J Flexx interview
J Flexx his name might not be familiar. But the song's he's helped make are well know in the hip hop world. J Flexx came in to Death Row in period of change. When he came in Dr. Dre's first ghost writer the legendary D.O.C who helped write the bulk of his rhymes for The Chronic had left. J Flexx helped pen such classics as Natural Born Killers, Keep Their Heads Ringing, Dr. Dre's verse for California Love, and Been there, Done that. In this exclusive interview J Flexx talks about his album Billboard Dreams; How he hooked up with Dr. Dre. Working with Dr. Dre and his time on Death Row.
J Flexx: Yeah this is album Billboard Dreams. It's been a long time in the making. Additionally I was supposed to have album come out on Death Row. It was going to be entitled either Billboard Dreams or Staying Alive. You know all the shit that happened over there. Never was able to get it out. Just went underground for a while and built my craft up. This is a classic West Coast album; good lyrics, good music. I just put it out there for everybody to grab it. Not a whole lot of fanfare around it, but it's a good solid album. You're going to get your money's worth so pick it up.
JF: My manager KC and I were at the airport. This lady was talking on the phone about this band. How the band really suck. I thought she was an a&r at first. My manager started talking to her and come to find out she owned Long Live Crime records. We gave her some of the music and she loved and it was on from there.
I had been around to every major label and everybody was scared to touch it. Because of the whole Death Row thing; everybody was scared to mess with me. She stepped up and took it. So it was on. Big up to Susan and Alison and everybody at Long Live Crime records.
JF: You know what it was. I wanted to give everybody a taste. Let them know I was still out there. Next time I come out it's going to be a double album. Give them 20 tracks. Those 10 tracks were the most pressing that I had to get out there. I didn't want to sit on. They show every side of me. I just wanted to shoot 10 out there quick. If I would have kept going it would have to took longer to get the album out there and I was getting anxious. I just shot the 10 out there to see if they would bite. Then come hit them with the one two punch with the double album.
JF: I was born in Dayton, Ohio. A lot of say you sound like a West Coast artist, but not really. Because if you think about it. All of the groups uses and samples like Ohio Players, Zapp & Roger, Heatwave, Slave, Lakeside all of them dudes are from my town. They all came out of Dayton Ohio. I grew up listening to all this funk. That's the really the sound the West Coast is based off. I gravitated towards the West Coast because they were playing the music that I grew up listening to. They used to make Dayton rims in Dayton, Ohio. We really are connected to the West Coast a lot. We get influence from the East Coast as far as lyrics. If you listen to my album he got West Coast beats, but raps like an East Coast guy. Because I'm right in the middle I got influenced from both sides.
JF: Right around 1994 I came out here with a demo. I drove out here with my buddies. I was here maybe 12 hours not even a full day. We were on the way to Roscoes on Sunset blvd. I stopped at the light and a Ferrari pulls up next to me and it was Dr. Dre. We rolled down the windows and we told him we just drove 3,000 miles we're trying to get our demo off. He was cool. He took the demo and invited us to a party. When we got to the party he was like your shit is dope. I'm going to get at you don't leave. It was on from there. We went into the studio the next day. He had a beat up and asked me if I had something for that. I was like yeah. Went in there and spit it. That wound up being Natural Born Killers. That was how I started man. It was fate I didn't have nothing to do with it. I've been doing my thing ever since. It's been a rollercoaster. But I wouldn't change a thing.
JF: I wrote Natural Born Killers. I wrote Keep their Heads Ringing. I wrote California Love. I wrote Been there, Done that. I wrote 3 or 4 tracks on I Want it all for Warren G. I wrote some stuff for Shaq. I've been behind the scenes a lot. I came out here to be an artist but just got caught up in the ghost writing scene. This album was me coming out and saying "hey I got Billboard Dreams too". I want to be out front too. I've been in the game for over 10 years. I've a veteran in the game. This is my debut album as an artist.
