Jeru The Damaja
Since Jeru first stepped on the scene, he was an instant success. He has spawned many hiphop anthems including “Come Clean” and “Ya Playin; Yaself.” He continued his array of hits with his rugged flow, knowledge filled lyrics, and raw tracks. His latest album “Devine Design” is currently in stores now. Check out this article and cop the album!
Interview by Rob Schwartz

WHO?MAG: How did you hook up with Gangstarr and get your first record deal?
Jeru: First, there was a guy named Shab who I went new from Boston who went to highschool with Guru. His boy was down with Guru originally. He knew some people I knew, like my man DJ Tommy Hill, so we all just started hanging out. Then the Manifest video came around and that’s when Premiere first came about because Premiere originally wasn’t part of Gangstarr. It was originally Guru and some other guys. Then Premiere and Guru came out with the first album. I went to the Manifest video and we met. The rest was pretty much history. And actually I did the song first on the Gangstarr album, but this is years after we started hanging together. Then we press up ‘Come Clean’ on our own and a song with the Group Home and Big Shug and we put together a little sampler. From there we just got picked up by a label.

WHO?MAG: On the song ‘Da Game’ off your latest album Divine Design, you indirectly breakdown how the music industry works. How does a hungry young rapper learn more about this business?
Jeru: My mother used to tell me you can learn everything you want by reading a book. And on the flip side of that they say if you want to hide anything from the black man, you put it in a book. So the key is for these young upcoming artists, no matter what you want to do, is to read. You need to go to the library and research. It’s such a great source of information that I didn’t have when I was coming up. So basically do your research. Don’t be afraid to know. A lot of times we as people are afraid to know because we think that if we know, we somehow have to face up to the reality of things. You need to jump into your books, listen to people, and find a mentor, somebody who knows a little more than you do. Then you put what you learn and try to come up with something new.

WHO?MAG: What kind of advice can you give an upcoming artist on getting a record deal?
Jeru: Do the best music that you know how to do. Put a nice package together, have your bio, your demo, and all the other information they might need and pound the pavement. Go up to those record labels and shop it. My advice is don’t get a manager. Get a manager after you get your record deal. If you get a manager, then they are going to take a part of everything that you got.

WHO?MAG: Being a pioneer in this Hip Hop game, where do you feel Hip Hop is going?
Jeru: I think Hip Hop is evolving at such a rapid rate because it is so global. Ten years ago, if you were to say where Hip Hop would be where it is today, people would laugh at you. But I do shows in Hungary and Sylvania, places that were under the iron curtain of communism and now they have Jeru the Damaja shows. That was relatively unheard of before, ya know? So Hip Hop is evolving and would only get better. It always goes through its stages. Right now it’s a little bit poppy, but I think it’s about to come back around to a certain type of reality that is street based. Not about drugs, not about hustling, but just the idea of what the youth of the streets are going though today because you can only get so much of something, and its near it’s saturation point.

WHO?MAG: What need to change to bring the music industry back to where it used to be?
Jeru: That’s the double edge sword of technology because the reason the music industry is having such a tough time is because of the downloading. Not only that, everyone wants to go platinum, everyone wants to go gold, it’s not about making good records. It’s all about selling a lot of units. So in the quest to sell a lot of units, they’ve created formulas, “okay this works so do this, this works so do this.” It’s not genuine creativity being able to bloom because they are forcing these kids to have a certain look, have a certain sound, and do what sells.