j-Zone with LOuis Logic and CIRCLE RESEARCH at the Reverb (651 Queen West), Saturday (January 22), 10 pm. $15. Licensed and all-ages. www.ramosent.com. Rating: NNNNN
Hiphop is serious business. In fact, what little humour there is in rap music today is often completely unintentional.
Sure, there might be some yuks in seeing Eminem or the Beastie Boys clowning around in nutty wigs for their videos, but when was the last time you heard a hiphop album that was laugh-out-loud funny? Chances are good that J-Zone's name is on it.
Renowned for his rough beats and ridiculous rhymes, the sharp-witted New York producer and MC behind such underground classics as A Bottle Of Whup Ass, Pimps Don't Pay Taxes and Sick Of Being Rich, is on a cut-rate crusade to put the fun back into the music.
"When Puffy and Mase came out, a lot of people, myself included, were poking fun at the lavish display of bling. Everyone on the scene was complaining about hiphop music's offensive turn toward commercialism, but it seemed to me that taking shots at Puffy or wishing it was 1989 again wasn't doing any good."
J-Zone says it's the tastemaking DJs and the people with the money at the big record labels who control the game. When the game changes, you have to accept it and adapt to stay alive.
"Instead of being depressed about the changes, I looked for the humour in what was happening. When Puffy and Mase put on throwback jerseys for a video, it seemed like anyone could be a baller. So I decided to try playing their game within my own means. I put on fake jewellery and fur, then did some outrageous shit-talking based on my experiences of ballin' on a budget (see sidebar, this page) - just taken to the extreme for the sake of entertainment."
On J-Zone's stoopid-genius masterwork, A Job Ain't Nuthin But Work (FatBeats), the self-styled "personality rapper" shows he's not afraid to name names as he shreds the hoop dreams of rap celebs and the freestylin' fantasies of NBA stars alike.
The hilarious throwdown recalls 50 Cent's controversial How To Rob single, which instantly put the Kevlar-outfitted rising star on the outs with rap's monied monarchy. Although since J-Zone wisely chose to verbally abuse less threatening ballers like Bow Wow and Master P, he hasn't yet had to get his Mazda Protegé bulletproofed.
And while it's true that J-Zone enjoys serving humourless celebrities, that doesn't mean the indie entrepreneur is overly obsessed with the age-old underground vs. mainstream struggle. He has no more love for pretentious backpack buffoons than he has for iced-out mainstream mooks. Evidently, the feeling is mutual.
"Sometimes I'm booked to do shows with these backpack hiphop guys because we get lumped into the same subgenre. They come out shouting complex rhymes with these big words and bizarre metaphors, like using apple sauce to comment on the president's foreign policy or whatever. And then I'll come out rappin' about my piece-of-shit car or fuckin' up my ankle while trying to disco dance drunk on Southern Comfort and people don't seem to know how to deal with that.
"I grew up at a time when artists like NWA, De La Soul, LL Cool J and Slick Rick all toured together. Everybody had their own style, and audiences judged each act individually for what they did. Now it's all about labelling. You're either mainstream or underground, and there's a whole image and a complete set of rules that comes with both.
"Because I'm considered 'underground', people into mainstream stuff just assume I rap about spaceships, whereas some people who only listen to underground hiphop don't like it because they think it's novelty shit. But I'm not going to let that stop me from doing the music I enjoy. If it takes 20 years to get some recognition, I'll have enough back catalogue product to live off of until I'm 90!"
In addition to the five solo albums and numerous singles, that back catalogue also includes Hotter Than Fishgrease, Vol. 1, an insane basement booze-up session by the Go-rilla Pimp$ featuring his Captain Back$lap alter-ego and his hook-singing sidekick, Dick Stallion, along with his fabulous Ign'ant mix CD series documenting some of the most deadly ludicrous gangsta joints ever issued.
While the first instalment boasted entries from Eazy-E, Poison Clan, Disco Rick, Project Pat, Willie D and Compton badass Tweedy Bird Loc, the just-released second volume digs even deeper to come up with yet more dunderheaded foolishness from Section 8 Mob, No Face, Odd Squad and the mysterious Brooklyn Assault Team. For J-Zone, Ign'ant is bliss.
"Vol. 1 sold really well, but Vol. 2 is even crazier!" he roars. "It's all stuff I've picked up over the years. Because I'm a collector type, if I find one song I like by an artist, I have to track down everything they ever put out.
"There's probably only, like, eight copies in existence of that Section 8 Mob record Ketchup On My Hotdog, but it's incredible. And I had to have Disco Rick and the Dogs from Vol. 1 back again. Man, that's some real low-IQ shit right there. The Dogs were like the original Yin Yang Twins, only way more ghetto. I mean, they just brutalize the English language. I love it!"
J-Zone's ten tips for ballin' on a budget
Thrifty rap hustler offers cash-saving suggestions for broke-ass players.
1. Take advantage of free food
If somebody's cookin', go to their house and eat, period. Any BBQ, holiday party, etc, you will find my ass there, cuz grub costs money. I don't care if it's the Republican National Convention, I'll be in there with my do-rag on eatin' poached salmon with President Bush's freaky daughters.
2. Charge passengers for gas
Friends, family, a man on the way to the emergency room, I don't give a fuck - I'm chargin' for gas. That shit ain't cheap, with that war shit. When you bust your head open tryin' to catch an alley-oop dunk, I'll rush you to the hospital, but you best believe you're payin' for that Mobil, bitch!
3. Buy low-octane
Fuck that high-octane supertest shit. It's all the same. That's just a mind game played by marketing people.
4. Date someone richer than you
A lotta dudes are scared of a woman makin' more money than them. What?! Fuck that! I want a girl who makes 10 times what I do. To hell with my ego if she's buyin' me shit!
5. Open bar is a must
Fuck buyin' drinks. That shit is expensive. The average person spends about $1,000 to $1,200 a year on drinks. Man, that's two years' worth of cellphone bills!
6. No open bar? Bring a thermos
Buy a bottle from the liquor store, mix it up in your thermos and sneak it in the club. Or if you're afraid of lookin' tacky, then get drunk at home so you don't have to buy no overpriced drinks at the club.
7. Keep the receipt
I had to buy a fresh Polo shirt for a photo shoot once. I don't wear Polo, so I returned it afterwards. Hey, the photographer couldn't see the tags, so it didn't matter. Just don't spill no cranberry juice on it or you're assed out!
8. Fake jewellery is OK
If you're going to a club, it's dark, so chicks can't see if the shit is real or not. Just don't set off no metal detectors.
9. Gotta go to Mo's
When you're in New York, check the cut-out bins at Modell's - high-quality, brand-name sneakers for under $50. I never spent more than $69 on sneakers my whole life, and I stay gettin' compliments. Gotta go to Mo's!
10. Buy my albums!
You'll find more tips on how to save money on them. Hey, I gave you nine freebies. The game is sold, not told!