Producer's Corner: Jim Jonsin
For some patience is a virtue, but then for others playing a waiting game just doesnt have any attraction whatsoever. Born in New York City, Jim Jonsin migrated south to the Sunshine State and has utilized the pounding and pulsating Miami Bass scene to later emerge as one of todays hottest Pop and Hip Hop producers. But his arrival wasnt necessarily an overnight occurrence.
With an obvious addiction to music, Jim Jonsin has played a fundamental role in developing some of todays most prominent artists just as he has produced some of todays most recognized tracks. Being the mind behind "Lollipop" for Lil Wayne and "Whatever You Like" for T.I., you cant help but warm to the honesty this man emulates both in his work and his demeanor.
Jim Jonsin lives for the music we love and his enthusiasm in artists such as B.o.B. and Pitbull never falters. He respects the artist as much as the craft proving that nurture, experience and patience has a way of getting a lot more than results. HipHopDX Producer's Corner presents, the rhythm, the rebel: Jim Jonsin.
HipHopDX: How did you get your start in the music game, as you have been around for a while yet its only been in the last five years that your name has become notorious?
Jim Jonsin: I was a deejay. I first started out making beats on samplers and 808 drum machines, and I put out a couple of bass compilations. I worked as a deejay at clubs and tried to make a living off making records, which took a while. I started my own record label in the late '90s, 1998. I had a deal with Warner Brothers/Ruff Nation, then I went over to Slip-N-Slide. While I was working there, between 2003 and 2004, I worked with a group called Pretty Ricky, developing them on the side, which then turned [Bluestars] into a platinum album. I also worked with Rick Ross [click to read], Trick Daddy [click to read] and Trina [click to read]. I got a hit with "Lets Go" for Trick Daddy that I produced with Big D. I was working with Pitbull [click to read] on a track called "Damnit Man," which did really well and that was where my career started.
DX: Do you think it is a natural progression to go from a deejay to a producer?
Jim Jonsin: I think a lot of deejays study music a little bit more and they understand how people react to music by being in the clubs. Also, your knowledge of songs is big because you play so many records.
DX: Do you still use the clubs as way to rate music?
Jim Jonsin: Yeah, I pay attention to that when I am out. I dont really go out to do that, as I am out there to have a good time and enjoy myself, but I do notice when a good beat comes on and how people react.
DX: What was your first record ever produced?
Jim Jonsin: It was a scratch record called "Cut It Up Def." I was the deejay on the record with MC Gemini and then after that the next one was a track called "Party Time" with Jeff B and me. I used to go by the name of Jealous J.
DX: So you were a rapper as well?
Jim Jonsin: Yes, a little bit.
DX: It was more universal back then though for people to deejay, produce and rap wasnt it?
Jim Jonsin: Yeah, we had a good time doing what we did. I mean we still have a good time now but it was a little easier back then. You would get a 12-inch pressed up and get it out there and if the deejays liked it, even better.
DX: Why do you think it was easier?
Jim Jonsin: It was more open, as far as deejays went. They would try anything; play different records from other regions and states. You might have a record from Miami that would blow up in Alabama.
DX: Diddy came out and said recently that the deejays are to blame for the way music is today, even though he did retract his statement. Do you think today that is a fair comment?
Jim Jonsin: Its nothing to do with the deejays. It is the record labels that are not developing acts like they used to. Deejays are a huge part of breaking records; it is just the labels that are not willing to spend the time in developing the act.
DX: How important has the Miami Bass scene been in developing your sound as a producer?
Jim Jonsin: It has been huge; it is still the tricks of the trade today. I mean it's graduated into something new today, but we still use the 808 drum, bass and up-tempo as there is a lot of rhythm in our music. But now there are more musical elements in it, which makes it a lot less simple than it once was. There is a record out now ("Boom, Boom, Boom") [click to listen] by The Black Eyed Peas [click to read] that is totally Miami Bass music.
DX: You had two major hits recently in "Lollipop" and "Whatever You Like." What was your studio process with those tracks, you know how did they come about?
