J-Doe Explains Ghostwriting, Difference Between Producers & Beat-makers
The California-talent also details his latest release, "Welcome To My Fan Club," and working on Tyrese's Grammy-nominated album, "Open Invitation."
It's ironic this interview runs on Labor Day. J-Doe never seems to stop working. The California-singer, songwriter, rapper, producer has collaborated with numerous artists, including Busta Rhymes, Pharrell, Tank, Ginuwine, David Banner, T-Pain, among a slew of other super notable names. In 2012, he notched a Grammy nomination for his work on Tyrese's Open Invitation. With the release of his EP, Welcome To My Fan Club, in 2013, he steps from behind the scenes and back into the spotlight.
"This is a rebirth and a re-branding," J-Doe tells us in this wide ranging interview. "I had to make new moves in my career as far as who I’m affiliated with, as far as the people that are associated with my branding." J-Doe also explains why Welcome To My Fan Club is riskythe difference between a producer and a beat-maker, why there are so many co-writers on every Rap song, and what J-Doe groupies look like.
HipHopDX: Tell us about your project.
J-Doe: The project is called Welcome To My Fan Club. The title is pretty easy and straightforward. Once you hear this project, you will be a part of the people that are supporters of this music movement that I have going on. That’s all. That’s pretty much it. The records have been accumulated over about a year or so it’s real timeless. It was never a part of no particular sound or current sound. It was something that was made as my sound that’s going to be separate from any other sound that’s currently or used to be popping.
DX: How’s your sound different from other sounds?
J-Doe: What sound is in right now is like a [DJ Mustard] sound. Everybody is going for extreme simplicity with a very simple hook. I don’t have no problem with that. I do have a record that’s similar but it’s still not that. I wouldn’t classify [my sound] as anything. I would definitely say it’s just when you hear a great song that you love, or a great beat that you love and making a great song to it regardless of what is "the hotness right now." It's just making great music. So, that’s what this sound is. You can pretty much expect any type of genre to be mixed in to this sound. As long as there’s a great beat, I’m making a great song to it.
DX: Is that a risky approach, though?
J-Doe: Yeah, it is a risky approach, but you know, safe approach is only going to get you bunched in with a bunch of safe people, ya dig. So, this risky approach will give you two great options: great success or great failure. Either the people loved it and they couldn’t understand why nobody else did it, or they hated it and they don’t understand why you did it. But I’m OK with taking that approach because I can do the extreme safeness if needed. I don’t want to start this project like that. I’ve done that before. Ya’ll seen that for the years, the records that were pretty much traditional hot Hip Hop records. And now it’s time to step out and make a different type of mark, you know.
J-Doe Remembers Collaborating With Tyrese On Open Invitation
DX: If I google J Doe Grammy nomination, there’s a problem, the song doesn’t come up.
J-Doe: Right, well I was nominated for an album.
DX: That doesn’t come up either.
J-Doe: I was Grammy nominated for an R&B album last year for Tyrese’s album, which was called Open Invitation. I wrote four songs on there. “Stay” was the single and “What Took You So Long,” and, damn I don’t remember all the names of the songs. You can definitely look at the song tracklist and see what four songs were mine. That was a Grammy nomination last year. And somebody won that category that I never heard of, so whoever that was, salute to him, you know what I’m saying.
DX: When creating music, how does the mind state differ between writing something for someone like Tyrese versus something [for yourself]?
J-Doe: I would say I’m mostly fascinated in that because I didn’t even realize when I was coming up that I was studying R&B and trying to really understand it in a different level. I just really appreciated it and so listening to Dru Hill, and Jodeci, and Dave Hollister, all that stuff I used to like, I didn’t really understand that I was really grooming my mind to understand how to write it. I’ve always been a rapper. I’ve always been freestyling and doing that shit. That was just something I kind of realized I knew how to do later in the game. It’s really just a different switch. I don’t really have to be like, “Oh I’m about to go in there and try to sound like Tyrese” because they want me to come and do my sounds. They want that sound for their project with their voice on it, which will make it for Tyrese, and for Tank, or Jamie Foxx, Kelly Rowland. Whoever. So that’s how that works.
DX: How intense was making that album? Tyrese I think did most of the recording from his garage.
