Inspiring that people like my old material. The response to my last post wasn’t overwhelming by any stretch, but I can tell from the stats that a few people took it upon themselves to pass my link around. Hip-hop heads no doubt.
It was hip-hop that got me to get my pen game on nearly 4 years ago. Never thought I had a real journalist in me. Had my heart set somewhat on Hollywood. That’s how I ended up in L.A. in the first place. But two people, no, three people, helped spark a fire that once it was lit….you know the rest.
One of those folks was my former editor at the Source magazine, the other still writes for the L.A. Times, and the third one, man, let’s just say the third guy should really be the first mentioned, because he gave me the interview I’m posting here.
I got my first audience for anything resembling journalism via a guy named John Gotty. Far from the Italian Don, this bespecled Tennessee Web junky turned a tiny blog into an Internet powerhouse called The Smoking Section. He found me goofing off in the comments section and thought I had a way with words. A few weeks later he gave me a phone number to a DJ JAMAD.
It wasn’t my first TSS interview, but man, it was a doozy. I think this transcript was only the first half of an almost 3 hour interview, you can see that this was my working copy, the Q’s change to TSS somewhere near the bottom. I hope only the most faithful to the art form make it all the way through this. It exists in another form somewhere on the TSS website, but this is my unedited version.
DJ Jamad interview: July 2006
Q: Is Afromentals your main mixtape series?
J: Yeah, it’s the main series I got going on right now. It’s so popular that it’s pretty much become the main series that I work on.
Q: How many volumes do you have?
J: I got about 28 volumes.
Q: I sampled about 4 of them. What’s the concept behind those? You’re picking from so many different areas of music.
J: Some of them are based on themes, others are based on the type of music I have.
Q: Some are based on themes?
J: Yeah, like “Binkis Mode” was collaboration between me and this group Binkis Recs, which is a rap group on Bobbito Garcia’s Fruit Meat label. Basically, they’re some local MCs that I know. We were gonna make a smooth version of a hiphop cd, but it was gonna be more on some love songs-type hiphop. But it didn’t work out because those guys were on tour. So it turned out to be more of a soulful, R&B, slow…almost like a boning CD. Some late-night type stuff.
Q: Baby-making music?
J: It was supposed to be a hiphop/soul slow-groove cd, but it turned into something else. There was actually a concept there, but it turned into something else.
Another cd I had was called “Coffee Crush.” I had a crush on this chick named Coffee, the cd was inspired by this chick that I liked so I made the cd around her.
And “Afro Blues,” that’s volume 13, there was this chick I was dealing with and it was not a good relationship, and it had me going through all kinds of changes. There’s another cd I had with my son on the cover called “Afromatic” which I do with DJ Drama. Basically, his series was called “Automatic Relaxation” and we chopped up both titles to where we made a double CD. It covers volumes 14, 15 and 17.
Q: Where can we find your CDs?
J: There’s mom and pop stores in Atlanta that carry them. You can find them at mixunit.com, baylostore.com, digital-djs.com, and tastefullicks.com.
Q: How did the whole relationship with DJ Drama and Aphilliates come about?
J: All of them went to school together, like Don Cannon, OX. But the thing is we all live here and we all in the same circle of people. Me and Drama used to use the same artist, this dude named H2O. He used to design our cd covers. I would run into Drama over at dude’s house.
Q: What year?
J: This is before I became a part of the Affiliates. I was already Djing. See, I’m from Allentown, PA. I don’t want people to think I’m from Philly. Philly is like 45 mins from where I’m from.
J: I’ve been in Atlanta since ’87. Then I went into the military for 5 years, and then I came back in ’94. I think I met Drama back in ’96 or ’97.
Q: You go to Desert Storm?
J: I didn’t go to Iraq. I went to the U.K. I was in the medical field. Actually, I joined the Air Force, because I wanted to avoid the frontline. My family didn’t want me to be placed on the frontlines.
Q: No doubt. A lot of brothers on the frontlines.
J: I guess the Air force is supposed to be more prestigious. It would be something when I got out I would be able to have a job on the outside, versus working on some missiles or something like that. You’re kind of limited trying to find jobs in ammunitions. I pretty much went into the medical field, got my training, and that’s where I did most of my DJing.
