May 29, 2009 - 12:11 AM
J-Billion is new to the game but not in a negative way. His thoughts and movements are more mature than a young emcee's, yet his spirit makes it clear that he will be forever young. Any veteran in the entertainment business will concur: the music game can be a fountain of youth or it can make a man old and weather beaten beyond his years. Trust, for J-Billion it's the former, never the latter and, luckily, he decided to gear up with Oh Dang! to present you with his introduction.
Listen to "Same Ol' Shit" ft. Clyde Carson
Listen to "Touchdown" (prod. by Sir Tipp)
Download: J-Billion - "Touchdown"
Download: J-Billion & P-Funk's One Take Mixtape
Oh Dang!: Where are you from?
J-Billion: Hollister Hunters Point, San Francisco, California. I been in the gutter, but my mind was always in the clouds. I was blessed to come from a good family so it wasn't like I came up in real real harsh realities. I came from a single parent home where my mom left when I was 13. I saw her every blue moon. I know a lot of people had dead beat dads. I had a dead beat mom. But I was brought up so good by my family overall, it never was a hindrance. It was like "Okay, she made her decision and we made ours." So it didn't really stop me from trying to make myself a better person. I also was the type of kid that hung out with a lot of different people. I always wanted to know or ask "Why?" all the time, and it helped. You end up learning from different cultures and people, and it helped me in my music.
OD!: How did you get the name J-Billion?
JB: It was actually in LA with Mega (of Black Scale), and L-Rock, and we were just vibing out and it was about the time I was getting serious about music. They were like, "What do they call you?" And in the hood, they used to call me J-Meezy but that's wack, it's a good hood name but not a rappin' name. L-Rock was like, "You should be J-Billionaire!" ... With my music I always wanted reach a Billion people so it might just get cut to Billion soon.
OD!: What was your first memory of writing a rap?
JB: Probably when I was 7 years old watching "Yo Mtv Raps." I remember MTV a lot. I think MTV helped me be diverse with my music because I would watch every show and every genre of music. I tried to write my first rap to a Sonic the Hedgehog beat. At first I didn't want to be a rapper because everyone wanted to be one. But it was so easy--not easy, more like natural for me.
OD!: When did the transition happen where you decided to fully dedicate yourself to music?
JB: It happened at HUF with me and Mega. One day out of the blue he says, "Yo dog, I see you being an entertainer." So I went home and thought about it and it clicked. Like, "Yeah I am an entertainer!" I always liked music so much. I might as well start making music. Ever since a kid I was always the spark plug, and I enjoyed making people smile. So I'd write everyday and I came out with my first mixtape, Return of the Super Saiyan (in 2005). That was me just writing, and I made about 500 copies but I didn't even pass out all of 'em. But you can have them. (laughs) I treat it as a profession. I treat it like a job. Being that it is something I love to do, I'm always finding new ways to be creative.
OD!: At any point when you you were developing your own sound did you stop yourself and say, "Hold up, I'm sounding like someone else right now" and have to refocus?
JB: No, I welcome all criticism. But I don't think I sound like anyone else. I just let it flow. I know from the structure of the music business that you have to create an identity for people to buy into. But I'm going to fight that as long as I can.
OD!: There is a confluence of music and fashion, and you're definitely connected being down with HUF for so long. But these days it's a marketing tool. Is that something you've thought of playing with?
JB: I think I'm a just keep it going right now. I been down with HUF for a minute. Big shout out to Keith. But naw, it's something I'm not going to play on. I did in the beginning. I used HUF to launch my rap career. I used to have a good friend named Asa, and he was a big Dip Set fan. So we used to joke around the shop like, "Huf Set!" and that shit blew up! We had kids in Utah and Oregon throwing up Huf Set and it was a joke to us. Then I kinda strayed away from it because I didn't want to pigeonhole myself. I want to keep it focused. Also because I know so many different people in the street wear industry, and I show them all love, it's not really something I'd want to ride the coat tails of. It was just part of my life at the time and made its way into the music.
OD!: How are you going to find time to focus more on your music?
JB: I'm making space. Basically, right now I'm the dopest rapper with a job you know. The music is a priority now, whatever I gotta do to hop on a tour. I read an interview by DJ AM where he said, "If you do it for free and you do it good enough, people will just end up paying you." Then again, I'm blessed being the illest rapper with a job you know. I don't necessarily need the money, so you'll never hear a song from me that sounds like a typical single. Literally, it's all me. I'm not doing it for a check. You'll never be like, "Aww he wants this song to be a single." It's all me.
OD!: How have social networking sites helped you?
JB: Oh man, that's how my career was launched, with HUF and MySpace. Mega was like, "I'm gonna make your music page!" So social networking sites were a crucial part of my career because people have an opportunity to connect with my music that never would have before. So it's one of those things that just grows and grows and snowballs into a big avalanche that I need to snowboard. (Laughs) Snowboarding on an avalanche baby!
OD!: What projects are coming up?
JB: Big shout out to the Risky Biz Crew, Ariel with Distortion 2 Static. The album with Ariel is called, The Movement. I've always been a fan of producer/artist albums like in the mid-90s. Nowadays people skip tracks because it's not all cohesive. Imagine if T.I. just did an album with DJ Toomp? So yeah I've got a joint with Sir Tipp coming up. I've got a Buzz Lightyear joint which is all electro. I've got one out now called The Little Billion Show. That's back to having one producer. I got one with DJ Natural. I got Enter The Billion. That's my So Far Gone; that's my mixtape that could be an album, that I'm just going to release as a mixtape. And Mr. Steezy to a T. So stay tuned and grow with me.
OD!: You have any people you want to shout out?
JB: Yeah, Frisco stand up, Hollister (Ave.), Hunter's Point. Big shout out to Ron Dinero. I know so many people, I love all of ya'll. I've been around. HUF, Black Scale, all the DJs and all my good friends. Shout out to the world, ya'll gonna hear from me soon.
Chasen Paper is a 24karat Milkcrate. More coming soon.
In this blur of a society, Patrick Kawahara strives to capture more than just an image, but to document a rare glimpse of clarity from the grind we call our day to day. See more of his work at www.patrickkawahara.com