Tuesday, May 06 2008 | 00:00

270As a child, I didn’t care about too much but playing and watching cartoons. One thing was always constant in my house: music. My father played everything from the Temptations to Jackie Wilson to Richard Pryor albums. Before I could even read I was playing records. For real, my dad bought me a turntable when I was 3. My moms put a big black ‘X’ on the side of the record with my favorite songs! (Do you believe that? If you don’t, come to the crib and check out my ‘Car Wash’ and ‘Wiz’ records just to name a few.) I enjoyed all types of music, not just black music; I was into stuff like Kiss and Sha-na-na. To me, good music was good music, no matter where it came from. So when HIP-HOP came out, it was no different. From the Sugarhill Gang that my dad copped to the Cold Crush, Funky 4 +1, Fat Boys, and Run-D.M.C. that I bought; I thought HIP-HOP was the bomb. But In 1985, I had no idea that HIP-HOP would change my life. My dad used to take me to the record store with him all the time, and I always spent my allowance on records or comic books. But this day would make comic books a thing of the past. I saw a silver and black record in a black jacket that said ‘La Di Da Di’ by Doug E. Fresh and MC Ricky D. I thought to myself ‘what’s this?’. I took it home and checked it and remember thinking ‘this is so fresh’. Dude did a whole beat with his mouth! My cats from Eldorn (my block) Buka (who we would later name the label for) and Duane, felt me too. Eventually, we started reciting the song on the block everyday, I would beatbox and Duane would rap. A year or so later, Buka would get 2 turntables and a mic and me and Duane would rap … and well, that is how I started doing HIP-HOP.

See our perception of HIP-HOP was that it was the greatest thing that you could only dream to do. For those of you that don’t know, Columbus, Ohio is far away from the Big Apple (in distance & pace). It became apparent to us at an early age that getting a ‘deal’ would be close to impossible; so we didn’t even do it for that. We did it because we loved it. We did it because it made us feel a certain way and there was nothing like hearing your voice on tape. So how did we make music? Well, there wasn’t any money for instruments. We didn’t have piano’s in the living room or a great uncle that played saxophone. We had our dad’s old records that we grew up on, so that was our instrument. I can’t describe to you the undying excitement when me and Buka found our first loop. It was in my dad’s basement, Kool & the Gang ‘Wild & Peaceful’ – the jungle boogie joint that EPMD had used. Man we went crazy! We knew people had used old records in their music but had not found any yet. We stayed up the whole night going through hundreds of my dad’s records and then soon after we headed to Duane’s dad’s crates. Music is timeless and universal. And that had never been so apparent until HIP-HOP showed us that an old James Brown loop was really not that old when you put a fat kick and snare over it.

So I have been making music since I was young; first as a beatboxer, an emcee and then as a producer. I rhymed for a long time but when I started making beats, I knew this was what I wanted to do. Let me explain it to you. From the time you go to your secret dig spot fingering crates of dusty records; to taking those records home and finding gems on some and nothing on others; to finding a loop or a fat sound and piecing it together; to the time you finish your final draft of that beat; to the time when an emcee is blessing your creation; beatmaking is an art and that is what people have forgotten.

My parents wanted me to go to college. I did too, but knew I wanted to make music. But they always said ‘you gotta have something to fall back on’. I don’t know if it was God’s will or just plain luck that I chose the University of Cincinnati, but if I hadn’t I would probably be stuck in some corporation for the rest of my life. It just so happened that Jermaine went to UC, and Mood and the Five Deez were from Cincinnati. Ironically enough, I met Jermaine through Buka even though Jermaine went to UC. I had heard cats talk about Sands before but never met him. I just heard there was this kid who was one of the best freestylers on campus. He would be in the Union freestyling and cats would just hand him newspapers and he would incorporate the headlines into his rhyme. So when we did our first joint “Jet Black,” I knew there was some magic. Sands graduated after the first year I met him and moved back to Pittsburgh, and he came down almost every other week and we did joints on the 4 track. He was telling me about this young cat named Hi Tek and a group named Mood who was making some fat ish. So we went to their loft in KY to check them.

Mood was one of the freshest new sounds I had heard in a while and when I heard stuff from this kid from Brooklyn they were down with named Kweli, I was on some Black Rob ‘like whoa’. I will never forget seeing Kweli in the Vibe independents section and reading the article about him ripping a song called “Black Love” at a poetry reading. I finally met Talib through Mood and one day I just happened to hand him a beat tape. I gave him about 6 beats, right and I just happened to put an interlude on the tape to give it some flavor. Next thing I know, Kweli calls me back like ‘ me and Mos want to use that interlude for the Black Star album we are doing. Mos got a fat singing chorus to it’ … and well you know the rest of that story …

In early 98, Kweli invited the Lone Catalysts up to Brooklyn to perform in a Foundation that they do every few months or so at Nkiru Books. That is when we knew we could make this happen. Of course we slept at Kweli’s crib (good lookin out Talib & family for the many nights we crashed there!) and when we got back on the road we started planning how to make this happen. If it hadn’t have been for Uncle John (thanks so much) we might still be trying to figure out how to finance that first “Paper Chase” 12 inch.

The thing is, we got these 1000 records so what the heck do we do with them? Well, I guess I am pretty resourceful, I got Matt Fingatips from Guesswhyld number from the Vibe magazine. I had called him up and talked to him from time to time. So when I spoke to him, he said he could easily get us hooked up with distribution. He calls up Jameson at Big Daddy Distribution and Jameson knows my name from the Definition song that Funkmaster Flex is playing on the radio everyday. Bam! He buys them like that. (Big ups to Matt for the love)

I also had Wes Jackson’s number from the Stress magazine article about Rawkus. I knew if we were ever going to really make it happen we would need promotion. After we recorded “Due Process,” we knew we had a hit and it was time to call Wes to do the promotions. What we found about Wes was that he had a whole fam that was about the same thing as us; GOOD HIP-HOP MUSIC. Seven Heads quickly became part of the fam. Although we had met James DL before, this is when we really started kicking it with the whole Seven Heads fam … so through them, we hook up with Asheru, J-Live and Grap. That led to tours in England and shows in L.A., Richmond & Philly.

One day James DL was like “you should submit something to my man Demian at Groove Attack in Germany.” I had always saw those “Supperrappin” 12 inches everywhere, but I didn’t know who was responsible for them. I sent Groove Attack some stuff, a few emails and phone calls later, that’s the new fam. I hit them with a few remixes and some a few joints for the new Supperrappin’ LP. So expect a lot more fat ish in the future. Y’all enjoy the album!

One Love,

J.Rawls

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