J-Live has been one of the hottest underground rap artists over the past few years. Now with his latest masterpiece “The Hear After”, J-Live gives us another well diversified classic jam-packed album with blazing hot lyrics and well produced tracks. Who is J-Live? Come find out!
Interview by Rob Schwartz

WHO?MAG: Your latest album, “The Hear After” has already opened to rave reviews. What makes this album different from previous J-Live albums?
J-Live: The fact that I don’t try to do the same thing on each album. I might have songs that touch on the same concept, but I go about it in a different way. Production wise, “All of the Above” had more of a jazz theme to it and this album I took in a different direction from that. It has some rock, a little bit of reggae, and a little more electronics in it. It also has some real musicians in it from Soulive. It also has a little crossover because I have been working with Dwele. Once you do one thing, you don’t want to repeat yourself.

WHO?MAG: What do you feel hip-hop is missing today?
J-Live: It’s not missing anything. You have a little bit of everything in there. From the party crunk music, the thought provoking music, the shake your ass songs, the sit down and think about songs. When I was growing up, there was more diversity with in each city. Like New York had a huge variety of sounds, but now when you look for the diversity in sounds, it’s more geographic. For example, Atlanta has developed a sound of their own with artist like T.I and Outkast blowing up out there. New Orleans has their own sound. Dallas and Houston have individual sounds. And out west they have there own sound with the whole Dr. Dre error. So there is still a lot of diversity in it, but it’s just seems more geographically than what everyone else was doing. Me, I just like to encompass what I like best about hip-hop universally. As a DJ, I get exposed to all those different flavors and I try to make the best of that. As a rhymesayer, I’m always going to sound like NY no matter what I’m doing. But musically I like the south. That’s why your going to hear a little bit of trendish music on this album, a little bit of rock on this album, some jazz, some soul, but primarily it’s all going to come out hip-hop when I get my hands on it.

WHO?MAG: In your opinion, what does term “underground hip-hop” mean?
J-Live: It means low budget really. The only reason someone stays underground is when people just don’t know about them. The only reason people don’t know about something is when there is not a lot of funding or marketing dollars. Once you break out of that obstacle, the sound might be considered underground, but the primary objective is to get out there & get your music known and on the airwaves and get it overground. A lot of times the people outside the economics of it look at it from a low-budget stand point doing with what they got making the best of what little they have and letting that talent out due a lot of people with money. From that prospective, I’m looking from getting out of the underground and getting recognized on a larger scale to a bigger audience. If I can do that without compromising my integrity or what is developed as my style, then I’ll be real happy where ever I go.

WHO?MAG: How did you go about getting your deal with Penalty and Rykodisc?
J-Live: I have spent a lot of time researching labels to put my music out there to see what people can do. I was most comfortable with the people over there. I was real confident that they would be able to take my records to the next level that I haven’t been able to break into yet from dealing with smaller labels without being a major label. I feel it’s a good medium, sort of like me. I’m underground, but I’m sort of on the rise. They aren’t a major label per say, but they have a lot of resources with a lot of good people.

WHO?MAG: What do feel is the main differences between the New York and Philly hip-hop scene?
J-Live: New York is just bigger. Philly is a small scene. Not that there is infinite places to go in New York, but it’s more consolidated in Philadelphia. Me being from South Philly, I don’t know to much about North Philly because I have only been here a few years. I been here working with OkayPlayer, Squarebiz, and Ill Rhyme Slayer. The beautiful thing about that is the communication is real good. The people down there go to a lot of open mics and vibe with people that are Grammy Award Winning Platinum artists and do it for the sake of music, not the whole broadway aspect of it. It’s been cool.

WHO?MAG: How does an artist go about getting on tours?
J-Live: You have to be a draw. People have to want to come see you. Artists get paid based off how many people they can bring to a show and how well their record is being promoted. You also have to have the right team involved. You have to have your stuff together and have a tight show. At the end of the day, if you have a dope record out and you set up shows, people will come out to see you and will pay their $5, $20, or $30 dollars to see you. If you do a 20 minute set, do half your songs, don’t have all your lyrics right, don’t do the songs that people want to hear, show no energy, and get don’t the crown involved, people are going to leave. My set is so that I have been able to do shows and go on the road without a record out because my stage show is that ill. Without a band or pyrotechnical stuff, we just have that raw energy that we bring to stage. We get the crowd involved and keep them screaming, jumping, and moving and let them enjoy the music. There’s more than just being dope, you have to have good singing, good connections, and good venues to rock, and you have to be hot. It’s rough. And me being a person who lives off of music alone right now, I’m not teaching any more, it’s something that I can understand more than anybody. It’s got it’s ups and downs.

WHO?MAG: What direction do you see hip-hop going over the next ten years?
J-Live: I don’t know. You can say one thing and one record can come out and have everyone fighting for that for the next three years. I’m just focusing on my music and getting people to understand what I’m about and what I have been about. Hopefully “The Hear After’ will reach a lot more people than “All of the Above” and the best part will be that people will go get that and then go back and get my previous albums to catch up on things. That’s something that I love about my fans is that once they get hooked on what I’m doing, they get deeply moved. I’m not like a one-hit wonder that just came out with a record. It’s been 10 years now. The feedback that I get when I get online and check my fan mail, it’s really heart felt. The have been able to influence people the same way I have been influenced by some of the artist that I have looked up to over the years, whether it’s rap like Public Enemy, EPMD, Juice Crew, BDP, or Big Daddy Kane, and even outside of hip-hop like Stevie Wonder, Donnie Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, and artist like that. So I appreciate that.

WHO?MAG: Do you feel there is a formula for a successful album?
J-Live: For me, my formula is to be myself and to deal with what I’m dealing with at that time. It’s be really safe to do one song talking about this and one song talking about that, but I just try to show people different sides of me on the same record. That’s what I have done with all of my other albums. People may hear “Satisfied” and “All of the Above” and think that I am just musical hip-hop, but it’s not like that. With this record there is definitely a plan and obviously some of the songs echo from my other albums and draw connects from songs. There’s not any particular formula for me

WHO?MAG: What’s next for J-Live?
J-Live: Right now I’m just trying to put out new artists, doing outside production, I’ve been getting my beats out to the world and producing records or instrumental records and just more music with other people. We’re going out to Europe in October promoting “The Hear After” then trying to get to Australia and Japan some time early next year and take care of my business where I’m at.