the healthier you are, the healthier you’re going to treat everybody else
There’s nothing more satisfying that stumbling onto or into or in the presence of something that leaves you grateful for the serendipity of the situation. Wandering into a restaurant that ends up being one of the gems of the city, for instance. Or taking a chance on a movie rental, finding a shortcut, making a new friend in a place you’d least expect. These become the stories we tell. How you discovered the most played artist on your phone, where you met your best friend, how you know where to get the best vegetarian Pho in a city you only visited once. I love those stories.
I have one for you. For awhile, my wife was heavy into Zion I. Any project they were on or anyone that they were collaborating with, we were getting up on. Anyway, one of their frequent collaborators is this MC that you may have heard, Deuce Eclipse. If you’re not familiar, get on that soon. Well, Deuce recently dropped a nice little project (that I’ll be discussing in the very near future) in conjunction with some cat I never heard of named J. Lately. So, after listening, purchasing (it’s a free project but I always throw down on projects I’m feeling) and enjoying, I proceeded to do what I always do with such projects and share away on social media. Soon after I get a tweet from J. Lately that says “you might be interested int this.” I follow the link to a video of homeboy making a meal for a producer on his album. Meals for artists? Yo, that’s what we do. Long story short, I check out dude’s solo music, it’s dope, he’s dope and here we are. Today I have the pleasure of sharing a bit of the conversation I had with a very cool guy who also happens to rap nicely and goes by the name of J. Lately. This is J, lately…
How did this idea of cooking with friends come about?
It was really trying to have a concept that would go along with my album. I wanted it to be a non-musical type of thing. I wanted it to be a way for people to get behind the scenes, to get access to me in a non-musical type of way. I was thinking about stuff that’s really just naturally me. When the camera’s not on, what am I doing with my time? I have a little home studio and that’s where I recorded the whole album and I’d just have groups of friends over – other artists. I’d end up cooking for us, throwing together these meals – something with whatever was in the fridge. It was just a natural thing and I said hey, I should just film what I’m doing here. It’s just a natural behind-the-scenes thing.
Are you more of a let’s-see-what-I-got-in-the-fridge-and-go-from-there type of cook or are you more of a recipe type of guy?
Nah, I’ve always been more experimental. I’ll follow a recipe every know and then but I’m just more of a let’s-just-throw-something-together-and-see-how-it-comes-out. I’ve never been too picky of an eater. I like to experiment with stuff.
It seems like out there in the Bay Area you pretty much have access to whatever you want, in terms of of food and ingredients. There seems to be a movement.
Yeah, Oakland is crazy right now. It’s kinda like a food Mecca in a way. There’s a lot of community source type stuff and food trucks – food truck festivals. [They’re] trying to be more locally sourced on everything and more for a natural community. I’ve always been aware of it. I’m not somebody that – I definitely take advantage of all the good food and it’s something that I’m knowledgeable about, a little bit, but I don’t really go too hard with it.
What do you tend to gravitate towards?
One thing for me is trying to eat healthy to a certain extent. Because it’s so easy not to eat healthy. It’s really about finding stuff that I enjoy that’s still good for you. I mean, I love all types of food. The thing is, if I had money like that I’d be eating out all types of stuff. That’s the other thing. Trying to work with what you got. But I love all types of stuff. I’m half Korean so Korean food’s my favorite stuff. But I don’t know how to cook it. I’ve never been trained at all in terms of being a cook. My dad’s a really good cook but I don’t know any type of traditional stuff. But I like flavorful types of stuff. I like spicy, sweet, strong type of stuff.
Being an artist working late nights it must be hard to always have access to those healthy options.
It’s super hard. Especially being on tour. There’s times when you have to give in and go hit up the taco truck at two a.m. I’ve been trying to come up with ways to eat healthy on the road. You know, corner store tricks-to-the-trade. Ways to try and eat healthier at two in the morning. I’m cool eating healthy from eight in the morning to eight in the night. Easy. It’s after eight at night that’s the hard part.
The journey of life is more important than where you get to at the end. And that’s where my name comes from too. The idea of J. Lately is the idea that it’s supposed to be me, lately. It’s supposed to be different than I used to be. If I’m still the same as I used to be then I’ve been wasting my time.
What’s the correlation between food and being creative in your craft?
I think of it in a couple of different ways. Cooking a meal is kinda like creating a song or a piece of art. I think it kinda reflects your creativity. I would probably even say that you could almost analyze somebody that really follows recipes versus somebody who’s more about free flowing in their cooking. I bet if you looked at how they cooked and how they created you’d see a relationship. But also, I think something really important about food is the communal aspect of it. The way that it brings people together is kinda the same way that music brings people together. It’s a big part of the culture – every culture has it’s own type of food almost similar to how every culture has it’s own type of music. They do a lot of the same things for people. It reminds you of places and it can bring people together.
Do you think there’s a connection between what you take in and your output though?
Oh yeah. I think at some point it’s going to catch up to you. I don’t want to go too far, too extreme with things but you know the whole mind-body-spirit – the healthier you are, the healthier you’re going to treat everybody else. The healthier you are, the more productive you’re going to be. I think it all goes hand in hand.
You’ve worked with quite a few different artists such as Zumbi from Zion I and Deuce Eclipse. Does food play a big part of the creative process when you get together with other artists?
