Producer's Corner: Sir Jinx
It seems like these days, virtually any time the west coast is mentioned in Hip Hop circles, its mentioned alongside the words comeback, dead, or back in the day. Sir Jinx was there before such words were uttered, during (and before) the west coasts high points, and hes still there now. After having his hands in a classic album out the gate by producing on Ice Cubes seminal Amerikkkas Most Wanted solo debut, he would go on to do other work with Cube, Xzibit, and Suge Knights Death Row Records.
These days, hes staying busy working with his new group The Cleanerswhich consists of him, Battlecat, Rhythm D, and Tha Chill and building a business relationship with cousin Dr. Dre and his Aftermath label. In an interview with HipHopDXs Producers Corner, Sir Jinx reminisces on the past, and shows why his future should be just as bright.
Sir Jinx: Rap is going through a transition right now. Its going through the management chain, so were trying to be in the right position so that we can see the new level of Hip Hop coming out of the west coast [by] developing new artists, and being a part of that movement.
DX: So who all have you been working with?
Sir Jinx: Weve got a few things in the can. Just recently, I hooked up with one of my cousins that does music, Dr. Dre. [We] finally got in the studio and knocked some stuff out thats in the works. Ive also got a production group that I put togetherwell not really that I put together, its a bunch of us that have been around each other forever, and were taking a stab at a collaborative effort to make a record. Its myself, Battlecat, Rhythm D, and Chill from Compton's Most Wanted [click to read]. Weve got a group, called The Cleaners. Thats my main focus right now, [as well as] working with Aftermath and establishing that relationship.
DX: The stuff youre doing for Aftermath, is that for your own projects? Or for Aftermath projects?
Sir Jinx: Those are for Aftermath, the relationship Im developing with the company as far as doing more music with Dr. Dre. Im not sure where Ill be placed or anything like that. Right now, its just that first initial meeting has happened. Thats pretty much all I know about the Aftermath situation.
DX: No doubt. Lets go back a little bit: talk about what the game was like when you and Ice Cube came into music early on.
Sir Jinx: It was more or less people wanting to find out a way to make music and be heard. We looked at George Clinton and a lot of different other artists who had their music out, and they chose to do it in a certain kind of way. We had the same passion to get our music heard in a certain kind of way. Some cats wanted to put music out and still sound like another persons sound, but we definitely wanted our sound to be a signature sound that we made up. Every time we would go up to bat, we wanted all the records to have our own kind of signature sound to it. We took making records a lot more serious than people thought. People thought we were getting drunk and having all the girls and stuff, and it really wasnt like that. Cube [click to read] took being in the studio very seriously. We were really passionate about it.
DX: Amerikkkas Most Wanted is such a cohesive piece of work. How was that conceptualized?
Sir Jinx: Cube had wrote all of the record, and he had different ways that he wanted the record to evolve. We added more product to it. When we first started out, a lot of the songs were designated to go to Eazy Es album - some of the songs. When they didnt come to an agreement that they were going to work together, Cube took the songs and put them on Amerikkkas Most Wanted. So it wasnt a real big thought process on how we put the record together, its that Cube had a bunch of songs, pre-written, already. We pretty much made that record in two months, from dry scratch.
DX: For you guys to put it together in that short of a timespan, what was it like once you saw the impact it was having? Like, Wow, we did this in two months. Imagine what we could do with a years time?
Sir Jinx: Back in the day, we didnt think like that. I still cant believe it, sometimes. I look at what I contribute to Hip Hop as a caterer, or a helper. When my job is done, I go home, Im happy. I dont feel like Im changing Hip Hop or nothing like that; I just feel like a good days work, and I come home alive. Thats how I feel about that.
DX: Thats an interesting way to put it. Because more often than not, you have artists who are saying that they either want to take Hip Hop back to its essence, orput it this way: a lot of people want to change Hip Hop in one way or another, compared to where it is today. You said that you werent thinking that way before, but do you think that way now?
Sir Jinx: Nah. Once again, I dont look at the score. I just figure out if Im winning or not. I dont sit there with my hand on my hips, looking up like, Damn, were down! If we win, were good. You dont look back like, Oooh, that game was great, Im the shit! Because that game is over. Its almost like you didnt do it, and I appreciate it like someone else did it. I dont feel like that. I feel like youre blessed to have a talent: you dont have to show off. So once you do your job, you go home. Its like The Professional, the movie with Leon. He comes in, does his job, and he leaves. He dont stick around and want billboards of him being there. He gets out of there, thats it. Mission accomplished. Whats terrible is when you make a suck ass album, and you hang around. I get out of there: no problems, no police, no nothing, Im out.
