J. Period: Devoted To The Art Of Moving Tapes

posted February 10, 2009 12:00:00 AM CST | 20 comments

In film, a montage is that collection of scenes that elapse time and advance plot, with often emotional results. In Hip Hop, that sounds a lot like a J. Period mixtape. For over five years, the California-turned-Brooklyn deejay has taken catalogs from Big Daddy Kane, Nas, The Roots, Lauryn Hill and others, and presented them in a "Best of" light that not only builds buzz, but celebrates these icons in a way the award shows and documentaries seem to miss.

Today, the deejay unveils a two-year-long effort with one of his personal favorite artists, Q-Tip. J explains why, four months after The Renaissance, The [Abstract] Best Volume 1 will help Tip, and why the Queens legend might be the best ever, and the method to the madness of a true mixtape master trying to make time-pieces and dollars in a challenging time. If the tapes come, the papes will come.

To stream The [Abstract] Best by J.Period & Q-Tip check out our Mixtape Section [click to listen]. And for those looking for a free download link [click to download].

HipHopDX: You're an hour out of the studio, as far as finishing this tape. Where are your thoughts right now, as far as where this stands in your catalog?
J. Period:
[Laughs] My first thought is, I just finished volume one; I haven't finished volume two yet. [Laughs]

DX: Really?
J. Period:
That's pretty much how it works! [Laughs] I'm just joking. I had a moment, while I was still at the studio, while I was still mastering it, where...yeah, I think that this shit is definitely the most intricate of any of the joints I have done. For the people that know the stuff that I do, that actually listen carefully, they know that that's saying a lot. I also think that's it's the one that's closest, with the exception of the Big Daddy Kane [click to read] [Best Of] that's closest to me personally. Man, I've put so much time, energy and effort into this thing. I've had a couple of flashbacks to being in tenth grade, cutting my first period class to go to Tower Records to go pick up [A Tribe Called Quest's] Low End Theory at eight in the morning. I was so excited. Hopefully, I'm getting [to add] something to that story by contributing something, and it's pretty incredible. I haven't really soaked it up, and I probably won't be able to until I'm really, really done with volume two. I'm pretty excited. There's a lot of phases of makin' one of these things, and the final phase is just making sure everything flows from start to finish for the casual listener. It'll probably be a month before I go back and start listening for all the little tiny things I put in there.

DX: You said it right there and you've said it to me before, that Q-Tip and A Tribe Called Quest is among your favorite artists. You have the ear that a lot of A&R's in this game don't. That being said, with this tape, what direction did you try to bring in Tip?
J. Period:
This really started about two years ago, when Tip [click to read] was originally going to release The Renaissance [click to read]. At that point in time, when we first started this process, it was about really showcasing the full spectrum of what he's done. A lot of know Tip from Tribe [click to read] ; they don't know know or realize all the production he's done and the hand he's hand in legendary artists like Nas and Mobb Deep [click to read]. He mixed almost the entire [second] Mobb Deep record [The Infamous], and produced about five songs on that album, which I didn't even know, back when I was listening to that record.

So, for me, I think the direction of the mixtape is probably three things. Number one, it's showing that there are legendary emcees and there are legendary producers, but I cannot, in my mind, think of any artist that is both. To capture Q-Tip, you've got to cover all bases. You've got to showcase the Tribe stuff, the emcee ability, the production abilities - that's a start. The second thing is that when you go back to Tribe, it's impossible - and I've interviewed Tribe, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes [click to read], Bob Power, Black Sheep, all for this mixtape, and it's impossible to say who specifically did what, but everyone universally agrees that Tip was the record guy. He was the guy that brought the samples to the table. So the second thing I really was after was to dissect a lot of those classic records down to the original samples and sort of rebuild them. The third thing is, this shows how it all kind of is coming full circle. That doesn't mean it's going back to where it was, but it's showing his new music in light of his old music. Let's so I took "Breathe & Stop" [click to read] and I disassembled it - I took the drums, went back and got the Minnie Riperton sample that they used on "God Lives Through" [click to read], and then I got the bassline sample they used on "Butter" [click to read] and I basically rebuilt that track out of bits and pieces of different things Tip has done. It's showing that at the end of the day, it's all about the quality of the music. I've been thinking about this a lot, it's probably the most narrative out of any of the joints that I've done, to tell a story. In the process of piecing that story together, I started thinking that Hip Hop is the only musical artform where it spits out its historical figures. It doesn't pay respect, at least nowadays, as much as it should. The greatest Hip Hop, I think, is always built on bits and pieces of what came before it, and making references to other shit, whether it's musical elements or scratch elements. So I tried to really stay true to that spirit.

