J-Love: Love is Love
Queens, New York native J-Love brings a whole different flavor
to the mixtape game. Rather than chase what's hot, J-Love
frequently pays homage to past greats and living legends. Most
recently, J-Love linked up with artist, La the Darkman for
"Return of the Darkman." Though an unlikely decision to some,
this furthers J-Love's reputation for taking chances, promoting
the Hip-Hop he loves, and taking chances on counter-culture
Currently, the DJ is on tour with Ghostface Killah, an artist
who J-Love gained notoriety with, after doing "Hidden Darts"
several years back. AllHipHop.com caught up with the man as he
was packing his bags, to discuss La the Darkman, real Hip-Hop,
and what's in Large Professor's carry-on luggage. If you're
unimpressed with today's tapemasters, turn over to J-Love.
AllHipHop.com: For your side of things, what let you know that
it was the right time to do a La the Darkman mixtape, and how
did it happen?
J-Love: It's not so much timing. It was about gettin' everything
together'“ the right music. La's been ready for the longest.
He's one of them artists who did it independently, so he doesn't
have to be assed out and label dependent. He's bringin' an
element that the streets is missin'. So, let's do it, you know?
AllHipHop.com: Did you know each other before this?
J-Love: I got at La'˜cause I was workin' on a compilation album
in like '97. I got a production deal. I wanted him on my
project. For whatever reason, the situation didn't work out with
the label I was on it. But me and La just kept in tune. We just
always built. We always seen things eye-to-eye, and I was always
checkin' for him.
AllHipHop.com: I know one of your more famous tapes was with
Masta Killa before his album. But how difficult is it to do a
tape with an artist who's been unheard for so long?
J-Love: I know the artists themselves and their foundation. I
know all the work they've done previously. I make the best CD I
can possibly make out of what's given to me, and whatever else I
have. I approach it from the street level of, "This guy's hot. I
know I'd check for his album when it comes out." At the same
time, I want a good reflection on me'“ like, "Yo, he only f**ks
with the right s**t, the real Hip-Hop!"
AllHipHop.com: Have you ever done a tape on or hosted by anybody
that's not from New York or New Jersey?
J-Love: Nah, not so much outta state. It's really been the
tri-state for me.
AllHipHop.com: There's a lot of mixtape DJ's that boast
production skills. You've done work with Cormega, Guru, and
Large Professor. Tell me a little bit about your history beyond
just the tapesâ€¦
J-Love: I think I'm like the best-kept secret. I'm not an
industry ass-shaker. I just do it how I wanna do it. A lot of
people, they don't like that. They want everything conformed to
their style. I try to keep it on the essence of real Hip-Hop.
For instance, with the mixtapes, I don't just make CD's'˜cause
Jay-Z's hot at the time. When I did the first Ghostface "Hidden
Darts" tape, Ghost wasn't even hot. But I felt Ghost. I felt
like the streets needed that at the time. That's why I'm not big
on the club scene. I'm not into the Down South movement and all
that. I'm from the '93, '94 era of Hip-Hop, where you had to
have a certain quality of music to bring forth. Now, it's an era
of a catchy-hook and a beat that somebody used before, you can
AllHipHop.com: Cormega has spoken very highly of you. Tell me
how your bond started?
J-Love: Cormega, I got him his deal. To me, Cormega and La [the
Darkman] are both kinda in the same situation. They both
financially stable. Their life does not depend on gettin' a
record deal. They also had the attitude like, "F**k it, they
gotta come to me." I'm like, "Nah, you gotta push yourself out
there. You gotta bring it to the streets and let the streets
decide." When Cormega was on Landspeed [Records], it wasn't the
ideal situation for him. But getting the record out there was
the main objective. I brought him to Landspeed, and they wasn't
even feelin' him hard at the time. Sure enough, 150,000 copies
later. On The Realness, I was there everyday helpin' him pick
the beats, hands-on.
AllHipHop.com: You've done A&R work for labels. That said, from
a label side, how does it look when an artist approaches them,
but doesn't necessarily need the money?
J-Love: It depends on the label. Mostly with labels, they don't
really care if the artist is talented. It's mostly if the buzz
is there. Understand, 50 [Cent] is not the greatest rapper. But
his buzz was so incredible that everybody wanted him. But there
was a period when nobody wanted him. No artist is getting signed
on their skills nowadays. There's plenty of talented artists or
cats who put out bangin' albums in the past who can't even get a
AllHipHop.com: I've seen it all too often, myselfâ€¦
J-Love: That's why I always try to support those artists. Even
in DJ markets, they don't support the real Hip-Hop. At one
point, everybody was sweatin' Raekwon. "Raekwon! Raekwon!" Then
he did an album that wasn't the s**t, and everybody [ignored
him]. Now that he's talkin' about Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2,
everybody's jumpin' on the bandwagon again. I just find that
s**t fake. Maybe not all the music is right, but there's
somethin' on there.
