is best known for being the mentor of Hip Hop mogul Jay-Z. He is also
known as the Originator and the inventor of the tongue twister or "triplet
style". As simply the Jaz, he had success with his 1989 single "Hawaiian
Sophie" from his debut album Word to the Jaz. He has co-produced
a number of Jay-Z's songs, such as "Bring it On" from Reasonable
Doubt) and also been credited with producing a string of other Hits, and
is currently about to launch a new LP project in 2011. UJR recently caught
up with him to discuss some of his past successes, and new career direction.
Hi Jaz-O, How are you doing?
J-O: I'm great, thank you!
It's nice to talk to you again, I've been a fan for many years.
Why thanks again! Your check should be arriving shortly! LOL!
Ha Ha, Well, first of all, what have you been doing recently?
I'm currently working on my auto-biography; I'm finalizing a physical
and digital worldwide distribution deal with a major (cannot disclose
which until finalized). I am recording of course, my own material and
my signed artists, under Kingz Kounty Media Group, of which I am the Founder,
President, and CEO. Still pushing out freestyles and mixtape CD's and
piling them on Youtube. I have a partnership with a new independent film
company called "Five-Star Entity", with plans to produce all
from street documentaries to major films. The list goes on.
How did it all begin, how did you first get into the industry?
I had been rhyming since I was 14. Do the math on your own! I became a
legend on the east coast - which in the 'eighties' was quite remarkable,
in about six years. I was always told I was the best most had ever heard.
I put out a song in 1985 called "HP Gets Busy" on our own label
(my manager at the time, Jack Walker and I), featuring two of my comrades
from Long Island, NY, and my young apprentice, Jay Z. We did show's regionally;
NY and Pittsburgh mostly. Meanwhile, I was recording with friend and producer,
Fresh Gordon. He helped me get a single deal on Tommy Boy Records after
I collaborated on a song with him called "My Fila" (a response
to Run DMC's, "My Adidas"). A mutual friend of Gordon and I,
Marlon Prescott, introduced me to my soon-to-be manager at that time,
Stan Poses. In four months Stan solidified a major artist deal for me,
and I became the first rap artist ever to sign with EMI Records. I also
became the recipient of the largest advance and recording budget of any
rap artist at that time.
What is the truth behind the rumor that you discovered, and mentored
Jay-Z, could you shed some light on that for us?
It's no rumor. Truth. He himself will tell you no different. And I can
produce at least 100,000 people to vouch for me.
Some would argue that you are the originator of the style Jay-Z has
become popular for, How does that make you feel?
I feel great about it! The truth is out now. People now recognize that
before Jay Z, before Twista, before Kriss Kross, before PhuShnickenz,
before Big Daddy Kane, Jaz-O displayed the "triplet style" and
other forms of speed rap to the world. And I add: with more precision
and clarity than all!
What new projects do you have on the Horizon?
I have my new LP audio (that's my new way of saying 'album') scheduled
for first quarter 2011 called "The Warm-Up". I have the auto-biography
near completion called "The Originator". I am also collaborating
musically and movie-script wise with my co-manager and dear friend, Zilphia
"Phoenyx" Wallace (projects TBA). Along with numerous artist
features upcoming, I am music and executive producer for two of my artists,
Top Gunna and Sonny Carson. I am presently working with the executive
event planner in Atlanta, Georgia for The Jackson Family Foundation. We
are doing about ten concerts nationwide between now and this time next
year called "Legacy of The Legend" Tour. Of course I will be
booked for all these events.
What was your motivation behind the new collaboration with Game?
I was in the studio with Game in NY and he is a fan of my "speed
rap". He was playing some tracks he got from producers and said that
particular track would be crazy for us to collab on. There you have it.
What would you say has been the most memorable time during your Career?
I recorded my first album at Battery Studios in London, UK. Irv Gotti,
Jay Z, and I enjoyed luxury car service, a flat in a very upscale neighborhood,
and many other accommodations, if you know what I mean. None of this phased
me until my album release party in London. I was in a Cadillac Limousine
- in London. I had more money than I've ever had before! I already had
a radio promo tour set up once I hit the states, along with a scheduled
video shoot! And I was like, "oh SHIT"! And I got a little nauseous!
I will never forget that time in my life!
Besides the US, where have you currently enjoyed your greatest success?
JazO is worldwide! From London to the Netherlands! From Africa to China!
I've been getting fan mail from all over the world since 1989. I just
haven't been to all those places
Which artist have you had the most fond experience of working with?
Of course, Jay Z. Beyond the music, he was like my younger brother.
Share with us some of your thoughts on the current state of Hip Hop
Hip Hop is always growing, changing. It's just as alive as it has always
been. Technology has advanced and so the conveyance and accessibility
to media has advanced. I admit it has become much more polital (you know,
money-driven) than creative. But I choose not to align myself with those
who complain about the so-called critical condition of Hip Hop. Mainstream
media influences people to look for certain things in designated places
(media suggested powerhouses like BET in the states).
Does the name Jaz-O denote you being influenced by Jazz music?
It's symbiotic. I am
influenced by all music - and all music is influenced by me.
Finally, what words of advice and encouragement would you give to any
young people thinking of perusing a career in the music industry?
Stick to your guns!