posted: 06-16-04
interview: quote35 (g.lehrl) of
"A balance of awareness and humor gets you through crisis. I'm providing the humor" J-Zone
J-Zone will be back soon to slap us with a new album, due to come out in September. The producer / rapper / dj extraordinaire provides us with Hip Hop that is unique, innovative and funny as fuck. He knocks us out with comedy, something that is badly lacking in the Hip Hop of 2004.
We caught up with Zone to talk about his new album, women, politics and whole cages of chinchillas.
Meet J-Zone aka Cpt.Backslap aka Jay aka 2004 Bobby Brown aka Tom Jones of Rap. Duck down all of you dogged fuckers!
Tell me man: what's the question you would love to get asked at the beginning of an interview?
"Yo Zone, how much money do you want us to pay you for this interview?"
Please answer your favorite starting question.....
Let's go back in time. Where did you grow up?
New York. I grew up going back and forth between Queens and Mama- roneck. Mamaroneck is in Westchester county, a suburb about 25 minutes north of Manhattan. My moms lived there and my grandparents lived in Queens. Same house I'm in now. My dad would take me to stay with my grandparents every weekend and during school breaks. I split my time between both places.
What's your first hip hop related memory?
People are gonna laugh, but it was when me and my friend Rob both bought the New York City Breakers compilation tape. That was like 1984-85. It had Run-DMC's "Sucker MC's" on it. That line, "drive a big car get your gas from Getty" would crack us up. That was the first time I heard rap. I liked Fat Boys and UTFO, but I didn't get deep into rap until about 1988-89.
Who are the artists that influenced you back in the days?
When I first got interested in making beats: 45 King, Marley Marl, DJ Pooh, Bomb Squad, Pete Rock, Muggs and DJ Premier were the main dudes. When I started DJing, it was DJ Miz, DJ Alladin and DJ Scratch. When I first started rapping, it was actually Lord Finesse, Percee P and 2 Live Crew! That's a bugged out combo right there. Finesse had the cleverness, Percee had the flow and 2 Live had the subject matter I liked. I always loved that ignorant, x-rated shit!
Your new album is coming out in September. It's called "A Job Ain't Nuthin' But Work". Is working on an album more of a job or work or something different?
Actually, doing albums is the most fun for me. It's work, but I enjoy it. I get real excited when I get deep into makin' an album. I wake up at 6AM and work all day. I be getting' in a zone. Doin' beats for people is more like work to me. I like doing it, but it's not as personal 'cause it's not my project. It's cool to hear other people on my beats rapping about different stuff than I would rap about. It's a challenge too, but ultimately I love doing my own records.
That is what keeps me sane, 'cause I don't have to interact with anybody except the guest artists. And I'm generally more motivated cause albums involve a bigger vision, not just makin' beats for the fuck of it.
How long do you usually work on an album?
It depends. This new one only has four guests on it, so it took five months. If the only person I really have to depend on is myself, it gets done fast. When I do an album, I
drop everything else. No tours, not too much outside production, not too much going out. This album took me five months, but I was real excited to work on it. Like I did the album for my source of fun.
I worked on it eight hours a day everyday for five months. When I'm havin' fun makin' music, it doesn't seem like work. Even though theoretically I'm bustin' my ass. I work real intense when I'm doin' my albums, so none of 'em took more than a year.
Do you have something like a working-routine?
Everyday I work from 6AM to about 3PM. Even weekends, if I go out and get home at 4AM, I sleep 2 hours than get to work. I'll make beats, record, run errands, etc. After 3PM, I go do some other shit, usually not music related. Go play basketball, take a nap, go running. I go to the local high school basketball games out here in the winter, I'll call up some chickenhead bitch that gets on my damn nerves...whatever. I ain't a normal hip hop dude with routine. Fuck all that late night studio shit. I ain't doin' a fuckin' ounce of work past 3PM. I'll take phone calls 'til about 8PM for people on west coast time, but after 8PM I don't even answer the phone if it's music related. Gettin' me to do shows is a bitch cause I hate doin' music shit after 3PM. It's weird and I don't know why I do that, but that's just me. It drives people nuts because I'm good for nothing when most hip hop people are just waking up. All I do after 3PM is rest and dress.
How do you approach a song? Do you usually start with the beat or are you building music around lyrics or something different?
I write rhymes to silence. I can't have a beat playing when I'm writing. After the rhyme is done, I try to match it with a beat I already got and if nothing fits, I just wait 'til I make something that does.
Who will be making guest appearances on the album?
