ueens, New York native J-Love brings a whole different flavor to the mixtape game. Rather than chase whats hot, J-Love frequently pays homage to past greats and living legends. Most recently, J-Love linked up with artist, La the Darkman for Return of the Darkman. Though an unlikely decision to some, this furthers J-Loves reputation for taking chances, promoting the Hip-Hop he loves, and taking chances on counter-culture trends.
Currently, the DJ is on tour with Ghostface Killah, an artist who J-Love gained notoriety with, after doing Hidden Darts several years back. AllHipHop.com caught up with the man as he was packing his bags, to discuss La the Darkman, real Hip-Hop, and whats in Large Professors carry-on luggage. If youre unimpressed with todays tapemasters, turn over to J-Love.
AllHipHop.com: For your side of things, what let you know that it was the right time to do a La the Darkman mixtape, and how did it happen?
J-Love: Its not so much timing. It was about gettin everything together the right music. Las been ready for the longest. Hes one of them artists who did it independently, so he doesnt have to be assed out and label dependent. Hes bringin an element that the streets is missin. So, lets do it, you know?
AllHipHop.com: Did you know each other before this?
J-Love: I got at La cause I was workin on a compilation album in like 97. I got a production deal. I wanted him on my project. For whatever reason, the situation didnt work out with the label I was on it. But me and La just kept in tune. We just always built. We always seen things eye-to-eye, and I was always checkin for him.
AllHipHop.com: I know one of your more famous tapes was with Masta Killa before his album. But how difficult is it to do a tape with an artist whos been unheard for so long?
J-Love: I know the artists themselves and their foundation. I know all the work theyve done previously. I make the best CD I can possibly make out of whats given to me, and whatever else I have. I approach it from the street level of, This guys hot. I know Id check for his album when it comes out. At the same time, I want a good reflection on me like, Yo, he only f**ks with the right s**t, the real Hip-Hop!
AllHipHop.com: Have you ever done a tape on or hosted by anybody thats not from New York or New Jersey?
J-Love: Nah, not so much outta state. Its really been the tri-state for me.
AllHipHop.com: Theres a lot of mixtape DJs that boast production skills. Youve done work with Cormega, Guru, and Large Professor. Tell me a little bit about your history beyond just the tapes
J-Love: I think Im like the best-kept secret. Im not an industry ass-shaker. I just do it how I wanna do it. A lot of people, they dont like that. They want everything conformed to their style. I try to keep it on the essence of real Hip-Hop. For instance, with the mixtapes, I dont just make CDs cause Jay-Zs hot at the time. When I did the first Ghostface Hidden Darts tape, Ghost wasnt even hot. But I felt Ghost. I felt like the streets needed that at the time. Thats why Im not big on the club scene. Im not into the Down South movement and all that. Im from the 93, 94 era of Hip-Hop, where you had to have a certain quality of music to bring forth. Now, its an era of a catchy-hook and a beat that somebody used before, you can sell millions.
AllHipHop.com: Cormega has spoken very highly of you. Tell me how your bond started?
J-Love: Cormega, I got him his deal. To me, Cormega and La [the Darkman] are both kinda in the same situation. They both financially stable. Their life does not depend on gettin a record deal. They also had the attitude like, F**k it, they gotta come to me. Im like, Nah, you gotta push yourself out there. You gotta bring it to the streets and let the streets decide. When Cormega was on Landspeed [Records], it wasnt the ideal situation for him. But getting the record out there was the main objective. I brought him to Landspeed, and they wasnt even feelin him hard at the time. Sure enough, 150,000 copies later. On The Realness, I was there everyday helpin him pick the beats, hands-on.
AllHipHop.com: Youve done A&R work for labels. That said, from a label side, how does it look when an artist approaches them, but doesnt necessarily need the money?
J-Love: It depends on the label. Mostly with labels, they dont really care if the artist is talented. Its mostly if the buzz is there. Understand, 50 [Cent] is not the greatest rapper. But his buzz was so incredible that everybody wanted him. But there was a period when nobody wanted him. No artist is getting signed on their skills nowadays. Theres plenty of talented artists or cats who put out bangin albums in the past who cant even get a meeting.
