Thursday, January 12, 2017

Show Respect Here: An Interview with Jizzm High Definition

Illasophic
   
    Very few rap artists will ever have a resume that rivals the All Deadly Jizzm. Aside from being a skilled emcee, Jizzm is also a talented producer, having supplied beats for all your favourite underground (and some overground) rappers. His early albums were epic compilations featuring a who's who of the west coast underground, but more recently, like on his 2014 Publicity Stunt record, he holds the precedings down himself, showing and proving his blade is still sharp. With a new project on the horizon produced by Nick V of "Pistolgrip-Pump" fame, the HDMC took some time to talk about his long and varied history.

What was your earliest experience with hip-hop and what inspired you to start rapping yourself?

    I'll take you way back to my childhood days. I was watching Beat Street, breaking, and before that even, my next door neighbour, my best friend, who was older than me, was playing the song "Jam On It" by Newcleus. I loved the song so much I actually memorized the lyrics. That was pretty much my intro. That joint had me sold, ultimately, on the love of the music. Then breaking and popping, in my area - I grew up in La Puente and I used to play baseball, Sunset Little League - and when breaking and popping hit, everybody on my block, everybody on the baseball field, got down. They had the cardboard out and heads were taking turns busting flares, popping, locking, in that style. That early era, the 80s, cats were rocking the Michael Jackson glove with the Playboy emblems with parachute pants. It was the newest shit, you know? Back then, people were saying, rap, hip-hop - it was hard to categorize it, at the time - was just a phase, just another phase from the 80s, like duck tails, and all the other genres that were coming out.



I know back in the day you used to call yourself MC 2 Sweet. I also saw a picture of your crew at the time, U.N.I.T. Can you talk about that era a bit?

    It evolved into elementary school, where I really became an emcee. I was writing down lyrics of songs I wanted to memorize, and I was into Run-D.M.C. So I'd go to school and spit the lyrics, but I was saying the words wrong. They were like, "Nah, those aren't the words." And I was like, "Well, they should've been the words." [laughs]. That's when I realized, "Well, if I messed up their lyrics, I guess I can write my own." Early on, I was influenced by Run-D.M.C., Too $hort, N.W.A., in the mid to late 80s. That's what got me going, writing lyrics. My first emcee name, when I finally started rapping at house parties, I was 2 Sweet.

    In 1991, when I was 16 years old, my first job was working at a record store in La Puente, called Johnny's Record. While working there, I met a couple people and one of 'em was actually Hitman Julio G, who was making beats back in '91 and is now Mellow Man Ace's DJ. The girl who owned the record store, after Johnny passed away, was Mellow Man Ace's fiance. When that all went down, I also met this crew that came in to bring their record called the U.N.I.T. They were signed to Art Laboe's label, Original Sound, and also did some stuff on Moola Records and Thump Record's Volume 2 Soundtrack. I spit for them in the record store and the dude, MC TNT, liked my vibe so much he was like, "Yo, man, I need you to come out with us to do these shows."



    So at 16 years old, I was with these dudes doing car shows, for Lowrider Magazine, for like 5,000, 10,000 people. It was a big difference from my early years, rapping at house parties. So I cut my first record with them. My song was a love song, a remake of "(La-La Means) I Love You," an oldie by the Delfonics. Their song was "Peace in the Varrio," which was MC TNT and Woody. We did a gang of shows. We were performing with Mellow Man Ace, Kid Frost, Lighter Shade of Brown, Hi-C, Boo-Ya T.R.I.B.E., the list goes on and on. It was a different era. It was the era of doing car shows.

    One of the crews we performed with was Cypress Hill. What was crazy about that, before I performed with them, when working at the record store, I helped Mellow Man Ace move [laughs]. I was driving the U-Haul truck with B-Real, Sen, their homie Urn Dog, who wasn't part of the crew, but was one of their long-time homies. But I had already heard their music because they had this tape that we had at the record store that was called Cypress Hill Tribe. My joint, from what I remember back then, was "Hole in the Head." I basically let them know I was feeling what they were doing. That was before they had blown up. I think that was 1991. It was a crazy experience, meeting them back then. Then later, I was doing shows with them in 1992.



