The soundtrack for 30-somethings who feel “growing up” is not an option!
Inspiration always knocks on the door when you’re trying to get some sleep. That’s the only explanation I’ve got for returning to being a recording artist after my well-documented and firm retirement from the music business in 2009. I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance under Paula Deen’s ass that I’d ever make music again. I’m returning to an uphill climb: bloggers and tastemakers half my age, general relevance that has gone from minimal to nearly non-existent and the viral phenomenon has replaced the slow burn method I’ve become accustomed to. But every Jay-Z needs a broke cousin counterpart like J-Zone to return to a (much) more modest rap arena after sworn retirement.
Like my turbulent ups and downs in the music biz inspired my book (Root For the Villain), the rollercoaster ride of life-altering decisions and expectations that have come with post-rap life (and one’s 30s in general) have inspired my first J-Zone solo album in nine years, Peter Pan Syndrome. Of course it’s somewhat of a concept album; I had to ask myself (and the general public) “Do rap artists ever have to ‘grow up?'” If so, what does that entail?
As a rap artist who at one point was able to survive on modest earnings, but not big enough to really stack money and become a household name, I’ve landed in an odd position. I never formally entered the workforce until my mid-30s and my lack of “real world” experience has made a career search a grim, albeit hilarious ride. Bringing home $50 a day after taxes and expenses with no room to advance (and eventually working a total of 80 hours per week to make it $150!) was hardly ideal, but that was my reality for a good while and if I couldn’t produce something entertaining out of that quicksand jog, I’d be wasting both the experience and my sense of humor. It was also pretty funny to literally be laughed out of an employment agency earlier this year for my “unverifiable” work history in the rap game. Then all this talk about lacking “experience” and my peers saying I can’t be walking around with a retro haircut if I’m serious about finding a nice, secure, dead end job. The nerve!
So how did I respond? In the most un-adult manner possible: I eschewed grad school and instead spent my money on old drum kits and learned how to play a little bit, giving a different edge to my production. I turned every blog I was preparing to post on my platform at Ego Trip into a rap song and gave select moments from my book got the same treatment. I called up some old friends (rappers Al-Shid, Celph Titled and Breeze Brewin and cameo-makers Prince Paul, R.A. the Rugged Man and Oxygen), some new ones (rapper Has-Lo and multi-instrumentalist Hot Sugar) and my alter egos (unemployed shit-talkers Chief Chinchilla and Swagmaster Bacon) to help me create the most honest record of my career, yet still by far the most vulgar, lowbrow and juvenile, considering my age. Wish me luck, because if this doesn’t work, I’m gonna start doing slip-andfalls in different Whole Foods locations across America for money. Anything to never join a site like monster.com again, and keep getting e-mails for shit I’m not qualified for.