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Thursday, March 14, 2013

"I Still Do J-Zone Shit": An Interview with J-Zone Pt. 3

This is the third and final installment of my interview with J-Zone.  Make sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven't already.

DJ Sorce-1: Alright, so if there are no memorable cassette digging stories, let’s hear a vinyl one.

J-Zone: It’s in the book, but probably one of my favorite memories is when Vance Wright and I caught a crack head in New Rochelle getting rid of his 45s. He wanted a couple hundred bucks for a few hundred 45s. We gave him 25 bucks each; 50 bucks total. I was maybe 17 at the time, but I knew beats. I was young, but I knew what records had drums. Vance, at that point, was more on the business side of the game. He wasn't an avid sample scrounger like I was. I got half of the 45s, but I got all of the great shit. I gave Vance all of the standard records and shit I already had. I got Ricky Williams’ "Discotheque Soul", which is worth a couple hundred bucks. These records all cost a quarter apiece if you break it down. This guy had shit that I've never seen again, like local private press funk 45s and limited press shit. I got most of my best 45s off of that crack head. That was crazy.

In the 90’s a lot of DJ’s were selling equipment and records. They needed money because they had drug habits or families. This was pre-Internet, so a lot of them didn't know what they could get in terms of price because there was no EBay, Discogs, or Amazon. There was no way of knowing what something was worth unless you were part of this small clandestine group that would know, “ OK, this record has a drum break and it’s super duper rare. You can get 200 bucks for this 45.” Now all it takes is the click of a button. Back then, they didn't know. To get a good price, all you had to do is keep a straight face, like “Yo, I’ll take this shit, and if I don’t want it, I’ll give it to my cousin.” Just play it off like it’s junk and you’re doing them the favor. They were giving records away, and unbeknownst to them, you just got $1200 worth of 45s for 25 bucks. It was cool, because when you had knowledge back then, it helped you get an advantage. Now you can have all the knowledge you want, but everything is on the internet and nothing is sacred anymore. It kind of takes the rush out of when you find something dope.

DJ Sorce-1: Yeah, I definitely remember a certain excitement in buying records that weren’t even super rare, just white labels that didn't come out on albums. When I was in high school there was a white label of the Nas and Large Professor song "One + One". I remember when that came out; owning that record where I lived was kind of a big deal. Probably not in a major city, but I grew up in a college town. Now I can just hop online and a song like that is either on a blog or ITunes and I just download it. In some ways that’s cool. But I miss the times when I had something that nobody else had. I could show it off.

J-Zone: Exactly. And for me, at the end of the day, the rarity gets you excited, but it’s really all about the music. I’m not a snob. I have plenty of rare rap tapes that suck. I’ll listen to my EPMD tape more than some of the rare shit. I have some shit that I’ve Goodled and gotten nothing, but the tape sucks, so what’s it worth? I’m sure some jamoke will pop up in a couple of years saying, “Yo, this is super rare, I want 200 bucks for it.” And it’s just a guy rhyming over an 808 and there’s nothing good about it at all. And when that day comes I’ll sell mine for $200, because I don’t keep shit because it’s rare. I keep it because I like it. If an album is rare and I like it, that’s even better. 

DJ Sorce-1: I have some non-rare stuff like Murda Muzik on cassette that I’m considering getting rid of. Do you hold on to stuff like that?

J-Zone: It depends. If I got it on cassette first and it’s not something I spin out or something that I really love; I’ll just keep the cassette.

DJ Sorce-1: Can you give me an example?

J-Zone: I’m going to hang myself by saying this, but it’s just my opinion. Somebody gave me Midnight Marauders on cassette, and that’s fine, because I wasn’t a big fan of Midnight Marauders. People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm was my favorite Tribe album. Midnight Marauders, I liked it, but it wasn't like, “Oh shit.” It wasn't one of my favorite Tribe albums, so having it on cassette is enough. If I ever need to put a song in a DJ set I can rip it through Pro Tools and make an MP3 of it. It’s not like I need the album cover nice and big or I need the CD for pristine quality. But albums I’m crazy about, I usually try to get them in all three formats if I can. I won’t go hunt an album down on cassette if it’s like a Midnight Marauders. Whichever format I can get it in first is what I’ll keep it in. I have Tim Dog’s Penicillin on Wax on tape and vinyl. I had the CD but I lent it out and never got it back. Now I think it’s worth about 50 bucks. 

