, The Tribe & Big Cats, BdotCroc, MaLLy and more!!