DX: Amidst such a passion for the art, you're a businessman and a marketer and a hustler. You have always helped artists sell albums. Tell me about the thinking in releasing this mixtape some months after The Renaissance being in stores...
J. Period:
His album dropped November 4. The mixtape is dropping three months later. That's for a couple reasons. Number one, strategically, the game has changed. Physical product, which took time to get out to people and be distributed, is sort of irrelevant at this point in time. It's all about putting it in the right places online, and letting it spread in that way. For that reason, that changes the timing of how you release these things. Also, the scope of this, and the fact that I was pulling together so many different artists, it was a day-by-day process between Tip, Tip's manager and me about when we would drop it. All of us agreed that we wanted to have a strong impact. I felt like waiting until we had all the pieces of the puzzle was more important than putting it out and rushing it around the album time. If something is good, it can live online for a long time. So there really isn't a need to put somethin' out right before the album. You might get a splash, but you might not get longevity.

I think it's actually better to put it out afterwards. The album is gonna do what the album is gonna do. For me, it's more about building the brand and building recognition. That recognition creates opportunities outside of just selling albums. It could be advertising or touring or any of those other kinds of things that just happen from your name floating around. I think that I've earned the ability to do that by building up the numbers. Like the "Q-Tip For President" [click to listen] song got almost 100,000 downloads in the month of November. I think when that happened, they were like, "We'll let you get your stuff together, and do what you think is right."

DX: From De La Soul and Busta Rhymes to Black Thought and Consequence to the newer guys like Blu and Kid Cudi, talk to me about the various artists pulled into this project, and if you sequenced the guests in any special way...
J. Period:
Really, it's just a question of growing up with this and knowing the aesthetic and knowing the vibe and knowing which artists fall in the same canon, kind of. Like Blu [click to read], when I hear him, it reminds me of that vibe. There's an artist that doesn't necessarily fit, Reks [click to read], Statik Selektah's [click to read] artist, and I have his version of ["Sucka Nigga"] [click to read]. Kid Cudi sort of came to the project through Consequence [click to read].

As far as the sequencing, I'm not really thinking of who did what, with the exception maybe of, you know that De La Soul [click to read] has to start off volume one, because that's the one everybody wants to hear, and you know that Black Thought has to start off volume two because that shit's just gonna be bananas. Past that, it's really about going in and out of classics, new versions, productions that he did, appearances, and trying to paint a complete picture.

DX: Talk about your plan of attack with marketing and making this available to the public...
J. Period:
You always start with building anticipation. The "Q-Tip For President" was the appetizer. The De La Soul [song "Excursions 2009"] [click to listen] was really to get everyone excited about what's coming. Then, I decided I was gonna do something different for this one, which was to give away volume one. The reason for that is I just feel like it's necessary. At this moment in Hip Hop, there needs to be a really powerful statement going out about the changing of the guard, back to substance. I think that [Barack] Obama getting elected President is unbelievably significant, because it makes it really irrelevant for dudes to talk about cars, jewelry and things. It makes it feel a lot sillier. I feel like it started with that. How do I feed as many people as possible with this?

I'll tell you this, for the last three projects I've done, I've been doing sneaky stuff, like encoding files with different numbers and giving different press outlets different language, and tracking where it goes. Based on that, [I've been] really figuring out who spreads things out to more people and trying to follow those lines. That's the science of paying attention; I don't think there's really anyone else that cares to do that. I like doing that.

The other thing is, I wanted the method of distributing it to be as groundbreaking as the mixtape itself. So volume one is gonna go out for free on February 10th. Also, for the first time, we're also doing a really high quality, limited edition run of t-shirts. My artist, Fuse Green, created these super-iconic covers like [Best of] The Roots [click to read], Lauryn Hill and The Isley Brothers. This cover for the Q-Tip mixtape blew my mind. As an incentive to buy those t-shirts, [we're giving out] advanced access to volume two. I've assembled the mixtape like a book-in-record set, so literally, the end of volume one, after I've hopefully smashed you in the head, it ends with a ding!, and it sets it up so you want to come and get volume two. That'll be available with the t-shirts, or the latest edition of the flash drives which we just pressed up, which are really beautiful. They're stainless steel, laser engraved, and it says, "Mixtapes are not a crime," which is a brand I've been working on launching for a minute. The drive will feature tons of bonus material too, including the entire interview that I did with Q-Tip. That's for those people that really, really want to know more. There's varying degrees. For the casual listener, you've got volume one. Hopefully you'll come back for volume two. For the fans, there's the t-shirts. For the super Tribe nerd, you have everything that they can get their hands on in the flash drive. I've always wanted to make these things last as long as possible, and I've tried to incorporate that into the marketing plan now, so that it drops bit by bit, and the project can have a life of [at least] a couple months by itself.

[click here to download The [Abstract] Best by J. Period & Q-Tip]

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