This time I kept it simple. [There's] too many guest appearances on rap albums nowadays. I tried to focus on bringing out my personality on the mic more, and rappers I really like charged too much for verses. So I got three of my usual guests and one very special guest for the album.
The usual guests on the new album are Al-Shid, Celph Titled and Dick $tallion. The special guest is a lil' surprise, I won't say it flat out. Here's a hint: He's sitting on the toilet and reading the newspaper on one of his album covers. Now you either gotta guess, or wait 'til the press copy gets leaked!
Which topics do you attend on it?
Everything from basketball to baldheaded hoes, to drinking, to bad hygiene and much more. It's funny, but your IQ will not get higher when you listen to this album. Nothing uplifting whatsoever and there's plenty of cursing.
But what comes do my mind right now, didn't you retire not so long ago?
Yeah, in 2001. I wanted to just do production. But then shit started happening. Huggy and I went our separate ways; but we're still cool personally, so you can kill that beef rumor. Al-Shid and I still work together, but he's doing a lot of his own production now. I wanted to sell beats, but selling beats is a bitch nowadays cause the money isn't too good and everybody has their homeboy doin' their beats. What could I do?
I also realized that over the years I came to like writing rhymes and making records. I still don't consider myself an MC, but I enjoy doing J-Zone records more than just making beats, so I decided to do it as long as I'm still having fun. I never intended to have a rap career, but I've found more success as a self contained unit - makin' beats for myself - than as just a producer. Besides, Too $hort and Michael Jordan retired and came back, so why can't I? If I do decide to retire again, I won't say shit about it, I just won't make no more records.
The first single is called "A Friendly Game Of Basketball". So who gets dissed?
Rappers that I wanna play one on one in basketball like Bow Wow, Ice Cube, Queen Latifah and many more. They all play ball and are supposed to be good, but I wanna play 'em and see if they can beat me. I diss a bunch of NBA dudes in the second verse too. I wanna play in the TNT NBA Celebrity All-Star Game next year. I was offended that they didn't call me last year. I'm streaky, but if my mid range jumper is on, they're all gettin' shitted on! It's just a joke and a stunt to get some attention, I'll admit it.
If you had to play in a mixed team, which women would you choose?
Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird. They're better than most of the dudes in the NBA.
What about "Spoiled Rotten", the B-Side of the single?
Me and Celph Titled doin' some real ignorant trash talk over this funk beat I made. It has a pimped out funk feel. It's the sequel to "Eatadiccup". Special shout out to my dog Celph Titled, that's my homie.
When will it hit the market?
The single drops July 20, give or take a week. The promos of the single will be out in late June, so you can probably find the audio online somewhere around then. The album drops September 14th.
Your albums are always action-packed with intelligently funny lyrics and skits. If you wouldn't drop lyrics - where would your comedian talent vent itself?
Movies. I always wanted to take jobs from hard working actors.
If you'd shoot a movie, who would the actors be?
Me and some superstar pop bitches, Like Brittney, J-Lo, Christina Aguilera or Beyonce. I'm the only dude in that muthafuckin movie. All chicks for the supporting cast. Even the extras are females.
The plot: what would it be about?
Use your imagination.
(laughs) No doubt. Is there any movie you'd love to have done ?
"Boomerang". I would have played Marcus - Eddie Murphy's role. I could have made out with both Halle Berry and Robin Givens.
Do you plan to go into movies at one stage of your life?
Yeah. I auditioned for some TV show in London and it went well, but the network deaded it at the last minute. I don't have the time yet, but I wanna start fuckin' with some casting calls.
Your last album was called "Sick Of Being Rich." Why were you already sick of being rich?
Cause people kept askin' me for I had it! Like friends and shit. Thinkin' cause I had some CD's out that I was loaded. But I'm cheap, so even if I had a billion dollars I wouldn't give your ass a quarter for the payphone.
So are you now sick of being sick of being rich or still sick of being rich?
What the fuck is this? 'Who's On First'? Next question.
(Smile) Compared with the new album, what are some main differences?
The beats are more intense this time around. The humor is still off the wall and rude, but I'm talkin' about a wider range of topics. This album has way less guests than the last one, so to the people that hate me as a rapper, I guess that's a negative!
What are your thoughts on that album after some time has passed since releasing it?
