Who is J-Zone? New York’s cult icon and X-rated maverick guides us through the rise and fall of his hip hop love affair.
J-Zone has been a cult favorite since the very beginning. Coming of age in New York during hip-hop’s teething period in the ’80s and ’90s, he developed a low tolerance for time-wasting but a high threshold for curiosity, delving through his family’s record collection and any instruments that were lying around. Once J-Zone realized he could piece together a hip-hop record all on his own, the floodgates were opened: he landed an internship at Power Play, and became in-house engineer at Vance Wright’s studio, before attending SUNY Purchase College for audio engineering. Soaking up all this knowledge and influence lead to his debut album Music For Tu Madre: an irreverent slice of narratorial artistry, with breakneck sampling and honest social observations, full of verses focused on everything from frustration with the daily grind to dating tips. With A Bottle Of Whup Ass, the madcap J-Zone persona became more fully developed, setting the scene for the much loved and critically-lauded Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes with his Old Maid Billionaire crew Huggy & Al-Shid. But as the Billionaires went their separate ways, and after his solo albums $ick Of Being Rich and A Job Ain’t Nuthin’ But Work displayed just as many un-apologetically nonconformist beats and confrontational rhymes as ever, the J-Zone story drew to its (perhaps inevitable) conclusion. J-Zone opted to retire in 2006, playing his last show with Cee-Lo Green to a handful of A-list friends. Whether the going was rough or smooth, J-Zone could always see a great story through the haze, leading to plenty of good material for his 2011 book Root For The Villain: Rap, Bullshit, And A Celebration Of Failure. Still as unpredictable as ever, J-Zone has returned to music with a new record Peter Pan Syndrome, adding to the catalog that is a testament to just what you can achieve whether the world is on your side or not.