Sir Jinx Hip-Hop Legend Sir Jinx has worked with everyone from Dr. Dre to Tupac to Ice Cube to Kool G Rap. Every real hip-hop head must read this interview as he discusses being in the LA riots with Tupac, producing with Ice Cube, the REAL deal behind the “Trespass” single, working with CeCe Peniston, and much more!
By William Hernandez
WHO?MAG: Talk about the new project you’re working on with Battlecat and the other producers? SIR JINX: We got a situation with myself, Battlecat, Rhythm D, and Chill from CMW constructing some good ideas to bring that old thing back; like that era back in the day when musicians got together and made music. When George Duke and those kind of cats. We want to do that again because we look at it at the age they were doing it, like Bob James and them. We’re kind of coming into that age right now. Maybe Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, or one of the emcees might not have our answer. What if our answer is an instrumental record?
WHO?MAG: How did the idea come about to do this type of project? SIR JINX: It’s like the old story. I’ve known these dudes all my life. I took [MC] Eiht to Warner Bros before he went to Epic and got that deal over at Epic. I’ve known Battlecat for so long . Battlecat was the DJ who took over Dr. Dre’s place in the World Class Wreckin Crew, that’s how far me and Battlecat go back. Rhythm D once again took Dr. Dre’s place in the Ruthless situation and actually did make a mark in hip hop history. Everybody in this group has made a mark in hip hop history.
WHO?MAG: When is the album coming out? SIR JINX: Right now we’re just constructing a formula that everybody can agree with. You know how easy it is to get a room full of chefs. We all listen to each other and sometimes we feel like we might die to assist. We all don’t want to make the shot because we all got respect for the next player. We have to spearhead the idea and make a concept that works rather than just a bunch of songs thrown together by creative people. That is usually when you make a disaster. Before that, we’re going to drop some instrumentals to butter the people up and let them know what they’re going to get. I got a couple of instrumental records. One called “Jinxtrumentals” and the other “Testamentals” and I got “Jinx & Friends”. My 12, 14 instrumentals that I’ve made through out my years. This is the time to shine. The East Coast cats did it. Pete Rock and a lot of the cats over there laid the foundation for the DJs to be able to be accepted as well as the producers and to be able to stand on our own. I believe that we are moving into that era where we went back in the day we heard “Rain Forest” by Herb Alpert. You heard those songs had no lyrics on them. At this point, I feel like the industry needs a little bit more. Everybody wants to make up their own story. The reality shows all that stuff is on TV. Everything is behind the scenes. So what comes next in music? Instrumentals that people will be able to make up their own synopsis to songs, rather than burn them with a chorus over and over.
WHO?MAG: What are you working with Dr. Dre at the moment? SIR JINX: We are situating a real good “Detox” record. I’ve been in there with [Dr.] Dre for the past couple of months trying to get my hands wet trying to get in. There are a lot of producers over there. I’m just trying to get in where I fit in. That’s one situation you can’t go “hey, I sold this many records”. I come royal humble to deal with that situation. It’s kind of funny because Dre and I had an argument. When ya’ll put this interview together, I want to definitely hear people’s opinion on who was right and who was wrong. Dre says you need three vocals: 3 o’ clock, 6 o’ clock, 9 o’ clock to make stereo. I said I think you need one on each side to make stereo because if you put one in the middle it makes it a non-stop sound. You can’t differentiate which speaker it is when you put the same sound playing in the middle. Dre says you’re wrong. I was like ok. (laughs) People in technology land will figure it out. I think hard 1 o’clock, 11 o’clock stereo with no sound up the middle. It’s just a learning process. I’m trying to fit over there.
WHO?MAG: Going a bit to the past, how did you form the group CIA with Ice Cube? SIR JINX: We had a group already before that. One of the members of the group was a little older. He left and went to The World Class Wrecking Crew. That was when we changed the name Stereo Crew to CIA. Technically, Dre was the one who gave us our name. CIA was the first installment of the abbreviated groups that came. After that NWA, HWA , everything changed and was abbreviated. That was the beginning of it.