I had a lot of fun recording it. The new one blows it out the water completely, but "$ick…" is my favorite of the four albums I got out now. I'm very critical of my records. I don't even like my first three albums. I'm proud of them because they represented me at the time I made them and they all have their good, maybe even great points. But I cringe when I hear them now. My partner Contakt had to twist my arm to re-press the first two on vinyl. The only reason I did it was cause the fans kept asking for them and I could make some money. The first two are long out of print on CD. I have a song about this on the new album called "The Zone Report". I rate all my albums from my standpoint and explain why I did certain things in my career. We all hear critics opinions, but never the artist critiquing himself and I was brutally honest on that record. I both praised and dissed my own records. That's some shit you have to be an artist to understand.
You paint a picture of the larger than life pimp through your lyrics. Is there a certain intention behind it?
Not really an intention, I'm just havin' fun with it. It's real easy to get mad at how rap has changed for the worst and complain about the 'bling' era. I used to be the same way. I did "Music For Tu Madre" back in 1998 and I poked fun at that type of stuff. But I did it with humor. Then I did almost a complete 180 degree turn after that. I said "fuck it, why not embrace it and have fun with it." Rap will NEVER be what it was in 1990, but moping about it just makes you depressed.
This is entertainment, so I'm gonna take pieces of my true personality, pieces of a character I made up and make some new shit. I actually love shit like Big Tymer$ and Cash Money Millionaires. Those guys are hilarious! Baby is a genius! If you can't find entertainment value in some of this stuff, you'll be a stuck up, pretentious, tight assed snob. That's miserable, so I choose to have fun. 'Cause who knows how long I'll be able to make music...or live life for that matter.
Do you think a lot of rappers are taking themselves too fuckin' serious?
Hell yeah. Rap needs balance to progress. You need your dead prez, you need your Public Enemy, etc. But you also need your J-Zone and your Old Dirty Bastard and your Suga Free. I just hate it when people front on me for bein' a clown. If my music isn't your style that's cool, it damn sure ain't for everybody. Once in a while I'll do a more serious song, but I'll keep my personality in it. But some people look at it like there's something wrong with an album full of wild shit where there's absolutely nothing enlightening. Fuck that! MOP splatters brains on the wall for a whole album and their albums are GREAT! Beatnuts, Too $hort, Suga Free, don't buy our records to hear science being dropped. And you don't buy dead prez for funny stories about hoes. You don't have to like my records. Actually, hate is great! But let me do my thing and don't take this rap shit so fuckin' serious.
No doubt, I agree. We need the PEs and the J-Zones.
What artists are you working with outside of your circle right now?
I did some stuff for Casual, Prince Po, 7L & Esoteric, Leak Brothers, Akinyele...I sent out beats to a lot of people recently, so we'll see what pops off.
Are there some artists you'd never ever produce a beat for?
Yeah, a broke one!
Your work for GM Grimm on "Taken" and "Dancin'" is amazing. How was working with Grimm?
Thanks. Grimm is real cool. I known him since 1999. I engineered the sessions for his "Landslide" 12" on Fondle 'Em Records with DJ Eli. I engineered most of "Down Fall Of Iblyis" too. I always been cool with him and he helped me out a lot when I put out "Music For Tu Madre." But time never permitted us to work together on some music shit of our own. I knew when he came home last year, we had to rock. It was overdue.
I think Grimm mentioned that you'll probably work for a Grimm/Zone EP together. What's up with that?
Word up. I had gotten caught up in doing my album and he's real busy as well. But we'll be gettin' back in the lab ASAP.
Do you still have something like a dream collaboration that hasn't happened yet?
I MUST do a song with Suga Free. I met him at an in-store in California and he picked some beats from me, but we never got a chance to connect. I gotta have him over my beats. He's my favorite rapper right now, PERIOD. One of my dream collaborations came true with the special guest on my new album, so that was cool. I'd like to hear E-40, Too $hort or Milk D on one of my beats as well. I'd like to do an EP with Celph Titled too. Like some Jaylib shit with us rappin over each other's shit. When time permits, hopefully I can team up with Celph for that.
What's your favorite beat you made so far in your career?
All of my favorites are on the new LP, but if I had to pick one that's already out I'd say "Choir Practice" or one of the joints I did on that new Akinyele album.
What equipment are you using?
MPC-2000, Tascam 16 track analog board, a few track compressors, Technics 1200, CDJ-800, TR Rack Sound Module, Oxygen 8 MIDI controller and I just recently got Pro Tools. This new album is my first project on it. All my older stuff was tracked on DA-88 tape machines.
I head that you play the bass. Still doin' any projects where you're using it?
Yeah, I played for eight years. I haven't played in a minute, but I used it a little on the first album. I play all of my basslines as opposed to sampling them, but I haven't played 'em on an actual bass in a while. I'll get back into it soon, cause I was actually a damn good bassist when I was younger. Call me Bootsy, bitch.
