The Lone Catalysts arent the only independent group causing a change in Midwest Hip-Hop. But they may be one of the most under appreciated. Theyve toured in Japan and all over Europe, in places where the people cant even speak English, but know their lyrics. However on American soil, the group just cant seem to shake being like foreigners in their own country.
With J. Sands on the mic and J. Rawls on the boards, the duo has been around the world with a mixed bag of influences, straight out the heartland of America. Since their debut, Hip-Hop in 2001, theyve grinded away slowly but surely. Far from sophomores, the Lone Cats are releasing their second LP, Good Music that features heavy hitter Masta Ace, Wordsworth, El Da Sensai, Grap Luva, Jonell and Mix Master Ice of UTFO, among others. Lone Cats MC J. Sands took a break to explain to AllHipHop.com the love they receive overseas, the balance between being duo and solo stars and the level of respect the underground receives in the United States. Steel City, stand up!
AllHipHop.com: This album was supposed to be out last year, what was the hold up?
J. Sands: Well, it was actually supposed to be out in 2003, but things didnt work out as planned. We thought we could get a deal or be in a better position than the first album. So, we waited and waited. We started to realize that its not going to get popping unless we do it ourselves. So, we put it on grind mode last year and knocked it out. That wont happen again.
AllHipHop.com: How has the group grown between The Catalysts Files and the new album, Good Music?
J. Sands: Yeah, we have definitely grown in four years as artists. I think in whatever you do there is always a higher level. I did a lot of traveling in the past few years and I am sure it helped out my writing. So I think on this album fans will be able to see a difference.
AllHipHop.com: Masta Ace is arguably the most prolific guest you guys have had on one of your projects. Why him, and why Taboo?
J. Sands: Well, the title just came up when I was writing. As far as Ace, hes that dude, man. I mean, I was bumping his music back in the day. So, as a fan/artist to do something with Masta Ace was a highlight to making this album. His verse fit perfect, so it was a wrap.
AllHipHop.com: The Good Music album has a lot faster percussion and more energy than weve seen before. Is this you coming more into play on production because it sounds a little like The Breaks?
J. Sands: Naw, not really. Rawls knocks out the beats and I just pick the ones I like. I think there may be more feeling in the tracks definitely. We were not trying to do the same thing as on previous albums.
AllHipHop.com: Speaking of The Breaks, whats the story behind that project?
J. Sands: Well, The Breaks was just an idea I have had for a long time. Wanting to rap over [interpolations of] the jams I grew up listening to. So, I have flipped into a compilation series and plan on putting out The Breaks Vol. 2 The Interlude Violator next year. Just for fun and to take it back. Also its a good outlet to get my peoples exposure.
AllHipHop.com: So what makes Pittsburgh a great place for Hip-Hop? What other artists are putting the city on the map? Weve been hearing of the city through the movie shooting lately
J. Sands: Pittsburgh is still growing as far as Hip-Hop. Trying to figure out where we fit in the music game. When it comes to Jazz, Soul and Funk music, Pittsburgh has held it down for years. Its just these young boys have to figure out how they are going to get along as people before they try to combine it into a Pittsburgh movement for Hip-Hop or whatever. There is a lot of bad blood. So every hood has someone who tries to do it, but they dont get support from other parts. Cant do it like that, got to have the whole city behind you.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think artists from the Midwest have been representing the region right in the last couple years?
J. Sands: Yeah the Midwest has been doing it big. There are a lot of cities that got major dudes in the game, like Detroit, Cleveland, and St. Louis. So many marks have been made.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think that Midwest artists have to leave the Midwest to blow up?
J. Sands: I dont think you have to leave for good. You do have to get out there and network with people in other areas, but you can base yourself at home. If you just think your going to make a CD and slang it in your hood and thats it naw, you got to hit the road and get people from everywhere into what you do.
AllHipHop.com: What will it take for the Midwest to get respect like Atlanta and Houston has recently?
J. Sands: I think the respect is there. Its just those two cites are major cities outside the boundaries of music. So, when you have a large population with a huge black community that helps the music scene. Its all love too. They going support more than maybe other cities where the make-up is different.
AllHipHop.com: You and J. Rawls started out in Cincinnati. Tell me about working there and meeting up with MOOD, The Five Deez and Hi-Tek.
J. Sands: The Nati to me is home. Spent six years of my life there. Grew as a man and musician there. These are the first dudes I actually saw who were serious about the music and getting on. Before that, I rapped and made tapes for the crib. I didnt know anything about a demo, signing to a label or putting out music. MOOD and Tek set it off as far as getting paper for this music. I just played the cut and watched. That was big.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think you developed a sound for the region?
J. Sands: I feel I got a sound for all regions. I have been listening to music for years. Influenced by so many different artist. So, I can swing any style for any region and still remain myself as an artist.
AllHipHop.com: You have a big overseas following. Where are some of the places youve been and what has the reception been like?
J. Sands: Yes, if it wasnt for the over seas markets I wouldnt even be in the game, straight up! We have been touring Europe for years. Went to Japan. Its been a blessing to go to these places to perform.