J. Bully: The Intelligent Hoodlum

W

hat MC dare call himself an educated thug in this era of Hip-Hop? J.Bully represents a new breed of lyricist and a movement he deems “Educated Thug Muzik,” an interest group that intends to balance the genre a bit. In many ways, Bully represents the paranormal to rap though. He teaches a Hip-Hop course at Duke University, where students actually record a rap demo. His main aspiration is his music and he’s got the weaponry to create change. There is his team, which consists of vets like DJ Toomp and former Jay-Z producer, Ski. J also has experience in heated competition, like the Blaze Battles of old. One of these battles led to the then-known, Jugga Da Bully to attack DJ Clue in a popular diss, “Clueless.” Several years and a handle-change later, J.Bully’s back on the block, a changed man. Like Carlito, a man with an illustrious past returns for greater good: education. But as AllHipHop.com’s feature with J.Bully shows, don’t ever ask North Carolina’s self-proclaimed king what a thug about.

AllHipHop.com: What’s the purpose of calling your type of Hip-Hop “Educated Thug Muzik”?

J.Bully: Its really simple, mane. I’m educated. I have my degree. I can’t even front like a dummy, but I thug it. I’m comfortable around anybody. I’m good, wherever I go. I have internal checks and balances that keep me from glamorizing the things that are killing our community, but I don’t hate. I understand that everybody is dealt a different hand. I just try to give n***as something to think about between MC murders: “Educated Thug Muzik.”

AllHipHop.com: In your bio, you make it a point to note you were an excellent athlete and student. Most rappers look to conceal their smarts, but you did the opposite. Give me you thoughts.

J.Bully: I don’t know who started that whole ‘real n***as ain’t smart’ s**t. When did we decide it wasn’t cool to be smart? Not to be a cliché, but ironically I’m just keeping s**t trill. I can’t be nobody but me. There were times in my career when I consciously kept the ‘Hip-Hop’ me separate from the ‘public’ me. I guess I was that being someone who had goals, a good woman, and actually gave a damn about how my parents and professional acquaintances perceived me, would be a detriment to my street cred. So I focused on the Hip-Hop image.

But then when I started working with my n***a, DJ Toomp, he put it all in perspective for me. He told me, “Bully, you nice with that battle s**t. You can do that all day and no one can touch you, but until you start letting people know who you are as a person and make them wanna be you or feel like they know you, they not gonna feel your music on the level you deserve.” I said back to him, “Mane, I haven’t had the hardest life people ain’t tryin’ to hear about a dude with both parents who’s a Morehouse grad. I did and might do a lil’ dirt, but I’m nobody’s gangsta trap star murder murder pimp type character.” Toomp told me then “People wanna hear that too. N***as wanna be you too. Give it to them.” So that’s me. I gotta do me, because if I’m lying on my records about I did this and that and I didn’t, n***as will investigate and dig up the truth anyway, dig?

AllHipHop.com: Do you ever fear yourself giving listeners mixed signals?

J.Bully: Honestly, life is a mixed signal. It takes intelligence and a gritty side to survive and move up in this world. If you think for one minute that life is gonna allow you to be all brains or all brawn, you dumb. Balance is the key to life. You can’t have balance without mixed signals. The goal for the listener is to take from Bully what they need to apply to their life and make it better motivation and introspective thoughts are universal. Or you can just enjoy the music.

AllHipHop.com: Speak on your duties at Duke University.

J.Bully: I’m currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor of the Practice in the Duke University Department of Music. That’s similar to an artist in residence who teaches. I’m blessed to be able to say that’s the day job. I teach a course I designed called “Hip-Hop/Rap Music Appreciation.” I’ve been teaching it for almost two years and I’m proud to say its one of the more popular classes on campus and it’s a great opportunity for me to give back to our music genre by teaching it from a practical and artistic perspective. At the end of my course, I take students into the studio and they record Hip-Hop and rap songs in groups. It definitely gives all involved a new appreciation of MCing and an overall better understanding of Hip-Hop culture as it relates to the music, and vice-versa.

AllHipHop.com: Are any of the locals rapping or really talking about the alleged Duke rape in the local Hip-Hop community?

J.Bully: I haven’t heard much from the local MC’s yet, but it may not have filtered to me yet. The incident has certainly on the minds of my students and really everyone I know. The New Black Panther Party held a protest near Duke’s campus. But there’s still more to come out and folk in the Cack [Carolina] read both sides of the story. We are thinkers here. There is a process by which criminals are brought to justice. Right now, its still moving in the right direction: towards the truth. As long as the community doesn’t feel like justice hasn’t been served. In my opinion, let the system handle it. If this rape occurred, it’s disgusting and unforgivable. As long as Durham, North Carolina, and Duke handle the truth appropriately, we can’t expect more. We have to remember there’s a Judge upstairs that always gives the right verdict and sentence in the end.