So how did you first discover the Good Life?

   Back then, I was joining every rap competition I could, on some battle shit. And back then, I was consistently undefeated. As a matter of fact, there was this rap concert in Pomona at Street Beat Records. I was the undefeated champion for about a year. Then the 13th month I didn't go, and one of my good friends to this day, Jinx, he wanted to battle, and I was like, "Uh, okay." So I ended up going back and rapping against my good friend. But I pretty much retired from those battles. Every time I won the battle, I got like $250 in store gear, which was pretty cool. At that point, out here, in this S.G.V., 909,  I was reading in Urb Magazine about this local open mic spot called the Good Life.

    Actually, a quick story I kinda skipped over: Me and Jinx used to go to Ballistics before all this went down. Will1x, who later become will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas, was pretty much the legendary emcee and we actually battled him, which is crazy. That was from the earlier era, when I was like 15 years old. We went to Ballistics, the Whiskey, the Roxy. Will.i.am was definitely a lyricist. Just know, we go that far back. Matter of fact, before I went to the Good Life, I went to a show at Leonardo's that is still one of my most memorable shows. It blew my mind. It was tha Alkaholiks, Pharcyde, Freestyle Fellowship, S.I.N., which was Medusa and Koko, Figures of Speech, Queen Latifah, Naughty By Nature and KRS-One.

Wow!

   So all these dudes performed at this one show. It was actually my boy Jinx who told me to roll with him because he knew Pharcyde was my favourite group. They all stood out, but to me, Pharcyde, with their theatrics, were just crazy! While they were performing, they were standing on their heads! One dude was standing on his head, and another dude was breakdancing and knocked him off his head into the turntables, and J-Swift was DJing, and was like, "Aw, we can't have you bangin' the turntables." So they stopped the music, and just body slammed him and shit, in the middle of the show! It was amazing for me to see those theatrics go down at a hip-hop show. To this day, I've never seen anybody else perform like that.



Well, it all kinda comes full circle because you've worked with Taboo from Black Eyed Peas, Imani from Pharcyde, and now you're working with Tash from tha Alkaholiks!

    It's all full circle, right? At that show, they asked if there were any rappers in the crowd. They ended up pulling up me and will.i.am! So both of us spit and got cheers from the crowd. In 1993, to be able to rap in front of 500 people with all these rappers I looked up to, that was a feat for me. So afterwards, will.i.am was talking to me, on the side, and he was like, "Man, this is cool, but I don't wanna do shows like this. There's only 500 people here. I wanna perform in front of millions of people, for the world." So for me, this is like a highlight, rapping in front of all these people at this phenomenal show, at this, shall I say, quote-on-quote, "golden era event." But he was like, "I wanna do shows in front of millions of people." So the Law of Attraction, he put that into action, and has performed at two Superbowls, is a multimillionaire. He accomplished what he wanted to. He had that vision, back then.

    So the same year, 1993, I rolled up to the Good Life with Jinx. We signed the list. We got on, and that was the first place where - I had rapped every place I could on this side of the street, on this side of L.A. - but at the Good Life, there was so many dope emcees in one concentrated place, so much competition. I always thought I was the illest. Now I'm at a place where everybody thinks they're the illest, but they're battling and competing with styles that are so diverse. It was like Showtime at the Apollo. When you got up there to bust, if the crowd wasn't feeling you, they'd boo you off the stage! "Pleeeeease pass the mic!" I wanna say, when I first started going there, it was like 90% black. And the other 10% was like me, Xololanxinxo and 2Mex, Sesquipedalien, Omid. From my first introduction at the Good Life, I was there almost every Thursday.