WHO?MAG: How did you get into DJing and music production? SIR JINX: I think it just got into me. I don’t remember the start date. I just liked music. I got in and thought I could make it because at the point of us growing, they took the instruments out of our high schools. A lot of the dudes in my era didn’t know how to play instruments. Reconstructing other instruments is still learning how to produce music. You might not know how to play it, but you will know how to construct it. At some point, I got in to know how to construct music. To know the difference between the intro, chorus, outro, vamp, the progression, any part of the song I know that without knowing how to play music. That’s just by hearing “Enjoy Yourself” by Jackson 5, or Peaches and Herb or Rod Stewart. Those types of songs developed me to understand music, not just me to do beats and be in the rap game. I didn’t even know the rap game. I just wanted to do music and they labeled it “rap” music. We thought we were doing Rhythm and Blues. We thought we were going to be competing with Atlantic Starr and Confunkshon. They were like “nah, you’re not even in that category. Ya’ll in your own category.” The R&B people pushed us out and gave us our own label because they didn’t want us to be R&B. They wanted us to be “rap” music and we loved it. That means we didn’t have to wear suits and makeup.
WHO?MAG: What do you remember about working on Ice Cube’s first album “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted”? SIR JINX: That was a good period in my life because it was a growing stage of getting out of high school. You know how some people say they skipped college and went pro? I’m a prime example of that because I sold a million records when I was 19 as far as that point when we to New York to record the album. That’s how you see Soulja Boy right now. That’s how you feel T.I. I went out there with a conviction to do what I wanted to do and that was make the West Coast have a stand and I wanted to be a part of the West. You listen to Brother J and X Clan and the stuff they were talking about. Those dudes really meant that. That’s how I really felt. You know when guys go into the studio, sometimes they get drunk and have b*tches everywhere. That’s the new sh*t. The old sh*t studio time costs! We’re not playing in here. So we knocked out “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” in 2 months; hands down, knocked it down! So I pretty much was the Pippen on the Jordan squad. I definitely knew I played a part because the direction they were going, they couldn’t have known because [Ice] Cube is not a producer; well he’s not a rap music producer I should say. It’s hard for emcees to convey what they like when the producer is a platinum producer. I was like the translation. I used to translate between Eric Sadler and Ice Cube. I was the middle. If you’re there to do your job, Cube wants you to do your job, and if you don’t do your job, it’ll show when the record don’t sell. He’s not going to argue with you about if you should put the scratch in it. He’s not going argue about that. If a bunch of people say they don’t like that part, he’s probably not going to ask you back. My situation was trail and error and making a place for the West.
WHO?MAG: Was it intimidating since you were working under the tutelage of the Bomb Squad? How was your relationship with Hank and Keith Shocklee? SIR JINX: Nothing like that. I came in there wanting to smash aggressively, to not be their friend. I came to East Coast with an attitude until I met them and they weren’t like that and then I felt bad. Eric Sadler and I became real cool. Eric Sadler told me to take a stand. That I had to do it. They didn’t know how the West Coast does it that I did know. I came in wanting to battle. I came in to see how the put that Public Enemy sh*t together. I wanted to see it! I came with a vengeance. They were cool, but they were older than me. I was 19, they were probably in their late 20s. Hanging out with a 19 year old probably wasn’t the best bet. I hung out with my man that Public Enemy designated as our handler at the time. His name was Rob. Rob’s name is epitome Grandscratch Cut. He did Busta Rhymes “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” and Mobb Deep. He did a lot of production. He ended up being a tight cat. The whole cast went when we went to New York to work on “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted”. Everybody that I met had sold a million records just by fluke. By being the club or car wash. I just met cats by being into hip hop. That’s that love that New York had back then. That’s just individuals that were able to get their point across all the United States, but New York is not like that.
