In this interview producer/emcee J Rawls talks about his new album “The Hip Hop Effect” on Nature Sounds records. He also talks about his production process, working with various legendary emcees, to who his influences are as a producer.
By William Hernandez
WHO?MAG: Talk me about the new album you’re working on for Nature Sounds records?
JR: The new album is called The Hip Hop Effect which came out May 17th. It’s my new banger. I’m getting real excited about it. It really wasn’t planned. I talked to the label and they were interested in me having to do a project. I had a couple of ideas. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do. This album just came to fruition. The whole idea of the hip hop effected my life came to mind. That came out of the whole conversation I had with my middle son. He asked me what’s hip hop? He heard me say it all the time but he didn’t know. We just took it from there.
WHO?MAG: Who’s on the album?
JR: Ah man! El Da Sensai, John Robinson, Sadat X, Wise Intelligent, Casual, Copywrite, Ed OG, J Sands, Fat Jon. There’s a lot of people on that album. There’s probably more. (laughs) We had a ball making it.
WHO?MAG: How’d the song come about with Sadat X and Wise Intelligent?
JR: Because I was talking to Sadat one day and I told him I need to hear more songs out there about knowledge. I asked him if he would it and he did it. It was dope. It was just his first verse. I was like this is really it. John Robinson and I linked up with my man Born Free who introduced us to Wise Intelligent. Next thing I know, we had it and were ready to go.
WHO?MAG: How about ED OG?
JR: That’s my dude. He was in Columbus [Ohio] doing a show. We went and scooped him up and had him come and hang with us. He came to the studio and dropped his verse it was real good.
WHO?MAG: How did you get into music?
JR: I got into music through my dad, going through his record and listening to the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Justin Wilson. I was just sitting there and watching him. That’s what the cover is, me downstairs messing around with his records. I was always over by the music. The cover of the album is me as a baby messing with his records. I lived it.
I started off with beatboxing. Then I used to emcee for a little bit. Then one day my partner DJ Buka and I about 1988 we were digging through my dads records and we found a sample that EPMD sampled. It really blew our minds. We ended up just sitting in basement all night listening to records looking for samples. From that point on, all I did was make beats.
WHO?MAG:What equipment did you start off with?
JR: I started with the Ensoniq EPS, the precursor to the ASR10. After that I tried the ASR10 through my man Greg Bates. He got me on the ASR and I was hooked. I still use it to this day.
WHO?MAG:How did you hook up with J Sands and form Lone Catalyst?
JR: J Sands’ mom lived in Columbus. We were down in DJ Buka’s basement and Buka said listen to this dude. J Sands did his rhyme and he was incredible. I told him I’d love to work with him, but had to go back to school. This was Christmas break while I was college. I told him I went to the University of Cincinnati. He told me that he went to the University of Cincinnati. When we got back to school and started working with each other and the rest is history.
WHO?MAG:You also produced on the Black Star album. Can you talk about that?
JR: Sure, sure! I met Talib Kweli through Dante from Mood. He used to come to Cincinnati all the time because of his work with Hi-Tek. One day, I gave him a tape of beats in a cassette tape a long time ago. (laughs) He found a beat that he like and he was working on the album with Mos Def. He called me one day and Mos [Def] was in the background singing the chorus to Brown Skin Lady. That’s how it happened.
WHO?MAG:Talk to me about the Essence of J Rawls album?
JR: That was my first hip hop album about 2001 on Groove Attack/Superrappin. That was me branching out and trying to do something new different and work with a bunch of different artists. We’d be in the game and we met a lot of different people and branched out.
WHO?MAG:How is your production process?
JR: Usually listening to records . I go through my records and put on record and let it play. Just enjoy music. Cleaning up or surfing the internet or doing something like that. Once I hear something I like, I pause it and listen to it a couple of times. I start with drums. I always start with the drums first, then from there I make the beat. Actually, I have a couple of interludes on the album that are me making beat. It shows my whole process of me making a beat on the new album The Hip Hop Effect.
WHO?MAG:Who are some of your influences as a producer?
JR: Probably the same as everybody: Pete Rock, Hi-Tek, DJ Premier, Fat Jon, the people I was growing up with. I was always affected by the producers who were emcees too like Erik Sermon, Pete Rock, Diamond D because a producer knows how he wants to ride his beat. That’s why I ended up writing that song the best producer on the mic.