DJ Sorce-1: Holy shit! I have it sitting in one of those stupid CD binders in my apartment.

J-Zone: Yeah. It’s super hard to find. You can’t find that shit and I had it when it came out on CD. So I have doubles of the vinyl and one copy of the tape, but I can’t find it on CD. That’s my favorite hip hop album of all time and I want it in all formats so that no matter where I am, I have access to it. Doing an all vinyl party? Ok I got it. Using Serato? Ok I got it. Need it for the car? Ok I got it. Need it form the walkman? Ok, I got it. 

DJ Sorce-1: Yeah I’m checking Amazon right now. A new copy of the CD starts at $91.65 and used copies start at $25.61.

J-Zone: I might get a used one. 15 years ago was probably the last time I saw it. Another thing that’s cool about the different formats is that the album art is sometimes different. Like if you look at the Peoples Instinctive tape on the inside flap, Tribe looks like they’re on a ledge, kind of looking down. I have the vinyl of that album and I haven’t had the cassette in years. The vinyl doesn't have that photo and I don’t know about the CD because I never had the CD. So if you’re a nerd for album art, try to get an album in as many formats as you can.

(Editor’s Note: At this point of the interview, I Google the picture J is talking about. He also looks it up as we continue.)

J-Zone: Wow. That’s crazy. That’s by my house! I just realized that. That building is Rochdale Village. That’s right up the street from my house. That’s wild. That picture brings back memories. I haven’t seen that since I had the tape version. I always thought People’s Instinctive was there best album because that’s how I discovered Tribe. It was so different than everything else that was out at the time. The Low End Theory was more accessible and a lot more street kids liked that one because it had something for everybody, as did Midnight Marauders. Peoples Instinctive was kind of bohemian, which usually wasn't my flavor, but I loved it, and I loved the videos. “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” is one of my favorite videos. 

DJ Sorce-1: J, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about tapes. Are there any last tape recommendations that you have for my cassette heads reading this?

J-Zone: Yeah. Going back to one of the tapes I mentioned earlier, I like the MC Sergio one, Making A Killing. That has bonus cuts that aren't on the vinyl that never came out on CD. MC Serigo was on Warlock/Idlers records. He’s from Brooklyn. He came out in 89 or 90 and his producer and DJ was Backspin, who went on to do beats for Leaders of the New School and Busta Rhymes. Backspin did beats on both Leaders albums and he did shit on Busta’s first solo album. He was Sergio’s DJ and producer back then. They had a click called ISP (Ill Squad Productions) with Cut Master KG and Dollar $ Bill. They were just a bunch of guys from Flatbush that were in the same crew. Making a Killing was very generic for the time. It had funky samples, battle rhymes, and wasn’t very well mixed, but it has a campy appeal to it. Kind of what an indie album would sound like at the time.

A sincere thank you to J-Zone for taking the time to talk to me.  If you haven't already, make sure to pick up a copy of his excellent book Root for the Villain.  I highly recommend it to anyone who checks my blog. 

If you are interested in checking out some J-Zone music, click here.  


Anonymous said...

hey, Sorce-1, these are great.
really happy to see you back in the blogging game.
You're one of the best interviewers around.

DJ SORCE-1 said...

Thanks, appreciate the kind words!

gordon gartrelle said...

I really enjoyed this.

ray said...

this was really great. thanks

and i was just about to youtube some 303 action yesterday so i'm gonna check out your link too.

Anonymous said...

Great read! thanks a lot

Anonymous said...

Thanx for the dope interview!!!

Anonymous said...

Dope interview!!!

DJ SORCE-1 said...

Thanks for all of the kind words! I'm so glad you guys liked it. Make sure to keep an eye for J-Zone's new album. Check his Bandcamp for details.

Anonymous said...

I read the whole thing. HUGE J-Zone fan and just found about you.

DJ SORCE-1 said...

Thanks for checking me out fam. I hope you liked the interview! I write when I can, someone sporadically, so I appreciate you taking the time to check the blog.

Anonymous said...

Big up on the interview. I have a lot of respect for J-Zone for sticking to his guns.

Hussa said...

Excellent interview and knowledge being dropped. ����