J-Zone Bio

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  • Sometimes I go by my real name (Jay Mumford), depending on the gig.
  • My bio is written in the first person because everyone I know is busy.

My childhood aspirations of playing bass guitar in a funk band died when Jheri curls fell out of fashion at the end of the 1980s. (Those funk aspirations would manifest three decades later, though). Shuttling back and forth between Jamaica, Queens and Westchester County (New York), I discovered rap music was more than just an instruction manual for my teenage mischief: it was a more realistic career option than finding six other musicians and forming the next Kool and the Gang with music being what it was in 1991.

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 from my first production credit was blown at the mall. I didn’t pay for 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 my debut album and release on my Old Maid Entertainment label in 1998-99. I was flying by the seat of my pants, but the modest success of that album was enough to secure consistent distribution and continue releasing albums and side projects at a fast clip through 2008. In that decade-long run as a producer/MC/DJ, I collaborated with Biz Markie, E-40, Lonely Island, Gnarls Barkley, Prince Paul, King T, Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Devin The Dude, to name a handful. On the turntables, I rocked deep funk and soul sets at well-respected festivals and parties like Soulelujah!, 45 Sessions and Soundset.  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.

But despite some small victories, I eventually grew frustrated and bitter with the music business (the rap game in particular), lost the passion and walked away from everything in 2008. 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 received 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 and more. It probably deterred some people from pursuing a career in the arts, but reality is a dish best served cold!

Desperate to find passion for music again, I picked up drumming as a hobby the week the book was released when my father surprised me (as a 34-year-old man, nonetheless) with a cheap drum set when he came to visit. I fell in love with the drums almost instantly, but the discipline, sacrifice, dues-paying and dedication required to learn a new instrument properly and seriously in my mid-30’s was the fire I needed lit under my ass to return to music with a new passion…and a better attitude. I briefly returned to releasing hip-hop albums with Peter Pan Syndrome (2013) and Fish-N-Grits (2016), both of which fused my newfound drumming passion with my past. But that phase didn’t last long; my focus gradually shifted entirely away from being a hip-hop artist and a jack-of-too-many-trades and back towards my instrumentalist roots, but as a drummer and composer rather than a bassist. And that’s where I am today.

I have a series of drum break records being sampled by producers like Madlib, Prince Paul, Alchemist, Marco Polo and many others.  I’ve done studio drumming for Danger Mouse, Broken Bells, Lord Finesse, Binky Griptite (The Dap-Kings), Pharoahe Monch, Karen O, Michael Kiwanuka, DJ Nu-Mark and many more, as well as holding the groove for bands in funk (The Du-Rites, Zone Identity, the legendary Manzel), rock (Lulu Lewis), and sweet soul (Ben Pirani and The Means of Production) regularly. With the latter, I embarked on my first mid-major US tour as a drummer in the Spring of 2019, opening for Nick Waterhouse. My passion for drumming also inspired me to launch an interview series called “Give the Drummer Some” through Red Bull Music Academy/Red Bull Radio. I’ve been fortunate to have in-depth discussions with legendary drummers like Questlove, Mike Clark, David Garibaldi, Steve Ferrone, “Funky” George Brown of Kool and the Gang and Bernard Purdie as part of my drumming education. (Check ’em out on this site).

But my pride and joy is The Du-Rites, my instrumental funk band with Tom Tom Club guitarist and my longtime mastering engineer, Pablo Martin. The endeavor began in 2013, we released our debut album in 2016 to unexpected praise and The Du-Rites has been instrumental in helping me rekindle my passion for music. November 2020 saw the release of our fifth album, A Funky Bad Time. We’ve also released a slew of 7″ singles in the tradition of the funk bands I grew up listening to. The Du-Rites have played on songs behind Eddie Palmieri, Robert Glasper and Ghostface Killah, while the film score for Bobbito’s  Rock Rubber 45s features our music prominently. With me on drums and Pablo on bass and guitar  (we split the keyboard duties), I’m finally making the music that started this wild ride back in the 1980s. It took 30 years to get here – with a lot of insane twists and turns and a rap career sandwiched in-between – but sometimes the hard route makes the ride more exciting. The small victories and urge to make it funky should keep me going till I can’t anymore.