It just depends on the situation. With that Deuce album, to tell you the truth, I don’t think we ever even sat down to a meal together. It was just kind of a get in and knock stuff out kinda deal. It just depends. A lot of times when we are working it is really nice to sit down, have some food and move away from the music. It allows you to have a conversation and inspire what you’re gonna do next. But I wish it was more of the process. There were times working on this new album where we had people over, we might have been editing videos or something like that and I had a lot of people helping me, so I’d just order a bunch of food. We’d lay it all out on the table and everyone would grab a plate and just work all day. And that’s ideal. That’s beautiful. I just can’t be doing that all the time for everybody. It’s hard to be unhappy when you have a plate of good food in front of you. It adds good energy to the room.
Talk about the avenue you took from up-an-coming artist to the point where you’re at now with this new album, Let’s Just Be Friends, that’s about to drop.
I’ve been rapping for a long time now. It was always just a hobby for me and I think it was something that I never really believed I could really do. It took me a long time to really believe it. I went to college and played basketball and all the while it was kind of a side thing. It took me a long time to be confident enough to really put myself out there to the degree that it requires to actually succeed at something like this. And it took me a little while to realize that whether it’s more comfortable or not, this is what’s gonna make me happier. So really, up until the past three or four years it’s just been kind of a hobby. It took up until these past three years to make it my focus. Just trying to take it to other levels. Putting out projects and different albums – I have a lot of projects out but I’m not happy with those. I wish a lot of people couldn’t even listen to a lot of that stuff because of where I’m at now and where I used to be. But I’m just somebody that’s always kinda looking at it as a process. The journey of life is more important than where you get to at the end. And that’s where my name comes from too. The idea of J. Lately is the idea that it’s supposed to be me, lately. It’s supposed to be different than I used to be. If I’m still the same as I used to be then I’ve been wasting my time. It’s been this really slow process of growth and personal development at the same time as career and skill development. It’s been cool and it’s finally getting to the point where it feels like it’s about to break that surface.
When you talk about taking it to other levels, what does that entail?
It’s a lot of mentality for me. Just approaching myself as a rapper first. And it’s just prioritizing. Whatever I can do that’s going to advance my career as a rapper is what I’m going to do. It doesn’t matter if it means I got no money, it doesn’t matter if it means I get no sleep, whatever needs to be done. It changes everything. Really putting that time and focus. Everyday of my life I’m doing something that’s gonna benefit myself as an artist. There’s really no days off.
At what stage do you feel that you’re at now?
I feel like a rookie. I feel like I’m coming off the bench. I’ve got my chance to try and earn a starting spot. But it’s weird because it’s kinda like I’ve been on the bench for awhile now. In most people’s eyes I’m super new. In my eyes I’m not that new. I like the position I’m in because I’m real hungry and it puts me in a position where everything is for the taking. I feel like everything is coming together. All the hard work, all the failures, all the lessons learned – I feel this energy where it’s coming to this point where it’s make-it-or-break-it time. The decision of whether I make it or not is out of my hands a lot of times, it’s just my job to bust my ass as best as I can and pray that everything else falls into place. I feel like there’s this tipping point where once you get to this point it really is on you. Once you get the baton handed to you, it’s up to you whether you fuck it up or turn it into a gold medal.
This is a really interesting time for Hip Hop and music in general.
There’s more Hip Hop now than ever before. More Hip Hop being created on a daily basis. There’s more good Hip Hop out there than ever before. There’s way more bad Hip Hop out there than ever before. There’s just so much out there that if you want to find something for you, that fits you, I guarantee you will find it. You might have to weed through hella other terrible shit to get to it because the market is so over saturated but…
Who would you like to have over to the house to make food for your next Food With Friends video if you could have anyone?
One of my biggest musical hero’s is Devon. I think that would be sick to have him over, get super lit and cook some food. I think that would be dope. But I don’t know, I’ve never been someone who really idolized someone like that. I feel like I’d rather it be my cousin or some shit like that. Maybe someone who’s on my album like Bambu who’s a good ass chef. I’d like him to throw down for me.
Have you had lots of opportunities to work with people that you were a fan of first?
Yeah, definitely. Zion I is probably the person that I listened to the longest before and was able to make a couple of songs with. That was a really big one for me. I’ve had the chance to go on tour with him too. I made a song with Von Pea and I’m a big fan of Tanya Morgan and everything they do. But really the people that I’ve worked with the most are people that I have relationships with that I’m with everyday. I feel like we have so many talented people in the Bay Area – I have a circle of like 10 to 20 friends that are amazing artists. It’s crazy the amount of talent around me. So, really I like to vibe with the people I already have those connections with the most.
So, what’s next?
The new album, Let’s Just Be Friends, drops October 23rd. And I’m making new music already. I tend to push hard for awhile, step back, re-evaluate and then just keep pushing again. I’m a very active person. I already have another album that’s three quarters of the way finished but right now the focus is the one we got coming out October 23rd.
We’ll definitely be grabbing that when it drops but in the meantime, I’d advise you to head over to his Bandcamp page to see what kind of pre-order packages you can get. There are also several other projects that you can stream and purchase while you’re at it. Keep up with everything J’s got going on including the tour he’s currently on by following him on Twitter. He’s not especially proud of his older work, he wants you to be up on what he’s done Lately, but I can’t wait to see what he’s got on the horizon. I have a feeling he’s gonna create great things for himself. Stay listening.