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Jay Rock: From Gangbanging To Banging Beats

jayrock

Watts, CA rapper Jay Rock, a product of the Nickerson Gardens projects which is home to one of the largest Blood sets in Los Angeles, has become one of the top new West Coast faces on today’s rap scene. With the help of superstars Lil Wayne and Will.I.Am, Jay Rock’s “All My Life” single received a good amount of radio play not just in Los Angeles but in cities around the nation. The huge co-sign from the superstars opened up the doors but it was up to Jay’s own skills to ensure that he stood out on his own as an artist and not get lost to the features on his own song. With a style that some say is similar to Compton superstar The Game, Jay Rock uses a rough gritty flow in raps that details life growing up in the ever-dangerous city of Watts. Signed to Warner Brothers, Jay Rock is preparing his debut album and is out to make his presence known as one of rap’s new faces. The young artist recently sat down with AllHipHop to talk about his budding career, his radio hit “All My Life” and his surprising alliance with rival gang-member and fellow upcoming West Coast artist Nipsey Hussle.

AllHipHop.com: You grew up in the notorious Watts Nickerson Gardens projects. Tell us how you went from gang-banging to rapping.

Jay Rock: I started rapping at about 13 or 14 years old with the homies around the hood but I didn’t really get serious about it until about 4 to 5 years ago. That’s when I really started to get more serious and began doing mixtapes. People started telling me that I was hard. I was just a young dude out there trying to hold his own by gangbanging and slangin’ a little bit – trying to bring some food to the table for the family. I was running around the mean streets being raised by the big homies. I used to listen to the homies O.F.T.B. who were from the neighborhood and were signed to Death Row. I also listened to N.W.A., Snoop Dogg and of course 2Pac was my favorite. By 16 I started to develop my own style and tried to say some sh*t that really meant something. I started to put all of the stuff that was going on in my neighborhood in to my raps and that’s when I started to get serious.

AllHipHop.com: How did you go from someone doing underground mixtapes to being signed to Warner Brothers?

Jay Rock: I had done a few mixtapes that got in to the hands of one of my big homies named Dude Dawg. He grew up in the projects and made it out but I didn’t know that he was involved in the music business. He started looking for me and I thought he was coming to discipline me for some stuff I did in the neighborhood, because he used to always come back and try to holler at the young homies in the hood. I started ducking and dodging this n***a, but he was trying to come at me on some other stuff. One day I was sitting on my porch getting a haircut and he pulled up on me in his truck and I was like, “Aw sh*t!” Then he was like, “I heard you on some mixtapes and I want to put you in the studio.” That sh*t threw me off! I finished up my haircut and hopped in the truck with him. He locked me in the studio and told me he wasn’t going to let me out until I come out with 3 good songs. I go in there and I’m thinking about my money in the streets so I hurry and put some bullsh*t together. He listened to it and told me to get my a** back in the studio. He had me locked up for 3 days and I worked. He took the 3 songs that he really liked and took them to the labels. A few the labels put their bids in and he chose to go with Warner Brothers.

AllHipHop.com: Its good have someone like that to push you and drive you.

Jay Rock: Real talk. The big homies that know better should always come back and grab the younger homies and try to help them out. He told me that’s why he came and got me and for me to do the same thing one day for some of the other n****s to pull them out of the bullsh*t.

“I don’t give a f**k what anybody says about [Lil'] Wayne. People call him fake

or whatever, but he’s a real n***a to me. A lot of people that I’ve

spoken to in this industry have told me one thing and done another, so

I respect Wayne for what he did.

AllHipHop.com: I see that’s already started with you. Last Thanksgiving I saw you on Fox 11 News giving out Turkeys to residents of the Nickerson Gardens projects.

Jay Rock: Growing up, there were times that we didn’t have food on the table. Sometimes Thanksgiving was a struggle for us. Growing up in those projects, I know who’s doing ok and who needs help. That prompted me to go back to my hood and take some Turkeys for me to give out and to look out for those that don’t much. I haven’t made it big yet but I’m doing somewhat better than I was. I need to start making a difference now. I wanted to try to bring some hope. I’d like to do things on a bigger scale. This Thanksgiving coming up, I’m planning on doing something even bigger.

AllHipHop.com: Are you going to do this in your neighborhood only or spread it out to more areas in the city?

Jay Rock: This was my first time doing that and it was cool. I want to do it on a bigger scale in my neighborhood first and then I want to branch out to different projects and help out people from projects all over the world. If I were to go to a project in Atlanta, I’d want to team with some of their local artists and do it together. I don’t want to do it for my own shine. I want to do this out of love. I want to hand this off to other artists and show them what I’ve done in my hood so they can do the same in their hoods.

AllHipHop.com: You hooked up with Lil Wayne and Will.I.Am for your single “All My Life.” How did you make that happen?

Jay Rock: I met Lil Wayne when he did a show out here in L.A. Me and my people were backstage and I was there trying to make my presence felt so people can know who I am. I introduced myself to him as “the next n***a from my city to blow up” and I told him that I wanted to work with him. He gave me his math and he was a real n***a. He gave me the real hook-up on him and told me that if I needed something to hit him up. Cool & Dre gave me a record and I got down on it and I figured that this was the record that I wanted Wayne to get on. I hit him up and told him that I needed him on the record and he told me to send it to him. I wanted to do it in a real way so I offered to meet him wherever he was and bring it to him myself. He was in Washington D.C. at the time so I bought some tickets and met him at his tour bus. He was asleep on the bus and I showed up banging on the door. I told him that I had the song and he told me that he couldn’t do it then because he had to go to South Carolina. So me and my boys jumped in our rental car and drove with the tour bus to South Carolina. From there we went to Pharrell’s studio in Virginia and the rest is history. We were in the studio for like 12 hours and the dude was like a machine. We knocked out 15 verses that night and he blessed me with a hell of a verse for the “All My Life” song.

