J-Love: Love is Love

Q

ueens, New York native J-Love brings a whole different flavor to the mixtape game. Rather than chase what’s 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-Love’s 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 what’s in Large Professor’s carry-on luggage. If you’re unimpressed with today’s 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: It’s not so much timing. It was about gettin’ everything together – the right music. La’s been ready for the longest. He’s one of them artists who did it independently, so he doesn’t have to be assed out and label dependent. He’s bringin’ an element that the streets is missin’. So, let’s 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 didn’t 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 who’s been unheard for so long?

J-Love: I know the artists themselves and their foundation. I know all the work they’ve done previously. I make the best CD I can possibly make out of what’s given to me, and whatever else I have. I approach it from the street level of, “This guy’s hot. I know I’d 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 that’s not from New York or New Jersey?

J-Love: Nah, not so much outta state. It’s really been the tri-state for me.

AllHipHop.com: There’s a lot of mixtape DJ’s that boast production skills. You’ve done work with Cormega, Guru, and Large Professor. Tell me a little bit about your history beyond just the tapes…

J-Love: I think I’m like the best-kept secret. I’m not an industry ass-shaker. I just do it how I wanna do it. A lot of people, they don’t 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 don’t just make CD’s ‘cause Jay-Z’s hot at the time. When I did the first Ghostface “Hidden Darts” tape, Ghost wasn’t even hot. But I felt Ghost. I felt like the streets needed that at the time. That’s why I’m not big on the club scene. I’m not into the Down South movement and all that. I’m from the ’93, ’94 era of Hip-Hop, where you had to have a certain quality of music to bring forth. Now, it’s 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.” I’m 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 wasn’t the ideal situation for him. But getting the record out there was the main objective. I brought him to Landspeed, and they wasn’t 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: You’ve done A&R work for labels. That said, from a label side, how does it look when an artist approaches them, but doesn’t necessarily need the money?

J-Love: It depends on the label. Mostly with labels, they don’t really care if the artist is talented. It’s 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. There’s plenty of talented artists or cats who put out bangin’ albums in the past who can’t even get a meeting.

AllHipHop.com: I’ve seen it all too often, myself…

J-Love: That’s why I always try to support those artists. Even in DJ markets, they don’t support the real Hip-Hop. At one point, everybody was sweatin’ Raekwon. “Raekwon! Raekwon!” Then he did an album that wasn’t the s**t, and everybody [ignored him]. Now that he’s talkin’ about Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2, everybody’s jumpin’ on the bandwagon again. I just find that s**t fake. Maybe not all the music is right, but there’s 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 they’re not accepting him unless he does it like this? You gotta sound like 50 to get accepted? It’s crazy. That’s why I tell a lot of them n***as, “Nah, give it to me. I’ll get it out there.” I got a satellite position, I got the mixtape game. There’s definitely fans that’s 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. I’ve even had customers in Africa. I would never think. I feel like my s**t is different from a lot of the other DJ’s. You can be a nobody artists – somebody like Killa Sha, to Jay-Z, it’s all mixed in. You can see the difference in Big Mike, Whoo Kid, and all of them.

AllHipHop.com: You’ve 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: It’s not so much business. I could just call a n***a and be like, “Happy birthday, Merry Christmas,” you know? That’s how I carry myself. In Large’s case, that’s 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. Let’s get it.” Then he got his lil’ situation, and it came to him. Large is funny too. ‘Cause he’s a dude with so many beats, that he’ll give his best s**t to other people. Sometimes they don’t return it. Like he’ll go all out for Nas, but Nas won’t go all out for him. You gotta weigh the skills.

AllHipHop.com: Being so close to dude – I gotta ask. What’s in the briefcase he’s always carrying?

J-Love: That’s the laptop. All the music files, beat disks. Large is one of the producers that’s up to date and up to speed with all the things that’s going on in the Hip-Hop world. He put me onto iTunes like five, six years ago. He’s advanced in music, digital stuff, everything. He’s another one that gets shunned on. He’s not part of the Dipset or G-Unit or whatever. Most kids only know him ‘cause of the Nas affiliation. It’s sad.

AllHipHop.com: Your logo, what is it actually, and what’s it mean?

J-Love: I got a big heart. But it’s got a black side. You turn on me, I could be ruthless. I’m from the streets first. I got the dark side and the good side. Like half and half, don’t 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 wouldn’t answer. They’d ask me how I got it, “Don’t worry about it, it went over your head,” or something. I got a little arrogance to me. Now, the industry’s centered around that. Even with an artist like La, without me putting them on the tapes, I’m not sure they’d get checked for. I mean, nobody’s playin’ La’s 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. I’m filling those voids. At the same time though, if Large Pro makes a wack record, I’m not gonna play it. But if it’s a hot record, “Let’s go!” That could be anybody – that could be Grand Daddy IU. To me, if the record’s right, play it.

AllHipHop.com: What’s coming up on your forefront?

J-Love: I got [Ghostface’s] “Hidden Darts III.” I’m going on tour with Ghost. I’m gonna do a M.O.P CD, a Cormega CD, another volume of Mobb Deep. I look at my CD’s as a catalog. “Damn, I need that one too.”

AllHipHop.com: What’s the tour gig like?

J-Love: Mathematics used to DJ for him. I guess he can’t do every tour right now. So I’m just trying to bring the energy out. I know Ghost is about to get real hot right now, the album is nuts. It’s a mutual respect. I’m 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] That’s the best way I can explain it.

J-Love mixtapes can be purchased at www.j-loveonline.com.

Related Stories