Q: That’s where you built your skills?
J: Yeah, I was cleaning teeth and I was DJing every weekend. Especially when I went over to Germany.
Q: For real?
J: I started DJing in ’87, so when I joined the military in ’89, my first party might have been like in 1990. My first DJ gig in a club.
Q: Where was this?
J: I was in Missouri. This place called Knob Noster, MO, it’s Whiteman Air Force Base. I was DJing there first. Then I went to Rammstein, Germany. What it is, you would have NCO clubs on base. And then outside of the base there would be local clubs I would DJ at.
Q: Germany had a hiphop scene back then?
J: Yeah, yeah. Everything you listened to over here, it would be over there. It’s no different. They sell the same music over there, but it’s imported over there. I was buying my records in NY and have them sent overseas. What really got me into the music I do now is that I was exposed to so many people with different taste in music in the military and also being in the economy over there you’re exposed to different types of music. In England, they play a lot of soul music; they have a deep appreciation for soul music and real R&B music. During the day on the radio you’ll hear soul music, all that stuff. In the states it’s more political, more payola.
Q: What part of U.K. were you stationed?
J: I was in this little town called Fairford and it was near Swindon. It might have been like 30 mins from London.
Q: What did you think meeting your first black person with a British accent?
J: It was different to hear them talk like that. But it was neat to me. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I was already around a lot of different ethnic groups, you know. In Allentown, PA, there’s a heavy Latino population. It’s right down from NY.
Q: And because of the steel mills in Bethlehem? Right.
J: Yeah, you familiar with the area. It was a good place for me to grow up. But as far as now, I just couldn’t live there. It just seems kind of racist.
Q: More so than when you were young?
J: To be honest, I’d rather live in the South, than live up there.
Q: Where do you call home?
J: Decatur, G.A. It’s like 5 mins from Downtown Atlanta.
Q: I’ve heard about it in songs.
J: Decatur is a great place, man. Some good people live here. It’s an old city. I like the culture here. Atlanta is actually a great city. There’s a lot of transplants from all over the United States: West Coast, Chicago, Houston, Florida–all over. The hospitality is one thing that I liked a lot. When I moved down here I didn’t realize how cold people were up north. The hospitality is unreal. You’ll pull over next to somebody and they look at you from their car, and they’re like waving at you. At first it was kind of awkward, because when you’re up North, you’re defensive.
Q: It’s like you’re more on guard.
J: You know? You make eye contact and they like “Hey what’s up?” “What’s up.” It’s funny because I went back up North and I tried to do the same thing and people were looking at me like I was crazy. This is a different type of culture up here. I gotta remember where I’m from….and where I live.
Q: You said you went to ATL in ’87?
J: I relocated with my family down here.
Q: You been out there for a min?
J: I’ve been here for a while, man. Most of my roots are up North. I moved down here when I was 18. Five years of that’s been travelling to Germany, Midwest and stuff like that.
Q: So the “Aphiliates” comes from the fact that the crew is made up of DJs who grew up in Philly?
J: The main people that organized the Aphiliates were DJs Sense, Drama and Don Cannon.
J: So, basically, what happened was when they built their crew, they asked me, this other DJ Ox Banga and Jaycee to become a part of the crew. There’s other people that are involved with the group, outside of DJs that are an important part of the Aphiliates.
J: There’s rappers like Willie the Kid, LA the Darkman, the Replacements (sp?).
Q: LA the Darkman from Wu-Tang?
Q: How’d you guys hook up with him?
J: I think Cannon. That woud be a whole other interview. You would have to interview Cannon.
Q: We’ll get to him down the line.
J: The thing that makes the Aphiliates such a good thing is so much talent…in one organization, one group of people. Because the thing is, I’m like my own brand in and of itself.
Q: Explain your brand within your pool of DJs.
J: My speciality is hip hop, soul, and music that’s more under the radar. I don’t like to be put in this box like I just deal with underground music. The thing is there’s a lot of artists out here that are commercial as far as the type of music they have—you know they have the potential to market themselves as a commercial artist– but they’re not known.
