Words: Matt Innes
MADCAP Records Australia has recently signed Philadelphia rapper J Strong to its ever-growing family of independent artists.
J Strong brings with him a smooth and contemporary sound, producing modern hip hop embedded with a strong R&B sensibility. His production style has been called unique among his peers and elders in the hip hop scene, and has credits for tracks on labels from Def Jam to Arista.
J Strong possesses a hip hop heritage that puts him in a rare pedigree as an artist, having grown up in the thick of the Philly street scene that saw him chilling with the likes of Will ‘Fresh Prince’ Smith and Jazzy Jeff..
Here we get to know a little more about J Strong as an artist and a person.
You may be a little new to Australian audiences, so firstly give us a little introduction to J Strong and what you’re all about.
My name J. Strong, born and raised in Philadelphia on Penns Grove Street which is the bottom of West Philly. I’m an Entertainer and all-rounder – from the studio, stage, to the camera. My goal is to make an impact on the music industry. Some artists come and go; I’d like to be one they mention with respect.
When did you first start producing music, and what initially motivated you to do so?
My big brother played a role in me becoming a music producer and at the age of 11 I started following his footsteps into becoming a DJ. I did my first house party at 13 years old, only because my brother left the DJ booth to dance with a girl and I had to play the next song quickly, lol. But seeing how the crowd reacted to me on the turntables I wanted to make music of my own. A friend of mine gave me an old Casio Keyboard with 4 yellow drum sample pads. That’s when I became a Producer.
What’s the most important thing people should know about you as an artist?
That I’m a businessman first; wanting to be an entertainer is great, but building wealth for generations is even greater.
Who have been some of your key role models (musical or otherwise) in life?
My mentor Rick Young, he taught me how to run a million dollar studio and that’s something that I’ll never forget. Also I give myself credit (which a lot of people forget to do). I was hanging with the wrong crowd, stayed in some serious street situations. There are only so many chances you get before it’s your last, so I decided to focus on business and my music.
On days when you’re not writing or working in the studio, how do you like to spend your time?
Writing and producing, lol, I’m always creating. Even if I’m going to the store or cleaning the house, I’m always humming a melody or have a beat in mind and I keep my phone close to record my ideas. When I want to relax on my day off, I hop on YouTube and watch what’s going on across the world; I love politics.
Your 2016 track ‘Pop A Perc’ you produced for Boone went viral; how did it feel to be an online sensation?
It felt great. We saw the song take off in 24hrs. Boone sent me the idea, I made the beat in 10 minutes (literally), we recorded it and by the end of the week we were doing big shows. It was a crazy experience.
What did the success of that song do for your career? Was it a pivotal moment?
Indeed, pivotal with a capital ‘P’ and also crucial. Prior to the release of ‘Pop A Perc’ I had quit doing music. I was frustrated with how things were going musically. The success of the song motivated me to give it one more shot. Without that song I wouldn’t have got back on Instagram, so that means Stephen [Morris] or MADCAP Records would never have known who I was, and I would have missed out on the opportunity.
Coming from Philadelphia, how has the city influenced or shaped your sound and style?
Philly means everything to me. I remember going to middle school, me and friends would see Cool C & Steady B on the corner with the Hill Top Hustlers jackets on. They were major artists at the time and would be in the neighborhood like common folk; or I’d be in Wynnefield on Lebanon street, Will Smith & Jazzy Jeff would pull up and chill with us; we looked up to those guys.
Not to mention all the great artists from the 2000’s who came from my town. In my opinion, I came up in the golden area of music; we set the tone for fashion and sound. It’s a feeling that never goes away.
Tell us more about your current EP ‘Mood’; what did you want to achieve with this record?
I don’t write any of my lyrics on paper or type it, I just say what comes to mind and my first thought usually dictates the direction of the song, so what you hear was my ‘Mood’ at that particular time. I leave it up to the people and potential fans to take the music in.
The current single ‘Private’; is there a story behind the song you can share with us?
I just went to the studio, loaded the beat up, hit record and did the song two bars at a time, then I went back and did some harmonies here and there. It took me about 30 minutes. When the ladies and the DJs tell you it’s a hit, it’s a hit.
Can we expect you in Australia any time soon?
What’s coming next for you in 2018?
I’m aiming for Billboard #1, some international touring, and taking MADCAP Records to the next level. Stay tuned!