WHO?MAG: How did the “Endangered Species” come about and the production process behind it? How did the idea come about to use the Tom Brokaw sample in the intro of the remix? SIR JINX: Chuck D took that song. I think they were on the road. He took “Endangered Species”, “Turn Off the Radio”, and another song. When he brought it back, I remixed it. I remixed it, you know the version that’s on “Kill at Will”. I was feeling myself at that time man. There was no blueprint. If I tell these cats today if you follow what’s out right now, you’re going to fail. You should have a vision of where you want to go and how you want the fans to look at your face. You should know this. We knew these records were going to do good because we had no competition. We felt we had no competition. The only competition was my cousin (Dr. Dre). Too $hort was in a different category. This was more political rhymes. Too $hort was more for the pimp, b*tches and all that. We were all on the road together. Cube was the only one like that at the time. That’s like finding an artist that can sing and he’s cool and he don’t gangbang. He’s into school and sports and maybe he can sing a little. That’s the person. Not the person that can sing, sing, sing that can’t sing. They convinced themselves that they’re talented. We were talented at what we were doing. We had to make a stamp on this planet to let people know that the East Coast and West Coast can make music together. At some point, documentaries have no copyright law. At that point, we were able to use documentaries because documentaries are not to make profit most of the time. The only person that gave us funk was Mr. Rogers because the first 200,000 people that bought “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” would have got a song on the front of “Gangsta Fairytale”. Mr. Rogers wanted 5 cents off the record, so we had to take that off. Whoever got it that is an expensive record because there were only 200,000 made and now we’re at 3 million at this point.
WHO?MAG: How was the production process on “Death Certificate”? SIR JINX: The “Death Certificate” situation was when DJ Pooh came aboard and kind of spearheaded that idea. He was kind of like the Dr. Dre. He was older so he had more experience with developing an entire album. When I went to New York, I was dealing with people I didn’t even know and when I went to New York I was doing what DJ Pooh and Dr. Dre had already taught me. At the point, DJ Pooh was coming in. DJ Pooh would bring the same humor that you would hear on the Dr. Dre’s record and on the Eazy E records. Pooh was funny like that. He brought that charismatic part to “Death Certificate” because he also had other producers. He had Rashad and he also had Bobcat. Rashad was the Pharrell of the Teddy Riley era. Rashad did the beat for “Bird in a Hand”. ‘Bird in a Hand” was one of everybody’s favorites. That was part of the Boogiemen. The Boogiemen was Rashad, DJ Pooh, and Bobcat. My situation was myself, DJ Chilly Chill, and my man Johnny Rogers that still works for me to this day. Also my man Jason White and David Pullman. That was my click that I made music with. We made all that music. I usually don’t need a bunch of musicians because it don’t take all that to make a hit. Dre told me too many producers in the room makes a sorry song because it’ll go into to many directions. (laughs) That’s how that goes. He definitely spearheaded that and we knocked it down and got some more rings for that.
WHO?MAG: How was the production process behind “My Summer Vacation” and “True to the Game”? SIR JINX: “My Summer Vacation” was not my song but “True to the Game” was my song. “True to the Game” is a mixture of 3 songs. An Average White Band song; if you can kind of can see back in the days. Some of the songs that I did were more of the positive songs. When Cube got with me, we felt that energy of change every time. We didn’t do a lot of the ignorant songs. He wouldn’t let me do those songs. He would always come to me like with a tough idea because he knew I would have to get it off. It’s easy to make a song about f*cking girls, but it’s hard to make song about how we’re treated in this society now. Some producers that would be a harder task to take on, so Cube would give me most of the topics that were political because I would make those type of beats that would keep you listening all the way through with the drops, noise, turnarounds, and all the mixing and stuff.
WHO?MAG: How about your work on “The Predator”? SIR JINX: On “The Predator”, I don’t remember that record really. I didn’t really have too much to do with that. That when I had went off and did my own thing. I was doing CeCe Peniston’s album. I did [Kool] G Rap’s album and WC’s album. I did a lot of albums and songs. At that point, I was spreading my wings.
