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Interview by Rami Bensasi
Thanks for taking the time to give us some insights about you, your brand and your place in the industry today. You have a great catalog of credits, including productions for Young Jeezy, Trey Songz, Kid Ink, Jim Jones, and many more, so let’s start there. Which of your songs stood out to you the most, or which are you the most proud of?
I’m probably most proud of the Nipsey Hussle record “Mr. Untouchable” with Kokane featured on it. We had spoken to his camp about going out to LA to work with them on some records for his album but we didn’t even know he had begun recording to that track. My assistant sent that particular beat over to him and I was upset because I thought it was a weaker beat. I had done it in like an hour. Christmas Eve came and he dropped “The Marathon” and I copped it and heard “Mr. Untouchable” and was blown away. I grew up listening to a lot of West Coast g-funk so to hear Kokane on there too was really gratifying.
Everyone has their own “artistic process” when it comes to making music. Some like their entourage in the studio with them, others create in solitude—what is yours?
I used to create with people in the studio when I was coming up. Now I prefer to be alone when creating. No distractions. I engineer too so I don’t even like an engineer in there with me anymore. If we’re recording vocals then it’s a completely different story. But my creative process is to preferably be left alone. I don’t really like others to see it and then bite my ideas and concepts. I also don’t like others to hear a track before it’s finished.
What do you think of the current state of hip hop? Is it “dead,” like some claim, or do you think it’s alive and well?
Hip Hop is very much alive. Just take a look at the charts. We’re not selling as many records as we used to but there are always new artists breaking through and coming to the forefront. Every generation loves what they grew up on more than what is currently being created and produced. That’s just natural. You can say you don’t like what hip hop is today but you can’t say that it’s dead. It’s thriving, evolving, and opening more doors in the corporate world than it ever has.
What is the main difference between “mainstream” hip hop and “underground” hip hop, if you think there is one, and how do you tailor your production to be successful in both?
Well, the main difference is that the objective in “mainstream” hip hop is to generate revenue on a mass scale and “underground” hip hop is not controlled by corporations. It’s owned, controlled, and created by free spirits who have the freedom to say and create how they want. Obviously, the creative control is much different. Certain concepts you can’t get on the radio with and there are some sounds that aren’t trendy enough for the labels to take a chance on. It’s always been a balancing act. Personally, there are times when I will be in certain moods and I will produce something with a certain artist in mind. Other times, I will just go in with a complete lack of caring and then figure out who I feel would sound best on that particular track. If an A&R calls me up and says they need tracks for one of their artists who is working on his or her album, then I definitely have to go into the studio with a much more narrow focus. The freedom is not as wide then. Sometimes that’s challenging and fun, and other times creative block sets in and you simply get tired of the objective at hand.
Changing gears, I first came across you on Twitter as you were giving much needed advice to anyone wise enough to listen. It’s no secret now that you frequently drop knowledge via your Twitter. So to put it simply, I want to ask why. Why do you take time to give out free advice to your followers?
That’s a very good question and I appreciate the observation. There are a couple reasons why I decided to start “preaching” on my Twitter. First, this industry is not something you can go to school and learn about. While this is business and the principals of business do apply, the standards and policies within this industry change almost daily. By the time the information trickles down to the average unsigned artist, the industry has completely changed and shifted away from doing things that way. The mystique of the industry and how people actually are able to generate money has always been kept like a well-guarded secret amongst those who actually have their foot in the door and have had some success. No one wants to share how they did it because then the way they eat is exploited and they have to go find the next way. I hated that when I was trying to get my foot in the door. Second, it’s good because it weeds out those that aren’t motivated, talented, or hungry enough but it also is a negative because it really frustrates talented individuals who should be able to get heard and get a break. They end up quitting over time. And I can’t blame them for doing so. So, I always try to share what I’ve learned in this industry and detail the pitfalls more than anything. Like I always say, I watch kids throw their lives away every single day chasing a pipe dream. You’ve got to have a plan and this industry is really all about business. You are expected to have the music and talent to begin with. That’s assumed when you’re able to get into the building.
What was the most surprising thing that you learned about the music business when you were first starting out in it?
The most surprising thing would have to be how it was like the Wild West. Anyone can attempt to do this. There is no degree needed. There is no resume needed. All you need is sheer talent and a tremendous work ethic. The next thing that surprised me was how hard it was to get one single check from corporate. The process and hoops you have to go through to even get paid the first few times are ridiculous. You literally would have to hunt down your money. See: Jim Jones.
Gaining a reputation as a producer is different than gaining it as a rapper. Historically, producers don’t get as much recognition as readily as rappers do. How could an up-and-coming producer protect their music, begin to build their reputation locally and regionally, and make sure they get the credit that they are due?
