November 10th of this year I had the pleasure of sitting with JM
Productions a.k.a. NoNDescript (Juan) and Emphatic (Mike) the producing
geniuses from Newport News to discuss who they are, what they have accomplished
and what the future holds. Below are excerpts taken from the interview verbatim
from an audio recording.
How long have you guys been working together?
“7 years started in 05 officially we were messing around in ’03, 04 bought
kinetic with laptop and headphones (terrible) from circuit city for fifty bucks
now using fruity loops for free.. bootleg.. getting into Pro tools now.”
How do u think u guys mesh together?
“It’s kinda funny cuz I think we bring the same things to the table for real
for real for the most part (laughs)
“Juan is like more of a hip hop encyclopedia: he’ll have more depth into it. I’ll
be like ”yo I like this song, I like this
album I like this concept” and he’ll be like “well did u know that in 1995 this happened?” he knows the history
behind everything. I’m glad he has that end of it so I can do my thing and I know
I got him in my corner still.”
have known each other for 20 years and they make the same points differently
and mesh well on a friendship level as well as musically.
Hip hop in its truest form. What does that mean?
“hip hop in its truest form means...”
as Juan is thinking chimes in, “one phrase basically no pussy ass drums”
“taking it back to the essence, to where it started the foundation of it,
nothing too technical not over thought, straight to the point hip hop
especially with the production end of it. Just going and digging in the crates
finding samples digging for drums and breaks and things like that and the very
foundation of which it started it started with 2 turntables looping breaks,
break beats its kinda of phrase it comes to pay homage to that whole entire aspect,
the 80s 90s era”
“there’s so much overproduction: people wanna have this formula ohh I gotta do
this 16 and the hook just bring it back to just a small loop, chop something up
and use that for 2 or 3 measures leave that and just focus on the drums and do
something basic u don’t hafta overproduce u don’t hafta have 10 keyboards in
the room and two guitars and a piccolo and an oboe.”
definitely chuckled at that one. Even though we all laughed, that is no joke
when it comes to hip hop. So I asked why this is important to artists on the
“if u understand it, you’ll already have an appreciation for the history of it
so its like u gotta know about something if you’re really involved in it, u can’t
go into something and not know anything about it: u can’t fly a plane and know
nothing about flying a plane. You can’t drive a car, a never take a driving
class.U hafta understand how production
and hip hop started, u can’t take that away, you can’t erase it. So it’s like if
u respect that aspect of it then it’ll never die: the culture will never die. No
matter what changes and progressions it may have.”
Do u think that rappers can be successful with just sticking to boom bap style
“underground artists still do it.”
“it matters as to what u think is successful.My concept of being successful in what we do is working with different
artists that maybe we even grew up listening to, making good albums getting
placement, getting releases, dj booths getting out your people and artists in
different venues, just being heard.”
“it’s all about the art”
“we hafta be picky because we are stretched thin and it takes a certain type of
person to like what we do. It’s a different type of person that we’re looking
the creative process?
Juan;:“nothing for me (to get juices flowing) I don’t need to be in a certain
mood.I can literally sit down anytime
and make beats. I may be in a certain
mood and every beat I make that day may be depressing or very aggressive
sounding but my actual ability to make beats is hardly ever altered. Emotion doesn’t
have anything to do with it.”
“it just depends, u may be sitting around the house, hear something on tv, you
may hear a sample or a cat brushing up against a wall a certain way, anything
that may inspire u to make a beat, get goosebumps, go upstairs and make a beat.
If u turn the machine, you’ll make something dope.”
for yourself lol so with all that being said, I wanted to know what the future
holds for these two eclectics;
‘Take over the world lol but nah we really just want the recognition:
originally I think we wanted to kinda be known in our area, but at this point I
don’t care about that anymore, it’s about the people we respect respecting what
we do. Bunch a dope projects out, Juan interjects “we want the exposure but we
want to be respected amongst the people we admire look up to and respect and to
work with them is very important. My main goal is to be associated with good
music.” Mike: “I don’t wanna be doing the same thing I was doing 2 years ago this
year we’ve been doing different things like doing showcases and getting out on
the scene and being open to different things. Every year we want to
progressively do something diff and get better at what we do.”
