J. Holiday: City Boy

Nothing beats a man who loves his mama. Well, maybe a man who can sing and loves his mama. J. Holiday’s on-the-spot signing to Capitol Records may by industry standards be referred to as a “lucky” break, but the young entertainer was destined for great things.

His debut album Back of My Lac explores the other side of R&B missing from the dance infused groove movement as of late. Inspired by the likes of Marvin Gaye and Tupac Shakur, J. Holiday creates street-edged hood tales of love and life. The DC native is the son of a Minister (his mom) and spent most of his life witnessing trouble but staying out of it.

In elaborating on his upbringing, J. Holiday recalls ducking the rowdy go-go scene and being the favored cutie in his high school. A MySpace fan when he has the time, he talked to us about his love for the fans who deserve great R&B.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Can you believe we lost James Brown?

J. Holiday: Nah actually, I can’t. That’s a big loss right there. I mean, he put in his dues, but you know it’s still a big loss. I know when Marvin Gaye died, who was probably one of my biggest influences, I was like not even thought about yet [laughs] so to be alive and actually old enough to understand… It’s a big loss for music, but [James Brown] left a big enough legacy so people know where music came from. But for me, it’s hard losing people in the industry [like] Gerald Levert too…it’s hard.

AHHA: Do you feel that some of the younger artists out today have the potential to become what James Brown was in terms of his massive career and legacy?

J. Holiday: Honestly, the artists that I can say will be around 10 years from now are Usher, even though he’s taking a break right now, and John Legend; artists like that. They just have that longevity sound in their music, so 10 years from now people will still say, “Oh that’s a classic.” As far as the younger crowd, it is what it is. It’s doing what it does, entertaining the young people. It’s not like a Jackson 5 thing. I mean everybody knew at least Michael Jackson was gonna be around for a long time even when he was nine years old.

AHHA: When you parted ways from your old group and moved towards your solo career, were you nervous at all stepping out there alone?

J. Holiday: Not really, because when I first got into music I did a little bit of recording by myself and writing songs – even though I would never let nobody hear those songs [laughs]. I used to write songs by myself and I did a couple of shows by myself, so I wasn’t really nervous. It was just that I had to get used to performing by myself again.

AHHA: What would you say is your main objective in the music industry?

J. Holiday: I’m trying to be a teacher in some sort of way, because my sound has an old school sound to it. It’s just kind of letting the younger crowd know where music came from, and you can still talk about certain things and still have that same sound. You don’t have to have that “young” sound. My sound isn’t on purpose, it just kind of happened like that. A lot of the music like Hip-Hop and stuff like that, I can’t really necessarily say it’s a good influence. It’s not bad music, but I just don’t know if it’s a good influence on the younger kids that are growing up. All they are seeing is money, cars, and women…that fast living. There’s a lot more to life than that.

AHHA: Since you grew up in the church, does that have any effect the content of your music?

J. Holiday: It doesn’t really affect the content of my music, because at the end of the day I’m still human. I make mistakes, and still have my own way of living my life, but I still say that none of my music is negative. I don’t praise or glorify those certain things that will cause you to go down the wrong path. It’s just that I speak on my life, and my life alone. I don’t glorify certain things that other people glorify.

AHHA: You have an interesting story of how you were signed.

J. Holiday: Like you said, I was in a group and we’re from DC. We ran into Anthony Tate, who is the CEO of Music Line Group, and he liked us. He said, “I wanna take y’all to Atlanta.” It didn’t quite work out, but I started spreading my wings and did my solo thing, and it kind of happened. It’s all about who you know really. It hasn’t been about the talent for a long time. We knew all the right people, but it was still a struggle. It was hard, and it was easy all at the same time. Like I tell everybody, ya gotta have tough skin to try to break into the industry. Whether singing, rapping, dancing, writing, producing, you’ve gotta have tough skin. There’s a lot you have to deal with. [laughs]

AHHA: You were signed on the spot though, right?

J. Holiday: Yup, actually I was! I was already signed to Music Line Group. We went to L.A. and sat down in front of Wendy Goldstein and Andy Slater from Capitol Records. They basically liked my music – I had like 65% of my album done when I got signed, so they were very impressed with the music I already had, because I write a lot of my own music. They were like, “Let’s sign him. Let’s do the deal.” And I did a little performance for them.

AHHA: So from the looks of it, it seems like you probably never had any trouble meeting women…

J. Holiday: [laughs] Um, I guess you could say that. I’ve always kind of been the light skinned guy in school that could sing. And I pretty much had long hair through my whole life since high school. I don’t want to sound like arrogant or cocky. [laughs]

AHHA: It is what it is!

J. Holiday: [laughs] I guess you could say that…

AHHA: What’s one trait that a woman you’re going to be with has to have?

