Producer/rapper, J57, produced joints for Joey Badazz, Method Man, Westside Gunn, and many others. In early November he delivered his second solo album We Can Be Kings. I, Shabaam Sahdeeq, know J57 as being a member of Brown Bag All-Stars (a New York group/collective of rappers and producers). But as solo act, he’s been carving a name and a lane out for himself. He celebrates this with the first joint on the album titled “Live Your Life” exclaiming that it’s “been a long time coming, don’t give up…” with a pulsating sing-along tune, cadence in the hook, and a Rick Flair voice sample yelling “woooooooo!!” as a sign of victory.
The album is filled with different flows and intonations showing his versatility and flexibility all-while having fun with it. On track “Afterburner,” he says “now haters sing my praises and they all harmonize…” I’m feeling the hardbody kick drums, snares, shaking symbol sounds, and his choice of whistle samples and eerie sounds all throughout the album. The beats and flow changes in the middle of the songs reminds me of some Kendrick Lamar arrangements. On this album, he carries out different sounds, dark boom bap and psychedelic voice effects. I hear a little rock influence. Overall, it’s a dope a** project. Definitely not a straight forward boom bap album, but I would place it in the Alternative category. In only the first week, it has amassed 68,867+ streams on Spotify. Check out this interview…
What’s most important to you – being a producer or an emcee?
I love them both equally, so theyre both equally important to me. Some days I feel like being a producer and some days I feel like being an emcee, so I’m blessed to really be able to do both. When it comes to my solo music, it’s really just me focused on being a ‘song-maker’ more than trying to rap my ass off or make the hardest sounding beat; I save that for when I work with others. The solo stuff is a hodge podge of influence from the other genres of music I listen to, all blended together with hiphop being the dominant genre of influence.
How much time did you spend making this album?
Years. Many years haha. I have songs on there that I made and even had mixed back in 2014. Songs on there that I had written back in 2013 and then recorded in 2016. I released my first solo album in 2016 and those songs were on it, because it wasnt time for those songs to come out yet – they were too different. The audience that knows about me werent ready for that far left-field music from me yet, I had to ease them in. This just means album 3 is going to be way crazier with the left-field theatrics lol and album’s 3 and 4 are almost finished for 2020 and 2021.
How would you describe your sound as a producer?
It’s whatever sound I feel like being / channeling that day. Some days I just want to make some Madlib style shit and others I wanna be like Alex da Kid making stadium monster-jams haha! Some days I just make soundscapes that are for singers, etc.
What are your favorite types of records to make – boom bap, trap, jazzy, etc?
My ‘sonic boom bap’ solo sound. Thats a term I coined many, many, many, many years ago, to describe my stadium-boom bap sound. I like making that the best, because it’s the most unique thing I’ve ever done and it doesnt sound like anything thats ever been done before BUT that’s not to discredit the boom bap, or anything else that I do.
Do you feel that you get the respect you deserve as an emcee?
I think I do now. I definitely didnt feel that way last year lol. I’m just grateful that people know who I am (if they know, of course), so I’m not complaining. My production credits have overshadowed my stuff where I’ve rhymed; be it features or groups I’m in or my prior solo stuff before the real shift to this sound (which was always kinda there, though). But yeah, I dropped the “Sonic Boom Bap” EP in late 2017 and that made people stop sleeping on me. Then this year I dropped 2 self produced solo EP’s “Anti-Social Media” and “VOLTAIRE.” which really solidified that I’m not a producer that raps casually; I’ve always been an emcee-producer. NOT a rapper-producer, either. I’m just happy to be here.
What are your touring plans?
I have a few solo tour offers already in and of course the Jamo Gang machine is going to start getting revved up soon. But I hope to tour Europe with my big bro Shabaam Sahdeeq in 2020 – I’m putting that into the universe haha
What other projects do you have coming out this year and next year?
This year, I have a full collaborative album with Heem Stogied dropping on 11/28, a full collaborative album with Shabaam Sahdeeq dropping in December (I think you might have heard of him) and I might drop another solo single in December right before the Shabaam57 LP. I have a TON of other projects coming out in 2020, though.
What are your plans for your label?
I’m putting the label on hiatus effective January 1st, so that I could finish my 3rd solo album. This one is going to be the one that gets me out there in a whole different way, so it has to become my main focus and priority. Also, a secret (huge) opportunity popped up that will take a ton of my attention, so that will also be a main focus.
What’s the status of Brown Bag All-Stars? And what role did you play in the clique?
We just finished a full album with Bumpy Knuckles, where it’s Bumpy, me, Soul Khan and Audible Doctor on the mic / Audible mainly on the beats & Bumpy and I have one beat each on there. DeeJay Element handles all of the scratches and shout out to E Holla. This album is going to drop in a big way in 2020. The roll I played, I kinda knew everyone first and sorta brought us all together in the early days of Fall 2007.. I would just feature everyone on my ”solo” stuff… I say solo like that because those songs became the first Brown Bag songs and I put my solo stuff on the back burner till 2014 lol which was the right decision at the time for sure. I always oversaw all of the group and solo music for the crew (except for Audible’s solo stuff) and I came up with a bunch of our marketing strategies, like Brown Bag Season – we all play our rolls and play to our strengths…theres so many things Audible can do, or Element can do or Soul or Holla can do (etc) that I cant do and vice versa. A real team effort. So grateful for BBAS.
Are you working on any scores or soundtracks that you would like to share with us?
Ummmmmmm kiiiiiinda can’t talk about that legally right nowwwwww hahahahahahah! Info coming soonish tho!
You can find J57’s full music catalogue here: https://j57bbas.bandcamp.com/music