Happy Labor Day! With this particular artist I just want to dive right into the music. Yung Riq (@Yung_Riq) released his first mixtape The Sound of Music in late 2011 and it represents him as a developing artist and also Norfolk as a ‘hood. I wanted to attach a few of my favorite tracks and give my perspective on the music.Check it out and feel free to comment!
Made Up My Mind
When I heard the music of Chasing Pavements (Adele) I was already drawn in.That sample used as a Hip Hop track was ingenuous.I love the fact that the first few lyrics in the original made for a dope & relevant hook. I was hoping for deep lyrics and a story. Even though the artist was 15 at the time (yes, 15) anyone can relate to the pressures of our peers and “rubbish relationships”.Very good song to ride to and bob to when you need a break from the norm.
Lord Knows Freestyle
“Only the Lord knows I see my obstacles; I’m just tryna avoid those…”
The music reeled me in with this track as well.I’m a big fan of Drake and his album Take Care. Lord Knows (featuring Rick Ross) is one the dopest songs on that album and here comes Yung Riq with his own unique lyrical structure with the big gospel choir backing him like he was the original artist. There are so many lines in this particular track that you will find yourself skipping back and then replaying the song.He could have easily taken another direction with this beat but he maintained the tone of the track; he’s honest, direct, & thorough…
“I had to teach myself how to be a man... cuz my dad still wanna be a kid like Peter Pan…”
“I can’t conform; I’m too busy standing out”
When I heard this track I immediately thought “this is a Young Jay Z.” I meant that in a lyrical sense.Any so called rapper can brag about things that require little to no skill but Yung Riq bought some honesty and delivered some substance with the lyrics on this one.
This title is appropriate due to the fact that the beat puts you in the 90s Hip Hop groove. And for me, I just think of Norfolk and take in the content.You can tell Riq battle raps with this track but yet the delivery is still polished and consistent.
Not only do you write your own lyrics, you also produced both albums along with Ced Linus.With this project how was the creative process? Music then lyrics? Vice versa? The creative process with these last two albums was for the most part music first, then lyrics, on a few songs the concept may have already been birthed but not actually written down, on the song Ced Linus produced-Hague Lake, that was like picture perfect. He sent me the track one evening and no exaggeration, I wrote that song in like 15 minutes. I sent it back to him within like 45 minutes. Wrote the song, recorded it and it sent back to him for feedback.
-...'and if she hindering your growth you better terminate her..."One Day (terminather) please tell me the mind set when creating this track? Did u hear the music and come up with the concept or was this already brewing?? Lol!!!! Terminather. Sigh...this concept was already there. When I made the music, I already had in my mind that I wanted it to sound like it could be on the Terminator movie, end of the world like. To be candid, I was on the verge of calling off my engagement. So I went in w/ the climate of the song already in my heart.
Too Much To Dream is a classic example of the versatility of hip hop storytelling using metaphors.Anyone from a Christian to a criminal can relate to the lyrics. How did this song come into fruition?
Too much to dream....well I'm a born dreamer. I tell Ced Linus all the time that most cats don't dream, they fantasize. In my opinion, fantasies can stagnate you but dreaming helps keep you alive. People tell me I dream too much all the time, so that song is a part of my everyday life. The alcohol references came from me trying to reach a close friend who struggles w/ the bottle. Life happens every day, I long to persevere through the daily attacks of the opposition. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
The Girl is a Woman.Very reminiscent of a 90s hip hop record; beat & lyrics "don’t they know this chemistry they just can’t stop."The beat changes here then starts back up with gritty down to earth bars featuring the booming voice of Ced Linus.Who is he & how do u think his abilities to write & produce compliment both projects?
