J2K: Wake Up -The UK Interview

AllHipHop Staff

Hailing from east London, J2K has created quite a name for himself in the underground scene. Renowned for his blazing mixtapes, the 26-year-old grime star has been creating ripples in the industry since 2003. Produced by TNT, the now infamous ‘Heat on the Street’ mixtape series made J2K hot property and a stellar feature on UK R&B singer Gemma Fox’s single ‘Gone’ would introduce the former Leyton Orient footballer to a whole new audience.

J2K – real name Jason Black – is about to make his mark even deeper, with his new 8-track EP ‘Wake Up’ and the banging new single ‘Danger’.

With both a solo and Roll Deep album in the pipeline, we caught up with the determined MC to talk about mainstream chart success, mixtapes and becoming the latest member of Roll Deep.

AllHipHop.com: Tell me about your new EP Wake Up.

J2K: It’s an 8 track EP and it’s out now. It’s unique as it’s coming out on the micro SD card, my thinking behind that was I see a lot of people listening to music via their phones, so I thought I could make a product like that. I’ve made videos for virtually every track on the EP, so you can see them on the SD card too.

AllHipHop.com:What kind of sound can we expect from the EP?

J2K: I did it while I was doing the Roll Deep album. It’s what I like to call ‘relative music’, meaning its music people can relate too. It’s never just pointless music, there are themes. You have your hype tracks on there, like the first single ‘Danger’, which is about trying not to let a girl get the best of you. I have tracks about getting away from everything, there are tracks that address various social issues – I’m just having fun with it really.

It’s just the EP, so I’m not getting real deep on it, that’s for the album which is coming very soon. The album will have a Grime element to it, in terms of the sound and edge but it’s also quite varied. The album’s called ‘Old Enough To Know Better, Young Enough Not To Give A ****’. This is exactly where I feel I’m at right now. The older you get, the more you have to re-evaluate things – it’s not that you’re getting boring, you’re just growing up.

AllHipHop.com: Would you consider yourself a Grime artist?

J2K: Yeah I would but I do like to experiment. I feel that with Grime, you’re allowed to bring other musical elements to it. What people usually do is come from the Grime scene and turn around and say ‘I’m not Grime anymore, I’m an artist’. I do understand that concept but some people are not artists, they literally stand on the spot and just spit bars – that’s not that artistic. I’m saying yes, I do come from that but I also do other stuff. I’m into the performance element, I like to experiment. I just like to keep it fresh whatever the sound is. Grime is fresh; it’s some of the freshest music in the world to me. It’s not like American Hip-Hop and R&B - which at the moment is dying. I’m not saying I don’t like Hip- Hop and R&B but it’s not fresh right now, there’s nothing new; whereas Grime is always evolving.

AllHipHop.com:Were you tempted to follow in the dance/electro footsteps of some of your fellow Grime contemporaries?

J2K: I don’t knock people who do whatever they have to do but I don’t like to jump on a bandwagon just for the sake of it. If I was to do that it would have to be a track or beat I was feeling at that particular time. What tends to happen a lot is, when you go to these producers for a ‘crossover’ beat they’ll give you a similar beat to someone else. Why would I want to do that? I just can’t bring myself to do that.

AllHipHop.com: In your biography you make reference to starting the mixtape trend in Grime. Can you explain?

J2K: Obviously I didn’t start mixtapes, or the concept of mixtapes but in the scene where I was coming from it wasn’t being done, I was the first person to do it. The avenues at the time were pirate radio and raves and I was coming up but not getting regular radio slots, so me and producer TNT just started making full songs aside from just writing 16s for the radio, that’s how the mixtape came out. We thought let’s just put this altogether and package it, simple. Obviously the concept came from America but at the time in the scene, you would only have a CD out if you were signed or you might have a white label out. So I came to be known more for my mixtapes.

AllHipHop.com: What are your thoughts on the UK scene right now – is it fresh?

J2K: It is fresh but at the same time there’s too much of this jumping on the bandwagon taking place.

AllHipHop.com: Do you think the ‘bandwagon effect’ is taking place because major labels are starting to take notice of homegrown ‘urban’ acts?

J2K: Yeah to an extent also everybody is hungry right now. People saw the success of Wiley’s Rolex and then there will be loads of Rolex’s after that. You can’t duplicate that success. Record labels often latch onto anything, they’ll just try to follow rather than create.

AllHipHop.com: Are you interested in mainstream success and being signed?

J2K: Yeah of course I am! (Laughs) I’m not one of those guys either! I’ve always said, as long as I’m comfortable I’m cool. I keep it real to myself and that’s all you can do but people understand what I do – that’s the general feeling I get from the people who listen to my music. At the end of the day, you are the person who makes the music – how can you not like your music?

AllHipHop.com: So you’d never sacrifice your artistic integrity for a signed contract with a nice advance?

J2K: I don’t think I could but I’m kind of open and easy to things; if you tried to show me something new then in some cases a compromise can be made. I would try to make it work to where I’m satisfied. I’m open.

AllHipHop.com: You’re the newest member to Grime collective Roll Deep – how did that come about?

J2K: Well I’ve known them for years and we’ve always done tunes together. I’ve always been affiliated with them even when I wasn’t part of the group. I was about to start the ‘Wake Up’ EP and I went to their studio to get some beats, where they were working on the next Roll Deep album, so it just kind of happened naturally. I’ve always had a lot of respect for Roll Deep and the album is going to be serious.