featured interview

DJ JS-1 and the state of hip-hop 'No One Cares' is the title of DJ JS-1's third and last release in the 'Ground Original' series. To say that The Rock Steady DJ isn't too happy about the current state of hip-hop is an understatement.

The cover is not really cheerful...are you that pessimistic about the state of hip-hop?

I'm beyond pessimistic (laughs). That's why I'm already dead on the cover. Things have been getting worse in a lot of ways, and it's not letting up. From vinyl not being as relevant, to not even having stores that sell vinyl, to now not having stores that even sell cd's. The stores that do are only large chains that don't carry good indie hip-hop. The vinyl shops that remain are selling funk 'n soul and 45's and not really carrying the new Ill Bill vinyl, etc.. you know?

With Facebook, Twitter and all these different music sites and the amount of material that is available every day, people just don't even have time to care. The music scene works like the ticker at the bottom of CNN or Sky News, etc. Something is the new thing of the day, and it's gone in seconds. Everyone mailing their mp3's to DJ's and radio shows. You would have thought before this existed, that would be a great idea for new artists and a blessing. But instead it has flooded everything with junk.

Millions of people who could never make music now have programs that make music for you right in your laptop or phone even. You don't have to spend money to press vinyl anymore, so everyone and their mother is making songs and e-mailing them out to the world or posting it on Youtube. It's pretty wacky. DJ-ing can be fun with some of the new technology but it sucks for the young kids who never learned to spin the way we did growing up. Basically, no one cares because they don't have time to! With all those tweets, texts, e-mails, and millions of new songs every week, who can possibly stay on top of stuff? (laughs)

You're from the legendary Rocksteady crew...do you still earn a lot of respect from the hip-hop fans?

The real hip-hop fiends know what Rock Steady means. Of course they respect it. Many others think they know and respect it because they know they should. (laughs) But lots of young kids don't know any of the history of hip-hop, DJ-ing, emcees, etc. Most of them know what they hear on the radio and what their friends play.

Dancing has made a bit of comeback with the kids because of some TV-shows, so hopefully that helps encourage children to dance. But I do personally think RSC should be getting a little more respect from the corporate world and politicians where we live. Besides helping further hip-hop culture for over 30 years, RSC has also helped in the community, does free concerts every year, and helps teach kids something positive and healthy like dancing. That should get maximum respect!

Do you remember when NY hip-hop turned corny?

Well it always had corny moments. There was some things that people we all love did that was funny and crazy along the way. Like when Run DMC shaved their heads, dressed in army gear lookin' like Onyx and made 'Oooooh whatcha gonna do, gunshots, gunshots, all u heard!' (laughs) That's funny. Run DMC trying to be Onyx and say they shoot people. (laughs) Father MC was corny to me.

But to me, the major turning point had two parts. The first was when radio started playing hip-hop songs here and there during the day and not only on mix shows on weekends late night. It was early to mid 90's and they would throw on a Naughty By Nature song in the day time. That wasn't corny then, but what happened was groups started making songs that they thought would 'get on the radio'. So people started doing anything to make a radio record.

Then Puffy came along and took a gospel singer like Mary J and made her sing over hip-hop beats everyone already knew, got someone to rap on it, and that worked real well for radio. The singing made it radio-friendly but beats kept it still 'hip-hop'. So then everyone started saying 'hip-hop and R&B' together and then made songs with singing in every chorus. Before that, people like Q-Tip dissed R&B in songs, etc. anyways that started the whole R&B and hip-hop rush on the radio which lead to someone like Timbaland coming along and mixing drum 'n bass break downs with R&B pop songs. That worked real well and lead to double time records and down south songs. NY was so out of the loop for a long time now because of the style of beats, the flows, the slang, etc. NY never made that type of stuff. And when the NY artists all started trying to make down South songs to fit in, it got real bad. Between making horrible radio R&B, down south crap, and now dance records, everything has sounded soooo bad to me.

Of course some still make some harder stuff, but man, most of its corny to me. Kids nowadays are all into fashion and scared to get their sneakers dirty. (laughs) We were doing graff n stuff like that at their age. Everything got real fruity. For real. (laughs) Now the scene is all about nonsense really. The only good hip hop clubs are sooo small, its very sad. There are some of us that do everything we can to try and keep the traditional, non-corny hip-hop vibe alive, but it's hard. Everyone seems to be against us. I know djays for 20 years that loved hip-hop, that now play commercial dance records and mock real hip-hop producers and DJ's. Really crazy!