The world is now way too over-saturated with these wannabe, kid “producers” sitting in their bedrooms on Fruity Loops all day. I have no advice for them except to quit before they wake up at 30 years old and have thrown away their lives. Again, this game is not for everybody.
With millions of aspiring rappers and producers trying to make a name for themselves as you have, what is one piece of advice, above all else, that you would give anyone looking to progress professionally (as a rapper or producer) with their music?
Be realistic with yourself. Ask yourself if you think you can really compete with the top 1% of the world before you really devote and sacrifice your life to this. Next, sacrifice your entire life to perfecting your craft. No distractions. You have to live this 24/7. Then, get business minded. INVEST. Whatever your craft is, constantly be investing and re-investing into what you do.
You’ve built Jaywan, Inc. into a successful company. What did you have to do differently to build a business as opposed to simply building yourself individually?
The company was started after I was able to solidify the name, image, and individual first. That took many years to do initially. Then, like in any good business model, I began to expand and pull in the people who I had met and formed relationships with along the way. You can be in control of everything, but you will fail if the people around you don’t want to work as hard or see the same vision that you do. Getting the right team together and putting the right person in each position was critical. Once I had the team, we were off and running. I knew I had the blueprint and I was confident that we could execute it. Every year we add a new division and continue to grow the company. We’re offering all kinds of things now for major labels and their artists all the way down to unsigned artists with a dream. We’ve got licensing deals with the biggest corporations in the world but we still have a focus on always helping the underdog artist who just needs to be taken on the right direction and shown how to make noise.
Is there anything you’d like the people to watch for from Jaywan Inc. in the near future?
New Swazy Baby and Lil Kim projects are coming soon. Just did some new records with 2Chainz, Nipsey, Jeezy, Gucci, and YG. My good friend Boosie is coming home and we might drop an album that I produced when he does. Look out for that. Also, unsigned artists can find our production, promo services, and graphic design services at www.jaywaninc.com
@JaywanInc took a break from his steady stream of #tweetstosellyoubeats and launched into exposing certain industry cats on Twitter! No need to waste your time looking for the tweets, I have listed all the good ones below… #Youarewelcome
"Let’s talk about how Ted Lucas owns 75% of Rick Ross’ publishing still…"
"Let’s talk about how Meek Mill can’t get a release date because he cant get a hit record spinning and the label won’t open up another budget"
"Let’s talk about how Jeezy is the VP of A&R at Atlantic that the only 2 artists from MMG are signed to…"
"Let’s talk about how noone on MMG has had a top 5 Billboard single in over 2 years."
"Let’s talk about how Rockie Fresh, Stalley, Omarion, and anyone else on MMG is still unsigned without any distribution in place."
"NO. MMG is just a label on paper. They don’t have distribution secured for any artist they want. They are a MIDDLEMAN."
"Let’s talk about the time Rozay’s publishing hit the auction block and we bought 7.5% of it only to watch him brick time and time again."
"Let’s talk about how there is only 3 artists on MMG that are actually signed to any type of record deal. And they are ALL horrible 360 deals"
"Let’s talk about that MMG SelfMade Vol. 3 album already out of the Billboard Top 100 after 2 weeks and selling only 60k TOTAL. #BrownRibbons"
"Let’s talk about how @Wale fell off the Billboard 200 after only 3 weeks and not coming close to sniffing Gold again."
"Let’s talk about how noone from MMG was on the Forbes List this year. Ya only needed to generate $5 milli. Which is really $900k…lol"
"Let’s talk about Meek Mill and Wale announcing they got a mixtape coming out together only to say they lied 12 hours later about it. WHY?!"
"Let’s talk about why Jadakiss hasn’t dropped another album after the last one did 170k first week when the label thought it would do 30k."
"Let’s talk about how @JStaffz doesn’t have a single placement in this industry, paid for verification, and downloads loops to make "beats"."
"Let’s talk about why Rocko doesn’t have a deal yet but has ATL radio on his nuts for 2 years straight…"
"Let’s talk about how these "A&R Conference Panels" are all shit. How these ex "A&Rs" and "A&R Consultants" have no juice in the industry."
"Let’s talk about how they are all has-been’s who were fired because they couldn’t actually deliver results. This is their new hustle…"
"Lets talk about how this @ZaneTobin isn’t an A&R, isn’t employed at any label, never has been, and never has gotten a check in this industry"
"Let’s talk about how 90% of these rappers can’t get financing for a simple mortgage for a car or a house because they don’t have the income."
"Let’s talk about how most of ya favorite rappers aren’t worth 200k…"
"Let’s talk about how most of these rappers that you think are your heroes have the most ugly girlfriends and wives you’ve ever seen…"
"Let’s talk how about Trinidad James only got a 80k advance and will never actually drop an album on Def Jam."
"Let’s talk about Nipsey Hussle’s genius marketing plan to sell only 1,000 copies of a mixtape that had all throwaway tracks for $100 each."