This song, this music is for the people that want to hear it. I want to inspire the people to know that they have a voice as well. When we were doing Amerikkkas Most Wanted, it wasnt really our voice like how you look at Jay-Z [click to read] and new artists. They talk from their perspective, but when we were doing it, we were talking from the perspective of a coast, rather from the perspective of one man. Ice Cube wasnt like, Im a Crip, Im a killer. He was moreso like, This is what can happen in Los Angeles. These are the type of people that exist out here. When you think its palm trees and sunny skies, its really black people being oppressed. It wasnt just somebody jumping out, I have the most bitches and expensive cars. That wasnt even invented then.
DX: What was that like, though? With others talking as individuals and you guys representing a coast?
Sir Jinx: Well actually, back then, a lot of other rappers werent doing that. What changed that was Biggie Smalls and Jay-Z. When Jay-Z came out, Jay-Z didnt have a background. He never had a crew of niggas, so he changed the perspective of rap from We gon make it happen to Im gon make it happen. And when he changed the whole Rap game to Ima rap, everybody now was a single person thats supposed to hit. Its supposed to be the principle. Right after Jay-Z came, bam, Tupac [Shakur] gets shot. Then all these m'fuckas get stabbed, and everything has to happen to the person. Until the Rap game comes back to [its roots], we must save it, its going to continue to go downhill. Thats why Ice-T said ["Soulja Boy, eat a dick."] [click to read], because Soulja Boy [click to read] did it on his own. He didnt have a crew, he didnt have a coast, he didnt have nothing behind him. He just did it. Some people dont know, and some people do know, but now, the rap game is Ima.
Look at Ludacris [click to read] music. And hes a beautiful artist, and hes dope as a mothafucka. But if you noticed, in the beginning, when he made Whats Your Fantasy [click to read] and stuff like that, his music was based on a crowd. Then some of his raps started changing, to I got a dope rhyme, Ive got a 500 Benz, and you kind of take the focus off of why youre there. Because now, youre telling us your perspective of having money, when you were really our spokesman of having fun. How did it change from you being the critic of having fun, to saying, Fuck them, now look at my sofa, look at my TV. You were supposed to be like, Atlanta is the place where we have fun. Now, Ludacris makes raps about himself. The ones that sell are the ones not about him, [but the ones] about situations.
When we were making Amerikkkas Most, we werent doing it for self-gratification. It was a pamphlet for the streets. So when you come from Mississippi, or Memphis, or anywhere else in the world, you could know that you could get jacked in a drive-thru. Nobody knew that. [Hip Hop] completely forgot about that.
DX: One thing Ive noticed from this interview, is that you really look at music as your job, more than a lot of other people Ive spoken to.
Sir Jinx: Its actually a hobby turned into a job. I wouldnt even call it a job; Id call it a profession. You can do it all your life and not get paid for it. Ive been one of the chosen few that was able to turn around a royalty check, and its a beautiful feeling. Thats why when you do your job, you aint so gray when your record aint selling no more. So you cant always look up in the sky at those old records, and be like, Theyre shining. Nah, them mothafuckas fizzle out. And you better act like theyre fizzling out when theyre really ripe. So you dont hit the ground and be crushed when people give constructive criticism. You cant live in the stars. I dont; I stay kind of grounded. When I kick it with my people and say we keep it real, I dont mean that we keep it real ignorant. I say we keep it real intelligent, or real sincere. We try to better ourselves. Weve got this group right here, The Cleaners. Were definitely trying to better ourselves at being a producer. We have to spearhead this music game just like Herbie Hancock did, or Paul Hardcastle, different producers. The records have to stand at some point. This is what brought the crew together, because we all agree: at some point, [Malcolm McLaren's] Buffalo Gals, Art Of Noise, Kraftwerk, it has to happen again. The music is already there with Kanye [West], now all we have to do is drop the vocals. [starts singing Kanyes Stronger] That was a song that was out already, a couple years ago. The world is too stuck on those Ima raps, which you get tired of. The down south has taken the Ima raps to a whole nother level, so at this point, theyre gon turn the mic off on rappers in a minute. Theyre just going to want to hear the beat without the rappers. Its less offensive, and you still can jam to it. This is what we foresee.