AllHipHop.com: Why do you call yourself a “bully?”

J.Bully: The name came about to add character to my MC name when I started doing The Source and Blaze battles in Atlanta. The “J” stands for JuGGaNauT, which was my early handle. When I battled, I was real physical with cats on stage – all up in they face and mad disrespectful. My folks said I was ‘a bully,’ and it became the nickname. It used to be Jugga the Bully, but everybody kept mispronouncing that, so now it’s simply J.Bully. But I don’t call myself a Bully. I am the Bully. I bully MCs. I bully beats. I bully most of the time. What it means is that when I walk in the room, you have to acknowledge my presence. I take up space. Being a bully means you command respect. I do that by any means necessary. Straight up.

AllHipHop.com: What’s the scene like in Raleigh Durham and who are people checking for? How about overall in North Carolina?

J.Bully: All the MCs on the scene here are dope. I’m trying to work with everybody

and bring our market together. As far as around in Raleigh and Durham, there are so many dope crews and MCs. I’m working with North Carolina’s own Ski Beats [of Jay-Z/Original Flavor fame]. Ski is getting a lot of cats signed. People of course check for Little Brother and 9th’s projects. Shelly B blacks the f**k out on stage, so she’s been making noise. I hear there’s a cat named Bow Boa in Raleigh doing the damn thang on some Crunk type s**t; Jozeemo just got out so the streets are waiting for his s**t in Durham; Twip got that funk; M.O.S. got that gangsta s**t on lock; K-Hill is dope; Language Arts are dope and have their corner of the market. Damn man, there are other cats I don’t even know about puttin’ it down. You have Hotwright and Brandon D outta the Triad, a whole other scene in Charlotte, Fayetteville has a scene So it’s endless.

AllHipHop.com: With such a diverse music scene, why hasn’t North Carolina broken out more?

J.Bully: Because nobody understands us unless you’ve spent time in North Carolina. The

world has really only seen two sides of North Carolina, which are really polar opposites – [Petey] Pablo and LB [Little Brother]. Pablo being the extreme Southern side, and LB being the East Coast crème de la. The labels wanna hear south s**t from us, but North Carolina is a unique blend. Until somebody from North Carolina comes out balanced, it’ll be hard to market us.

Also, we’re too cliquish. Artists and labels are the only folks who do shows here, so if you not down with the clique doing the show, you not getting’ on. And each clique controls a lil’ piece of the market, so you have to fight for exposure to that portion outside of your regular crowd. I mean, it’s a slow process. I feel everybody doin’ the damn thang, so I’m trying to do music with everybody. Until we all do music together and build the market, we’re gonna be moving in slow motion. I have the advantage of being gone for a while and coming back to reclaim our sound that’s why I’m the “Return of the King of North Carolina.” I’m here to unite all the kingdoms. I’m the most balanced MC here. It’s my time.

AllHipHop.com: Being an educated thug, can you speak on your thoughts on the whole music game right now and historically?

J.Bully: I think the game is at another turning point. We saw similar points with Rakim, with Public Enemy, with [A Tribe Called Quest], Dre and Snoop, Nas, B.I.G., OutKast, Busta, Jay, Eminem, Nelly, 50, Kanye and so on. These were points when the top artists raise the bar when it seems like the art is stagnant. Our problem right now is that the

Hip-Hop we hear on mainstream is unbalanced. Too much “Laffy Taffy” not enough Immortal Technique, feel me? I feel like every artist has a right to put out the kind of music they feel comfortable with, but the listener deserves more respect from these labels. I feel like the public is gonna start demanding more artistic Hip-Hop and better content. The themes in the hood are defined for us, but how artists approach these issues and lifestyle separates fads from records, the impactful from the impotent, the fresh from the wack. We like to call it the movement.

AllHipHop.com : Any other thoughts on what people can expect from J.Bully, when he comes out?

J.Bully: You can expect some s**t you haven’t heard before. Banging production, big beats. I’m working with Ski Beats, Black Jeruz, 88 Keyz, DJ Toomp and a gang of up and coming producers like Pocket, Phrequincy, and Picasso. I’m also looking to get in the lab with 9th Wonder and to get back in the lab with Nitti. I’m coming with airtight

lyrics, balanced content and that serious swagger. And although this may be the first album you hear from me, its not my first, so expect polished flow and song writing. I make records not raps. I have over 300 songs and counting, so when you get a Bully album, it’s the best of the best.

For more on J.Bully, go to www.myspace.com/bullycity or Jbully.com.

Related Stories