J-Doe: Man, first of all, the last Open Invitation album started in Temecula, [California] which is extra far. No time for that drive. Rese has a house in Temecula that he’ll never get rid of. That was his first house that he got when he had some bread. He moved as far away from the hood as he can get, you know what I’m saying. So we went out to Temecula and it was about 13 or 14 people staying with Rese out in that crib, zoning. I wasn’t staying because I had a newborn at that time, but I was taking the newborn with me because I had to make the album, ya dig. So I had probably an eight to 10 month old at the time, and he was with me out there, upstairs in the room with the nanny. I was downstairs and it was crowded. After I got my first week of writing with everybody, by the second week, I started just taking tracks and leaving because I didn’t want to be splitting up that much. So I would write this first verse and hook, bring it back, if they love it, they can all jump in. But I already solidified my [position]. There go my 20 percent, now you all go figure out the rest of the 80. It’s all good. So yeah that was it, it was cool though, this TGT album was a little easier because I’ve been on every album from TGT. So I did four songs on Tyrese, I did three songs on Tank, then I did four songs on Ginuwine—all of their last projects. So I end up getting a single on TGT album, and then I did another two records on there. So that’s cool, that was easier to do.
J-Doe Discusses Hip Hop Ghostwriters versus R&B Ghostwriters
DX: Do you think an emcee who has a ghostwriter is different from an R&B singer with a ghostwriter?
J-Doe: Absolutely, because R&B singers don’t necessarily have to know how to write to be able to sing. You could sing, I know a ton of people that can sing but can’t put three sentences together the right way, you know. But a rapper is supposed to be based around an idea that you can come up with these sayings, and words, and metaphors, and similes and then deliver them as well. I definitely think different of a verse that has ghostwriters, but at the same time, I still appreciate the delivery. So if you can get off the delivery better than the writer would have, then you know, that’s cool. Kudos to you. But I just wouldn’t put you up there with Eminem—somebody that was writing it and delivering it, or somebody like you know, Royce 5’ 9 or Jay Z.
DX: I think it’s really interesting that Hip Hop is now openly a collaborative sport. There’s a bunch of producers on every single song. There’s a bunch of people that write every rap. Is it time we shared some of the ownership of Hip Hop if the majority of emcees don’t write their own raps?
J-Doe: Well here’s the thing: Now these labels have become more of a factory of hit records. Let’s say a record is produced by The Stereotypes. The Stereotypes is three people, so that’s three people on the publisher name, right. When you look at [the credits] there’s three names. Atlantic [Records] is like the home of “write me a hit and then I’ll take it to B.o.B. or Flo Rida,” so they’ll have writers come in and just write hooks all day, write hooks to the beats that they like. So if we got Stereotypes that like the beat, that’s three song-writers, then we got three more dudes coming to write hooks, just find a dope hook. Now we got three dudes. There are six dudes on the publishing before the artist heard the song. Then the artist hears the record, and he’s like “okay cool” and he writes verse. Now we got seven people. But then he played it back for his man, and his man was like “Na, you shouldn’t say ‘We going outside,’ you should say ‘They going outside.’” Okay, now we got eight people on that, you know what I’m saying. We got eight people on publishing and it looks like all these fools wrote that song, but it really was the rapper probably wrote his verses, had one little switch that usually is somebody close to him, and then you got the other six people that was just trying to hopefully hope that he would love the record. So, it goes like that. Other times, you know, these rappers do have people write their whole record, but that’s more rare.
DX: Does this project feel like this is a rebirth or a re-branding of some sort?
J-Doe: Absolutely. This is a rebirth and a re-branding. I had to make new moves in my career as far as who I’m affiliated with, as far as the people that are associated with my branding. And for everything, the type of music that you heard up to this point, the type of the music won’t change, but the creativeness the angle of what type of delivery you going to receive is changed, or is elevated. It hasn’t changed. It’s elevated. And I’m able to say and do and feel free and do more music that feels innovative rather than keeping up with what’s hot, you know what I mean. So that is all happening right now, and that’s why this project is the beginning of the new beginning.
DX: It’s kind of a boastful title—Welcome To My Fan Club. Is there an arrogance behind that?