J: So, I just try to get certain music that’s good quality music; and that’s what I try to put out. I’m not the type of DJ that tries to focus on the music that’s already out there, and that’s known, that’s popular. If it’s in the club, more than likely, you’re not going to really hear that on my CD unless I remix it. When it comes to DJs, I’m more of the creative type of DJ. That’s how I tend to look at myself.
Q: How do you mean that?
J: Of course I like to break new music. I’m not scared to break new music at the club. I’ll play new music. I gotta play new music. My attention span is real short. So the thing is….it’s almost like an addiction, too. When you hear some good music and you hear it for the first time, it creates that euphoria, you know? It’s like, ‘wow, man, I gotta get that feeling again..’ So it’s like when you buy records or you find music, especially when you find something new, this is the whole journey that you take as far as discovery, you find something new. You feel like: “Hey, I discovered this record.” That’s kind of like the connection you get with artists, when you’re a DJ you buy records and just the whole thing, it becomes very personal to you. I don’t know, a lot of DJ’s nowadays, things are so sterile now. All you gotta do is go to iTunes or go to Lime Wire or get a bootleg CD. That’s not the type of music I really deal with. The music I deal with is more like: I have to discover people that are below the radar.
Q; And you do this primarily….
J: ..Once they hear it, people are hooked. The same feeling I get— the other people, who are my listeners, that listen to the mix CDs that I do—they get the same experience. So it’s almost like getting high without drugs.
J:It’s the same thing, really. So it becomes, like a viral marketing type of thing. “Afromentals.” The whole thing, it catches on. It becomes just the nostalgia and everybody gets addicted to it. The same way Drama got his stuff. He’s got a good brand with Gangsta Grillz. He deals more with the mainstream type level with the Jay-Z’s and the T.I.’s. That’s the same type of approach I take to the stuff I do.
Q: Do you do artist-specific mixtapes like Drama?
J: I haven’t been working with artists, but I plan on changing that. I’m trying to work more directly with coming out with more exclusive mix CDs where I can deal more with the artist. But, that’s kind of like been a challenge. Creative people, man. They tend to be the worst people to deal with, man. I can say that about myself too, sometimes.
Q: How come?
J: Because they procrastinate, they’re very egotistical, you know? Perfectionists. It’s like, things have to be this way or that way. The grind is so much different when it comes to dealing with this progressive music.
J: I wish it would be more of a thing where people want to hustle more, but it’s just that creative side. Because when it comes to creating, it takes a lot of energy. It’s really an extension of yourself when you’re a creative person. It’s like, you know Andre 3000? He don’t come out with an album or mixtape or all that stuff every six months. It’s a different type of vibe. His stuff is more intuitive, you know what I mean? He has to go inside of himself and pull out from deep in his spririt, like D’ Angelo, cats like that. You just don’t have those records come out every six months.
Q: Why do you think that is? A lot of popular music by performers termed “great” have deep catalogs with 5 or 10 albums.
J: It’s the subject matter. It is. It’s like pollution. It’s just like fast food. You come out and you talk about sex, getting some ass, talk about getting rims, selling drugs and trappin. If you talk’n about that every week that means the same shit and you just recycled the same shit from the last album.
J: Some people actually grow, but they’ll grow in six albums versus somebody who’ll grow in two albums. You’ll see a change like…I don’t know, I don’t want to mention anybody in particular. When it comes to commercial music the bottom line is sales. It’s the whole structure of it. It’s about sales…whatever we have to do to make a dollar, if there’s a gimmick that has to be involved to make it happen. It’s about building an artist, it’s about making an artist. You make them appear to be like they have talent, but they don’t necessarily have talent. They’re just good at the game. You know what I mean?
J: When it comes to progressive music, these are people who are like musicians. You have producers like Pete Rock: he rhymes, he produces, he DJs. You know what I mean, they multi-talented? When it comes to other people….it’s like…you know, the next thing you know they getting into acting and stuff like that because that’s the only other thing they can do. If you can get on a stage and rhyme then more than likely you can probably act a little bit. I’m not even mad at the system the way it is, it’s that way for a reason. But all I’m trying to do as a DJ is balance it out. Because you know what? When I play that commercial music that gives me money and I have a job. But my love and what I love to do is the music that fits more my personality and who I am. So really, that’s what Afromentals is…it’s really an extension of who I am and my personality: as far as my values, the morals. You know what I mean? I’m a grown man, I’m 37. I’ve got a daughter that’s 17 and a son that’s 6 years old. Now what would I look like to be up in here with my hat backwards, big-ass, long-ass shirt–coming home with gold teeth in my mouth—out here selling drugs and stuff like that? That’s not the environment for my kids. I’m trying to show them.