JF: Like I told I came out here and gave [Dr.] Dre the demo. Dre and Sam [Sneed] were working on Natural Born Killers. Initially I was coming out to help Sam with his album. Dre was like my buddy Sam is doing an album and he was like you know Sam Sneed. I was like "hell yeah Sam Sneed U Better Recognize I know that nigga." Sam is actually from around the same area as me. He's from Pittsburgh. Which is actually not to far from me; that little area Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana. We all in there together. Myself, Sam Sneed, Butter, Melman we all came out of that area. I came out to help with Sam Sneed's album. Then when Dre heard my writing he started using that. I also wrote a lot of stuff for Sam, but his album never got released. Big up to Sam Sneed that guy beat brain cancer and everything else. He is a genius. I came here as a rapper. Sam Sneed and Dre taught me a lot on the production side along with DJ Quik. I was in the studio with all these guys soaking it up. That's how I learned to produce. Sam had a tight click called the Street Scholars. That was actually the name of his album too. It was a solid ass album. One of the dopest unreleased albums you ever want to hear. I mean he did this album in 1995 and it's still bumping to this day.
JF: I remember the track. That was me and Sam right there. We actually did a video for the that man. That was supposed to be the next single after U Better Recognize. Then all the drama started happening and it never got released.
JF: Exactly! That was after Sam left and went to Atlanta. We had the lyrics still. My buddy Barney Rubble remixed it. Then I was like we need the actual Lady Heroin on this track. That was when Lady of Rage came in and did her thing. Lady of Rage is by far the dopest female emcee in by book. What a lot of people don't know is she would come off the top with a lot of that stuff and then write it down later big up to her too.
JF: I wrote a lot for the album that never came out. The Street Scholars album; It was me, Sam Sneed, and a cat named Drama. I think he changed his name to Stocks Mcguire. Drama was another cold as dude out of Queens, NY. I think he wrote No Diggity [Blackstreet feat. Dr. Dre] for Dre and a couple of other things. He was another ghost writer that was dope. Then we had this cat out of Brooklyn named Shareef. Vance Buford was another cold cat. We had a couple of other dudes on the album. I think Snoop was on there. I think Lady of Rage was on there. The album was hot.
JF: The thing was some of the stuff I got credit for and some I didn't. I came in game and I was green. I ain't putting the blame on nobody but myself. Because I came in the game I was green and star struck. A lot of times I was writing the stuff and I might get five or ten thousand dollars. I thought I was getting over on them. So I wasn't saying shit. They just paid me ten thousand dollars for fifteen minutes. I'm thinking I'm getting over on them. But really I might be getting ten thousand. But they're getting one hundred and fifty thousand. If I can give any advice to anybody out there getting in the game. I'd tell them two things. Number 1) Get your paperwork straight. Know the business before you even try to play with this shit. Number 2) don't get star struck. I don't care who you're working with in the business stay the same. You can get it out here and they'll get you. It's just like the dope game. I got credit for most of them after the fact. I had to a lot of fighting and wound up getting a lot of stuff. I lost a lot of stuff too. For instance California Love I'm not listed on there. Mostly because there is a lot of samples in that song; Roger [Troutman], Joe Cocker and everybody else who was sampled in that song. Came in and ate all that publishing up. Do it without the sample man if you can. They going to get they piece too. You are using their work. I would recommend to all those young producers out there. If you can make a hit with out the sample make it. With Keep their Heads Ringing I get paid every time Friday gets played on TV I get a check. Natural Born Killers I didn't get the proper credit for that. You know what that was the first song that I wrote and chalk that up to the game. That was my entrée in. Initially it was a Dre and Sam Sneed song and Ice Cube came in and said let me do the hook. Next thing you know Ice Cube says I got a verse for this. Then it became a Ice Cube and Dr. Dre song. To compensate Sam Sneed they let him have his own song on the soundtrack which was U Better Recognize. There is an original version which is Sam Sneed and Dre of Natural Born Killers, but I don't know who got it. Same thing with California Love Dr. Dre originally had three verses on there. Then 2pac got out of jail and they played it for him. And he wanted to get on it. By the way 2pac was the most prolific artist I've ever worked with or seen. He could do a song in 15 minutes, write it and spit it. Then he was on to the next one. He was a beast.
JF: Not too long after he got out. Suge had a party at the club 662 and everybody performed: Snoop, Dogg Pound, Rage, Nate Dogg, K Ci, Jo Jo, Mary J Blige, Dr. Dre. It was the best party I've ever been to in my life. There was no beef. Everybody partying it was the pinnacle. That was most fond moment of 2pac.
JF: I was cool with everybody. When I got there I was the out of towner. Once they figured out I was just there to do music. I wasn't on any gang shit or nothing like that. Everybody was cool with me after that. I'm still cool with them and Warren G as well.