WHO?MAG: Interesting! How did you end up working with Cece Peniston? I never knew you worked with her and I know the readers will be interested in finding out how that came about. SIR JINX: CeCe Peniston, she has a beautiful voice. She sounds a lot like Teena Marie. At the point, when she was doing her thing when “Finally” was taking off. I knew her manager at the time. Then I was doing deals with A&M Records. She was on A&M and I was signed to Tough Break Records. They threw me some stuff and I did a couple of remixes. They wanted to hear a song. I got some writers together. I did a song called “Maybe it’s the Way”. It’s a song about girls talking about their fathers. I thought it was kind of a dope song. I helped her as much as I could on that second record. They wanted her to do something else. At that time, I think Toni Braxton was burning it down. She wanted to be in a more soulful environment. That’s where the label and her parted. She was a good person. She was a beautiful person; a real soulful girl; a real cool person.
WHO?MAG: What was your part in “Lethal Injection”? SIR JINX: I was out of there. He was giving other people opportunities to try and make his situation work.
WHO?MAG: That was when QDIII came in. SIR JINX: QDIII was around a lot before that. He was always around. He was getting his beats on their too. Everybody was pretty much throwing their beats around. We had a cool situation for up and coming producers to have taken off.
WHO?MAG: What role did you play on Yo-Yo’s album “Make Way for the Motherload”? SIR JINX: I produced that whole album, myself and Chilly Chill. Chilly Chill helped me out a little bit. We did the album before “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted”. That album was already finished and we were shopping her because we were taking Yo-Yo to Ruthless at first. Ruthless had a girl already. Cube wrote a song for the girl and then when Cube left, he gave the song to Yo-Yo, so they wouldn’t put it out. That became “You Can’t Play with my Yo-Yo”.
WHO?MAG: How did you hook up with Too $hort and how is he in the studio? SIR JINX: Too $hort is the homie. He’s from California. He’s been making noise since his first record. It was all fun. Too $hort is a jokester. I’m a jokester as well. It’d be like the athletes when they get together on their day off. Let me tell you something also, Too $hort is the first person that I heard play my beat live in concert. You can imagine how I felt. I’m in the House of Blues chilling at the top watching him do his thing. I’m leaning over to a bitch and it’s like I hear the music come in. I was like “oh sh*t”! He had a whole band up there playing “B*tch Ain’t Nothing but a Word”. He was like “where my man Jinx at?” I’m all the way in the balcony. Too $hort is my man. We’re going to work again probably.
WHO?MAG: How did you hook with Kool G Rap and how was he in the studio? SIR JINX: Funny thing. I knew this lady named Karen Jones that worked with Benny Medina’s assistant. I went over there and it was right around the time when “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” came out. She was like “I want you to do some remixes for me.” It was just to get a little money in my pocket. That was how it was back then. You did some remixes to get some money going. I did like six remixes for an artist called Trelood. Trelood is George Clinton’s son. That was the first production somebody paid me to do and I got paid over $5000. It started changing and then they would hear how I was remixing that. They capped out on G Rap’s budget. G Rap was at his house trying to produce his record. They were like would you like to work with G Rap? I was like hell yeah! I knew who G Rap was, but G Rap was still moving up the food chain. They were like “let’s do some remixes”. They’ll send you the tapes . G Rap sent me all his ADAT tapes and the first one I grabbed was “On the Run”. The second one was “The Edge of Insanity”. After that, it was on. “Break Train Robbery” and “Operation Cockblocking”. Then came “Like a Damn Fiend”! We were in the studio like a fist fight. I never had a rapper that could do what that dude can do. I never had that! That is amazing. To give somebody an idea and see what he do to it. He doesn’t get off the topic. It’s not like you can really critique him because he’s word wizard. That was how I hooked up with G Rap.