Q: You got grown-ass kids, man.
J: That’s the whole reason, it’s just me being who I am. And that’s all it is.
Q: Explain Afromentals a little more.
J: One day I was looking at all these pictures of my aunt and uncles and they had these big-ass afros man. They were just so damn big. So one day I try to grow an afro and man it just wouldn’t work. My hair was too curly.
Q: How old were you when you tried that?
J: Probably 30. It was funny. I was just going through some changes at the time, you know. And I felt like I wanted to start over, so I just let my hair grow. I was like “Man, I’m going to come out with this little CD.” I just actually started mixing CDs. I’d been DJing, but as far as mix CDs, it’s just a different type of game all together when you’re doing mix CDs.
J: Because there’s a structure involved, you know? You have to learn the business side of it. How to hustle. So I wanted to create a brand that was something that had meaning to me. At the time, a lot of chicks had afros back then, it was kind of like the 70s thing was kind of popular in the late 90s. You’d see all these funk and 70s posters and shirts. People wearing afros in the layouts and the magazines. So I was like, “Man, afro is kinda cool.” The music that I like is mental. Its something that helps you think, help you to relax, or has a message. Period.
To me, a mind is always a terrible thing to waste. People never think, never use they mind. My mom used to always tell me, “Think. Think. Think. Think. Think” If I got in trouble or if I do something stupid, she was like “Use you brain, that’s what it’s for.” My sound is like, I just feel like this is gonna be what the music is about; it’s going to be natural. It’s going to be 360 degrees, it’s going to be universal and it’s going to be powerful, because that’s what the afro represents.
And plus, from the prefix of the word ‘African,’ it’s like I’m black, so let it represent who I am. And the mental part of it is hey… I’m trying to feed people. And the nickname’s like the music messanger, you know. I try to deliver the goods as far as the stuff that feels good. It’s all just marketing. I just learned all that stuff in my psychology class. (Laughs)
Q: You went to college?
J: Yeah, in the military I went to the University of Maryland.
Q: Which campus?
J: It was a satellite branch we had in Germany.
Q: UMD in Germany?
J: When you in the military, they have satellite branches that you can go to on base. And they have teachers and everything else.
Believe it or not it’s actually easier to go to school in the military because teachers tend to be more lenient. If you have to go on a tour of duty or if you in the field, you can do the video online classes if you want. It was actually a lot easier to go to school because the classes are a lot smaller too. But the only thing is I DJ so much, so that’s why I really didn’t graduate. But that was my main reason for going into the military, to go to school.
Q: What’s your musical background? What led you to be DJing parties?
J: I played the trumpet. My mother had me taking trumpet lessons when I was 10. I think I lost my interest because I was playing all that white peckerwood stuff. You know, Jingle Bells and all that. I didn’t really get the real history. It didn’t connect with me, it didn’t register. So, it wasn’t who I was at the time, but I was good at it.
TSS: No jazz up in there?
Jamad: My mother was a single mother and she didn’t really put no pressure on me to go to those classes. Maybe if I had father that was there, you know, maybe he woulda balanced it out and be like, “Nah you gonna do this, and do that.” Because my dad really is the one that loves music. And that’s really how my mother and my father met, because he was a good dancer. And he loves music, man.
TSS: And they met in PA?
Jamad: He lives in Easton, PA. And to this day, man, whenever I talk to him he’s always asking me to send him some tapes.
TSS: He’s an old school stepper?
Jamad: Shoot, I haven’t seen him dance, but in his time he probably could do all that stuff, man. My mom said he was light on his feet.
TSS: That’s always a good compliment.
Jamad: And my mom was straight about her books. She was all in her books. So he had to sweep her off her feet. I know, based on how my mom is, my mom don’t play. If it wasn’t for my mom, dude, I don’t know where I would be, man. Because my mom raised me well.
TSS: Were you a knuckle head? Did she have to keep you in line?