J. Holiday: Hmmm…she has to be a great nurturer. I grew up in a house full of women. My mom is actually the Minister. That’s how I grew up in church with my two older sisters. So I was raised by women my whole life. I know what a good woman should be. You have to be able to be there for your man. Beauty and smarts – you’re attracted to who you’re attracted to so it’s not about the looks. As long as you have brains and can be there for that person, that’s all I need,

AHHA: That’s really nice…

J. Holiday: Are you blushing? [laughs]

AHHA: Hey! Hey! [laughs] So, what’s your worst habit?

J. Holiday: Being so outspoken. I mean I’m a nice person, I’m a good guy, but I’m also very blunt and very straight-forward and don’t sugar coat anything. If you sugar coat something, then the person might not get the real point of what you’re trying to say. People don’t like to hear the truth, and I just like to give it cut and dry how I see it.

AHHA: What’s an exercise you hate doing?

J. Holiday: Exercise? Probably gettin’ out of bed! [laughs] It’s probably knowing I’ve gotta get out of bed. That’s an exercise in and of itself.

AHHA: You are doing big things to put DC on the map. Who are some other artists you know of coming up?

J. Holiday: Raheem Devaughn, but he’s been out there for a minute now. In the past of course, we had Mya, Ginuwine, and for those that didn’t know, Marvin Gaye was born in DC. I’m trying to show that there is [still] talent there, because not a lot of people like to look to DC for talent. I feel like if I come and give DC a good name, people will come to DC to look for more talent.

AHHA: In the past, DC was really only looked toward with go-go music. Are you a fan of go-go?

J. Holiday: Yeah, well the thing about go-go music is it’s all live instrumentation, and by me being an R&B artist I am into that whole live thing. I’ve always liked go-go music. Thing is, go-go music is kind of like crunk music; it brings a certain type of crowd though, so I always kind of stayed away from that because I didn’t want to be in any trouble. My moms wasn’t having it. I like it though. There’s plenty of bands back home: Rare Essence, Backyard, Junkyard, and of course Chuck Brown the “Godfather of Go-Go.”

AHHA: Do you dance at all?

J. Holiday: I mean I can dance, but that’s another one of my issues with music. There’s been a lot of singing dancers that have been coming out instead of singers that can dance. I feel like they’re dancers that can sing. It’s become about who’s doing the best dance moves and not the actual music. I can dance, but I choose not to because I don’t want that to be a gimmick for me. When the time comes, I’ll show the people what I can do, but for right now that’s not my focus.

AHHA: How about rapping?

J. Holiday: I do a little bit of everything. [laughs] I’m a big fan of Tupac, Method Man, Nas, Jay-Z, B.I.G…I’m a big fan of the music so I have that swag. I grew up in the streets. It’s not hard for me to transform into that if need be. There’s a song on my album with a little bit of that on the title track “Back of My Lac.”

AHHA: What would say sums up the tone of your debut album?

J. Holiday: It’s like the soundtrack of my life. Like I said before, there’s more to life than money, cars, women. There’s ups and downs and trials and tribulations. You have the meeting of females and the breaking up with females. There is no song on my album that I can’t relate to personally.

My favorite song on the album is a song called “Ghetto.” I wrote the song and State of Emergency did the track. It tells people what I saw growing up. It’s basically saying that even though things are getting better and more and more people are starting to make more money and owning their own music, when you go back to the hood anywhere in any major city, it’s the same as it was in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s just a different day and new people, but still the same thing going on.

AHHA: What was it like working with Darkchild and 8 Ball and MJG on your album?

J. Holiday: Rodney [Darkchild] man, he’s the greatest. You can’t help but just sit and learn from him. I was just kind of sitting there and watching how he works and methods he uses to record. Some people you record with, you just want the session to be over with. Him, it was like “Let’s do another song!” With 8 Ball and MJG, it was cool. They heard the song, it’s called “City Boy” and they felt it. They came through on the love and just put down some verses and rocked it. They’re legends. Period.

I don’t like to just team with people who are big right now. I feel [8 Ball and MJG] have the name that carries whether or not they have a CD out or not. You can always go and get the biggest rappers right now, but five or six people will be getting that same rapper. I just want my music to be set aside and set apart from everybody else’s music.

AHHA: Do you manage your own MySpace page?

J. Holiday: Predominantly I do. [The record label] puts up new pictures and news and stuff, but as far as replying to messages and talking to people, that’s me. I’m a people person and I want people to know that they can come talk to me. When I’m on my down time I try to go through and reply to as many messages as I can. People don’t like to support artists who they can’t say are a real person. You gotta be real.

A lot of people come out and lose sight of what music is really all about. We’re entertainers. It’s entertainment all around, even when you’re not on stage. You’ve gotta talk to your fans and the people supporting you. The people around now will be around even when my career isn’t at its peak. I’ve got to show them love.

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