Jim Jonsin: The "Lollipop" [click to listen] track wasnt meant to be "Lollipop," it was actually an instrumental beat that was made for Danity Kane. It was meant to be the next "Showstoppers," but the A&R didnt hear it. I had given it to them on a beat CD, and they didnt pick it. So I brought the track over to Static Major in my studio in Miami, and he loved it and he wrote "Lollipop," which was then brought to Lil Wayne [click to read].
With "Whatever You Like" [click to listen], I was starting the remix to "Na Na" and it was the wrong acapellas to the record and I had already started playing with the drums for Baby Bash. So when I found out it was the wrong acapellas, I just took the drums and started making a new track around that which ended up being "Whatever You Like."
DX: When you make music, do you make it to suit you or do you have an intention as to where it is going to end up?
Jim Jonsin: Yeah, I mean I have a lot of catalogue music, but for the most part, we make songs where I work with songwriters to build a song for an artist. You know someone might call and say, "We need a record for Leona Lewis," or "We need a record for Young Jeezy [click to read]." So I will then spend a little time working on records for whatever artist.
DX: What creates mass appeal for a producer nowadays is it down to that one major hit, or the universal sound?
Jim Jonsin: I like to say it is down to that universal sound. Personally, I have a lot of songs coming out that you would never know I had produced. Theres a song out in Europe right now by Lemar called "Weight Of The Word," thats a record of mine and it has a feel of "Sweet Dreams," by Beyonce; its that vibe. So that was a sound that I liked and I thought I would go in that direction and make tracks like that, so I did and people liked it. "Sweet Dreams," I did with a guy called Wayne Wilkins, who is an amazing producer. But just finding a sound that I likeIm a mutt. [Laughs] I might be listening to [Electric Light Orchestra] and I will go and vibe from that and make music from that feeling. You can tell from listening to [Soulja Boy's] "Kiss Me Thru The Phone to "Whatever You Like" to "Lollipop," they all have a similar sound. So I found that and am smart enough to know that that works for them, so I do it and use it for different artists and those artists that fit that particular sound. Then there is a whole other thing that I am working on that is more rock and roll based and I do that more creatively. I want to be the next Rick Rubin, who is here doing all types of music. You may never hear his name, but he has hits from Eric Clapton to Carrie Underwood to Jay-Z [click to read].
DX: Some producers get a bit annoyed though when they are asked to replicate a sound that has already been a hit for someone else.
Jim Jonsin: Whatever. If you want to come and get it, that is like saying all these kids are dummies. It's like with every kid that likes that sound, you are going to neglect them? Why dont you just give a kid a lollipop and take it from him never to give it to him again. You have to be smart. Look at every producer, from Lil Jon to Timbaland to Dr. Dre; they all have a sound; thats their thing. But they can get in with Rock bands and do their thing, they can adjust. Im not a producer; I am a songwriter and a producer as I deal with melody and words as well.
DX: You were very instrumental in the emergence of B.o.B
Jim Jonsin: I am recording with B.o.B. [click to read] now for the next few days and we just made a track that is amazing. It is like a B.o.B. version of Pop-Rock, it is B.o.B., Jim Jonsin and Frank Romano, a guy who I work with who is an amazing musician and guitar player. It is an up-tempo joint like 140 BPM and it breaks down half time for the pre-chorus and then the second part takes off. We are creating a sound for B.o.B., his own thing. Thats the best thing about music, he is playing guitar and then going in and playing the grand piano. The guy is amazing.
DX: Now with him dabbling into new sounds and messing with instrumentation is this an inevitable progression for an artist today?
Jim Jonsin: Yeah, I think he is graduating into a real artist, a musician. He is also a songwriter and a producer and now he is graduating into being an artist rather than a rapper. Lil Wayne is doing the same; they are waiting to feel more musical and use more instruments in their music. Look at Kanye West, he isnt a rapper; he is an entertainer, a songwriter extraordinaire, he does everything. I am so happy that artists are doing that today. I love to hear that singing and melody in their music.
DX: Do you think for artists to do that they need to surround themselves with people like yourself and other talented musicians?