    I always thought I was invincible, undefeatable, but when I went to the Good Life, I realized the competition is heavier than what was happening out here, and the goal of every emcee was to be the best of the best. You had members of the Freestyle Fellowship hanging out there every week. I was there when Fat Joe, you know, went down. I felt like going to the Life was the greatest competition. I wanted to impress all these people that I didn't know, right? So on my second or third week, they were giving out a hat from a movie that had come out called Sugar Hill. They were like, "We're gonna give this hat to somebody who impresses us." The first couple people who went up got booed off the stage. Then I went up and busted a song I had called "Reject" and I got the hat! I was so happy, I kept wearing that hat, to the point where people thought my name was Sugar Hill [laughs]. I was 2 Sweet, transitioning to Jizzm High Definition, and I had a couple names in between. But 1993 is when I really went from 2 Sweet to Jizzm High Definition.



On your first tape, Don't Even Trip, you had a freestyle, "Nike Radio Commercial." Can you talk about how that came about?

    At the Good Life there was different contests and competitions. One night, I wanna say it was 1994, there was a competition for a Nike radio commercial. Out of that competition, they picked three people: P.E.A.C.E. from Freestyle Fellowship, Otherwize and myself. They took us to Enterprise Studios in L.A. and played these basketball sounds, beats that sound like a basketball bouncing and shoes squeaking, and they had us freestyle about Nike. We all busted and it was strictly freestyle. They were trying to do a west coast vs. east coast thing. We freestyled in the studio, they gave us $700 and a pair of shoes. I remember it was called Air Tenacity. They were playing that commercial on POWER106 and 92.3 The Beat, in L.A. It was supposed to evolve into some east coast vs. west coast thing, but when Biggie and Pac got shot, they kinda decided to do some other stuff. That was another feat that I felt we all accomplished. To be able to listen to the Wake Up Show and hear your commercial come on was extra fun. 

You've done a lot of stuff that has gone on to become considered classic. Probably one of the most historic songs you were part of is "Farmers Market of the Beast." Can you talk about your memories recording that, and who came up with that concept?

    I had linked up with AWOL and did some shows with me, AWOL and Circus. I met Circus through AWOL. I met AWOL in 1993 at a Lowrider car show. AWOL was working as the DJ for JV the Neighborhood Queen. I was introduced to him, but I knew who he was from those underground tapes floating around with that song with him and Myka 9, "And the worms are eating your brain." So we exchanged information at that show, and hooked up later. He came to my place and we recorded a song on 4-track to a beat he brought, called "Mind State." I ended up dropping it on my Illasophic Vol. 1 album.


  
   What happened with "Farmers Market" was Omid shot me the beat on cassette. I connected with Kamal, he came over to my crib, and we sat down and came up with that idea. The reason I had two verses on there was because initially it was just me and Kamal. We did it on 4-track. We came up with the hook, recorded it on the spot. I shot it to Omid and he liked it so much, he wanted to rerecord it in this studio over in San Pedro. He wanted to make it more of a posse cut, so he invited Xololanxino, AWOL and Circus to jump on there. It was DJ Hive's place, in San Pedro. He did the engineering. What was unique was, Circus came with his rhyme written down on a roll toilet paper, rolled out. 

[laughs]

    You know how long his verse is on there? 

Yeah, like half the song was his verse.

    Right. Well, his verse was like three times longer than that, scrolled out, written on toilet paper. It stretched out as long as the room. What you heard was actually a shorter version. 

Well, I had heard that the rest of that verse got used on "Any Mal and the Useless Eaters" but I had never heard the toilet paper part. That's great.

     I was like, "This dude's crazy." Which he is, man [laughs]. That song definitely became a staple of underground hip-hop in L.A. It was a very mind-stretching and creative joint.

When you were recording the stuff for your early projects - Illasophic, Archives and Show Respect Here - were you just recording in different spots, or did you have a studio where people were coming through to record?

    Illasophic was recorded mostly on 4-track at my place. I want to say I recorded the song with CVE at the CV Shack. The song Evidence of Dialated Peoples produced we did at Kutmasta Kurt's. I actually paid for the studio time to record those joints, and Kurt told me that even though he was recording with Kool Keith, Lootpack and Dialated Peoples, I was one of the first people to actually pay for studio time. That joint ended up being the single from the Illasophic album, and of course Kurt went on to become an L.A. legend.