Jamad: Nah, not really, because I already knew to stay in line. She put her foot down man. It’s just so hard to be a single parent. Even when I watch my son in the summer, when he comes to stay with me, with my daughter, it’s a lot of responsibility. You almost need the other half to balance things out. From a guy’s perspective we always want to be tough.
TSS: You talk about being tough and all that. It seems like that doesn’t affect you if you’re making mixtapes about loss of a women and things that aren’t following the more pimpish qualities that are pretty heavy in the South. Are you trying to go against that?
Jamad: No, nah. I don’t go against anything. I don’t be trying to preach and save the world. I have my own opinion and I’ll speak on it. If it’s something that I really feel strongly about, I’ll let it be known. But at the same time I’m not trying to force my values on anybody else. But as far as what’s going on in the world today, the only thing I really disagree with is just the structure of the music industry. It’s the fact that most of the artists, they don’t own any of the stuff that they do. And nobody’s really looking out for their best interest. I don’t listen to the radio. So, that’s my form of protest. I’m not going to listen to half of that crap that’s on the radio, because I know it’s garbage. I know that if people had a choice, you know what? If everybody was being all conscious and they were making money being conscious, then that’s what everyone would jump on. But since they can just talk all that craziness about you know: “Drop ya draws.” “I’ll give you head,” and all this other stuff. That’s fine, but I just don’t think that stuff needs to be on the radio.
TSS: But you’re right in the middle of all that stuff.
Jamad: It doesn’t need to be on the radio in the day where kids that are very impressionable can listen to that all day. You know what I mean? And then it’s like they turn on the TV, they see the videos with strippers sliding down poles in the middle of the daytime. I just feel like man, come on. Where’s the values? People just accept that stuff, man. Kids, their highest point where they can get pregnant, especially girls, is in their teens. They’re very fertile in their teens. They can’t even control none of their little feelings. Let all this stuff get in their head. It’s just keeping people stupid. Dumb and blind, man. I have control over what my son, my kids, are going to view. And that’s how I am when it comes to that. As a DJ, you know, I play that stuff. And I like it; I’m a grown man, I can make my own decisions. But overall I feel like a lot of stuff is just reckless. I would like to see more things. Like, I think people should stop exaggerating the whole stuff with how they’re selling drugs. They not doing all this stuff. I wish music was more truthful, you know.
TSS: What about the flipside?
Jamad: If people would express how they really feel in a song? It just needs to be more honesty in the music. That would make the music better overall. Because when it comes down to it, it’s still about the beat of the drum and your heartbeat. That’s the infectious part. You could listen to a song with no lyrics and you don’t really need the lyrics. It’s just the lyrics man. You can add these horrible lyrics to these songs…it’s like “Eeny meeny miney moe, let me go fuck this hoe” and it’s like nursery rhymes.
TSS: That could be a hit right there.
Jamad: And it’s a hit. Now, I ain’t gonna lie, dude, I like Yung Jocc. I like that song. But it’s for what it is. It’s all in fun, but when it comes to raising my kids I don’t want them to be listenin to all that poison. Because it’s poison.
TSS: You say you have a 17-year old daughter and a son.
Jamad: A 6-year-old son. He’s very impressionable. He hears “Laffy Taffy” he thinks it’s like a cartoon song. It’s like “Blues Clues,” you know.
TSS: What’s your thinking about the so-called Snap music movement?
Jamad: I think what’s going on in the South is great. People down here have their own culture. From the accents to the drawl to the dialect. The music itself, the way the music moves, man. It’s amazing, the West has they music, the North has they music, the Midwest, the East. Music is universal, man. So if anybody wants to hate on the South, even though I’m from P.A., I’ll be the first one to tell people stop hatin. It’s not about that. Now when it comes to the content, I’ll talk about content all day when it comes to anybody’s music. If it’s a [rapper] that I like, let’s say it’s Common… if he comes out with a whack song, I’m like yo, that song’s whack. I’m not supporting it. I’ll give you my honest opinion. But when people start getting into this regional stuff..man, everything goes in cycles, man.
TSS: Is it just a fad or a marketing gimmick?
Jamad: Well, when it comes to everybody doing a snap song, that aspect of it is probably a gimmick.