Jim Jonsin: I think they have to be open-minded, love music, and Ive yet to meet anyone who doesnt love music, and then remember what it is. It doesnt have to be so serious. You listen to Young Jeezy and T.I. [click to read], their music is super hard but do you hear how musical it is? They have Pop changes in their hard Rap songs; its phenomenal.
DX: Its funny because nowadays you have this abundance of artists trying to do everything themselves when really all it comes down to is the music.
Jim Jonsin: I dont care what you do, sit back and smoke or take a sip of whatever it is you drink, not trying to influence anyone of course, and then put on some Classical music, you know the type you grew up on and feel the way it feels and then play your music; then tell me if that feels the same way. To find a way to get that feeling out of your music, to the point where you get the goose bumps and it makes you get emotional and makes you feel a certain way you have to reach. Its like B.o.B., he is reaching to try and find something that completes himself.
DX: How did you actually discover B.o.B?
Jim Jonsin: He was actually discovered by Brian Richardson who then brought him to TJ Chapman, who then brought him to Rocco Valdes [click to read], who works for me at my company. When I heard his music, I thought it was amazing and right away we flew him down and there was a lightweight bidding war between Grand Hustle, Shady Records and Bryan Leach while he was at Jive Records. There was a point where he was offered another $500,000 to sign, but he felt my chemistry and the vibe and we think a lot a like. Basically, we just gelled as writers and producers. So he signed with me and then ironically a couple of years later, I did joint venture with T.I., as he loves B.o.B. and that meeting was how he got the track "Whatever You Like." I met this guy T.I., who is an amazing human being and his management, Jason Geter, I loved the chemistry and the vibe with all of them and I just thought it would be a good home for B.o.B. So we did it and now we are partners in the B.o.B. project.
DX: What do you look for in an artist, drive and energy?
Jim Jonsin: There are so many things. This is my preference, you can be an amazing artist but with the wrong attitude, I would just rather pass. I believe this is our life to live and we have one time to live it and not everything is meant to be yours. Most labels want to sign artists, they want money and they want to be on top of the charts. I just want to be happy, comfortable and make great music, so I look for a great person/artist and I use the term great because I think you should search for greatness in people and not goodness. Good is cool, but greatness is great. So you find a great person and a great artist, in general it is a much better experience. I look for that and I look for someone who is hard working and doesnt complain about the hard work, someone who is willing to eat steak or burritos; either way they are happy. You could take all this away and I would be happy with living regular.
DX: Thats important isnt it?
Jim Jonsin: That is the real truth and not just me saying that.
DX: Do you think that comes with experience or age even?
Jim Jonsin: It could be and also because I was raised right. I have a good sense of family, home and friendship. I write my music and you write your columns and I make X amount of dollars and you make Z, but at the end of the day we can still do the same things, we can go out for a beer or go out for dinner, enjoy life. It is about a level of maturity bust also about how you are brought up.
DX: Your label is Rebel Rock, is that how you see your music?
Jim Jonsin: Well I have always liked the Classic Rock bands and my father he was a biker, in a small biker crew while I was growing up. You know my 21st birthday was celebrated with 200 bikers and pick up trucks full of beer, ie and a pig roast. I mean I have always thought of myself as a rebel, you know somebody who didnt follow what everyone else was doing. You know I would never go down the same path, I would find my own. I dont like rules or being told what to do; so I am somewhat of a rebel and then I like rock. There is just a ring to it.
DX: You are executive producing on Pitbulls next album, how is that coming along?
Jim Jonsin: He loves that Miami sound so we are trying to build some unique stuff for him. We were in the studio last night as well. The guy is talented as hell.
DX: Its a shame as his last couple of projects were overlooked.
Jim Jonsin: Well, he was stuck at a shitty label [TVT Records], but now he is on Sony/Polo Ground, he is back in the game working with Bryan Leach.
DX: Well that was who he started out with over at TVT, wasnt it?
Jim Jonsin: See, Bryan is a real A&R by figuring out what the artist is going to do so he is going to be a huge asset being there with Pitbull. You have some great dudes over there at Sony who are very excited to be working with Pitbull.