I grew up in the 90’s like millions of other people. [Hockey] was my shit growing up, it was all I did from when I was 8 or 9. I played for the school team and was the captain and all that shit, which was pretty cool. My drive with music is pretty much the same as it was with hockey. That’s why I was successful at hockey and was doing what I was doing, but it took a backseat [to music] later on. I’m not gonna be one of those people like, “Yo, hip hop changed my life.” Yea, it totally did, but I’m not gonna be a fake person and be like hockey never existed for me. – J57
When I first approached J57 about putting up a list of his favorite things, little did I know he would suggest digging into his too-deep knowledge of 90′s hockey. I had a few minutes to catch up with the producer from the Brown Bag AllStars, and we shot the shit about his favorite sport growing up, working at Fat Beats and the formation of BBAS.
Benz and a Backpack: Did you ever rock hockey jerseys casually?
J57: I loved them when I was younger, I thought they were so dope. We all used to wear them to school and shit, we thought they were cool as fuck. I would wear a Red Wings jersey or something. Everyone would do that.
Benz and a Backpack: You worked at Fat Beats, what was that like?
J57: It was amazing. I worked there from 2004 until it closed almost a year ago, September 4th, 2010. That shit changed my life. That actually changed my life to the point where I’m talking to you in Brooklyn where I [now] live. I definitely wouldn’t have moved here if I didn’t need to, but I needed to because I was commuting to Fat Beats from Long Island where I used to live. I’m trying to make it in music because I worked at Fat Beats and saw it was doable. It definitely changed everything about my life in a great way.
Benz and a Backpack: What did you do on a day-to-day basis?
J57: I started as an intern. You had to intern first.
Benz and a Backpack: On the record label side?
J57: No, at the store. I could have gone on to work at the label, I’m positive of it. But I didn’t care. I wanted to be at the store. At the store you get to meet everybody. You can meet people at the label, and the HQ in BK, you can meet artists and stuff, but it’s pretty fucking rare that you actually get to talk to them because you have to be doing your paper work at your desk. My first day interning, Ali Shaheed Muhammad came in for an in-store. I got to meet him and he gave me all his information. I was a fuckin’ 20 year old idiot like, “Hey,can I get your info?” Who knows what I wanted to get from him. I wasn’t trying to be too stanish about it, he knew I was an intern. But that was my first day and I made a big contact. Right away I knew what was going on, and my friends back home that were working in music were like, “You really need to keep it up,” and 1 or 2 of them went on to interning with me. I never got hired until 5 or 6 months interning. A lot of people didn’t go on to get hired at all, they only hired people once or twice a year, and they have 10-20 interns a year, so it was a pretty tough road and you had to work your ass off.
Benz and a Backpack: Speaking of Ali Shaheed, I saw the Tribe documentary with Ricky Shabaaz and he said you were in it but I didn’t catch you.
J57: It was pretty fucking crazy to be in that. I’m in it at the end, we did an in-store with Q-Tip at Fat Beats. It was kind of crazy, I got to meet him. It wasn’t a regular in-store, it was a big deal. It was at midnight, it was election day, November 4th, 2008. I brought my Scenario record, he autographed that. Wrote to me specifically which was really cool. Michael Rappaport was there video taping. Michael Rappaport is good friends with Audible Doctor, who is one of my best friends and in my group BBAS. We knew Michael was going to be there, so I wore the Brown Bag shirt. Im wearing a BBAS shirt in the middle of the fuckin’ documentary. Long story short, I’m in the background, and its such a blessing the footage of me in it got to make it, let alone I’m wearing a Brown Bag shirt in the Tribe Documentary. I found out of course because everyone and there mother was texting me, emailing me and hitting me up on Twitter like, “I saw you! I saw you!” I don’t even know if I deserve it. That shit is way too ill.
Benz and a Backpack: It seems like a lot of things are just sold digitally now. What convinces you to buy something hard copy?
J57: I worked there for so many years, and I saw the process of why people bought stuff. They would actually tell me sometimes. Or they would be repeat customers and buy specific things and tell me why they bought it. I took that in, and so did everybody else in Brown Bag and thats why we are able to make good music, because we saw how people think. We literally would have a focus group every single solitary day. I think people buy shit because they genuinely love an artist. I know a majority of them are going online and doing a little taste test first, whether they are downloading illegally or they are checking it out at FatBeats.com or UGHH.com. They take a little listen first, and if they dig it, they go out and buy it and support. You can’t fake physical copies. You can’t fake a record, you can’t fake a CD by putting together an MP3 zip file. Those are two different things. Obviously I know what it’s like right now, I’m not some dinosaur living in a different world, thinking record sales are going to go up again. There definitely is a niche market. People still buy them, and people still buy CD’s, they still support. People gotta make better music, and they have to put together some cool packaging for people to buy shit. Honestly.
Benz and a Backpack: Do you wanna talk a little about the Brown Bag AllStars for anyone who is unfamiliar?
J57: We’re all a group of cats that worked at Fat Beats NY. Every one of us had a different group we were in, and all of our groups drifted apart musically and whatever else. Life happens, and personal stuff happens. We were kind of solo for awhile, all of us. Me and Audible Doctor were going to start a group together, just me and him. We picked out all the beats, we were going to do some Jaylib kind of shit. Then it kind of worked out where Koncept started interning, and Soul Khan started interning the same month pretty much. It all kind of came together. DJ Element and DJ E Holla were working there and they joined the group. What made us come together as a group, we’d lock up on Friday nights and we’d all drink at the store, have mad people come by and chill. We’d play our beats, our new music, or we’d play some classics. We’d play whatever the hell we wanted. We’d play fuckin’ Little Wayne if we wanted too, we don’t care. We’re not those angry backpacker dudes that are like “fuck this shit.” We listen to anything we want, and on some real shit, that’s what started our crew. The fact that we were listening to UGK, then put on Organized Confusion, then we’d put on whatever else we wanted.
J57: We liked that everyone was pretty eclectic, and we’d get drunk, and we’d start going to the studio and knocking out tracks. We put them online and people liked them, so we got serious and buckled down and started working on projects and doing shows. We got this live chemistry on stage, we just really work together really fuckin’ well, and we worked hard at it. We used to practice at Fat Beats at night a lot, then do these shows. We’d even go on the road and all this other stuff. And now that the store is closed, we’re on the road a lot. Before somebody had to stay back and watch the store. I used to be the one who had to stay back and miss all these big shows, but now I’m like “cool, I get to go wherever I want now.” We miss the store now, we all came together at that store. It wasn’t a plan, it just worked out that way.
Benz and a Backpack: That’s dope Fat Beats was around long enough for you guys to meet up.
J57: Yeah, it sounds like a made-up story. There was never a group that started at Fat Beats. There are a million talented dudes from Ill Bill to Q-Unique, there are so many freakin’ dope artists that came out of that store. But nobody met at the store and became a group, and it was around since ’94, so we just happened to be that group of people that did that, and I’m happy I’m involved in that.
J57 encourages you to Google him, Brown Bag AllStars, or any of their members to find out about upcoming projects.