WHO?MAG: I read he was recording out in LA with you when the riots were going on. SIR JINX: Yeah! Hell yeah! When the riots happened I think we were just finishing up his record. I was working with 2pac. I was about to go in and work on 2pac’s next record. Myself, G Rap, and a couple of my buddies were all in the studio. We’re listening to beats and bringing up tracks. Four of my friends walk in with 5 hats on their head, 40s, etc. They have an abundance of stuff. I was like where did you get that stuff from? They were like LA is on fire. We changed the channels and I swear there where fires all over LA. We were like fuck that. Let’s hit the highway! Myself, 2pac, and G Rap jump in my car and hit LA. Hit a couple of record stores. The people were already rummaging through the record store and the back of the record store was on fire. 2pac was signing autographs and G Rap was outside. We went to the jungle, the swap meet. I went to a swap meet I’ve never been to in my life with 2pac on the riots. Whenever 2pac said anything about the riots, I always felt like I was there.
WHO?MAG: What songs did you do with 2pac? SIR JINX: It never came out. He had just got a Benz and he had just crashed it. At first 2pac didn’t know how to drive. He had people drive him around. He got a black Benz and crashed it. After that and the riots; we never went back in the studio again. I don’t have those unreleased tracks, but I do have a phone message that he left on my answering machine. I put it on DVD. I’ve sampled it and pro tooled it and put it away. (laughs)
WHO?MAG: How is your production process? SIR JINX: It depends on how I feel. I don’t have a process. Every song has its own identity. I might hear some drums and put some music to that. I might change the drums or I might start with some music and then make some drums. Everything is interchangeable when I make music.
WHO?MAG: Equipment-wise what are you using at the moment? SIR JINX: I use Reason. I use Pro Tools and straight to the studio. Then we break it down and bring it back up, beef it up and it’s on its way. It doesn’t take that much anymore.
WHO?MAG: What records were you using on Ice Cube’s first albums and with Kool G Rap? SIR JINX: I was using the SP-1200. I still got them sitting right in my living room. Everybody drops their mouth like it’s the Smithsonian or something. (laughs) I have 2 SP-1200 in a table case in my living room. I’m not an athlete. I can’t put up a jersey, so I have to put up my own instruments.
WHO?MAG: Did you ever have any issues with sample clearances? SIR JINX: We had a lot of issues with that. We got sued left and right. The EP for “Jackin for Beats” was only EP. Because “Jackin for Beats” used so many samples, we had to put 2 remixes on it to pay for the samples. That’s why you don’t see anybody do song like that. We did “Only Out for One Thing” and the remix for “You Can’t Fade Me”. I think that’s what it was and “Got To Say What’s Up” were song that were remixes that we gave away the publishing for those songs for “Jackin For Beats”.
WHO?MAG: Talk about “Trespass” and “Higher Learning” songs that you produced? SIR JINX: I hated that song because we changed the song like three times. We had another sample in the song until the last time. By time they got the last version, the last version didn’t have nothing in it from the first version. It was whack. I think that was the most I got paid off a track. Every time we went back in, they paid again for a new song. At first the movie name was “Looters” then they changed it to “Trespass”. We had to change the chorus because of the riots. That song is like a thorn in my side. I don’t like the way it was mixed. We were rushed. I think I was going out of town. I think it was one of those issues that I would retract that and do it over. “The Higher Learning” track that was cool. I liked that. When I would travel with Cube, the issue would be I would never have time to create music. So by the time it would be ready to do a new album, I’m like scrapping together pieces and asking people and whatever whatever. It would hurt me in the long run. That’s why I would not go on tour with him anymore because I couldn’t afford not to make music. DJing and being on tour is beautiful, but making music is way better. That’s where we first separated and he got another DJ. I ended up hooking up with Xzibit. That turned out even better because I helped another person sell a million.
WHO?MAG: How is Xzibit in the studio? SIR JINX: He’s really disciplined and really focused. He does was he really wants to do.
WHO?MAG: What advice can you give to up and coming producers? SIR JINX: Do your research. It started from somewhere. A lot of the past can tell you about the future. If you go back and listen to those emotions of them songs, then it might inspire you to think outside the box instead of follow producers that have already made it in your time. You’re not going to be better than 50 Cent in his time. You can’t be better that Dr. Dre. You have to go back and find out how Dre got dope. You’re not going to be better that Pete Rock or DJ Premier. You got to go back and figure out. Once you go back and figure out where they got it from, then it don’t look so big. Then you can go back and attack those kinds of issues. When you want to make music, you have to have mad confidence. If you don’t believe in your sound, nobody will.