Weve been doing this music for a long time, and at some pointwere in the studio right now, Battlecat and all them are upstairs. Even if we make complete garbage, its going to still be interesting to hear. I listen to Art Of Noises music, I swear to God, I cant go through four songs before saying, What the fuck were they on? These mothafuckas were on some real, pure coke. I wouldnt know how to stroke a cat that way. But just like people are intrigued with Battlecat and his success, and Rhythm D and his success, we get together like techies and nerds and just take apart the old Oberheim [synthesizer]if Hip Hop is going to last, it has to stand on its own legs. And thats taking the foundation apart, and putting it back together with the old and the new. Then people will be able to understand it without Bitch, ho, kiss my ass, throw my money in the air.
We all came real close with that show Timbaland did at the American Music Awards. Thats damn near close. So if Timbaland is Smokey Robinson, then were going to be The Four Tops. "The Four Droptops."
DX: So where are you guys going with this new Cleaners record?
Sir Jinx: Were going to produce an instrumental record, and an introduction record of what we do. So thats when everyone is going to donate a track and a rapper. Youre going to be able to hear King Tee again. Were going to bring them cats back who a lot of people wont fuck with them, because they think they wont pull no units. What about if you dont care if you move units, but you just want the world to hear a new collaboration? Just like Sergio Mendes, when damn near 40 years later, they produce the same fucking music. Thats beautiful, but now its raps turn. Rap might be on its way out, like Dixie. But the reason Dixie didnt last so long is because it couldnt stand on itself; you can only reduplicate so many of those songs before they sound the same. Rap is taking on a whole new light. You see 50 Cent [click to read] with the Vitamin Water, and making the music sound like big band. Its everywhere.
Rap never stops, it employs the entire planet. There is nothing on TV that doesnt depict urban Hip Hop. Sometimes, rappers have to clean up their act to be able to accept the award for doing that. If youve got cats that are drugged up, and leand up, nobodys going to believe you that the Chinese, Japanese, Australians, and people in all these different places got this shit from Los Angeles. Nobodys going to be able to get the trophy unless we clean it up. So right now, Hip Hop is going through a cleaning up stage. It has to. How are we going to clean it up? Were going to give you music thats so clean, it wont even need no parental advisory. Why? There wont be no voices on it!
DX: Do you think the C.I.A. material with Cube will ever see the light of day? All types of older stuff is just popping up nowadays.
Sir Jinx: No. Hell no. First, Macola [Records is] not around anymore. For two, it was signed to Epic Records. Number three, Crew Cut Records aint around no more. And number four, Ice Cube would never authorize those contracts when we were under 18. So theyre pretty much a wash. [Laughs] It was funny, I was just in Chicago at the Saviors Day, and I was standing by Snoop [Dogg] [click to read]. And one of the brothers wanted to introduce me to Snoop. Snoops like, I know Jinx! He did my demo! I used to work with Snoop when he was 15, I was like 16. Its been a long line, believe you me. Im like, What was the name of the song? Hes like, Im A Poet. He was like, You better not put that shit out. He gave me the disclaimer real quick. I had to talk back like I was in court and shit, I dont have it Snoop. Ive been lost that. So if anyone does come out with that, Im not involved. Rappers dont want to hear their old shit. Its embarrassing, because most of the time, the mixes are horrible.
DX: Nowadays, deejays and producers are thrown into beefs even if they arent the ones vocally dissing the other artist. When Cube made No Vaseline, was there any reaction from Dre?
Sir Jinx: We had No Vaseline at the same time as Amerikkkas Most Wanted. So No Vaseline stood the test of time through Amerikkkas Most Wanted, Kill At Will, and made it at the end of Death Certificate. So it was sort of numb to us at the fact, because there were so many other things going on at the time, that song didnt really make a big impact on peoples friendships, because it was just the truth. Thats why No Vaseline did what it did, because it was the truth. Cube actually said the rap, so it wasnt that damaging.
But this is Hip Hopat some point, people want to know why wasnt I on Ruthless, or [early] Death Row, or any of the record labels that Dre had. I had to do my own thing; Dre had to do his own thing, and as you can see, nobody is really standing by Dre that was around at that time. So I had to do what I had to do to stay with the brigade, but not stay with em. Stay alongside, duck and hide, and keep it pushing. Sell some records when I can, pop up, and then duck back down. Because anyone who tries to stand up to Dr. Dres situation fails, terribly. And then you get embarrassed, so not only did you fail, but you embarrassed yourself. And then some cats get bitter, and assume that the bitterness is going to grow them a tree. But it just grows them a brick wall after that. Dre aint going to fuck with you, period, if he finds out you said something in the wrong air about him. And thats all pretty much he want to hear, is the negative shit. Hell remember that shit for a long time. Oh yeah? Thats how hell respond. You dont ever want to be on that end of the conversation. Oh yeah? Not me! I remember some cats tried to get me to do Punkd, the TV show. My buddys a video guy, he was on the staff with them since the beginning. He would see me every other month. Jinx, lets get Dre! You dont have to be involved! Uh uh. You aint getting me with that one. I dont think Dr. Dre thinks its funny, and youd lose your entire Frequent Flyer Mile pass. Hes like, Damn, nobody wants to do it! Nobody wants to cause trouble. What Ima do, make a beat CD for E-40 [click to read]? There are probably a million niggas trying to give E-40 music. He has to build the environment so well be able to sell records again, and thats what were going to do.