JF: What happened was after the whole split deal. When Dr. Dre split off I came with the song Who been there, Who done that. I'm standing out by the bank and this white boy pulls up in a pickup truck bumping my song. I said "hey yo homey you like that jam right there." And he said "yeah this is jam right here" and I told him that was me. He told me his boss loves your song and I asked who it was. He said it was Shaq. I told him to tell Shaq to hook it up. Homey went back to Shaq and I wrote Shaq a song called Black Superman on last album he put out. After that I got into his organization. My manager KC she does a lot of non profit stuff. I started doing the Shaq stay in school program for him. He used to do this thing called Shaqtacular where he used to rent out Universal studios and do fund raisers for the kids. You see the show he has now. He's been doing that for a while and helping out with the kids.
JF: I went around the major labels and nobody was biting. Nobody wanted to sign me because everybody was scared of the whole Death Row shadow or whatever. My manager was doing a lot of non-profit stuff. I went around helping her with her music education program. She was music to teach history lessons and stuff like that. We went all around the country doing that. We ended up going to the White House and performing for the First Lady's youth program. I also scored a show called Journey's in Black on BET and I recently wrote a song for K Fed.
JF: DJ Quik was doing a lot of work for Death Row and I happened to be his neighbor. His girl was staying across the way from me. He was a cool cat and he knew I was on Death Row. A real cool cat; let me hear some of his album. I used to sit in the studio with him and soak up game. That dude is a genius. I never got to work with him because of the whole drama that was going on in Death Row. But I definitely get him on this new album. I'm going to go to all the West Coast masters: him, DJ Battlecat, Fredwreck, Mellman. This album I just did it in house myself, Barney Ruble, and a couple of cats out of NY. On this new album I'm going to branch out.
JF: I want to get Daz, Kurupt, Rage, Snoop if he can find the time. Anybody from Death Row Crooked I and I got to get with Warren G. Warren G owe me a track. Warren's a real good guy to work with. Very easy going in the studio. When I was writing for Dre Warren was always around. We did a song for a Jackie Chan movie called Super Cop. He need a song for the soundtrack and he was flipping that Tina Turner song What's Love got to with It. He was like you got something for that. Shot out to the studio with him and laid that one down. He was like when I get to work on my album. I'm going to get at you. When he came to do I Want it All album he got at me and I did 3 or 4 tracks I wrote the songs.
JF: He's a very dope producer. He's real organic on how he works it out. He'll build that thing from scratch. He hardly uses samples. He'll replay something before he samples it. I like his style real laid back. Look at who his brother is [Dr. Dre] you can't but be dope; soaking up game from the best. That crew got a lot of talent.
JF: Yeah he called us and told us he was leaving to start his own thing. We were supposed to go with him. I was under the impression that I was going with Dre to Aftermath. I wrote the only single that hit off the first album which was Been there, Done that. What happened was Dre was supposed to get me out of my contract and didn't. But he still wanted me to write for him. I was like I can't do that. I had to go holler at Suge and Suge was like you stay over here I'm cutting checks. I had to go where the checks were at that point.
JF: It was a good vibe in the studio. They just collaborated and bring in musicians. Put stuff here and there. Brought girls in and passed them around. They made the vibe right. A Death Row studio session was like a party. You had the girls, bud, and Hennessey. It was some good times. Sometimes I'd be hanging at the studio and I didn't have to be recording. Same thing with Keep their Heads Ringing I think we recorded that at Dr. Dre's crib. He had a 48 track studio in his crib.
JF: Yeah! Sam Sneed did the basic beat for both of them. Then Dr. Dre came in and added a bunch of stuff to it. Sam Sneed had the basic beats already up and running. Sam Sneed wrote and produced by himself U Better Recognize. I learned a lot from Sam Sneed. His work ethic was really good. When a lot of other people were partying and bullshiting that dude was down to business. We did a bomb as video for U Better Recognize. Actually Hype Williams did the video. That was one of his first videos before he blew up.
JF: I still use the MPC2000XL and I run it through Pro Tools. I like that O2R board. Or I fuck with that SSL if I'm in the big studio. I like the vintage keyboards like the Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes, Moog. I get down with all that old shit. I don't mess with all them Lil Jon keyboards.
JF: I just wanted to tell everybody that the album is out there Billboard Dreams. Like I said in the first song. You can help a nigga out if you just press play. It's a good solid album and I want to thank everybody in advance for checking it out. If you can't check out the myspace page at www.myspace.com/jflexxmusic check out the jams I got there. William thank you for having me for this interview I really appreciate it homey.
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