Harlem bred emcee, G4 Jag is an anomaly in the current hip-hop landscape. His lyrical delivery is almost torn from his throat in a baritone as deep as Barry White, that is if Barry was spitting extremely personal and vulnerable tales of survival for the have-not’s. He favors beats that are sparse and downtempo that make his voice and his message stand-out even more dramatically. The result could appeal to underground heads who were reared on Def Jux and Backwoodz Studioz catalogue. However the defensive line-man size spitter also has plenty of grit an grime in his step which has won over close comrades such as Flee Lord, The Musalini and Planet Asia.
His most recent project (and third of the year) is a collaboration with Los Angeles beat-minimalist’s Dirty Diggs entitled Keep Going. We decided to check-in with him and get some back-story. We also have the official video premiere for “Make A Plate.” Interview and premiere appear below:
It’s kind of ironic how you’ve been using the plague mask as kind of your cover trademark for the past few years and we are actually currently in a pandemic. What’s the origin or that image as far as being a representation of your work? What does it represent to you?
Originally the plague mask was D Ratz (Italian artist/graphic designer) idea, me and Flee did some history and it made perfect sense to us. I don’t listen to too much of anything, my plague mask is a representation of that, it’s how I guide myself through this journey of hip hop, protecting my self from the influences of the industry. So every record is a reflection of self.
I know that your lyrics are more introspective and narrative based. I also just read that you created this new project Keep Going in one studio session. When you do that many songs in succession, how do you keep your topics and thoughts cohesive but yet not hit the same topics over and over?
I’ve been writing almost 17 years, I’ve done some ghost writing and been a part of many different musical situations. I’ve lived in 5 cities in the past ten years, I have so much to talk about and have actually so much to reflect on that I never run out of material. As long as my process is self reflection there is no lack of creativity because you’re just replaying your own life back. I feel like I found my market and my message and as long as I continue to grow it my goal is to stay as consistent as possible.
As an emcee were you always this conscious in your sound or did you ever experiment with some thug, battle or mainstream elements? If you had to refer one track from your catalogue that best represents you as an artist, which one would you say and why?
The funny thing is I don’t believe I’m conscious at all. That’s why I don’t label myself. I’ve written literally every style of hip hop you can imagine. I’ve battled for years before this era of cameras and 3 rounds. When I was battling it was go until the other person can’t keep up. A battle could literally last for hours if you’re dealing with heavy weights. Fun times, but definitely wasn’t my lane.
I’ve done trap music and several tours in the south with my Chetta Chasers family out of South Carolina, what I discovered is when I focus on target marketing and speaking directly to the audience I want to speak to, I don’t have to play in all these different lanes of hip hop. The people who will support will support unwaveringly. Those who don’t, you’re better off without em.
“Make A Plate” (Directed by D Gomez Films) is ripped right from the artist’s life and is a tale that many others share. As he relates the track “is me talking about a time when I didn’t have groceries in my fridge, hungry children and thinking about getting a strap. It’s a lot of people’s story that you don’t hear about. I have to provide for my family, I’ve done that the right way, I’ve done that the wrong way, it’s not pretty but it’s the truth.” Shot in G4’s hood of Harlem, NY, the video has cameos from many of his comrades including his graphic design assassin Huey P.
Though you and Flee Lord appear on each other’s projects, people may not know how close you guys truly are. Do you guys bounce project ideas off each other? How much do you guys discuss your potential power moves with each other? Can you tell us some detail about Flee as a person or his work ethic that we may not have insight to?
Flee lord is my only big bro in this shit, I’m big bro in the cyphers I’m in, so to have someone take the time to sit with me, go through hours and hours of my music, teach me the business angles, and also just a positive brother in my life because our relationship is deeper than music. He’s met my kids several times and like-wise, he calls to check on my sanity, shit that’s priceless. I’m a father of 4 who works 7 days a week, teaches in the evening and squeezes a music career in there somehow, it’s days where I feel like I would be better off giving this shit up, Flee is my motivation, and also setting the bar high, I’m following bro’s lead, and he’s leading in Leonidas fashion. It’s Loyalty or DEATH!
Though I know speaking on the origins of emcee names is hella lame (lol), would you care to explain the origins with us? (if not, no prob).
lmaoooo it’s my real name. JAG is literally my initials. And G4 was Given to me in college before I gave up on school, I wasn’t with the basketball shorts and flip flop thing, I’m from Harlem, we put on, NO DAYS OFF!
Also your chemistry with Musalini on that collabo project was tight. How much did you guys build before you decided to record that together?
It was organic, we started off just doing a record for (38) Spesh, but Mus is good energy, and a positive dude, so as we continued to link in the studio we let the project happen organically. We were both there for each session, selecting the beats and writing the lyrics, we prolly have about 7 records we haven’t released still….
I heard you grew up in Harlem and bounced around the city, you ever bounce into Dip Set, Big L, Ma$e or any of the legends? If so, can you give us any anecdotes related to that?
No big L and Mase stories but the Dips were heavy motivation for me. Jimmy used to be on 115th heavily providing energy. I used to rap wit a group called Harlem’s Envy which was based around 151st and Amsterdam, so we would see Juelz all the time, FREE THE GUY! Cam I only seen once I was still off the radar then, but he was hopin out a Benz wit DMX on 125th maybe in about 1999, niggaz ain’t kno how tall Cam was til that moment. But they (The Diplomats) have always been an inspiration to me. I definitely got to witness the movies first hand. Now we making the movies. That Harlem energy is beautiful.