The way information is transferred and how it makes its way from the source to you can often lead to a spread of misinformation. It’s important that we’re able to critically filter out the opinions and agendas from the accurate, credible, and factual reports. Critical media literacy, folks…it’s what the world needs more of.
Sometimes you gotta get down and do your own investigative reporting. You gotta get the first hand accounts – go straight to the source and talk to the right people. See, earlier this year I was talking to one of the members of The Brown Bag AllStars, a collection of some of the most talented MC’s and producers setting the standard for Hip Hop’s future. In talking food, I inquired as to who was the best chef out of the crew. Koncept‘s response:
J57 eats a lot of Nutri-grain bars. Audible Doctor eats all Burger King everything. Soul Khan eats like a baby bird. DJ E Holla eats Nutcrackers. Deejay Element eats ass.
Naturally, I had to give each member a chance to give his own first-hand thoughts, reflections or even retorts to that answer. The first on our list is one of the genre’s most talented and sought after producers and sometimes MC, J57. While we had the opportunity to get some insight on this most delicate subject, we took that chance to expound more deeply on a few of our favorite topics; food and music.
How would you describe the relationship between food and creating?
I definitely need to eat before I make a beat or write a verse. If I’m starving it’s gonna mess my head up and I’m not gonna be in a zone. So, for me, it’s imperative to have a little something to eat to be able to function as a human being. I just can’t be the best I can be if I’m thinking of something else – hunger would be that thing.
Is there some specific thing you like to consume before you create? Any kind of regimen that you follow?
It’s more of a drinking thing for me. I make beats drunk a lot. My day consists of waking up at 7 in the morning, dealing with emails, eating a little something and then getting into the making beats or writing a rhyme kinda deal. And then I’ll pretty much go until I pass out at night. There’s so many producers I’m friends with that still – even rappers – it’s classic Koncept to be like, “alright it’s four o’clock. I haven’t eaten yet today because I’ve been recording all day.” It’s like, yeah that’s dope, but how does that not bother you? I have to have a little something. Like Koncept mentioned, I definitely frequent granola bars. I love granola bars, as you know. And I really have, at least, that. It’s fuel, really, at the end of the day.
Do you get down in the kitchen?
Honestly, I don’t. I can’t even front like I do. I can make a mean bowl of cereal. It’s actually semi-embarrassing. I don’t know how to cook…anything. But I do enjoy food a lot. At least I got that going for me.
I know you guys have been out of the country a bit. You have a video with you and Koncept in London.
Yeah, that was our last tour in Europe. We did Switzerland and the U.K. and we shot that when we were in London.
Were you guys adventurous with the food out there?
I kind of was, a little. I just wanted to have whatever they liked. Every city I went to, I wanted to see what it was like for them, how they normally eat. I was kind of trying to adapt wherever we went. It was definitely different. Like Switzerland, one of the nights we were there we stayed with a whole crew of snowboarders – Koncept is a hard core snowboarder. So, we stayed with these snowboarders and we wake up and I go in the kitchen and all these guys are eating chocolate. I didn’t realize it was a big deal over there like that. They’re eating chocolate for breakfast and everyone’s doing it, very normal, very common or whatever. Wow, this is so different. I did it and I was like, “this feels weird.” But, it’s cool.
How would you say that food culture here in the U.S. is different from what you experienced over there?
The ingredients are obviously better overseas. Cuz I was like, “why are people eating so bad and why are they not morbidly obese?” I don’t get it. That was the thing I noticed. I came back and told everybody I knew that and they were kinda like on some “duh, it’s cuz we’re using stuff you’re really not supposed to” because it’s cheaper and whatever else. So, I noticed that difference. I felt like the food was a little more real over there. Like it was actually real ingredients in there.
How does touring affect what you’re trying to aspire to in terms of eating?
It’s very tough. I try to eat healthy as much as possible. 90% of what I eat is health food and just healthy in general. When we go on tour it’s very difficult to do that. Granola bars. Just to not eat like shit all the time. I’m not into that. It’s just not my thing.
You talk about eating healthy. What does that mean to you?
I mean, I’m not a vegetarian but I kind of dive into the vegetarian zone a lot. Mainly for health reasons. I totally respect when people are vegetarians when they have beliefs and stuff – I respect that a lot. Soul Kahn has die hard beliefs when it comes to animals and that’s why he’s a vegetarian. I respect that but I really do it just to be healthy and whatever else. Salad, I hate but I have to eat it. Granola is good. I don’t get the granola with the chocolate in it, that’s just retarded. I love almond milk. I cut out cow milk a year or two ago. So, it’s almond milk, Kashi cereal, I love spinach…so, it’s stuff like that. It’s good to do moderation but I don’t really do that. I either go really really hard with eating healthy or we’re on tour and I’m eating like a pig cuz I have no choice.
So, are you at all into label reading or checking for GMO’s and all of that?
I don’t go that far into it – I should, and I know I eventually will. I’m going that direction as a person. But the furthest I look into it, and it’s kinda vain, are calories and stuff like that. It is, honestly, just to maintain this god-like physique – no, I just want to stay healthy cuz I don’t have time to be sick.
From your perspective, who would you say is the best cook from the crew (Brown Bag AllStars)?
Element. DeeJay Element. He’s dope! I lived next door to him for like four or five years. At different times, I’ve lived next door to Koncept, Soul Kahn and DeeJay Element and they all can cook but Element’s like a real cook. He can make a lot of great stuff…and he’s good at it. I’ve been making beats with him all day and he’s like, “yo, keep working on that one, I’m going to go make some food.” And he’ll cook real dope stuff. He’s that guy.