WHO?MAG: Talk about the “Chastisement” album? SIR JINX: That was pretty much me being outside and listening to other music without the element of the political stare or the gangster environment. Everybody I talk to tells that album was ahead of it’s time because of what we were talking about. I wasn’t trying to make people dance. I was trying to make song that one day someone can pick it up and inspire somebody. It was good album. I worked with Gerald Levert. Rest in Peace to Gerald Levert and I also worked with Gerald Levert back in the days with Cece Peniston. I worked with Isaac Hayes. I went to Memphis and chilled with Isaac Hayes for a month and heard all his stories. That’s what producers need to do. You need to find these old cats and absorb what they have learned because it is not in the books. You have to let your fingers do the walking and your ears do the listening and you will learn a whole new sound. People look at Will-I-Am and think that he’s new. No, they’ve been perfecting that years ago since I’ve known him. In the club, they were walking around like that. I’m not saying it was bad or good. They stuck with it and he’s the best. He’s knocking them down and he came from a little bit of the era that I came from. From the dancing crowd because I used to break dance. I did all the elements of hip hop.
WHO?MAG: How was it working with Gerald Levert? SIR JINX: It’s crazy when you hang with somebody that can sing because they sing other songs well. He was a real cool dude. I was the first hip hop producer to work with him. At first, he thought it was some ra-ra because I said I’m Sir Jinx, the producer of Ice Cube. He thought it was something bad, but when I told him it was a song about a picnic. It was about cats being at a picnic and we used your father’s song of family reunion. Would you mind coming to the studio. I met him at a club and he was like I’ll come. He was like “call me the next day”. I called him and he came. He liked the song. It was positive. He did the video with me. He was a good friend. He sounds just like his father.
WHO?MAG: Do you have some unreleased material that you’ll put out? SIR JINX: I have a whole bunch of music. I have “Live and Let Die” the album uncut because we had to go back in it and redo the songs and because Biz Markie got sued and they got all scared and made us go back in and take out anything that sounded like sample. The world got a different version of that album. I got the uncut version of that album that the world would one day be able to hear because I’m going to have an online record store. They’ll be able to download and enjoy all the rare and uncut stuff that I have. It’s so funny I have the reels of the conversations of Jae Dee talking on “I Ain’t Never Got Gaffled Liked That”. I got the whole conversion. The conversation is like an hour long. I have the acapellas, inserts, etc. I put some of them on Xzibit’s record. So I’m passing around inserts from “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” to other people’s albums. I use some of those inserts on other people’s albums because people hire me to put their record in order. Sometimes I’ll throw some of them old inserts in there.
WHO?MAG: How was it working with WC and Maad Circle back in 1991? SIR JINX: That was a good record. The G Rap record reminds me a lot about dealing with WC because WC is an incredible rapper. At the end of the day, he had a real cool rap style that he simplified. So you can understand if he didn’t want you to understand his rap He could make it so you couldn’t understand it. That’s how cool WC. I haven’t heard his new stuff. We did “Ain’t a Damn Thing Changed”. Then we also had the collaboration of himself and Coolio. That was the start of Coolio’s career. Coolio was on that record. From that album, Coolio got a single deal to do “County Line”. Then there it is. Crazy Toones and Chilly Chill and few other producers that we had around at the time made that album come to life. I spearheaded it . I was the executive producer and I made it happen. That was a dope record. I wish the technology was better, but I did what I could.
WHO?MAG: This is the million dollar question? Will Ice Cube and you ever work again together? SIR JINX: Probably! The world would love to hear it. For me developing my style and what I’ve been doing. Doing my research going back; I’ve developed my skills a lot better than where I was a long time ago. It would probably be a real good move. A real good idea when the world gets to see Ice Cube and Sir Jinx on the same record with the new technology; not just the old technology. The world wants to see it. Artists owe it to the fans sometimes to give them what they want. I was supposed to the last album, but I think I kind of submitted my song too late.