junclassic, an underground vet known for his raw, insightful rhymes and tireless work ethic stops by HipHopGame to let us know his latest projects, being a true artist, and much more in this dope interview.
You’re currently finishing your eighth album, BLVD Backdrop. How do you keep the music coming on such a consistent basis?
Yo, I love it, B. I live it, fam. I try to create. I throw on the beats. I got mad different producers that I rock with. I think in hip-hop lines, even when I’m walking around, I just have lines come to me and I text them to my girl so I don’t forget them. This shit is a part of my blood. I’ve been doing this since the early ‘90s as a teenager, spitting in the cafeteria, beat-boxing. I’m good at the beat-boxing too, people who have seen me live could tell you. I’ve lived this shit, man. It came from necessity when it started and then it manifested because people wanted to make money. People did it because they wanted to impress themselves. I said, “I do the music ‘cause it’s therapeutic/I used to sit secluded with Clue exclusives/And catch visions to it.”
You see a lot of stuff out in the streets. I come from a drug-infested city, Jamaica, Queens. We’ve been on American Gangster more than any other hood. I’m in my 30s and there’s a lot of stuff I have to talk about. I have to do it, B. I started this in 1996 and my dude E, he said, “We have to do this on some military shit, like if we had to record a song in two hours we could do it.” That’s how we did it. We had two hours to write the verse and an hour to write the third verse. We’ve been doing this mechanically and I do it constantly. I’m a fan of myself and I try to please myself. I don’t try to please anybody else when I write. If I do that’s Dope. But I’m eager to hear what I come up with and that’s what keeps me doing this shit.
How did your album BLVD Backdrop with DJ Bazooka Joe come about and how’s it coming so far?
Oh, man, shout out to DJ Bazooka Joe. That man has some classic beats! It came about the way most things come about. A brother heard some beats and asked him, “What are you doing with those?” I’m a brother based on work ethic. I go hard all of the time and I look for individuals that are ready to work. He sent me the beat on Friday, I sent him the vocals on Saturday, and he sent me the mix on Sunday. One song turns to three, five turns to seven, and seven turns to thirteen. We just pushed each other, man. His beats are grimy and raw. He has his own style but it takes me back to that Beatminerz sound. It kind of reminds me of Enta Da Stage, which is my favorite hip-hop album of all time. Shout To Duck Down and Black Moon, B. The whole squad, Buckshot 5 FT, Evil Dee, and Mr Walt), that album inspired me to rhyme, B. It was so raw and so visual and so emotional. We took it to that type of ethos, man, and we got my eighth album, bro
It’s gonna be tough. It’s coming out in June on a label that I’m not going to announce right now. I’ll let the people know about that as we get closer to the date. Sike. It’s coming out on HIPNOTT Records. Shout To Kevin Nottingham for digging the record and wanting to put it out. I’m eight albums in and cranking out another two or three and sitting on two or three more. But Bazooka Joe is mad talented. He’s worked with a ton of artists and he’s been putting in work for years doing ill mixtapes for a while now. I’m thankful to get with a brother that’s really passionate about his music as well as talented. It’s a raw album, man. It’s called BLVD Backdrop because it’s got a strong street feel to it and it’s got a lot of stuff dealing with the hood and what’s going on and where I’m going to be at tomorrow. It’s a volatile mentality but at the same time there’s some wisdom about it. I just put on Facebook that I saw a good brother I grew up with, he did the whole life that these gangster rappers talk about. He sold crack and did a bid and me and all of my young brothers looked up to him and yesterday I saw him collecting cans to feed his children. That’s all documented in this piece of music you’re going to get in June.
You’ve done a few albums working with only one producer. What do you get working with one producer for an entire project as opposed to a variety?
I like records that have a sound to them. All the joints that I grew up with and really loved and went to sleep listening to had a sound. EPMD, Tribe Called Quest, Enta Da Stage, Wu-Tang’s 36 Chambers had a sound. So on and so forth, even Illmatic, with it being scattered, had a sound to it. I just like to have a certain signature sound to my project because I think that helps weave it all together. I like to keep it scattered and versatile in terms of what I’m talking about from street issues to relationships to mortality and death, like my brother passing away. I like to have a continuous sound. The music can go from one song to another and still have a certain theme and I think that’s important, man. And when you mix certain producers together, I don’t know if that always happens. Plus I like to connect with one producer and see how far he can take it. I’m stretching myself with the flows and deliveries and I like it when a producer matches my mentality and intensity and versatility. I think that makes for a thrilling listen. I’m trying to make movies, B.