J-Doe: Man, I’m not going to lie, man. I think I’m the best person to just do anything. I don’t know if you ever notice, but my last project was called “Mister Better Than Whoever,” okay. “Mister Better Than Whoever” was basically saying, I do so many things. I wouldn’t even say I’m the best rapper that raps. But I will say, if there is a better rapper than me anywhere, cool. Can you also write a song better than me? No? Alright well then I’m better than you, no problem. Oh, you can write a song and rap better than me? Cool, well let’s sit down on this piano, and let’s see if you can do that as well as me as well. No? Okay, well if you can do that, let’s see if you can make your own record, produce it right here in front of me, because I’ll sit down and produce my own song. And then rap the song to it, and then record myself, and sing my own hook. Can you do that also? No? Okay cool, let’s also see if, you know, and the list keeps going because I’m not just writing R&B songs or Rap songs. I do pop records. My first song was “Damaged” with Danity Kane. It’s not a boastful thing, like “Oh I’m better than everybody. Ya’ll fools can’t mess with me.” But I do appreciate the time and effort that I put into all of these [talents]. I want people to feel or to notice and appreciate it as well. With this project “Welcome To My Fan Club,” I feel like when people hear it, it’s very undeniable. It’s not like you can be listening, “Oh he sound like…” Or, “This shit just sound like…” Ain’t nothing like that. So you going to hear it and appreciate this music, and you going to be a part of the support system from that point on. That’s just it.
J-Doe Explains The Difference Between Producers & Beat-makers
DX: What’s the difference between a producer and a beat-maker?
J-Doe: Producer and a beat-maker, okay. I just went to work with a producer named Oak. Oak sat there after I wrote my verses and I dropped the hook. Oak’s a producer. For example, I’ve seen Pharrell [work with Busta Rhymes]. On the last Busta rhymes single, he did the beat right there in the studio, and he was like “Yo, you should come with that whole Jamaican patois type of thing and come with that type of style.” That’s what ends up happening. Then he was like, “You know what you should do?” You just have the ideas and kind of mold the song to what’s going to be amazing. A beat-maker is somebody—dang I don’t want to use no names because it’s going to seem like a diss, but it ain’t really a diss. It’s just like how you work, it’s cool. A beat-maker makes an eight bar loop and add a few thousand whistles, and send it to you, and hopefully you create a great record on top of it. A producer is going to be there hand-in-hand giving you what you need to make a great record. They don’t have things to add or take out because sometimes you have too much. These artists be wanting to put 100 stacks on one song, three harmonies on each word. So the producer is there to guide you and help you, and actually know the vision and figure it out. Shout out to Oak and Pharrell, shit.
DX: What does a J Doe groupie look like?
J-Doe: A J Doe groupie look like? Damn, you know they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. I appreciate all of them, but I can’t get down with none of them. I can’t say they have a particular look because a lot of the people that people would consider groupies that come around me, aren’t from the same background. Sometimes they’re chicks from the ghetto. Sometimes they’re chicks from the suburbs. A lot of times, it’s people from overseas, that just keep sending me Facebook messages and they never stop. And that’s cool, but I just haven’t had a moment to respond yet. But it’s going to happen, keep on sending your messages.
DX: What do the Facebook messages say?
J-Doe: “Aw man, that’s just so dope. Aye, check it out, you know what’s crazy, I got a cousin man, he does crazy raps just like that. You guys would be dope together.” Or, “Ay man, my little sister man, my little sister got vocals. It’s crazy. Your shit is crazy, too, I love that one record you was talking about vocals. But my sister’s vocals, damn, and then my mom, dog. My mom, yo. Check this out, my mama, she sing at the choir downstairs. Yo, it would be dope if ya’ll…”
It’s like all that shit. Everybody know somebody got a family member that do what I do that is just as good or better and I need to put them on. And they don’t understand that it ain’t like that at all, like it ain’t like you see a message. I get it. I definitely don’t think it’s not that ya’ll don’t have amazing people around you. It’s just that you can’t put on. I don’t even think some of the greatest artists can just grab a person and say, “Okay I’ma put you on.” A lot of people have artists sitting around and they just can’t figure out how to get it, how to get them the catch. For me, I’m still working on my own catch, you know what I’m saying. I ain’t got no time to put somebody’s Facebook cousin on. So, I appreciate it, but man, shit, chill out.