J-Zone Bio

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My Journey

My bio is written in the first person because all my relatives were busy.

My childhood aspirations of playing bass in a funk band died when Jheri curls fell out of fashion at the end of the 1980s. Shuttling back and forth between Jamaica, Queens and Westchester County (New York), I discovered that rap music was more than just an instruction manual for my teenage debauchery – it was a viable career option. Rap offers no 401k and a higher likelihood of being shot than in Corporate America, but my average lifespan at nine-to-five jobs has been about two months.

After my first internship at Power Play Studios in Queens in 1992 (where I watched Large Professor work on Akinyele’s Vagina Diner LP), I met Vance Wright (Slick Rick’s DJ), who owned and operated Vee-Dubbs recording studio in New Rochelle, NY. I started working there in 1994, at the age of 17. I learned the basics of the music biz, audio engineering, and being a gofer (one of my first assignments was to pick up grilled turkey sandwiches for Greg Nice of Nice-N-Smooth). I also produced my first record during my three-year stint at Vee-Dubbs, for a rapper named Preacher Earl. All of the money I made off of that transaction was blown at the mall. I was under my mom’s health insurance then, so it was cool.

I went on to attend Purchase College (SUNY) and my senior project, Music For Tu Madre, accidentally became the debut release on my Old Maid Entertainment label in 1998-99. I had no idea what I was doing business-wise, but still had the gumption to follow up with A Bottle of Whup Ass in 2000 and Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes – all three albums were joint efforts with MCs Huggy and longtime collaborator Al-Shid – in 2001. The modest success of the early releases was enough to secure consistent distribution and continue with Sick of Bein’ Rich (2003); A Job Ain’t Nuthin’ But Work (2004); Gimme Dat Beat Fool! (2005); Boss Hog Barbarians: Every Hog Has Its Day (with Celph Titled), Experienced! and To Love a Hooker (all in 2006) and Live at the Liqua Sto (featuring Chief Chinchilla, my alter ego) in 2008.

I eventually grew frustrated with the music industry and walked away from it in 2009. I learned after unsuccessfully looking for a 9 to 5 for four years that I’m immensely unfit for the that world and my “real world” resume is laughable at best, so the retirement never stuck. In 2011, I wrote and published my first book, Root for the Villain: Rap, Bullshit and a Celebration of Failure, chronicling my hip-hop ups and downs with no filters and plenty of profanity and punctuation errors. It garnered positive reviews in respected media outlets like The A.V. Club, SPIN Magazine and The L.A. Times, as well as receiving public endorsement from Questlove, Chuck D, RJD2 and more. It probably deterred some people from pursuing a career in the arts – there’s surely a talented artist crunching data in a Geoffrey Beene tie right now because of me – but reality is a dish best served cold!

In 2013 I returned to music and to my surprise, my “comeback” album, Peter Pan Syndrome, was fairly well-received. I also revisited my roots as an instrumentalist and took up playing drums seriously during my music business hiatus. Today I have a series of drum break records (2014’s Lunch Breaks and 2015’s Backyard Breaks) being sampled by producers worldwide. As a drummer, I’ve done studio work for Danger Mouse, Marco Polo, the Fresh Dressed film score and the Stretch and Bobbito Documentary film score. I’ve also shared a drum chair with Questlove at NYC’s Mobile Monday’s party and currently hold the drum chair with punk-rock band, Lulu Lewis, and soul band, Benjamin + The Dreamdancers, in NYC.

As a producer, artist, DJ and engineer, I’ve worked and split bills with Biz Markie, E-40, Lonely Island, Gnarls Barkley, Masta Ace, Broken Bells, King T, Pete Rock, Just Blaze, R.A. the Rugged Man, Large Professor, Tha Alkaholiks, DJ Premier, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Vinnie Paz and Devin The Dude, to name a few. On the turntables, you can catch me throwing down the nastiest in funk and soul 45s at my weekly residency at The Tuck Room/iPic Theaters in NYC and my monthly slot at Robert Bar in Brooklyn. I’ve also done deep funk and soul sets at well-attended and/or respected festivals and parties like Mobile Mondays (NYC), Soulelujah! (Boston), 45 Sessions (Bay Area), Soul Summit (Chicago), Soundset (Minneapolis), Moneytown (D.C.) and the Hot Peas and Butta.  My Gator$-n-Fur$ radio shows from 2007-08 are a good place to start if you need glimpses of my generally all-over-the-place musical taste (download ‘em on this site). I’ve also taught music production, history and business courses and served as a guest lecturer at Purchase College. As a writer, my work has been featured everywhere from Ego Trip; to SLAM Magazine; to Red Bull Music Academy (where I currently have an interview series called “Give the Drummer Some”) and in a Common Culture textbook.

2016 saw the release of my seventh solo album (and 12th overall), Fish-n-Grits, and a funk instrumental LP with my longtime mastering engineer and Tom Tom Club guitarist, Pablo Martin. Our group is called The Du-Rites and that album is probably the closest to what I aspired to in my funk-drenched ’80s childhood. Our sophomore LP, Greasy Listening, drops in the fall of 2017. I’ve also recently started a jazz/funk side project called The Zone Identity and produced and played drums on an upcoming 7″ single from legendary funk keyboardist, Manzel. Full circle, I suppose. My journey as a blue-collar musician has been up and down and I plan to quit at least once a day, but it’s still in progress and I don’t have a presentable enough photo for a LinkedIn job search. The small victories and urge to make it funky should keep me going till I can’t anymore!