In 2011, J-Zone hit us upside the head with his highly co-signed book titled "Root For The Villain: Rap, Bullshit, and a Celebration of Failure." One of the chapters in the book is called "Diggin' in the crates and cassette tape appreciation." In a way, his narrative on the importance of the cassette tape has become our theme and creed amongst tape heads. As busy as J-Zone is these days, we thought a feature with him wouldn't be possible. But luckily our fam DJ Platurn was able to connect the dots while J was touring the Bay area. Big ups to J-Zone for taking the time to rap it up about tapes in 2012.
My man Richard Ross was doing some photography and video blogging at the time, and he was at my crib just shooting. He suggested I shoot my tape collection, because at the time (2009) there wasn't a retro movement with tapes yet. The video got a great response, but people probably thought I got locked up in '92 and just got out!
(SC) People don't usually have stories about music that they've downloaded. People ALWAYS have stories about tapes. Tell us one memorable story about a cassette in your collection.
My most valuable tape is the Baritone Tiplove "Livin' Foul" cassette. It was a tape-only release by Philly beat digger Phill the Soulman aka Phill Most Chill. I remember he sent me a few cuts from it on a CD back in '04 and I went crazy over it. I found out that it was never released in any other formats and it was stupid rare. It was basically the blueprint for Quasimoto and my Chief Chinchilla stuff - an alter ego who talks a lot of shit with a pitched-up voice. The production was like Fear of a Black Planet on steroids. It's definitely a top 5 produced rap album of all time for me. Phill knew how much I loved the songs he sent me, so like two years later he sent me the official cassette with the artwork. I was having some health issues at the time and really depressed; getting that album directly from him in the mail got me out of my funk and really inspired me even though it came out in 1991. It's still ahead of its time today and I'm surprised people haven't gone back and eaten it up.
(SC) I can imagine piles of early J-Zone beat tapes/demos/4-tracks? Do you still have those in the collection? If so, is it possible that those will see the light of day?
Oh yeah! I have all my old demos from 1993-94; I'm good about archiving shit like that. It's ironic because I became known as this anti-battle, anti-boom bap, anti-conventional hip-hop character who was always dissing broads and crackin' jokes. But all I rapped about was killing wack MCs in high school and my beats were on some typical '93 shit: Upright bass loops, Kool and the Gang horns, and drum breaks. I may have to bury those deep. I was always a bit of a stiff MC delivery-wise, but in high school I sounded really uncomfortable on the mic.
(SC) If you were given a chance to re-release any of your albums on cassette today, which one would it be...and why?
Probably Chief Chinchilla: "Live at the Liqua Sto," the malt liquor commercials album. It's essentially one long-ass St. Ides snippet tape and it sounds the most throwback of any of my projects. And the beats are lo-fi enough to really sound good in an analog format.
HAND MADE AUDIOBOOKS FOR "ROOT FOR THE VILLAIN." COPIES SOLD OUT!
Thanks. Everyone wanted me to do an audiobook, but I really didn't want to. And I was pressed for time. A friend said I should do one on tape, but he was just joking. I thought it'd be a good way to be an asshole - do an audiobook on tape and if people want it as bad as they say, they gotta buy a Walkman or something. But then it sold really well; I was surprised. I think a lot of people bought it for the novelty/collecting factor and didn't actually have tape decks. I would've done it officially, but it was actually quicker to do it myself, so I did 'em by hand with three dual decks running at once. That was a very long weekend of dubbing.
(SC) How do you feel about newer cassette releases from people like Redef Records, Stones Throw and Nature Soundz?
John from Redef is a cool dude. He knows his shit. I think it's dope and I know why people buy that stuff. 45s and odd-sized records, too. Music sales are really fucked up now, so you need to be as ridiculous as possible to make people buy shit. Everything's a hard sell and it's almost like you need a gimmick or niche. It ain't even about the music, because that'll always wind up online for free at a certain point. It's just about having something special and collectable. My paperback book outsold the Kindle version by a ratio of 6 to 1 and I never did well on iTunes, so I'm looking to do unorthodox release formats like that, too. I think certain artists can work that niche based on their aesthetic.
(SC) Last shouts/comments?
Shouts to all who've used a head cleaner that came with the liquid bottle and dry tape! That's some Sam Goody shit. I have a 45 dropping in September called "The Drug Song (Remix)"" b/w "The Fox Hunt" featuring Prince Paul, Breeze Brewin' from The Juggaknots and my man Oxygen, the Crate Invader. Oh and stop using ghetto blasters with iPod docks in 'em because that shit looks soft as hell.
Make sure you check out J-Zone's Book:
"Root For The Villain: Rap, Bullshit and a Celebration of Failure."
You can keep updated with what he's up to cop the book by checking out GOVILLAINGO.COM. Also, make sure you check out his pieces on Egotripland.com