AllHipHop.com: Right, right.
J-Love: Some artists are getting overlooked. Look at [Kool] G
Rap, a veteran. Where does he fit in this game now? He
fore-fathered a lot of these rappers, but they're not accepting
him unless he does it like this? You gotta sound like 50 to get
accepted? It's crazy. That's why I tell a lot of them n***as,
"Nah, give it to me. I'll get it out there." I got a satellite
position, I got the mixtape game. There's definitely fans that's
still checkin'. I came up on these artists and it just feels
good to be in a position of even dealin' with'˜em.
AllHipHop.com: I feel the same way you do in my line of work.
Outside of New York, where are your tapes really knockin'?
J-Love: Japan. Australia. I've even had customers in Africa. I
would never think. I feel like my s**t is different from a lot
of the other DJ's. You can be a nobody artists'“ somebody like
Killa Sha, to Jay-Z, it's all mixed in. You can see the
difference in Big Mike, Whoo Kid, and all of them.
AllHipHop.com: You've worked a lot with Large Professor, who is
historically a very solitary dude. How did you earn his trust,
and what was it like to work with him?
J-Love: It's not so much business. I could just call a n***a and
be like, "Happy birthday, Merry Christmas," you know? That's how
I carry myself. In Large's case, that's how we got cool. When I
was doing my album, the first single, "Rhyme Mania." I produced
that. That s**t was real hot at the time. Back then, he had just
lost his deal with Geffen, and he was really out of it,
depressed, turned off of music. "Nah man, come on. Let's get
it." Then he got his lil' situation, and it came to him. Large
is funny too.'˜Cause he's a dude with so many beats, that he'll
give his best s**t to other people. Sometimes they don't return
it. Like he'll go all out for Nas, but Nas won't go all out for
him. You gotta weigh the skills.
AllHipHop.com: Being so close to dude'“ I gotta ask. What's in
the briefcase he's always carrying?
J-Love: That's the laptop. All the music files, beat disks.
Large is one of the producers that's up to date and up to speed
with all the things that's going on in the Hip-Hop world. He put
me onto iTunes like five, six years ago. He's advanced in music,
digital stuff, everything. He's another one that gets shunned
on. He's not part of the Dipset or G-Unit or whatever. Most kids
only know him'˜cause of the Nas affiliation. It's sad.
AllHipHop.com: Your logo, what is it actually, and what's it
J-Love: I got a big heart. But it's got a black side. You turn
on me, I could be ruthless. I'm from the streets first. I got
the dark side and the good side. Like half and half, don't ever
get it confused.
AllHipHop.com: When you yank an exclusive, are you getting calls
in the middle of the night and papers?
J-Love: In the beginning, it used to be like that. Not so much
now. They used to ask me, and I wouldn't answer. They'd ask me
how I got it, "Don't worry about it, it went over your head," or
something. I got a little arrogance to me. Now, the industry's
centered around that. Even with an artist like La, without me
putting them on the tapes, I'm not sure they'd get checked for.
I mean, nobody's playin' La's records on the radio'“ not in New
York. Same for Large Professor. I mean, maybe a little bit in
the "knapsack" crowd, but not on the mainstream. I'm filling
those voids. At the same time though, if Large Pro makes a wack
record, I'm not gonna play it. But if it's a hot record, "Let's
go!" That could be anybody - that could be Grand Daddy IU. To
me, if the record's right, play it.
AllHipHop.com: What's coming up on your forefront?
J-Love: I got [Ghostface's] "Hidden Darts III." I'm going on
tour with Ghost. I'm gonna do a M.O.P CD, a Cormega CD, another
volume of Mobb Deep. I look at my CD's as a catalog. "Damn, I
need that one too."
AllHipHop.com: What's the tour gig like?
J-Love: Mathematics used to DJ for him. I guess he can't do
every tour right now. So I'm just trying to bring the energy
out. I know Ghost is about to get real hot right now, the album
is nuts. It's a mutual respect. I'm trying to bring the hottest
show to the forefront?
AllHipHop.com: Did you have to practice to get the routines down
J-Love: Nah. Ghost is Ghost. [laughs] That's the best way I can