Certified Banger caught up with Sheffield producer JC who has made a name for himself working with Hoodz Underground. Now he has his own LP out which spent six years in gestation. Read on to find out why he is giving it away and to get an insight on some of his production tools as well as MCs he has worked with. Certified Banger: Yo JC, how are you?
JC: Yes bruv, I'm good man. Everything is good, just taking a break from studio, trying to cook up some fresh bangers haha. Big up Certified Banger though, if I'm not making music that's where I'm at, reading all the latest hip-hop news brrappppp.
CB: Let's get right into talking about your latest release, the very heavy 'The KHz Project'. Give us the outline of it:
JC: Yes. Thank you for the props, I'm glad you like it. Well all this started back in 2003 about three years after I first started making beats. I had an idea and I guess that's just part of who I am; if I want to do something I see it through, and although it's taken nearly six years, it's done now, so better late than never. The concept is kinda comical with a serious theme, I basically break into the BBC and hijack the radio, in an attempt to stand up against the commercial garbage music that pours out daily across our airwaves. Funny, but since I started this they are playing loads more decent independent music now, but still not enough, so it's kinda relevant still.
CB: There are some fairly well known guests on there. How did those collaborations materialise?
JC: Mostly, they had heard of me through my work with Hoodz. I have a lot to thank Hoodz for, and working with them proved mutually beneficial because just as they were waiting and waiting for years for the right producer to come along to bring out their energy with the right beats, I was propelled into a position where people knew me for something, so if it wasn't for Hoodz, none of the collabs would've happened, I'm sure of that. So big up the HU all day.
CB: In my opinion you made a significant contribution to the overall sound of the Hoodz Underground album ('Bringin' It Back'.). How did you develop that sound that is still evident on your new release?
JC: Thank you, that's a big compliment. I really just try to inject energy into my music. Music should stir up emotions, that's how I feel. See with the Hoodz, the type of beats they would select would be the hype beats, the ones with a lot of energy which gives them the perfect platform to express their collective rowdiness, because, as anyone who has witnessed a HU show will tell you, they definitely like to bring the ruckus. On this record, I like to think I've expanded on the range of emotions involved, so you have some hypeness, some really chilled relaxed beats, and some kinda conscious melancholic beats also.
CB: How do you work when it comes to MCs using your beats?
JC: It depends, I mean on this record I had much more control and in most cases the artists were looking to me to provide the concepts, so that was exciting for me. I had to sketch an outline of where I wanted certain tracks to go, and then it was left to the artists to paint in the lines. In some cases, tracks just evolve on their own, that's what happens when you deal with artists who are talented – they are able to bring beats to life on their own, so in some cases, it was a natural process. Of course it's different when I sell a beat though, I'm not really looking to have any kind of input on that front, I'll leave that side of things down to the artist.
CB: Which tracks are your favourites from KHz in terms of your production? And which are your favourites in terms of the rappers' input? Which tracks are receiving the most buzz?
JC: I like ‘Judgement Day’, I think that is the stand out track and that is really the one that most people are feeling also. I thought it all came together really well. I laid it out like it could be a story, but it came back as a bragging rights track from the rappers, and Leona killed it off with the hook. That's the one right there. I also like the title track KHz because I like the energy it brings, and I like ‘The Day’ because it sums up where we're at right now with the struggle we have to go through in this game, R.C. kills it with the line, "then they stack us at the back, hoping we won't chart".
CB: You're giving it away for free. How come? What do you hope to gain from that? Is it a feasible business model?
JC: Well this is the kind of thing I'm talking about. As an artist, the biggest hurdle is building your name. I don't have no major label backing me, I don't have a marketing budget, I don't have a street team or a management company who are paid to push the name. It didn't make sense to go with a hosted service and do a full digital release, or even a physical release charging people for the product when no one really knows the name. In that sense, this is a chess move and after spending nearly six years and thousands of pounds of my own cash money on something just to give it away for free, no one could accuse me of not paying my dues. I just hope people feel the music, that's the bottom line. This is here to entertain people, if I do that, I hope I'm on the way to building my fan base and being in a position where people could see themselves going out to HMV to pick up the next JC album, knowing that they are going to get good entertainment for their hard earned cash.
CB: Some folk like to know stuff like this: What equipment do you use and what process do you go through when making a beat? What do you think about when creating?
JC: Well right now I'm using a MacBook running Logic Pro. This was a gift from my very amazing super generous and supportive wifey so I have to just big her up for that. It's an upgrade from my previous Mac which is really on its last legs. I was using an MPC before that too but I ran into some financial difficulty a few years back and it was a choice of either getting evicted or selling that, so I tearfully parted ways with it. I hope to get one back at some point though, dope drum machines. I don't really think too much about ideas, if I hear something, and I can see potential in it, I'll try it out. Sometimes it doesn't come off, other times you stumble across something better trying out something else, it's all just part of the fun of beatmaking. I really like to make loops out of stuff, so it sounds like a loop, but actually isn't. A lot of my production revolves around that theme. Instead of just taking a loop, make your chops sound like you've all you've done is just taken a loop, that way it sounds natural, but is also quite clever. Simple and clever, that's the key.
CB: You're from Sheffield. What's it like in Hip Hop terms? I think I remember an open mic night being featured on TV once, were you there?
JC: Next question! Sheffield is dry mate. There's talent about but the scene is difficult and no one is really putting hip-hop shows on no more. A grime artist would get a slot over a hip-hop artist now, standard. In September time when all the students arrive there are a few things going on, but that's only for one or two months a year. Lame really. I remember the show, it was Jahnell and T4 who did that, as he's from Sheffield and he wanted to get us some exposure. Maybe he can get some of my beats on TV? Jonny? You reading this?
CB: Could Hip Hop in the UK survive if London was razed to the ground and was never rebuilt? Where would UK's Hip Hop capital be if that happened?
JC: Tough to say, I think maybe Birmingham or Notts would have to take the throne. Manchester can keep the dubstep cup though!
CB: You work with some artists local to you on 'The KHz Project'. Who are they and can you tell us more? Can you recommend any underground or up-and-coming artists?
JC: Yeah there's a lot of talent in SY. Big up Taurus go check him out, VenDetta is a dope rapper from Sheffield who really needs to get writing and recording, Tef is based in Doncaster and is part of Figgaz of Speech, there's Leona who featured on ‘Judgement Day’ who is now in a group called Bad Habit, there's a few cats doing their thing man, it's live-o up in SY, don't sleep. Joe Gutta lives near Doncaster too man, and he's cold, big up the UN all day.
CB: What does the rest of 2009 hold for you as a producer?
JC: Really just looking to move forwards, get to work on a full album, get started on a dual production project with my man Taurus, maybe get asked to do a few remixes, and sell a bunch of beats along the way. If you are an artist looking to get some fresh beats just hit me up on the email which is firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can get it crackin’. Eventually I want to score film and do advert music and things of that nature, so I do think outside the box… occasionally!
CB: Any last words?
JC: Yeah thanks for taking the time out to ask me some questions, thanks for the support, thanks to everyone doing their thing to help me, you all know who you are and your help is appreciated more than words can say. If you contributed in any way to the making of The KHz Project, thanks to you, you all made it happen and hopefully I can build from here on out. Look out for me in the 09. Peace