What does a good hip-hop DJ in this day and age have to have? Does he have to be a producer eg.? There's a lot of DJ's producing nowadays...

Well in reality all you need to call yourself a DJ now is a laptop, or an iPad and maybe big titties. (laughs) But seriously, to me, its always been the same. to be a really good DJ you should be well-rounded in everything. You should know music well. Lots of genres not just one. You should be able to spin and mix different music. You should be able to cut and scratch, do some juggles, maybe some tricks, and keep all types of crowds entertained. Not just a 5 min battle crowd, not only commercial club fans, not only house festival crowds, everyone. Id like to hear some better mixtapes or mixes from DJ's.

That used to be something DJ's prided themselves on. I know I keep making good quality mixes. As far as producing, that's really if you can or know anything about producing. I know lots of DJ's now 'produce'? but do they really? We'll see. It's not easy to keep coming consistently with record after record. Lots of programs, pre-set grooves, drum kits you can download, blogs with samples and all that has made it easier for anyone to make beats. That kinda messed things up to. All these beat CD kids. Oh man. stop. (laughs)

I never do that. I only make my own albums. I've been putting out albums for 10 years now and been recording songs for 20 years. Ive always tried to produce but there is other reasons to put out albums. It helps with bookings, helps get your name on blogs and sites and in magazines, etc. Promoters and agents wanna see your album or your mixtape. Some DJ's make good stuff, but I see many following trends, cutting corners and trying to make gimmick crap to get famous. Good luck, it usually never works. I like staying in my lane and making what I know and love.

You've made a phone call with Premier to get to work with Freddie Foxx and Lil Fame...so if you can call Premier for some emcees you could call about anyone right? Who else is on your wanted list? Is there anyone you wanted to work with on this album?

(laughs) Yeah of course. There is a bunch of emcees I want to work with. Many that I actually spoke to but it just doesn't always work out or it hasn't happened yet. I'm still goin! But from Premier, of course if I could have him force Nas to sit in the studio and let me play some ideas for him I would. Duh! But I rarely ask anyone to do stuff like that. I wish I would have recorded with Guru. I regret that.

But if I could get any MC's in the studio that I haven't worked with it would probably be Nas, Rakim, Ghostface, Redman, GZA, Ice Cube, LL, De La Soul, Busta, Snoop, Del, B-Real, Fashawn, Necro, RZA, and Black Thought. Black Thought was supposed to be on this album! There is also lots of people outside of hip-hop that I would really wanna work with, but will probably never happen. I would love to have worked with Tom Morello, Ozzy, Jamiroquai, and people like that. Hopefully as time goes on, I will get to make some music with a few of those MC's I mentioned.

'No Sell Out' was in the top ten of Fat Beats and Undergroundhiphop.com selling charts. Do yo have any selling ambitions with this album or could you care less?

It would be nice to sell some copies of course. I do DJ and sell products for a living. I support myself and family with only this, so yes, it's nice to make enough money to allow more projects to keep coming out. That's always been the goal. But as far as how many it sells, I could care less. I do care that the kids around the world who like this style of music do get to hear it. I don't care if they download for free from a site or if they buy it, I just want to keep this vibe alive.

I feel most DJ's are not making exactly this type of stuff. I was happy to see my album in the top selling charts on those sites. Those sites are where most people buy their indie hip-hop and I outsold a lot of artists I thought sold more than me. Its flattering and nice to know some people do care. (laughs) But if you truly care about sales that much then you are making music for all the wrong reasons honestly. There is several ways to look at the concept of units sold. Let's just say artist 'A'? is known by EVERYONE in the United States. One of the biggest rap stars. They spend tons of money promoting them, on major radio, tv, ads, publicists, etc. and they sell 1.3 million records. Well there is 300 million people in just the USA alone.

They all have access to buy that album because it's available everywhere unlike most indie hip-hop albums, but 99% didn't buy it. So the % and business #'s for the commercial artists really are not that great. Compare it to an underground artist whose album is not so easily available, not promoted, not on radio or tv and only a few hundred thousand people may know of it. They sell 10,000 copies only, but the % and business #'s are actually better. To each his own, as long as you are happy with what you are doing.

What's the craziest music you ever scratched?

