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J. Period: Project Overload

 J.

Period would describe himself as an old school A&R, the overseer

of the artists’ project that made sure the album got finished as well

as making sure the album remained true to the artists’ vision. Today,

A&Rs aren’t really known for that process. J. Period says he sees

today’s artists send their mixes and demo tapes to DJs instead of

A&Rs.The

ironic thing about hearing J. Period say all of this is that he himself

isn’t working toward one goal, one vision and the completion of one

album. He takes on no less than five projects at a time because he says

as someone who doesn’t know where his career is going, he wants the

freedom to do more than simply be a mixtape DJ or be labeled as a producer.

He wants to try both … and then some.

  In

addition to putting together mixes for Pusha T and Talib Kweli, much

in the same vain as 2006’s critically acclaimed Best of the Roots

album, he is also talking with Alicia Keys about a “best of” album

and Virginia hip-hop artist Skillz for production.

J.

Period is also working with unsigned Brooklyn hip-hop/rock group Game

Rebellion. The sextet plans on releasing a conceptual album based around

the “search for Rick Rubin,” where the group has revisited older

hip-hop records the legendary producer put out from his days working

with Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys. And J. Period ended up sitting

down with Game Rebellion and producing the group’s forthcoming album.

As

if it couldn’t get anymore interesting, J. Period could have a production

credit to the upcoming Denzel Washington film “American Gangster”

where one of J. Period’s songs might be heard in the next round of

trailers for the film. He’s also putting together a new “best of”

mixtape featuring music from an as-of-yet-to-be-named hip-hop collective.

J. Period doesn’t want the name revealed just yet, so that’s the

only hint readers get.

There

is also the best of Mary J. Blige album that he put together, which

has been sitting on the shelves of major label bureaucracy. What started

as a sort of follow up to 2005’s Best of Lauryn Hill

release that J. Period put together, Mary J’s album is a monster,

to say the least. Its three discs long, including a third disc of strictly

ballads and slow jams. Even more startling is the idea that Blige’s

label, Geffen Records, wants to put out the album as an official release,

which is why it’s taken almost a year to put together the album.

That’s

a big step for J. Period and for DJs across the country. No longer bound

by the rudimentary idea of putting out mixtapes underground and selling

them through street vendors or the Internet, should Period’s new Mary

J. Blige album come out on a major record label, it will mark a turning

point for Period’s career and for the careers of many of today’s

most successful and revered DJs.

“It’s

about creating a brand and being authentic,” says J. Period. “For

me, it’s about pushing as many envelopes as possible to see what the

feature of deejaying is. I work on five projects because I don’t know

what the future will hold.”

It’s

a major stepping stone for one of hip-hop’s DJs to release material

on a major label. It’s not just putting together a collection of exclusives,

rarities, remixes and freestyles, and then calling it an album. In today’s

world of maintaining versatility and remaining sharp so as to keep a

step ahead of the curve, it’s about producing music, interviewing

the artist’s who’s songs will be on the album and truly understanding

how a collection of tracks should sound together when they’re revamped

and released.

“It’s

about creating a cohesive, listening experience,” says J. Period.

“I’m trying to create something you can pop in and based on a certain

vibe from the artist, you can listen to it from front to back. I think

that if you can get inside the feeling that artist puts out, you can

wrap your head around what the artist is thinking.”

Born

Joel Aspman, the 32-year-old Los Angeles to New York transplant says

that what started him in deejaying and mixtapes was the pause tapes he

used to make when he was growing up in southern California.

 “I

applied the same perfectionism then as I do now. Now, I’ve just got

more tools,” says  Period. “Back then it was cassette to cassette,

and I would make intros and interludes of James Brown doing the ‘seven

wonders of the world’ speeches, and then go into something like a

Busta Rhymes verse.”

And

when he got to Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., J. Period ended

up having such a diverse album collection he became the de facto DJ

for campus parties. Though he was on track to become a teacher like

his parents when he graduated in 1997, he ended up moving to New York

two years later as a graphic designer, deejaying at nights on the side.

The

graphic artist in him is evident in all of his releases. Up until about

the last five mixtapes J. Period has put out, he was designing all the

artwork. Those early releases include Beats from N.Y.: Classic New

York Hip-Hop, a collection of early 1990s rap, Soundclash Dancehall

Vol. 1, a reggae mix, War of the Worlds, an underground German-bass

album that’s extremely difficult to find, and Dark Dayz, an

album of music J. Period put together following the events of Sept.

11, 2001. Things got even more serious for J. Period with the release

of Best of Nas, which J. Period says is the album that really

got the attention of hip-hop heads.

“There

was a listening session for God’s Son [in 2002] and I went

in someone else’s place,” says J. Period. “Nas showed up. There

were all these college radio DJs and I was like the infiltrator. I interviewed

him. I went up afterward and pitched the idea of me dropping everything

remixed and his interviews for a mixtape. I make the mixtape and the

next thing I know people are calling me for these CDs. And from there

it just sort of progressed.”

It

was Big Daddy Kane. It was the Isley Brothers, CL Smooth, The Roots,

Lauryn Hill and Kanye West. Whatever project came his way, J. Period’s

stock began to rise as both a DJ and producer. But instead of picking

one profession over the other, he chose the middle ground, opting to

do both, and has done so successfully ever since.

“Freedom

is a big part of it,” says J. Period. “Everyone I know complains

of having someone look over their shoulder when producing. And with

production now, it’s so big legally and there are so many sample issues.

I can produce beats and do raw samples that I would otherwise have to

clear. Danger Mouse famously got in a lot of trouble for using those

Beatles samples. People that know my mixtapes know that certain songs

I produced, the artists would have never cleared the samples.”

The

artist who used to simply go by “J” … period, and one can understand

how it’s turned into its present moniker, is now a producer, DJ, the

go-to guy for mixtapes and “best of” albums, and is an example of

what’s needed for the future of DeeJaying.

 J.

Period doesn’t want to make it seem like he’s the only one doing

this. Where he sees constant opportunities and chances to create new

music, for J. Period, the future of hip-hop and deejaying might seem like

a blank slate. But it’s DJs such as J. Period who are carving their

own interpretation of the culture, of hip-hop and all of music. And

if he is reinventing music, well then at some point J. Period does have

a vision, and he is the A&R he half-jokingly makes himself out to

be.

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