I don’t give a f**k what anybody says about Wayne. People call him fake or whatever, but he’s a real n***a to me. A lot of people that I’ve spoken to in this industry have told me one thing and done another, so I respect Wayne for what he did. I don’t care what anybody says. He’s a real n***a to me.

“It’s time for the Black on Black [crime] to get cut off. Me and Nipsey are going to be the two to get that [money] because nobody is expecting us to get together like that. We’ve

got a new President that’s Black and it doesn’t make any sense for

Crips and Bloods to continue fighting and killing each other.

AllHipHop.com: The original version of “All My Life” had your homie K-Dot doing the hook but then you released another version with Will.I.Am from The Black Eyed Peas. What was the reason for that?

Jay Rock: My camp and I loved the version with K-Dot but when we took the song to the radio, they didn’t like the hook. They told us that the hook needed to be better. So we had to go back and re-do the hook. I ran in to Will.I.Am while we were both working at The Record Plant studio and I got at him there. He’s from the projects too – not the same one as mine but he’s a project boy also. I asked him to bless the song with a hook and he agreed. He added that “ghetto, ghetto” on there and we took it back to the radio and they thought it was a cool hook. So we ran with that version.

AllHipHop.com: Honestly, which version do you like better?

Jay Rock: I love the version that K-Dot did, that was my sh*t. To me that hook said more. Those are the politics of the game. I really needed that air-play. Some people were disappointed in me for changing the song and felt that I was selling out for the radio but they don’t understand the politics of it all. You really do need that radio exposure. If it was up to me and I had the choice, I would have ran with the K-Dot version.

AllHipHop.com: When I hear that, I really have to question the ears of the radio people that turned down the original version. It’s a much superior song. That’s no knock on Will.I.am though.

Jay Rock: That’s real talk. I don’t want to diss anybody in radio but it is difficult trying to please them. You make a song that you really love and you take it to them and they are like, “No. This isn’t it.” That song will never get the chance to really be out there because they feel that it’s not “it.”

AllHipHop.com: What is the status on the album? Has Warner Brothers given you a real release schedule?

Jay Rock: We were trying to get it out this summer but right now we are looking at having a September release. I’ve got to get that next record out there and get it moving. I’m not trying to rush it and have it do like 18,000 upon its release. I am trying to sell as many as I can when it comes out. I know there are people waiting and I appreciate their patience but I want to come out on top. When you are in a rush, sometimes you don’t do sh*t right.

Jay Rock – “DOA Freestyle”

AllHipHop.com: You announced via Twitter last week that you are teaming up with fellow rising West Coast artist Nipsey Hussle for a few projects. Can you tell us about that?

Jay Rock: Nipsey is my dude. We’ve got a lot of sh*t in the works. We want to shock the world and put the town on our backs – to push it the way Snoop & Dre did it back in the day. We are two young n***ga’s trying to make it.

AllHipHop.com: You’re a Watts Blood and he’s a South Central Crip. How does that all mix together?

Jay Rock: Red and Blue makes Green. We are on some other sh*t now. It’s time for the Black on Black bullsh*t to get cut off. We’ve got two big homies over us telling us both that it’s time for a change and for us to all stick together as one, instead of fighting. Instead of Red and Blue splattering Red blood all over the city, it’s time for us to make Green together. Me and Nipsey are going to be the two to get that going because nobody is expecting us to get together like that. We’ve got a new President that’s Black and it doesn’t make any sense for Crips and Bloods to continue fighting and killing each other. I’m young but I have seen how bad that sh*t is for us. I’ve got a baby now and I don’t want to walk out the door and have some n***a knock me off with my daughter in my arms. That sh*t is played out.

AllHipHop.com: Do you believe that you two can have a positive impact and have others follow your lead?

Jay Rock: I think it’s started already. We did the Green Lantern show on Sirius and everybody expected us to be on some bull-crap. People were shocked when they found out how tight we were. Some of my people may have had doubts about him and vice-versa but we showed them something different. I think we can make a big dent as long as were are out there grinding and showing that it can all be good.

AllHipHop.com: We’ve also heard that you are teaming up with DJ Drama for a new project. Is that correct?

Jay Rock: It’s coming! I’m 15 songs deep on it right now. I’ve got to at least do another 10 so he can pick the ones that he wants to use.

AllHipHop.com: I know that you are good friends with The Game. Do you two have anything coming out together?

Jay Rock: The Game is the homie. We do have some records in the works. He took me and Nipsey on tour. This is the second time that he’s taken me on tour with him. Game has helped open up the door for me and others, so I have nothing but appreciation for him. People compare us and say that we sound alike.

AllHipHop.com: I’ve seen people say that you sound like Game. Does that offend you?

Jay Rock: That doesn’t offend me. I don’t think I sound like Game – but at the same time he’s sold millions of records. If someone is going to buy my records because of that, then keep preaching it. I don’t think that we sound like though. Game is Game and I’m Jay Rock.

Jay Rock, Lil Wayne and Will.I.am – “All My Life”

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