Do you have a recipe you could share with us?
I brought in a ringer, I’m not gonna lie. And it’s my mom. She gave me a dope Guacamole Dip recipe.
2 tomatoes, diced
2 gloves of garlic, minced
half of a lime
1. Cut avocados in half and take out pit.
2. Scoop out the avocados and put them in a bowl.
3. Mash with a fork.
4. Add garlic
5. Add tomatoes
6. Add lime juice
7. Add a little salt and pepper
8. Mix and enjoy
Nice. Not too far off from how we put it together and very similar to what Stic from dead prez gave us. Let’s switch it up and talk about music. What kind of projects do you tend to gravitate towards? Or what are you trying to stay away from?
I’m trying to avoid working with anyone that is, obviously, wack. And someone that has a bad work ethic. There’s so many people that I know that are really, really dope that I’ve tried to link up with [but they] just don’t have their shit together. I can’t mess with that. I steer clear of people that don’t have good work ethic. Alright, there’s three things: you have to be dope, you have to be cool (I have to be friends with you), and you have to want it as much as I do. Those are the only requirements. There’s nothing else. That’s what I’m looking for.
The artists that you have worked with, has that all been in-studio or any of it long distance, email and such?
Most of it’s in studio but I did a full album with Blame One from San Diego. We were not in the studio at all for that. It was all email – tons and tons of email and phone calls. We never even met in person until a year ago. We were just meeting and our album was already being mastered. We did a whole album like that. And we’re pretty deep into another EP as well. We just work well that way. I like both. I like being in the lab and – it just depends on the artist. Blame’s the kind of guy that kind of just lets me take control of the situation, take charge of it. I work best when people let me do that. So I can be a producer, like in the classic sense, not just a beat maker. I think that’s the best way to make the record. Having the producer really do their job rather than phone in a beat here you go, go ahead, I don’t really care how it comes out. I do care how it comes out.
You doing the mastering as well?
I don’t mix or master myself. My man, Tenacity, he’s from L.A. He’s my go to guy. I would recommend him to anyone checking this out, but I don’t want them to get in the way of him mixing all my stuff. He does all my stuff. I send him like a track a day.
What are the accomplishments you are most proud of in your musical career?
In no order: helping Premier [record] in the studio, Brown Bag AllStars performing at Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival, my first European tour, Koncept and I getting flown out to L.A. to do an album at RedBull studio…there’s so much stuff that I’m so proud of and I worked my ass off for and gave up a lot to be able to say I did, it’s not all coming to me now so I don’t want to sound like an ingrate. Vinyl! Having my shit out on vinyl. That was my dream for so many years, dude. Since high school. I used to work at a golf club back in high school and I used to save up all my money cuz I wanted to put out my own vinyl one day. And every time I’d save enough, my car would break down or I’d have to buy books for college and all that money would go to all this life shit and I never got to do it. And now I’m blessed enough where some cool indie Hip Hop labels wanna put this out or I’m lucky enough to work with artists that are on labels like Stones Throw – like Homeboy Sandman whose got multiple albums, we have an EP coming out on there [Stones Throw] and I’m grateful as shit. The whole idea that I’m on vinyl, that my songs are on vinyl, that’s something I never thought would happen.
What was the big break for you?
People started taking notice when Brown Bag AllStars started getting bigger shows in New York City. And getting posted on all of the (kinda) important Hip Hop blogs. Peter Rosenberg and DJ Eclipse started playing us on the radio. When all that started and we were getting placed on big websites and stuff like that. That was probably when people started, to any degree, taking notice compared to me being a cashier at Fat Beats Records that was just selling you records and they didn’t even know I did music half the time. Until that kind of stuff happened.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
I don’t even want to think about that. It’s either this or I die. And I’m not kidding. The more you get to know me, the more you’ll see how serious I am about this shit.
I’m gonna wrap up with two questions and I’m asking them at the same time because they might tie in or make you think of the answers in a different way. 1. If you could have anyone make you a meal, who would it be? 2. If you could work with anybody, musically, who would that be?
If I could have anybody make me a meal it would be my mom. Cuz I’m a momma’s boy. I love the lasagna she makes. It’s always been my birthday meal when I used to live back home. So, definitely my mom. And I’m grateful and lucky enough that she’s still with us, so let’s celebrate that. As far as working with anyone right now, in the past I’ve said Bjork and I’ve said Bruno Mars and I’ve said Jay-Z, I believe. But right now…who’s the number one person? It changes all the time. I’m dying to work with Bjork. Let’s go with that. I won’t rest until I’ve worked with her.
J57 is doing some great things. In fact, as he was talking about having his music on vinyl and how that was such an important accomplishment I was looking over his shoulder and checking out the vinyl on his wall, albums from artists that he’s produced for like (TKM favorite) Homeboy Sandman, Sene, Koncept, Blame One and others. Not too bad for a former golf club and record store employee. And he’s no slouch on the mic either.
You can catch J on Sirius XM’s “Rap Is Outta Control” with DJ Eclipse Sundays 10pm – midnight EST or just follow him on Twitter to keep up with the plethora of projects he’s producing, remixing or being featured on. And if you wanna hear more from the man, go straight to the source and sample the catalogue at his dot com. He’s also on Instagram @J57BBAS, so scroll on over there. In the meantime, let me get at the rest of these Brown Bag AllStars and continue my investigative reporting. We need some confirmation or clarification – allegedly someone’s eating like a bird and someone else is eating…well, keep it locked. I’ll have answers soon.