AllHipHop.com: Ive seen it all too often, myself
J-Love: Thats why I always try to support those artists. Even in DJ markets, they dont support the real Hip-Hop. At one point, everybody was sweatin Raekwon. Raekwon! Raekwon! Then he did an album that wasnt the s**t, and everybody [ignored him]. Now that hes talkin about Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2, everybodys jumpin on the bandwagon again. I just find that s**t fake. Maybe not all the music is right, but theres somethin on there.
AllHipHop.com: Right, right.
J-Love: Some artists are getting overlooked. Look at [Kool] G Rap, a veteran. Where does he fit in this game now? He fore-fathered a lot of these rappers, but theyre not accepting him unless he does it like this? You gotta sound like 50 to get accepted? Its crazy. Thats why I tell a lot of them n***as, Nah, give it to me. Ill get it out there. I got a satellite position, I got the mixtape game. Theres definitely fans thats still checkin. I came up on these artists and it just feels good to be in a position of even dealin with em.
AllHipHop.com: I feel the same way you do in my line of work. Outside of New York, where are your tapes really knockin?
J-Love: Japan. Australia. Ive even had customers in Africa. I would never think. I feel like my s**t is different from a lot of the other DJs. You can be a nobody artists somebody like Killa Sha, to Jay-Z, its all mixed in. You can see the difference in Big Mike, Whoo Kid, and all of them.
AllHipHop.com: Youve worked a lot with Large Professor, who is historically a very solitary dude. How did you earn his trust, and what was it like to work with him?
J-Love: Its not so much business. I could just call a n***a and be like, Happy birthday, Merry Christmas, you know? Thats how I carry myself. In Larges case, thats how we got cool. When I was doing my album, the first single, Rhyme Mania. I produced that. That s**t was real hot at the time. Back then, he had just lost his deal with Geffen, and he was really out of it, depressed, turned off of music. Nah man, come on. Lets get it. Then he got his lil situation, and it came to him. Large is funny too. Cause hes a dude with so many beats, that hell give his best s**t to other people. Sometimes they dont return it. Like hell go all out for Nas, but Nas wont go all out for him. You gotta weigh the skills.
AllHipHop.com: Being so close to dude I gotta ask. Whats in the briefcase hes always carrying?
J-Love: Thats the laptop. All the music files, beat disks. Large is one of the producers thats up to date and up to speed with all the things thats going on in the Hip-Hop world. He put me onto iTunes like five, six years ago. Hes advanced in music, digital stuff, everything. Hes another one that gets shunned on. Hes not part of the Dipset or G-Unit or whatever. Most kids only know him cause of the Nas affiliation. Its sad.
AllHipHop.com: Your logo, what is it actually, and whats it mean?
J-Love: I got a big heart. But its got a black side. You turn on me, I could be ruthless. Im from the streets first. I got the dark side and the good side. Like half and half, dont ever get it confused.
AllHipHop.com: When you yank an exclusive, are you getting calls in the middle of the night and papers?
J-Love: In the beginning, it used to be like that. Not so much now. They used to ask me, and I wouldnt answer. Theyd ask me how I got it, Dont worry about it, it went over your head, or something. I got a little arrogance to me. Now, the industrys centered around that. Even with an artist like La, without me putting them on the tapes, Im not sure theyd get checked for. I mean, nobodys playin Las records on the radio not in New York. Same for Large Professor. I mean, maybe a little bit in the knapsack crowd, but not on the mainstream. Im filling those voids. At the same time though, if Large Pro makes a wack record, Im not gonna play it. But if its a hot record, Lets go! That could be anybody – that could be Grand Daddy IU. To me, if the records right, play it.
AllHipHop.com: Whats coming up on your forefront?
J-Love: I got [Ghostfaces] Hidden Darts III. Im going on tour with Ghost. Im gonna do a M.O.P CD, a Cormega CD, another volume of Mobb Deep. I look at my CDs as a catalog. Damn, I need that one too.
AllHipHop.com: Whats the tour gig like?
J-Love: Mathematics used to DJ for him. I guess he cant do every tour right now. So Im just trying to bring the energy out. I know Ghost is about to get real hot right now, the album is nuts. Its a mutual respect. Im trying to bring the hottest show to the forefront?
AllHipHop.com: Did you have to practice to get the routines down with Ghost?
J-Love: Nah. Ghost is Ghost. [laughs] Thats the best way I can explain it.
J-Love mixtapes can be purchased at www.j-loveonline.com.