J Love Interview: Better Your Life

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by Alex Shtaerman

As a DJ, producer and MC J Love is a throwback in a sense many younger cats may not realize. Today we find a lot of specialization in the elements of Hip-Hop; many people see DJs, MCs, b-boys, producers, graff artists and urban entrepreneurs as distinctly different from one another. They tend to characterize each group as having its own separate identity, hierarchy and set of procedures. This is, of course, in complete contrast to the way Hip-Hop started. Back in the day the same cats would DJ, MC, write graffiti, rock and bring the speakers for the party. Being a triple threat was a minimum requirement as opposed to the rare exception it is today. But while times have certainly changed, there are always new lessons to be learned about what it takes to succeed and earn respect among Hip-Hop’s elite. J Love makes for an excellent case study. Recognize.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Where are you from originally?

J LOVE: Queens, New York.

RIOTSOUND.COM: How did you first get into music and what motivated you?

J LOVE: I always loved music since I was a kid. When I was first exposed to Hip-Hop, I was in love. Listening to AJ Skratch and La Di Da Di I was hooked. It was a good thing ’cause I was like too caught up in the music – it saved me from the streets. I was fucking around in the streets and if it wasn’t for music, who knows where I would be right now.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Unlike other mixtape DJs, you don’t seem to gravitate to the artists that’s hot at the moment. How would you describe your outlook as far as what you try to get across on one of your mixtapes and what artists you tend to support?

J LOVE: I just try and keep my format the same. I never been a “dickrider”; just ’cause a certain artist is on top doesn’t mean his music is bangin’. You have to impress me, so I look for what I like. It may be a Jay-Z song one minute and a Large Professor song the next; but to me it makes sense. I don’t try to support anyone regularly, I just try and keep it real with myself. The way I look at my CD is – would I listen to this if I was buying it? So basically I’m making the CD for myself first and then everyone else gets a copy too.

RIOTSOUND.COM: With mainstream rap music becoming so commercialized, do you feel that the mixtape scene has really surged in recent years since fans are looking for other ways to hear the type of music they can’t find in stores or on the radio?

J LOVE: Shit, I mean some artists, if it wasn’t for the mixtapes they would be dead. The radio only plays like 30 to 40 songs a day; in 24 hours you gonna hear the same 30 to 40 songs – so that means that’s 30 to 35 artists, depending if a certain artist has two songs in rotation. So what can the rest do? They have to look for other outlets and mixtapes supply that avenue. The music game is very corny right now so a lot of artists are stuck and don’t know what to do. But I’ma just be me and see how I turn out.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Hidden Darts The Best Of Ghostface mixtape you did was written up in XXL. At that time did that bring you a lot of exposure and introduce you to people that otherwise might have not known?

J LOVE: Maybe. I always had a nice following on the mixtape scene since I first came into the game, so it’s hard to say. But, I mean, look at that CD – Ghost wasn’t even hot at the time. Bulletproof Wallets came out and people wasn’t really feeling him like that, the album didn’t even do good. Jay-Z was the nigga at the time; but I went against the grain and was like – ya’ll missing something right here, this is that shit you need in your life – the review was a shock but like I knew the CD was hot when I did it, so people had to recognize.

RIOTSOUND.COM: In recent years you have been getting more and more into production, doing tracks for Large Professor, Cormega and Masta Ace, among many others; as a producer where would you like to be and where do you see yourself several years from now?

J LOVE: Well, what a lot of people don’t know is that in like ’97 I had an album deal to produce a compilation LP. I had completed it and had crazy artists on it. Tragedy, Cormega, Large Professor, Smif & Wessun, Brand Nubian, Guru, Inspektah Deck, OC, Masta Ace; there was more but that’s all I remember right now. But shit didn’t work out over there and I’m not the type of cat to let someone put my livelihood in their hands, so I took my reels [two inch tapes], contracts and broke the fuck out from the label.

I think its just now that I am getting a little more recognized for the beats but I always loved beats, that’s my favorite shit right there. That’s why I am about to put a CD out called Better Your Life with 25 songs that I produced, just so I could showcase my production skills and niggaz see what time it is really. I even have a few tracks on there rhyming, so I’ma surprise a lot of people. As for the future, I just want to be respected as an ill nigga in the game; like yo – he really do his thing in everything he does. Just the props and respect; I mean getting paid helps it all the more but respect is the first and foremost.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Being a supporter of the Wu, how did you feel about Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s passing? What was your reaction when you first heard about it? What was it like making that tribute CD?

J LOVE: That shit was crazy to me. Ol’ Dirty was always my favorite in the group, that shit had me sad. I always felt he never reached his full potential and now he was out of jail and back rhyming again and it just came at a fucked up time, mad love goes out to the Wu. Definitely went and repped for the nigga, went to his wake and all. I felt like I keep losing MCs I really have mad love for, Big Pun, Big L and now Ol’ Dirty. It was crazy but that’s life, things happen; what can you do? But when I did that tribute CD I just wanted it to come off correct. Mad DJs ran out and did some corny CDs so they could get a little money real quick right after his death – but that shit is weak to me. I am paying homage to a great artist, shit is genuine with me.

RIOTSOUND.COM: How come you have never done a best of Gangstarr mixtape? Is that something you may do in the future?

J LOVE: Yes sir, definitely part of the Legends Series coming up in the future.

RIOTSOUND.COM: You pride yourself on getting all the rare, hard to find joints on your mixtapes. A lot of times you hear about rivalries between mixtape DJs as far who got the best exclusives. Are exclusives really that important to crafting a good mixtape or is it something that some people tend to blow out of proportion?

J LOVE: Well, now-a-days it is – ’cause all these top mixtape cats – without the exclusives what else does their CD consist of? That’s why I try and stay away from that, ’cause I have all the same exclusives all these DJs have but half the time the songs suck. I’m not making a CD just for the playlist to have big names on it – but that’s how the majority of these DJs do it. It’s pathetic if you ask me.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Before you started making mixtapes and producing, were there any DJs and producers that you looked up to? Who are some of the DJs and producers out now that you can say you have respect for?

J LOVE: Plenty, as far as DJs, Kid Capri, Marley Marl, Red Alert, Chuck Chillout. Producers who I looked up to and still do to this day are Rza, Large Professor, DJ Premier, Beatnuts, Diamond D, Showbiz, Lord Finesse, Peter Rock, Havoc, Alchemist is nice too. I know there is a few I am missing but that’s of the top right now.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What up and coming MCs are you feeling at the moment?

J LOVE: Game is kind of ill, Killa Sha, J Hood, La The Darkman – he’s not new but he has some heat; Mayhem, my nigga Raze, Exquizite, even J Love.

RIOTSOUND.COM: As far as J Love, what should the fans be looking out for?

J LOVE: Like I said I have that Better Your Life CD coming out real soon with 25 bangerz from top to bottom, no weak links – so be on the lookout for that and the mix CDs at your local bootlegger.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Do you think you will ever stop making mixtapes and just produce?

J LOVE: Maybe, if the mix CD game keeps going the way it is. It’s too overcrowded right now, there’s a new mixtape DJ everyday, shit is horrible. But for now I’m not going anywhere so rest assured I’m here to make life hard for the fag DJs.

Shout out to RiotSound for having me for the interview and keep checking the website – www.J-LoveOnline.com is about to undergo a major redesign; also scoop that Better Your Life CD coming out real soon.

To purchase J Love’s new album Better Your Life click here