Do you ever get frustrated when you feel like you’re releasing quality projects that aren’t getting the huge run you want it to?
I definitely do. You know, I’ve been doing this since 1999, putting out projects for sale and so forth, and just releasing music, and I noticed that doing it on my own, I’ve attained a certain amount of love and exposure through social media. There’s websites and magazines. Shouts out to Entertainment Weekly and Black Tail. I’ve been in a porno mag and I’m very proud of that shit! I’ve noticed that the cosign is so important. Being independent, I’ve put out projects and gotten love and I’ve been on a label and put out music and gotten even more love. I thought that after having that label experience it would have solidified things and then I went to put out music by myself and wasn’t getting the love again on my blasts. Maybe that cosign is what made people listen.
I used to get worked up because I’d think, ‘Damn, this game is so political and it’s all about who’s sending the email’ but I’m letting that shit be motivation. I gotta work harder and I gotta step up my visual presence. I’m trying to do dope, high-quality videos with concepts and just catchier visual presentation type stuff and also step up my social media game. I’m letting it be motivation, B. You can’t sit there and get worked up about what isn’t working. Rick Ross said something that really, really made me stop and think. He said, “When I came into this game, I told myself I wasn’t going to take anything personal. If you want to have longevity in this music game, you can’t take anything personal.” And that hit me kind of hard. There’s a lot of wisdom in that.
You just have to apply what works and make it work and if it’s not working, don’t be afraid to switch it up. They say the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. I’m a little crazy but I ain’t too crazy. I’m willing to be open to change and try new things and working with different dudes. That’s why I collab so much, because of my love for the game and tapping into different fanbases. You can tap into different markets. I did an album with my boy Mr. Troy from France and now my Soundcloud is popping with people from France. I get a lot of love in France now. You just have to see what works and not take nothing personal and go for it. That’s what I do, brother. I just love this game.
You’ve had your own label, done your own production, worked for GM Grimm and Day By Day…How has all of those experiences helped you grow into the junclassic of today?
It made me embrace what’s around me but at the same time it’s taught me to trust my own instincts. Sometimes when you depend on others to take you to certain places, that’s a lot to ask. People have their own missions and goals and objectives and dilemmas and so forth and you have to be willing to put it all on your shoulders and show people that you’re worth that investment and you’re worth that hard work and that listen. You’re worth going into the show for $5 or $10. You gotta show people that you’re worth paying attention to. And that just made me go hard. That made me be humble but at the same time it’s allowed me to get a little obnoxious when I had to be.
I feel like this, man. I’m a man of principle. Principle is what I think makes a person worthy of being a leader, of being somebody to be revered, because someone of principle is not going to change because the situation may call for it. We’ve always talked about the politics of the game and people asking for favors and shit like that. I feel like that’s what makes the game wack. I’ve had certain people in the game front on me or act a way because I had to call certain people out.
Like, for instance, there’s a popular website out there called 2DopeBoyz that have cosigned a lot of ill music and put out a lot of ill shit. But one of the dudes on that website said something really disrespectful about a rapper that was murdered back in 2008. This guy is making jokes about Soulja Slim and his body spooning under the ocean with another rapper who was murdered, Camouflage. Camouflage was murdered in front of his five year-old son. Soulja Slim was shot in front of his mother’s house in the back of his head. I feel like this Meka dude writing this piece about them being under the ocean spooning is ridiculous. How dare you disrespect the dead like that? You ain’t built like that, B.
My brother had just passed and when he wrote this comment, I responded to him and told him he wasn’t built like that and he didn’t know those people and for him to call those people out, he deserved a knife in the neck. And he responded to that. My people were telling me not to say nothing about that, but you have to be a person of principle. You have to recognize when something is wrong and be man enough to stand up to it. It’s like when Kanye said Bush didn’t like Black people. That was a ballsy move to put that out there but realness is real. You can’t disrespect someone who’s been murdered, especially in front of their families! Sometimes I get a little live and I let people know what it is and that can hurt relationships, but at the end, you have to be a man of character and a man of principle and that’s the man that stays true no matter what the situation.
