|Mon, July 19, 2010 at 12:51 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
We at T9E recently had the privilege of interviewing J. Keys who gives his own brand of social commentary. Check it out after the jump.
Hip Hop started as a genre of music that gave underprivileged urban dwellers a voice. Somewhere along the way the culture lost its way, the constant talk of misogyny and commercialism tainted Hip Hop for awhile. However, substance and conscious rap seems to be having resurgence in recent years, giving folks in the hood a voice again.
One emerging artist who's been making noise lately with a steady dose of sustentative lyrics is Detroit-bred, New York City-residing emcee J. Keys. On his recent mixtape "The Dead Horse", Keys provides us with social commentary reminiscent of the game's "Golden Era" all the while ridiculing the industry's so-called blueprint to commercial success.
Even if the emcee sounds a bit nostalgic, he's not trying to bring Hip Hop back but instead infuse it with reality, life's reality. We caught up with J. Keys and had a moment to gain insight into his music, mixtape and thought patterns.
the9elements: What's good Keys? Where are you from and when did you first become an emcee?
J. Keys: I was born in Detroit, Michigan. Yes, I am a Midwest boy. I first started writing rhymes in the sixth grade. I wrote and recorded hundreds of records over other people's beats for years long before I ever publicly declared "I am an Emcee."
Over the years I just continued to grow and listen to the music as it changed and evolved until I felt comfortable rhyming in front of other people and letting them hear my records.
As the feedback came back positive more and more often, I assessed what kind of man I wanted to be, and consequently what kind of artist I wanted to be. You could say I grew into my swag.
T9E: If you could describe your music with three adjectives, what words would you use and why?
J. Keys: Passionate, Honest, and Rebellious: Passionate because I feel strongly about the music. I also feel strongly about what I am saying in my music and what my music says to the world. I feel like this shines through my work. I treat this with the utmost respect and take pride into everything I do on stage, in the studio, or even just in the living room.
Honest because I inject my personal truth into my music to tell a story that is not being told. I realize my truth is not everybody's truth, but I stand firm and unapologetic in my ideas. My greatest hope is that people are able to really listen with an open mind and respect where I am coming from.
Rebellious because I feel like our society and this industry encourages people to lose their identity. They want us to all to be followers and fit in the same morbid category. They don't see us as complex people with differences. The truth is we're multi-dimensional and we have a lot shit going on that we are working through. I never want to be someone that conforms or says what is safe in my music.
T9E: Being from Detroit I'm sure you grew up on the old school Motown hits. Are there any artists from that era in music who have influenced your sound? If so, how does it translated into what we hear from J. Keys?
J. Keys: Yes I am very much influenced by the Motown sound. Those artists sang with passion and with purpose. I appreciate how idealistic Motown artists were. Their language is very colorful and those cats knew how to get fresh with the ladies in a subtle but human way.
Yet and still, they were real musicians and creative sponges that absorbed the turmoil of the times and poured it into their music. You can feel it in your gut when Marvin says "Oil wasted on the oceans and upon our seas/Fish full of mercury...Animals and birds who live nearby all die."
Tell me that don't sound like some 2010 shit!
T9E: Yeah, you not lying, moving on, you just recently dropped a new mixtape entitled "The Dead Horse". Before anyt
|Mon, June 21, 2010 at 8:24 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
During the Motown era, Detroit was home to some of the biggest artists in music history. From the Four Tops to Stevie Wonder, the Motown sound made Detroit a hit factory. However, during the past quarter century, Detroit hasn't had many hits roll off the assembly line...until now. Detroit Hip-Hop artists have helped to change the perception of Detroit's music scene to be more than just booty-shake music's second home. Artists such as Eminem, D12, Slum Village, and Obie Trice have helped to give Detroit a new music identity. Now, several independent and up-and-coming Hip-Hop artists are starting to get recognition in a city that, just five years ago, didn't have one.
J. Keys (Anonymous Records) is one of those artists. Born and raised in the Detroit-area, Keys has found that this new identity has helped provide a springboard for artists such as himself. Local radio stations that were once criticized for not supporting local Hip-Hop artists have now embraced its own. Although he enjoys this newfound arena as an artist, J. Keys has much bigger dreams. Hoping to one day elevate his record label to the level that Berry Gordy took Motown, he is working hard to establish a musical legacy that will help to keep Detroit on the map for years to come..
BV: When did you decide to pursue a career in the music business?
J. Keys: I decided to pursue a professional career in the business at the end of 2000. It's been a goal of mine since about 1989, but I began wanting to pursue a professional career in the fall of 2000 after I graduated college.
BV: So if you were a normal fan of J. Keys, how would you describe him as an artist?
J. Keys: I would say that his music is soulful and eclectic. It's kinda like throwback Hip-Hop. His music contains everything that I loved about the 80s and 90s. But at the same time you can dance to it, struggle to it, live to it, and love to it.
BV: How would you describe the current state of Hip-Hop?
J. Keys: I see Hip-Hop as a very lucrative, very powerful medium right now. Hip-Hop is used to market everything from tennis shoes to chicken wings. I would definitely say that Hip-Hop is definitely the number one selling music right now. Artistically, Hip-Hop is leveling itself out. There are always fads that come and go. The fad right now is changing. It has been money, cars, women, and luxurious life for a long time. If you listen to the music that people are putting out now, you'll see it's changing. It's evolving. Even Jay-Z for example is coming back to more like a gritty sound. It changes every few years and it re-invents itself. Hip-Hop is alive and well and will continue to thrive.
BV: Where do you see yourself fitting in?
J. Keys: I'm part of that new generation. It's time for a new generation of Hip-Hop artists to come through. If you notice, the industry hasn't been breaking too many new artists. So you got your cats that came up on Rakim and came up on Big Daddy Kane. Now it's time for the generation that came up on Naughty by Nature and early Nas. It's time for that generation that came up on the early 90s Hip-Hop to step in now and I see myself as being a powerful, relevant force in that movement.
BV: Would you say the state of Hip-Hop right now is better, worse, or just different?
J. Keys: Economically, it's better because you have a lot more independe