With his latest album, S.P.T.A. (Said Person Of That Ability) New York native J-Live took on the role of a three-headed beast: producing, emceeing and DJing on the different tracks. He answers each of Fusicology’s questions as one of the three different characters.
Fusic: Technically speaking, is it more difficult to make an album when you’re in charge of the production, DJ’n and rapping versus having different people in charge of the different aspects?
J-Live: I’ll answer as a producer. It was much more difficult but also much more satisfying in that regard. This is the full length album that I totally mixed by myself. I didn’t produce all of the beats, but I did chose all the beats and it was my responsibility to make sure that the record was sonically up to par and was direct from my catalogue, with the help of the people that sort of raised me as an engineer, people like Pro Beat Mitz who mixed “Then What Happened”, people like Elliot Thomas who mixed “Go With The Above” and people like David Kennedy, who also mastered this album.
From their tutelage to them lending a helping ear to see how I was coming along, I think I was very, very pleased with the end result, and it was sort of my crowning achievement as an engineer.
Fusic: Which one of your three personalities was the most difficult as far as getting along with the others?
J-Live: I’ll answer this an an emcee. Definitely the producer (laughs.) He’s always been behind the scenes as far as not just the musical production but the logistics of things, and it was a very ,very tedious process as far as him pickin’ beats from other producers, as far as picking his [own] beats, and a lot of times, as an emcee, I had veto power as far as what beats we were gonna use, and whenever there’s a situation like that, you bump heads and people get salty, but…at the end of the day, even though he only had three beats on the record, it’s still a great representation of his talents because of everything else that he put in, you know?
Fusic: Do you begin to feel a little bit schizophrenic after a while, when you’re doing something like this, and how did you even formulate this idea in the first place?
J-Live: I’ll answer that as the DJ. I do tend to feel schizophrenic, but that’s been sort of the nature of my career. Some people look at me as a DJ that can rhyme, some people look at me as an emcee that can DJ at the same time. Some people see me as a teacher who quit school, who quit teaching to rap, when in fact I was an emcee before….I basically started teaching after some label troubles in the early 2000’s. So as far as being schizophrenic, its been fun to portray it this way, wearing so many hats…
Fusic: So did you start rapping first before you DJ’d? I know the DJ usually comes before the producer…
J-Live: I’ll answer this as the producer. J-Live started rhyming when I was 12, at the same time DJ J-Live was first learning how to scratch, as J-Live was writing his first versus. This was way back in like ’88, ’89. Myself, I didn’t really get started until about 2000, but I’d always wanted to, just watching them, it was always something I always felt like I can do, but I didn’t wanna call myself a producer until I had my own production. So until I settled into the MPC, after runnin’ the SR50 and the SR10, that’s when I really got into it, when I had my own machine, and I could churn out beats.
Fusic: I saw your tweet a while back regarding Obama’s new “album”, ‘Pass This Job Bill (Pass It Now)’…
J-Live: (laughs) It’s just funny because the way he speaks, it’s damn near musical as far as his ability to give a speech. And he made it a point to sort of make that the refrain and the chorus of the hook, so to speak, when he was talking to both houses, it had that sort of rhythm to it.
That’s the only reason I put it like that, it’s like he’s promoting his new album. Like the way I promote an album is like a campaign, like “Alright, the record came out September 27th, go out and vote.” You’ll have an opportunity to vote after the 27th but that first day sale, first week sale, will determine whether or not the album stays at Best Buy or how long its on the shelf or how heavily it gets featured on itunes.
It’s the same thing with movies. You want more dynamic and prominent roles for black actors, and you want more successful black directors, then you need to go see that Spike Lee movie on the first day. And if you’re tired of the Medinas of the world and the Big Momma’s Houses of the world soaking up all the attention, then you have to be selective of where you spend your money. And that’s sending a message to the suppliers as far as being a demander.
Fusic: What trips me out is how do so many more people watch Madea than Spike Lee? He’s one of the great directors of our time.
J-Live: It’s like I say, man. You can find me saying this in countless interviews, but it still reigns supreme to this day man, checkers sell better than chess. That’s just the reality of it. you know what’s the more profound game, you know which is the deeper game, but the bottom line is that this is more accessible and it’s easier to play and its easier to learn, it’s gonna reach more people.
Taking that analogy and bringing it back to music, I don’t focus on how successful the Medea movie is, I could care less. My focus is on making sure that I put my dollars behind a Spike Lee movie. Let the corny stuff be what it’s gonna be, let it do what it’s gonna do. Advocate dopiness. Like when you’re little, your parents say if you wanna get rid of the boogie man, you have to ignore him. It’s the same for sub-par music. People will walk around all day and tell you how terrible this album is that people have been waiting for for a couple of weeks, but then if you turn around and ask somebody “what are you listening to, what are you checkin’ for?” that’s really the only way that you’re gonna be able to pass along an idea of what to go get. As opposed to just focusing all your energy on being negative towards what you’re not liking, be an advocate for what you are liken’: That’s the way to make a difference.
Fusic: Which is more difficult for you to master of the three elements: emcee, DJ or producer?
J-Live: To master, I’d say producing only because I haven’t been doing that as long as I’ve been rhyming. I’ve been rhyming since, like I said, 11, 12 years old. It’s just sort of a part of my being. But as a producer you have to be able to evolve with the technology and every day is a learning experience from one beat to the next and one song to the next, from one mix down to the next, and there’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to do things that you learn and you sort of develop a work flow, so I’d say producing, the most challenging, but I’m passionate about all three.
Fusic: Are you touring soon with this new album?
J-Live: That’s the plan, we’re talking about doing an east coast run, heading back over to Europe in the winter, going to South Africa at the end of the year. I mean I’ve been around so many times, it’s just a matter of making my way out west, making my way down south, getting back up to Canada.
But record or no record, we do shows year-round. I wouldn’t say we tour year-round, but we do shows year-round, do DJ gigs as well, so we’ll definitely be bombing the Fusicology site with flyers in the near future.
It’s a great time as far as my career goes, being the first full-length off the imprint “Triple Threat” I’m looking forward to using this as a catalyst to put out other younger artists that are comin’ up the way I was comin’ up back then. I make my self pretty accessible through social media, so definitely hit me on twitter, I’ll hit you back. I’ll follow you back. [twitter.com/J_Live3TP]
Fusic: Have you noticed that the social media boom has helped your status grow?
J-Live: Oh yeah, we try to take advantage of every outlet available, whether it be college radio, independent radio, the few shots we get on commercial radio, so obviously internet radio and just social media in general. For the smart artist, you definitely wanna make the most of it.