Digging in the crates: what are some of your favorite breaks, used by you or others?
My favorite breaks are all the old Kool & The Gang breaks: "Music Is The Message," "Rated X," "Give It Up"… That's my favorite band. Their early shit was so raw. "Greedy G" by the Branford All-Stars is my favorite non- Kool & The Gang break. I love James Brown too. I got a Bulgarian record with the most insane beat ever, but don't ask me to translate that motherfucker. Not even for chopping up for a beat, just to listen to. The shit is crazy ill.
What music do you listen to chill out at night?
Old funk music or some golden age rap shit. Old Gangsta Rap shit. All the Rap-A-Lot shit from the early 90's, Poison Clan, Ice Cube, Suga Free, Too $hort, E-40, Eazy-E. They all get play in my ride. LL, Juice Crew, a lot of unknown rap stuff from the early 90's. My homemade best of EPMD mix CD and my Tim Dog "Penicillin On Wax" CD NEVER leave my car! Those two are mandatory. I been listening to a lot of Jungle Brothers lately too. Their first two albums are incredible.
What about the Gorilla Pimps, is there still something in the works?
We finished an album in 2002. Classic. We're workin' on another. We only do R&B nowadays. Handcuff your hoes!
For the peeps who don't know, who are the Gorilla Pimps?
Captain Back$lap (aka the 2004 Bobby Brown, the Tom Jones of Rap) and Dick $tallion (aka Black $inatra). Handcuff your hoes!
How did you hook up with with Hug and Al-Shid?
On the set of "Pimps Up, Hoes Down." Naah, haha. I met them in college. SUNY Purchase in New York. Me and Shid went there and Hug was friends with a classmate of mine named Double A. Hug and Kobayashi (he was on my first album too) would come up to the school studio and do demos with Double A. Al-Shid would always be rappin' at parties and at the college radio station. So when I was doin' "Music For Tu Madre" for my senior project, I approached them about rockin on it.
They never knew each other 'til after the record came out though.
Old Maid Entertainment, what's the science behind the name?
My grandmother. She's on the cover of Music for Tu Madre and she looked like an Old Maid, so when it was time to name the label, it just fit.
What's the word on Old Maid Entertainment, what can we expect from the future of your label?
I'm not signing anybody cause I don't believe in locking nobody down. I'll continue to use it as an avenue for all my productions and projects. I'll do one offs and maybe a joint venture with another artist for an LP or EP, but I'm not signing anybody.
You call yourself a pimp from time to time (smile). Pimps have palaces, you have a pimp palace. Which gifts should we bring with us when we enter it one day?
$50,000,000,000,000,000,000 is fine. I'm not picky.
(laughs) That's a bargain. Gimme three golden attributes of a grand pimp.
I'm not a grand pimp, so I can't answer that. I do county check pimpin', which is the art of dating girls and not spendin' a whole lot of money, or if possible, juicing a girl with more money than you. The three rules are:
1. You can buy her jewelry, just make sure it's fake. Even then, keep all your receipts! If she don't act right, bring it back to the store.
2. If she doesn't have a job, don't give her no play. Reverse the game.
3. If you get lucky enough to get some action, never cuddle the next day away. Leave her house or get her out of yours by 9AM. By 11AM for an out of towner. Time is money you imbecile!
tadah, the brain of, will go to NYC this summer. So he asked me if you - the pimp - can hook him up with a woman. He prefers the skinny ones, the Kidman-ones.
Yeah, I'll hook him up...with a crackhead! Hey, you said all she had to be was skinny.
Pimps don't pay taxes. But do super producers do?
Do pimps read?
Minds, I suppose.
Do pimps vote?
Who are you the fuckin' census?
(Smile) What can you tell us about Capt. Backslap?
He's my alter ego. I can be in one of three forms at anytime. Jay, J-Zone or Capt. Back$lap. Jay is real cool and humble and stays to himself. Not very outgoing, but still friendly. J-Zone is cool, but he can get arrogant and stupid from time to time.
Captain Back$lap only comes out with the excess consumption of liquor and he'll try to lay pipe to somebody's mama and date a girl for her welfare check. He rarely comes out, but when he does, it's over. He doesn't rap, he sings.
What about that driveway story in front of your Grandma's house we heard about in that skit on your last album? How has the situation developed?
Funny you ask. She's been outta town and I been parkin' on the strip all week out of laziness. She's not here to yell at me. But she comes back tomorrow, so thanks for reminding me to move it. That shit is really a pain in the ass because it makes no sense to put a grass strip on the driveway. They were smokin' some potent shit when they decided to do that.