DX: What was your time at Death Row like?
Sir Jinx: With the Death Row situation, I had got some bad news about how my finances were happening. There werent some sample clearances, how they put a lot of shit in my boat, they were making me pay for a whole bunch of samples that I didnt do. I saw Suge [Knight], and I had known Suge for years, [since] he was a bodyguard driving a limousine. So Suge looked at me like he was buzzed, he looked at me like, Are you alright? Im like, Hell naw! I aint good! Hes like, Call me tomorrow. I call him the next day, and he shot me $20,000 to do one song, [on] the Dysfunctional Family Soundtrack. So right after that, Im like, Ill give you any beat you want. He threw me in immediately. No contracts, no Holler at me, no meeting at saddle ranch, none of that. He came to pick me up, wed ride around the pacific coast and just talk about doing big shit. I told him he should make a cigar company and a crocodile boot company and call it a day. Suge is my man, and I dont know what hes going through, but weve all got to go through something so we can go forward. Theres always two sides of a story, and when youre painted as the bad guy, you never hear that side of the story.
DX: What do you think couldve been done differently with Kurupts album, Against The Grain?
Sir Jinx: I dont know the political side to it, so I just tried to do the best I could to help my old friend Kurupt [click to read]. When Kurupt came to L.A., I knew him before he signed to Death Row. He was with one of my buddies Eldgerrin. Eldgerrin was one of the guys who made Tha Dogg Pound [click to read] paw. He was the one who made up a lot of Tha Dogg Pound and Snoop Dogg clothing before the Snoop Dogg merchandise came into effect. He would bring Kurupt over, and just being a friend and seeing all the things that Hip Hop put his life through, I was just like, Let me help you out, do as much as I can, so we can at least get a boat to row in. At that point, Snoop Dogg had kicked him out. I was just a dude that worked on music, I worked with music all day. We just tried to get it out. There was no environment for it to come out, I dont think. I dont know the political side of it, but when I dealt with Suge and his environment, I knew nothing about the political side, or how the music was going to come out. I just assumed it would come out.
DX: Considering the work you did with Kool G Rap, was it ever disappointing that more east coast rappers didnt recognize you as someone that could make New York records?
Sir Jinx: I never was looked at in a crazy light. I felt like I got a whole lot of respect for New York. When I was in New York, I got nothing but respect, because they deal with me on my craft. When I got to New York and was in Long Island, with Eric Sadler and some other cats, I had to box with these dudes that were 18 and 19 years old. I had to put my sound out there, and bounce with the big boys.
When I went to New York to work on the Xzibits 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz album, he was on Loud [Records]. So Big Pun was right there, Fat Joe [click to read] was [working closely with Loud]. And Big Pun, rest in peace. Aside from being a big dude, real big spirit. Youd hear him breathing, and hed go like, [impersonates Puns voice], Jinx, Jinx. And hell recite a whole first verse of [Kool G Rap's] Operation C.B. When I hear Jay-Z saying, Im like G Rap with better transportation, at this point Im like a breath that kept G Rap [click to read] alive with them. When The Trackmasters came in and did Ill Street Blues, and co-piloted the record and brought it home, The Trackmasters brought it home because they kept it on the shelf for a year, because Biz Markie [click to read] got sued by Warner Brothers. So they held Kool G Raps record for a whole year. So I was more disappointed than they couldve been, because we had go in with fine tooth and comb, and go through each record and find out what each sample was, because they were scared they were going to get sued. So half the record was reproduced and mixed by other people, because they didnt believe us. And back in the day, you had to appeal for the masses to get a certain type of bread.
They mixed the whole album [with a lot of bass]. So three songs on it were clear, but the whole album was real bass-y and bottom-y. But on the flip side, for all my real Kool G Rap and Live and Let Die fans, I have an uncut version of Live and Let Die, with original samples, with original inserts, with original Two to the Head, with original Number One With a Bullet. All those songs were remixed, and it wasnt as I expected them to be.