I did a huge morning show on TV called Regis & Kelly and scratched Dean Martin singing 'Volare' in Italian. That was viewed by millions of people. That is probably the craziest thing I've scratched for a large audience. In my house, in the studio, who knows? I scratched everything I found on record! (laughs)

I made a break record with Rock breaks and sound fx and put one of our crazy friends really drunk screaming about beer at the end of the record. I did scratch that a few times too. (laughs) Oh, on the second addition I put my friend Todd's German grandmother screaming at him about all the records in his basement. His entire basement was full to the ceiling and she never went down there. And we recorded her yelling at him about all the records, pressed that too. (laughs)

Who would be your greatest influence when it comes down to DJ-ing?

Wow. That's a tough call. I have a few who would all be equal kinda. Jam Master Jay, Flash and DST for being the first DJ's I saw scratching records and made me want to do that. DJ Aladdin and Jazzy Jeff through the late 80's for sure. Then DJ Scratch, Daddy Rich in the early 90's. Then Q-Bert and Mixmaster Mike, Roc Raida and Rectangle. Overall, since I've first seen him DJ in 1991 I think, to the first time I met him in 96, to knowing him in '99 and then touring with him a lot in the past 10 years, MixMaster Mike has really influenced and helped me a lot. He really is a master at all aspects of what it takes to be a great DJ. No joke.

Who would be your greatest influence when it comes down to producing?

That's pretty easy. Of course DJ Premier. Then Large Professor, Pete Rock, Bomb Squad, Erick Sermon, Paul C, Ced Gee, Diamond D, DJ Numark, Todd Terry, Marly Marl, Showbiz. But most definitely Premier style of beats and the scratch hooks obviously really influenced me. First, Im not rhyming, so I get to speak with my hands when I make a chorus. That's how you claim a song. You make the track and you essentially write the hook with scratches.

Premier has done stuff that is soo simple yet genius and classic forever. It's an art. And especially to make hit records with hard hip-hop beats. He never compromises and he won. I like that and always look up to him as person as well. Listening to hip-hop I always gravitated towards the groups that had a lot of 'DJ stuff'?, break-downs, scratches, etc in their music. Like Public Enemy and the Bomb Squad production was a huge influence.

Today's music is missing that interaction with the DJ. I don't understand how they call something hip hop and there is no scratches? I never heard a rock n roll song without guitar? Anyways.

What's some of the last rap records you uploaded onto your iPod?

Hmm. I just uploaded a new DJ Numark mix cd he sent me. But I haven't really uploaded a whole album into my iPod recently. I have been putting tons of new songs from Ill Bill, Vinnie Paz, Fashawn, Edo G, Bumpy Knuckles, Beastie Boys, Rasheed Chappel, Cunninlynguists, Blaq Poet, ColdHeat, Large Pro & Neek, Eternia, and BrownBag Allstars to name some. There is lots of new music that gets made, its just being able to know what and where to look for it so you can find it.

You just came back from the Paid In Full tour in Europe with Rakim, how was it?

I love touring Europe. I've been there hundreds of times now. Everyone is always appreciative of good music. For this last group of shows, it was in Spain. I wasn't DJ-ing for Rakim. Myself and Rahzel were opening for him and performing before him. He has been using DJ Technician from the Bronx to fill in and his show is really good. Soo many classics! But for myself and Rahzel, we have been doing tons of shows for over 11 years together, all throughout the world. It's great to be able to bring turntablism and beatboxing to soo many different places.

This is the third and last instalment of the Ground Original series...what's next for DJ JS-1?

Yes, this is the 3rd and probably final instalment of the Ground Original series. Maybe. Not sure if I wanna deal with that many MC's in making an album again. (laughs) Not easy. Well, I already turned in two new projects that will be coming out soon. I have an instrumental slightly different album called 'Music To Grow Your Plants To' that will drop soon in July. That's more of a concept album with more mellow breaks. It will only be released digitally. I have other beat albums done, a sort of 'best of'? with lots of the best songs from all my albums plus some bonus stuff, another albums worth of songs I never used, a project in the works w Jeru Da Damaja, some new mixtapes, etc. Always staying busy. There is some other projects im working on as well, but I'll wait to surprise people!

Shout-outs?

Shout out to you for taking your time to do this. And Shout Out to everyone who is okay with bucking trends, going against the grain, doing what you like without caring about what others do, think or say.

 

POSTED 06|27|2011
conducted by cpf

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