J-ZONE & AL-SHID - Interview
How would you say you've evolved since 2000 (when we interviewed you for the first time) ?
Well, since then my views on music changed a little bit. I'm getting older, and I pretty much want to have more fun, I don't take myself seriously on the mic, I do more production, I haven't even written a rhyme since Pimps don't Pay Taxes a year ago.
So i've really been putting my focus more towards the beats, and just having fun. I know I'm not the world's most serious MC and I'm not a freestyler and all that other stuff, I just take rapping for fun, whatever it is. You know, I'm really trying to focus more on production. I put out the last album, Pimps don't Pay Taxes, which has done well, and I've done beats for High and Mighty, and Cage, and different people, just trying to get my name out more as a producer cause thats where my heart is at. Like Al Shid and Hugg, they're coming out with solo records and I want to do beats for them and other people, do developpment with other cats right now.
I really want to be behind the scenes with the beat and with the label.
Shid, what about you ? have you got any interests in production or making beats ?
Well as far as production, that's the man behind the boards right there. I fuck with production too, I do my thing, I try to develop that skill, but my heart right now is mostly with the music, I do it all, but I want to develop myself more as a producer before I give it out to the world.
J Zone, that's the standard question: who are you listening to right now ? who do you like ?
I listen to a bunch of stuff people would not expect me to like, stuff that doesnt sound anything like me. To be honest I'm not into like a lot of the other underground stuff. A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that, but i don't even listen to a lot of hip hop. But when i do I listen to either my old school stuff, or i listen to stuff that no one would expect. Like i love E40, Big Tymers, and the Cash Money stuff, cause it's funny ! They're just having stuff. It's not always about coming out on record and being the greatest freestyler and the illest MC. That was my approach to rhyming when I make records, I couldn't freestyle my way out of a paper bag. I really dont care much, i'm having fun and looking at music as entertainment, not taking it so seriously: that's where i find quality in records.These guys, Shid and Hugg are bona fide MCs, and they bring that to my projects, and I respect that cause I need guys that can rip it down, and I respect that. But me I'm more into funny guys. I was always a huge Eazy E fan. To this day I still listen to people who have personality, who don't take rapping so seriously, not always stressing about beeing the greatest freestyler, but just having fun and goofing of. Sometimes thats what I want to hear, so thats why I listen to cash money stuff, cause it's funny.
Can you tell us about your productions techniques ? Do you do a lot of crate digging ?
I just try to stick to my own signature sound. Lately i've been trying to do a lot of stuff that's a little bit different from what i normally do. Switching it up so it's not as predictable, but at the same time letting people know it's J Zone. I do the crate digging and stuff, but i also try to go in another dimension and use effects. I went to engineering school, and i always try to use those techniques to give my records an edge. A lot of New York records don't seem to have no bass. So i listen to a lot of southern and west coast music, and they got a lot of bass, so i take that from them, and some of the quirkiness from the old er East Coast records, and i just mix it together to make my own sounds.
The production is really where i want to be at right now. There will probably not gonna be any J-Zone rhyming stuff in the near future, but production-wise definitely expect a lot from me.
Al Shid, is there people in the hip hop industry you'd like to work with, even though you have the best producer in the world ?
Well, I am a particular cat when it comes to rocking with cats. I don't rock with too many cats, I keep my joint within the circle of brothers, I don't fuck with too many outsider cats. I fuck with Zone, and my fam, I fuck with a lot of tight-knit brothers. If I don't know you like that, well... A lot of cats come up to me, they feel Shid, they wanna do a joint... If the situation is right, we'll do it. But personally I don't feel too many cats out there like that. That's just my personal take on this. I'm not really eager to work with too many cats. I'm doing me, I got Zone backing me, I got my fam, I'm doing my joints, I'm producing for myself. I go where it works: I got a power combination right now, it's like niggers is like the fucking Chicago Bulls and shit. Whatever empire(?) you wanna work with, the Celtics, the Lakers, niggers is doing it. if it ain't broke don't fix it, don't go outisde and fuck with other niggers. And that's how I keep it, I keep it close-knit.
J Zone, would you have an interest in producing other type of music than hip hop ?
Well I'm working on an RnB album called Captain Backslap's Greatest Hits. We gonna cover Al Green, Lou Evans (?), Freddy Jackson. I'm a let my golden voice be heard, you know. So I'm a do this little love ballet album that's coming soon on Flagrant Gorilla records.
But in the meantime, I'm working with a couple of alternative Rock bands who aproached me on the side. And I already did a project with one of my college teachers who has a Jazz band, and I remixed one of his Jazz records. That was interesting cause it just allows me to be J-Zone in another arena. I'm definitely trying to work with other types of music because it keeps me fresh and creative, and it keeps me from getting bored. I do a lot of parity (?) album for fun, I just did an album called Gorilla Pimps, and it's just totally ridiculously stupid, an exagerated pimp record.
With the hip hop stuff, I'm definitely trying to do production for other people, but I'm also trying to focus on my immediate family wich is Shid and my crew. We have a chemistry going right here, and I first and foremost priority is to keep the chemistry tight at home. But I'm also looking to get outside production work too, so I'm a try to do everything. Definitely.
I had a question about Lucy Liu, but I guess everyone asks you questions about Lucy Liu...
Lucy is done, man. I'm finished.
I thought you should try Zang Zhiyi, the girl in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Oh yeah, I know her, she can get it too. But you know, after Lucy did Charlie's Angels, the fame went to her head and she forgot about me. But you can always get a look-alike. That's all the same, there's plenty of women walking of the street. Lucy you had your chance, you missed the boat. She missed the chance to ride in the Cadillac with me, that's her loss not mine. You should ask her how's she's coping not being with me.
Next time we interview Lucy Liu we'll ask her about that. But do you really have a Cadillac ?
I'm working on getting one. I'm a get me a new one, baby blue with 23 inch rims, with the eight track tape. Rapping is temporary for me you know, I just want to get me a 'Lac and go somewhere hot and sunny with a name you can't pronounce, sit on the beach and retire.
Everybody recognize the J-Zone sound, but don't you think you'll get stuck with it ?
I have that sound that's working for me now, but I have the ability to do a lot of different things, and a lot of people don't know that. I'm working on some new stuff with this man right here, Al Shid, and it you can tell it's J-Zone but it has a totally different ring. We've been working with raw and gritty sounds, and we mix different tempos and rythm patterns. I can change cause I have a musical background and I was a musician before making beats. I definitely have the ability to change, and I will as I move on. As you master one thing you move on to the next.
Do you have a message for the french fans ?
Yeah, thanks for putting your contribution for my Cadillac.
Do you want to add something, a special message for the planet ?
Everybody go buy my records, Gorilla Pimps is coming out, with myself and Dick Stallion, look for it it's gonna be the best thing you've ever copped in your life. Don't forget the Shid shit too, look for the future shit that's going on, cause we're the future.
Interview : Sacha and StereoNidaL, April 2002