(laughs) Besides your Grandma, is there a woman by your side permanently, a female Capt. Backslap for Capt. Backslap?
Naah. I'm not ready for a serious relationship. But then again, I hate goin' out to clubs and I'm gettin' tired of goin' all the way to Manhattan for night life. I live in South Jamaica Queens, way out by Kennedy Airport. Goin' towards Far Rockaway. Going all the way to the city from here is a pain in the ass for me, so I rarely go out. It makes you wanna settle down just so you don't have to go out all the time, but that's the wrong reason to have a girl. Besides, I dunno if I'm ready to settle down cause I like to come and go as I please, with no consideration of anybody else. I'm on my own schedule 24/7 and that drives girls crazy. Plus, every fucked up night out I have becomes the subject of my next song!
This is a quote from your bio: "Then there's me, the chinchilla fur wearin', hooptie drivin', trash talkin', obnoxious bastard that lives with his beloved grandmother in Jamaica, Queens". How many of these stinky chinchillas does one need to get a nice coat together (smiles) ?
A few cages worth. I have about 5 or 6 in my fur coat, mixed in with a few other various dead reptiles, amphibians and dinosaurs. Everything in my coat was previously living.
(laugh) You were touring Europe with louis logic not long ago. How was that tour?
Actually, that's supposed to be this fall. That's in October with louis logic and Vakill, but it's not confirmed yet. I'll keep you posted.
But I'm doin' 5 dates on the Warped Tour in the US in early August. Check my website periodically for show info.
Uh ah, my fault, I got a wrong information or interpreted it the wrong way. So, is the European crowd any different from the US-American?
Way more enthusiastic in Europe.
Speaking of Europe, your beat for "County Check Pimpin'", the Sirtaki beat as I call it, is bananas. Have you ever been to Greece and danced some Sirtaki? Sirtaki is some serious shit man...
History: Actually a lot of people consider Sirtaki as THE classic greek dance, but that's only half of the truth: Anthony Quinn when acting in the movie "Alexis Zorbas" had such a hard time doin' the steps of traditional greek dances that M. Theodorakis, the composer of the score invented a new dance: the Sirtaki, which is a symbiosis of two other dances.
Uuuh, okay.
Yeah I just thought people should know that (smile). But, let's switch topics: What's the situation with racism like in the US? How has racism changed its face during the last years?
This has always been a real racist ass country, but since 9/11 the racism towards people of Middle Eastern descent has been crazy. It's tough over here.
Are you speaking about a channeled racism trough media or more that people of Middern Eastern origin might get in trouble when just walking the street in certain situations?
The media feeds the people those stereotypes. And when in crisis, people get super patriotic to the point where it becomes racism. And the media just puts more fuel on the fire.
How has the Patriot Act after 9/11 affected daily life in the US?
At the end of the day, people are gonna do what they do. Daily life hasn't changed the way you'd think. I remember after 9/11 people asked me if my subject matter in my music would change. Why should it? What happened that day was awful, but you still need comedy to get through those times. I caught a lot of flack for that. You adjust to the changes and try your best to move on.
I totally agree with you when you say, people NEED comedy in hard times. You mentioned you caught a lot of flak for not changing your subject matter after 9/11, what did people accuse you of?
People just said: 'How can he just talk about bitch this and ho that in his records and all of this is going on? He's a fuckin' clown.' Saying I was one of those rappers acting like nothing happened. I live in New York City, bitch, I know what the fuck happened. 9/11/01 was actually the release date for the original "Pimps Don't Pay Taxes" and I was on the way to Manhattan to put some CD's in Tower Records on consignment. I remember calling to say I obviously had to cancel and all the phone lines were dead. My aunt worked down by the Twin Towers and barely made it out. A day later I still saw the cloud of dust from all the way out in Far Rockaway, so the critics can suck my dick. Just cause I don't address politics in my music, doesn't mean I'm oblivious to it. A balance of awareness and humor gets you through crisis. I'm providing the humor.
Who accused you, the media, friends?
Friends a little bit, but more so just regular people. People would e-mail me links to those rap message board things where people said shit. I'm gonna do whatever I want anyway, so I encourage haters to keep hatin'.
Word associations, just write what pops in your mind: Life.
Zone for President.
Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.
Shout outs.
I don't put shout outs in my liner notes, so why the fuck would I put em in my interviews?

Look out for the upcoming single "A Friendly Game Of Basketball" (July), for the upcoming album "A Job Ain't Nuthin' But Work" (September) and for J-Zone on tour (October). Visit and handcuff your lady.

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