TSS: Is it that distinct from say, crunk?
Jamad: Those are just trends. Those are just terms to try to label something. Really, anything is crunk to me. Crunk is just an expression that they use in the South to describe something…like hyphy, it’s the same expression. It’s the same word. Or, “It’s hot!” It’s just Black folk. You know Black folk, we just make up our words. It’s like patois in America. I don’t think Snap music is a movement. It’s just more of a style at the time. It’s like neo-soul, it’s not a movement. It’s a type of style of music, like R&B. Soul music is a movement. There’s no such thing as neo-soul. There’s no such thing as to me crunk or snap music to me.
TSS: You don’t think D’Angelo and Angie Stone are part of the neo-soul movement?
Jamad: Well…I think it was more of a tribute to artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder..Billie Holiday. It was just something that was a trend. People are always trying to create a ‘movement’ out of something, which is garbage.
TSS: That word is thrown around a lot, probably in the last couple of years.
Jamad: Yeah. Even like acid jazz is like..what is ‘acid jazz?’ The line is really not defined when they start to make up audience categories for music. Like house music; but then there’s all these sub-categories of house music, like trance and garage. I don’t like to get too deep when you start trying to label stuff.
TSS: Do you delve into the electro stuff?
Jamad: Yeah. I listen to everything pretty much. Anything that sounds good to my ear.
TSS: Do you dig in the crates?
Jamad: Yeah. All the time. A partner of mine, Gene Brown, he’s a friend of mine from North Carolina, he’s a person that actually was pivotal in a lot of the creation. He’s one of the people that gave me inspiration for a lot of the music I play on my CDs.
TSS: How so?
Jamad: What my CDs reflect are my life. IF you hear music on my CDs, it’s because I heard it from somebody, or I discovered it on my own. OR maybe I listened to a sample in a hiphop song, and I just did a little bit more research on it and got the sample. But a friend of mine Gene Brown, I met him at this Roots concert, Okay Player tour back in 2000, something like that. Basically, I was selling my first hiphop CD. I made an underground CD, like a real hiphop CD, it had Rah Digga on it, DJ Premier, Gangstarr..you know, all kinds of underground artists. East coast type players. I ran into him and we hit it off on account of music. We just talk about music. And when he came in town, I told him “hey, whenever you come in town, dude, you can come crash at my crib, man.” Because he would come and sell records in Atlanta. Man, me an him…man, the knowledge he would give me…it’s just natural man. Just like when you meet friends in college or whatever, you just have a natural relationship. But that became like an influence. It was like a catalyst. The people that I started to associate with would be the people that would actually mold me into what I am today, as far as the whole brand of ‘Afromentals.’ From the people at the record stores, from the people that I would listen to on the radio…that I kind of like looked up to; there’s certain DJs here that I would listen to their show.
TSS: Who do you listen to on radio?
Jamad: [DJ] Jamal Ahkmed is a person that I would listen to locally….
TSS: What stations?
Jamad: They were like college radio stations [Georgia State University, WRAS] 88.5, and [CLARK ATLANTA UNIVERSITY, WCLK] 91.9 … [WRFG –Radio Free Georgia] 89.3 is like an independent station. Those are the stations that are more kind of like geared more toward the public. Their playlist is a lot more flexible as far as being able to play, like more progressive music and stuff like that. When you’re a DJ man, you start off you emulate. Like, I would emulate [DJ] Red Alert, I would emulate DJ Jazzy Jeff or Chuck Chillout, Funk Master Flexx, before [he] even got big. Or Marley Marl, you know … all the New York DJs. You would listen to New York stations back then…or I was listenin to the Philly stations, like Jeff Mills [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pf9Rr5Wrg_c&search=mills] would be like one of the DJs I would listen to, and Cosmic Kev. So, when I listened to those DJs, I would record off the radio. When you’re learning how to DJ, it’s like “OK,” there’s nobody really teaching you how to DJ, so you have to learn how to blend two records together, but from listening to music you start to develop an ear for it. So, I would pretty much, almost kinda like [copy] their DJ session sets. Like if I heard them scratch two records together, I would try to duplicate what they did. And that’s how I learned how to beat match. But Red Alert was a strong influence in my becoming a DJ.