Your Show Respect Here album really showcased your production. When did you first start making beats? 

     What happened was, from sitting in sessions with Evidence - I think it was there, at Kutmasta Kurt's - Evidence was like, "Man, anybody can make beats. If you've got the ear, any emcee should be able to make his own beats." When he planted that seed in my head, I was like, "You know what? I do have an ear. I could do it." So I ended up buying an MPC2000. I was so excited the day I bought it, I called this company that was doing Jizzm shirts at the time, called Wreckgear. When I'd do shows, they'd roll out, like 15 people wearing Jizzm shirts. They were like my team, you know? So the moment I bought the MPC, I called these dudes and told them I'd produce an album for their clothing line, and we could cross promote, right? It was just an idea off of being excited and hype. Well, these cats went out and mentioned it to a couple of magazines and it was already being advertised that I was producing an album, but I had never made beats before! So when they did that, I thought, "I better get on it!" What I ended up doing, in a matter of three months, I had six of the songs produced and recorded. I went from 4-track to recording on a VS880. The songs I had recorded, I had Mystik Journeymen, Otherwize, P.E.A.C.E. - actually the P.E.A.C.E. song we recorded with Mums the Word up at his studio - PSC from Mystik Journeymen, myself and Mykill Miers. I put those songs out as a 12" three months in. And within five months the album was completely produced, recorded and released. The album featured Aceyalone and Abstract Rude. AWOL One was actually the first person to record a song for the project. Man, Slant Eyes, Puzoozoo and Vixen from Onamonapia and my other crew, Kali 9, Otherwize, Global Phlowtations, the list goes on and on, man. I can't recall everybody off the bat, but everybody that jumped on, killed it.

You mentioned Kali 9. That's one of those groups a lot of underground collectors are obsessive about. Did you guys ever release a tape or was it just songs, here and there? I had heard of one called Zip Codes.

    We recorded a gang of songs and were planning to put out a tape, a project called Kali 9 Zip Codes. It consisted of Khynky Red, who was actually the creator of the crew, Puzoozoo Watt, Slant Eyes, who went on to be Snoop Dogg's manager, Vixen, who was Puzoozoo Watt's sister, Nobody, Noname, Murs was an extended member, Basik MC was definitely a member. I'm not sure if I'm forgetting anybody.

So that tape never got released then?

   No, it never surfaced. The side tapes that did come out were Secret Service, which was Puzoozoo and Slant Eyes. We had songs we had recorded that we were performing at shows, but we never released it totally. The group ended up breaking up in 2006, maybe 2007.

In 2009, you dropped an album called Infinite. Was that originally intended to be Illasophic Vol. 2 but it evolved into something different?

   Yes. What happened was, in 1997, I dropped Illasophic. In 1998, I dropped another solo album called Archives. Then 1999, a couple months after Archives dropped, I dropped Show Respect Here. Then I dropped another album called Unlimited Edition, which dropped, I think, in 2002. Then I did an Illasophic Vol. 2 EP, which was ten songs plus nine other songs from individual projects I was producing. Three songs were from a project for Otherwize, another three were with Medusa, and the last three was a project I was working on with a side crew, which was me and J. B. Evil. What ended up happening was I recorded like sixty songs. I was like, "Should I just take out the top twenty and call it Illasophic Vol. 2?" Or, since I already have the Illasophic Vol. 2 EP, I thought, "Let me just twist it up." So it evolved into a project I entitled Infinite Timeless Masterpieces, a three part album. So in 2009, I dropped Infinite, which is songs that were supposed to be on Illasophic Vol. 2. After that, I dropped Timeless, and Masterpieces is a project that I still have on deck right now that I'm in the process of releasing.



Your albums were obviously known for having these amazing guest lists, but in 2014 you did an album called Publicity Stunt that had no guest spots. Was that a conscious decision to have no guests on that one?