Lol! Ced Linus? Who is he? He's the 1984 version of me. That's my brother, my little cousin, all at the same time. I love that dude. His writing style compliments mine I feel because I'm a stream of consciousness writer; I'm all over the place most of the time. And Ced has the ability to focus (like I've got A.D.D. on the mic Lol). His voice is authoritative as well as his message. We are cut from the same cloth, raised in the same family and live by the same structure. So the complimentary aspect is kind of threaded in. His production style compliments me because he tends to get me back on that gritty track when I'm on my indie rock island, as he did on Hague Lake.
In the words of Mr. Lee himself, “if you don’t get it; disregard…..” ‘Nuff said!
I want to start off by expressing much gratitude to Thorough Lee for valuing my opinion and sharing his talents. As the first featured artist on my blog, I wanted to share these two; yes two albums with Hip Hop connoisseurs & people that feel that something is missing from the Hip Hop world, as well as our own personal worlds.This music speaks to everyone so please listen whole heartedly.Here’s a peek of the man behind the music and the inspiration behind the music.Enjoy!
Part One-“Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child
I want to begin with the man behind the music. Of course you are a Norfolk native :) how long have u been on this musical journey? At what point in your life did you come to the realization that you were a messenger of the truth by way of music, lyrics & love? Wow, ok, great question. Honestly, it had to be when I was in the 2nd grade, around '87 or so. This dude named Emery used to make my oldest sister (Kim) mixed tapes like every two weeks and in addition he would give her records. I remember she had the Eric B. and Rakim, "Paid in Full", Run-DMC, "Peter Piper" to name a couple. I learned every word. I scratched those records to hades trying to be a dj. Around the same time I discovered that I could draw, I would take the comics out of the newspapers and draw all the Garfield joints. That's when I really started studying different types of art. I knew I wanted to tell a story of some sort. I'm a very visual person but I knew drawing wasn't it. I soon realized I wanted to make people see my words and my sound. When I hit the 3rd grade it was confirmed. I started raiding my parent’s record collection, I was addicted. 3rd grade was also the start of my actual attempts to write poetry/rap. I met another kid named Terrence Palmer, and it was a done D'.
" ...Two different elements w/ the albums, I wanted to snatch collars on Peace Be Still...then sit em down n talk to em on Spare the Rod.."
Please elaborate on the elements & themes with both albums & what you mean by "snatch collars" & "sit down and talk to em"? What emotions did u want to stir up from your audience? What’s your target audience? Well w/ Peace be still...I was really frustrated w/ black people to be honest! The choices we make, the trends we follow, the treasures we choose. We seem like the most gullible race of people on the planet at times in my opinion. Then the frustration kind of spread to all mankind kind. I would think to myself, "Man, humans are the dumbest people in the world" Lol! But for real. So I guess I kind of take a single parent approach. I'm a single father musically speaking. I get in your face when I need to, read you your rights in a stern manner. Then tell you why and let you know I only beat you because I love you so much. It hurts me more than it hurts you type of thing! Lol! Spare the Rod...is like, look, listen, if I didn't love you I wouldn't have got in your face on Peace be still... like that. How can we say we love someone if we don't offer correction in a flawed situation? And anytime correction is offered, it's to me first. My message is always to me first. And yes, the emotions I wanted to stir up were emotions of anger, emotions leading to people questioning themselves like what I'm I doing? I wanted people to say you know what, I don't have to follow every trend that comes out every week leading me and my family to the poor house, I don't have to like this "artist" because they play him/her 100x a day on the radio or because the vast majority has accepted this person. I don't have to sleep w/ every person under the soon to feel loved or affection, I don't have to let my flesh rule me. Does the car drive the person or does the person drive the car. The spirit is on the inside of the flesh (person), just like the person is on the inside of the car. So it's what's inside that should be the driving force. I can be me, but wait, who am I, what's inside of me? That’s what I wanted the people to think and wonder. And my target audience is the lost and found. Anyone w/ an ear to hear.
I was on the fence about creating a local music blog but I purchased two albums from one of my favorite local lyricists & was compelled to do it so here goes. I hope to share my perspective on sounds put out by unknown underground artists. All comments & feedback are appreciated as I value everyone's opinions. Can't wait to share my thoughts with whomever is interested! :)