That’s the person that’s not going to snitch on the stand for his man and the man that’s going to ride for his girl if she’s being disrespected. You gotta be a stand-up dude. That’s where the essence of hip-hop comes from and I rep that. I’m always going to be a part of that and if that costs me political relationships, then so be it. but at the same time, at least you know it’s real, B. That’s why I do this. There aren’t enough brothers left willing to be themselves and stand up to this political machine, which runs this whole shit. You gotta believe in your art and believe in who you are and not let anyone change that. And the real people will love you for it.
You came in the game with K-Sise as Dynamix. It’s been almost nine years since we first met up. Any chance of a Dynamix reunion?
Definitely. That’s my brother forever. We’re always doing music, B. He’s on my FIGURES album with Mr. Troy. We got a lot of love with that album. I still get 500 listens a week on my Soundcloud off of them songs. The title track to FIGURES has gotten over 30,000 listens in the last five months. 800 Plays A week steadily. For a brother on the come up like myself, I’m proud of those numbers. Me and K-Sise have a song called “Hey Young’ns.” on that album. That’s basically my version of “Hey Young World,” talking to the kids who are wilding and getting involved in the wrong element, just letting them know that as older brothers, they don’t have to do that and we support them and we’ve all been there and under temptation and battling street aspects, but there’s better ways to get your money and to influence the brothers around you.
But we’re always working on music. K’s got some music and some shows coming. Yeah, man, Dynamix in effect. We never went nowhere.
What does success look like for junclassic today?
Success is just like people paying attention to the project, getting the listens, getting the spins, getting the views on YouTube, getting shows. It’s just the reaction, getting good reaction off the project. I just want people to pay attention, B. I really got something to say, man. I think I have things that a lot of people are going to relate to, just trying to better their situation. People have been through pain and I make songs about going through rough times and what makes tomorrow worth seeing. I do songs where I question tomorrow. There are people who talk about how great today is and they don’t really talk about the bad parts. I’m covering all of that, B. I got songs for the whole day, about what happens after you get paid as well as songs about what happens when the money’s gone and questioning whether me and shorty gonna make it. Success to me is people telling me they felt it and thanking me and telling me it helped them make it to tomorrow. One dude hit me and was in the heart of the ‘hood in Brazil blasting my 2011 single “Bust Ya Melon” at the top volume. That’s what it’s about, B!
What else is coming up for junclassic?
I’m trying to get some shows bubbling. Hopefully I’ll get to hit both coasts. I’m talking to people out there and I got something bubbling in Germany right now. I’m trying to see Europe at the end of this year or the beginning of 2014. I’m trying to get this music to take me around the world, B. The best part of this hip-hop stuff came about when I didn’t need the music to eat. I’m rap’s worst nightmare. I’m a rapper with a day job. I don’t depend on this for food and nourishment. I do it because I love it and I can do it. Now I just want to see if it can bring me around the world and if I can really grow a fanbase and make my mom proud and get a record in my dad’s 12” collection. That would be awesome.
My brother died five years ago today at age 37. I said, “My brother seen a early Heaven/At 37/Left me scarred for life like the touch from a dirty reverend.” It left a lasting impression, B. I want to see the world. My brother didn’t really get to see the world. For me and him. I’m trying to seize the moment. I’m talking to the kids walking in the ‘hood with their heads down, telling them to keep their head up. I’m trying to do that on a global scale. Word.
And if it all ended tomorrow, at least I went hard and I didn’t do the “what if?” thing. I think there’s a lot of people that started when I started and they aren’t around. I’ve been coming with it steadily, bro. Since July 2007 I been dropping music non stop. Year after year. Since then I’ve seen a lot of cats getting cosigns and they’re gone now. I’m still here, still coming, still got a lot more and I don’t plan for it to stop. The people who have been paying attention to me say I’m only getting better. You said that yourself. I’m just waiting for people to catch up. In the meantime I got a lot more in store.