    Yes, that's a 100% solo project. Not only did I not have any guests, but, if I'm not mistaken, I believe I produced every song on the album. It was a different effort from the other projects I had done. Around that time, a friend of mine had passed away, so I was going through something. But I kept creating, and I had some side projects I didn't mention. One was called Frequency Freaks, that never really dropped, which was me, Phoenix Orion and Trensetta. We have a whole album on deck, doing joints over 80s cuts, but flipped. That's been done for years, and we're planning to release it. Another side project was the Wake Up People, which was me, Puzoozoo Watt and Xololanxino, and was entirely produced by this guy from Germany, Kenji451. We have that whole project, for free, on Bandcamp. Then another one we had was West Coast Avengers - we're in the middle of doing part 2 right now - which was me, Tony da Skitzo, and also included Orko, Medusa, Otherwize, Faxx, Phoenix Orion, Born Allah, they all came through. I also produced an album for Otherwize and another one for Phoenix Orion, PXO Futcha Flo. And I produced some tracks for the Canibus and Phoenix Orion LP, Cloak N Dagga.

I saw somewhere you were doing a Show Respect Here Pt. 2. Is that still in the works?

   Yeah, that's something I'm in the process of producing. There's a number of projects that are in the works.

I was talking to Minister Too Bad a while back and he told me other than Fat Jack and Digiak, you were the other producer he had worked with. Did you guys record a lot of stuff? I know you had his brother singing on your Timeless album.

    Yeah, I got like eight tracks with 2 Bad, that we recorded back in the day. 

Do you think those ever might see the light of day?

   If I can find the files. One I have is called "Different Infinite" which is me, Minister 2 Bad and Trek Life. We're all from West Covina. We used to get down with Mista Grimm too.

With your new stuff, you've adopted a more modern sound in terms of production but you've always kept it very lyrical. How do you feel about this new generation of rappers, and do you feel it's possible to adapt to the new sounds while still keeping true to the foundation? 

    As far as my music is concerned, I consider myself to be very versatile and unlimited. But one thing, you won't hear me mumbling. I'm not a hater. I like trap beats. I'm a fan of music. If the beat is banging, no matter what style, I can ride it. Coming from the roots of Good Life and Project Blowed, anything you throw at me, I can flip it. But I'm unlimited. I can do many styles, any style, and as long as I'm making it my own, I'ma do it. But there's stuff I don't listen to and don't like. I'm definitely not gonna get on a rant about what I don't like. You can't put a cap on it, when it comes to me. There are some DJs who are like, "I won't play that," but I have other shit they will play.

You have a new project in the works produced by Nick V of the Baka Boyz. Can you talk about the concept and any details about that project? 

   So far we have seven songs done. It features Tash from tha Alkaholiks. I have a song with Dirty Birdy and Scarub from Living Legends. I have another joint with Rifleman, Ganjah K and Mykill Miers. I have another one I'm wrapping up with Chali 2na. We're gonna get one with Ras Kass. And it's entirely produced by Nick V of the Baka Boyz. We did a song with Dirty Birdy and Scarub called "American Gangster" which is a twist on what a gangster is, which is the government who are the real gangsters. The latest single is with Tash, called "Bout to Begin," which is like the pre-game show joint. That project is dropping on the Baka Boyz label.

    I also was in New York recently and recorded an eleven song EP in four days called Paradigm Shift, with me and Nova the Wraith. It features production from myself, Omega One, Apakalips and J Turner from Soul Assassins. That album is phenomenal. It's definitely on that raw, hip-hop shit and it's an east coast/west coast collab. Another project I have is called In the Presence of Greatness, which is recorded and I'm just finishing the mixing and mastering. Then I'm dropping the Masterpieces project. It's a combination of stuff from the archives and a couple new joints I have on deck.

If people want to get at you for beats or mastering, what's the best way to contact you?

   I would say through Facebook. Hit up Robert Leon on Facebook and just message me.

Free Downloads:

  West Coast Avengers
  Wake Up People: Dark World Light


https://soundcloud.com/jizzm
https://www.youtube.com/user/jizzmhighdef
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jizzm-High-Definition/105352442835209
https://jizzm.bandcamp.com/

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