TSS: Boogie Down Production’s DJ Red Alert?
Jamad: Yeah. In the Lehigh Valley [P.A.] we would get the [radio] signal from New York. So we would be driving up the mountains, up the campus of Lehigh [University], we would be at the little lookout, ‘Lover’s Lane,’ or whatever, I forget what they called that spot… above the mountains.
TSS: You would go there specifically to listen to Red Alert?
Jamad: Well, we would be driving around. Like, my uncle would be listenin to the radio all the time, and he used to get a good signal, because he had a cable connection on his stereo. My uncle Andre, he was really the one that was into a lot of music. And he would have all the state of the art turntables and stuff like that with the Pickering needles…the exclusive stuff. I would really look up to him.
TSS: He must have influenced you a lot.
Jamad: He had all the Parliament Funkadelic records. He even had the rock records, he had all the Butch Collins, all that stuff. He was the person that kinda set me up. And then as I became a teenager, it was just natural, like hiphop was the thing back then. If you were a kid and you were rebellious, hiphop was the thing that you could relate to..and breakdancing and popping and all that. So, it’s like it was only natural that I would DJ. I used to listen to the radio every week and record religiously.
TSS: Really, when did you start doing that?
Jamad: I’d say from my first tape recorder, like the kind you take to copy notes in class. I used to record straight off the radio. I think it was [WKTU, New York] ’92 KTU’ was one of the stations I used to be able to pick up back in the early ‘80s. Then I got a boombox. Because when you’re a kid, dude, ain’t nobody buying you no boombox. A boombox was like $150. I wasn’t priveledged like that. My mom couldn’t afford that. Then eventually I moved up and I got a little job, 14-15, I got a paper route and I got a nice little radio, and I used to get better reception. Then when I’d go visit my aunt in Philly, of course I was right in Philly, I would get the reception like nuthin. I used to just want to go down there just to record off the radio. I mean, I used to be a fanatic about recording off the radio. I knew what time the shows come on. So, if we were anywhere I made sure I was in the house recording. It was that serious.
TSS: What are the name of some shows you were obsessed with?
Jamad: Mr. Magic and Marley Marl…you had Kiss-FM, which was Red Alert. But Kiss-FM..What is Kiss now, it’s Hot 97? Power 99 used to be in Philly and also WDAS 105.3 in Philly, they used to have the mixes on the weekend. And I used to listen to that live from the club, and that was way before I could even go out to the club. WDAS was more like the soulful station. They would play Teddy Pendergrass. Then you had Power 99 was more like the big station, they had a radio show called something ‘with Lady B.’ It used to come on from 1-3. Straight out of church, man, I used to be going straight home to record. On Sunday they had a hiphop show. And this is when they had hiphop shows. It was such an awesome experience. And they don’t even have that nowadays; they play that garbage all day, man. Something like what I do, man, there’s no reason why you can’t have a special show dedicated to just reggae or whether it be house music, or whether it be neee-o soul, whatever you wanna call that stuff. It’s like you can have programming like that, man, and it wouldn’t hurt the numbers, man. It could only help the industry overall.
TSS: But that’s satellite format, right?
Jamad: My Sirius satellite show is more…since I’m on a hip-hop channel [HipHop Nation, Ch. 40], my show tends to be influenced by the hiphop a little bit more versus more soulful, smooth-type stuff. I tend to play a little more like Ghostface or I’ll be playing MC Eiht. You know? I like to focus on stuff that sounds good and stuff that people forget especially.
TSS: Like Trends of Culture?
Jamad: Yeah, yeah. I’ll play just about anything to be honest with you. I’ll play anything from T.I., but it’ll be the album songs on T.I., it won’t be like something that they play in the club that’s just a commercial track. My focus more on the music is more from a soulful type of sound. So, if Jeezy got some soulful tracks or if he got some tracks with some samples in it, I’m gonna play that versus something that just sound like a little jingle. I’m not gonna play that stuff because it’s overplayed. It’s no challenge for me. I gain nothing from it, because you hear it all the time.
TSS: How long have you been doing the Sirius program?
Jamad: A year and a half.
TSS: How did they contact you for that?
Jamad: Actually, my manager from the Aphiliates, she hooked that up. She got me a job.
TSS: Are you the only member with a satellite show?
Jamad: No. Don Cannon, Sense, Drama and Jaycee do “Streets is Watching” on Shadey 45 and I do the ‘Afromentals’ mix show on Hiphop Nation.
TSS: That’s pretty dope that you turned you mixtape series into a radio show.
Jamad: Yeah. The thing I like to mention is…dude, I wouldn’t be nowhere if it wasn’t for the people that support the music.
TSS: Who’s your audience?
Jamad: My audience is probably people 25 and up. I have a strong fanbase with people that are like professionals, working or college graduates. I think when you’re younger, people tend to be more focused on what the hype is all about. But most of the people that support me strong are people that grew up fans of the golden-age of hiphop. When it comes to create’n music, you’ll listen to the type of music that’s on the radio versus when you hear musicians..they deal with different types of keyboards and stuff like that. It’s comparing a Ford to a BMW….a Ford is mass production. That’s how I look at commercial music, it’s just mass production. There’s only a few songs that make it out. It’s almost like when you see somebody driving a Mustang from like 1998 and it’s still in good shape. It’s like “Damn, I remember that car, I’m surprised you still got it.” So, if somebody breaks out a TLC record, it’s like, “Oh, okay, that song was kinda hot.” But you’re not going to break out more than one of their songs. But then it comes to someone like MC Eiht, I’m on this West Coast-type of thing now, with like Too $hort..Above the Law, all them cats that were kind of like slept on, I’m like into that. Ice Cube, Lynch Mob, all that older stuff. I’m like on that stuff right now, because when you listen to that stuff, that stuff was the shit. But it was actually underrated, it was kind of overlooked. NWA was really the thing that most people remember, that was really big, that really broke through. But when you listen to a lot of that other stuff, man, like MC Eiht; dude was hot. That dude was slept on as far as I’m concerned. That dude had crazy flow. That dude was on some real shit.
TSS: What about him struck you?
Jamad: That dude was just on some real shit. To me, it’s like them dudes from Compton they just as real as it gets, man. They’re like the essence… of like, when it comes to their music, what they be talking about man, it just seems so authentic. It is authentic, the way they come across. These dudes actually have skills, man. And when they be rhyming…you hear the music, the samples they be using. If you listen to the MC Eiht stuff and then you listen to the stuff nowadays, it’s really just as hot, man. Like T.I. or say….I don’t know, there are not too many artists, to me…they’re good, but their not saying nuthin. The content could be better.
TSS: So MC Eiht is one of your favorite rappers?
Jamad: Everything about that dude was on point. That dude was the truth. Even Too Short, that stuff was just raw man; even to a drum machine. Dude has not changed. He’s just true to who he is. You just don’t have that many people around like that. Like M.O.P…you don’t want to hear M.O.P singing. It just seems so weird nowadays with the way music be coming out. It’s like you get an album, it’s hot, then you get the next album and it’s all these collabos..I don’t want to hear that crap, man. I want to hear you..I don’t want all these gimmicks, I don’t want all these different artists to be on here…like Ciara, and you got a booty-shake track, then you got your R&B track, then you gotta have a double-time track, then you gotta have a crunk track. Come on, man. When you listen to EPMD, you know what you were getting, when got LL Cool J you know what you were getting, even with Das EFX you know what they were doing. Nowadays it kind of bothers me because when I hear Jeezy, I want to hear ‘Jeezy,’ I don’t want to hear someone who sounds like Jeezy. I heard some female rapper and she was rhyming like Jeezy! Let that dude be him.
Jamad: It’s just so whack nowadays. Being creative to me is important. I want you to be an extension of who you are as a person. It don’t matter if you’re corny, sometimes corny shit is good, too.
TSS: What connects all the music that you use in your work?
Jamad: Certain songs based on how they’re arranged will make the song seem like it’s moving slower or moving faster. So, the main thing is if I have a concept for how I want to do a CD, it’s like trying to make a movie pretty much. You try to have an intro, always try to do introductions for a CD, then there’s a body, then it’s usually a climax, then there’s usually a conclusion. Even when I mix my parties I usually play a lot of new stuff that I don’t know. So, I use that almost like a scratch piece of paper or a canvas.
Photo via rappersiknow.com
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