Jazze Pha: Baller Blockin'

posted November 14, 2007 12:00:00 AM CST | 14 comments

Like the cadences Tupac's prolific poetry or Snoop and E-40's slanguage, Jazze Pha appears to have a secret fetish for the letter "Z." Having branded his production with, "This is a Jazze Phizzle production!" tag, the infamous calling card of the Sho Nuff front man might be taking a brief sabbatical.

After realizing he wasnt going to make it as a rapper, Jazze sat behind the boards and has never really had a minute to look over his shoulder to what could have been. Making music for others has been both productive and financially viable for Jazze. Putting down the mic has not demeaned him in anyway. With humble production beginnings with Ras Kass and Nappy Roots, things spiraled when Pha added "The Princess of Crunk" to his credits. Subsequently, Jazze caught the attention of Cash Money Records, and reportedly sold a fleet of 50 beats at once. Talking hate, developing talent and relevancy..this is a HipHopDX-izzle production.

HipHopDX: Your phone played me "Rio" by Duran Duran when I called you, why that joint?
Jazze Pha:
I love Duran Duran. That joint there, their music makes me think about the ocean. It just reminds me of a time when everyone watched MTV.

DX: That was the time when videos starting coming out...
Yeah that was when MTV played videos all day long and now all you get to see is a reality show. How can you have music TV with no music? It should be RTV, Reality TV as that is what it has become.

DX: Was producing always the path you wanted to take as your family are very musical?
Actually, taking courses when I was really young, I wanted to be a singer. As I grew up, people started rapping and I was like, "Wow, look at LL Cool J and Run-DMC." I wanted to rap and sing. But in the process, I was around music and I was learning how to make music but it didnt ever occur to me that production was a way off life. It was just a way to get my ideas out. I would say that it was the year of 1990 or so where I realized the artist thing wasnt really working for me and those that were working for me were always turning up late. That was how I started to learn how to work the equipment and once I did that, I just started making music for everybody else.

DX: Saying that it wasnt working for you, was it easy for you to throw in the towel? Nowadays you see a lot of people that maybe should have thrown in the towel...
It is hard to say when someone should throw in the towel. When you watch those shows [remembering] one hit wonders, you just never know when someone is going to get that one hit and be known and have their life change over one record. You know there are times when it is obvious that someone should throw in the towel.

DX: Do you think it is hard to stay relevant as a producer today?
Yes it is, because as much as we love music and when I say "we" I mean people that are into real music like live bass and strings; you really have to have the resources to go above and beyond what is trendy and what is hot at the time. When you are a young producer, I think it is harder than say for myself. I can go to the simple and the trivial, but that is not where I want to take my music anymore. When you grow, your music should grow. So to answer your question it is hard to stay relevant. When you are a creative person, you believe what you believe, and unfortunately record execs dont want you to believe anything, they just want you to do what they heard on the last record and what helped them get a billion ring tones.

DX: Being that you have your own label and you are a record exec, is this always in your head when you are working with your artists, that you have to go against the grain?
No, as it is not all about going against the grain. You know we have artists that do the relevant stuff; you know whats going on in the streets right now. But there is a happy medium of both, as I am going to come in there and do four or five songs on every album. But I dont make them conform to what I do. The artists that I usually pick have a sound to themselves as I dont pick under developed talent. I really dont have time to be developing talent. Every once in a while I will take a project as my baby and develop it, but it is more often that I will take something that is ready to go.

DX: Was Ciara a project you took on as a baby?
Oh yeah most definitely, most definitely and I have another project I am working on from the ground up which is going to be crazy, but I am not going to talk on that.

DX: Thats not fair.[Laughing]
I cant really talk about it as it is in negotiations and it is someone every one knows and if I bring everyones attention to it, there is going to be questions asked.

DX: So what does it take to attract you to a situation where you want to work with someone from the ground up?
It does take a special attraction. I am not as easily attracted to artists as I used to be. Right now you have to really, really scour the earth to find the ones and they only come once in a while. Like Ciara, she is one of those ones. Just take Death Row [Records], there was only one Dr. Dre and there was only one Snoop Dogg and then of course Tupac, he came later, but they were the legendary cornerstones in that label.

DX: You have your situation with Cash Money. Was this something you were actively seeking or was it a case of them approaching you because of work you had done?
Well it was my man Greg Street, a DJ out here [in Atlanta], he introduced me to Baby and he brought Baby out as he was trying to do a song for something, but I cant remember what it was. He was trying to get a beat done right there and then because I guess [Mannie] Fresh was somewhere. He had asked Fresh about me, and he had said he liked me. I made the beat. When Baby walked out of the studio and he couldnt believe I had made the beat. So he asked me to play him some stuff and I did, and that was it.

DX: Would you determine that as your big break or would there be another moment that you recognize as say the defining moment of your career this far?
It was part of it as he put me out there in a real great capacity. You know I have a great relationship with Cash Money and with Baby. Baby is one of those ones who tapped into what I was doing and not just the beats; he was into the beats, the hooks that I wrote, the whole Jazze Pha movement. That was what was special to me; letting me get out there and stamp my shit, say what I want to say.

DX: Those situations dont really happen nowadays.
Oh no, nobody wants to buy 50 Jazze Pha beats. They might want to do it, but they just cant afford it. A lot of artists have their own producers nowadays.

DX: Do you think this is how the industry is going to go; producers and artists align themselves with each other as opposed to just randomly selecting producers to work with?
Yeah I think everybody is starting to produce their own records and what they do is they produce the records up to the point that they think they are good and if they dont have a hit single at the end of the budget, they call say a person like a Jazze Pha or a Mannie Fresh or a Scott Storch or whoever they might call to go go do one great big beat. Depending on that beat, that will be their first big single. Then if they dont get it then they are right back to the drawing board. That is a lot of pressure; I would rather you gave me three shots at making the number one single.

DX: But thats a lot of money...
Yeah its a lot of money but I mean, you get what you pay for.

DX: Some people will argue though that you dont have to put your hand so deep into your pocket nowadays for beats.
No, you dont have to put your hand so deep into your pocket for beats, but for your production you do. Production is a movement. I mean I play obviously the bass and keyboards.

DX: Anything else?
Basically just keyboards and drums and I have people that play everything under the sun of course.

DX: Having that band of musicians is vital for producers isnt it?
Yeah I mean me and Tricky Stewart just did a Mary J Blige track where we used real strings, real bass, real guitar, real percussion, real hand claps; everything was real for her first single. That will sound so great in the club. The real stuff will always shine through to me.

DX: Is that the way you prefer to work?
Yeah, and I wish everyone could afford to do it like that, but unfortunately, everyone doesnt. I am moving myself into that genre where you dont have to compromise on music.

DX: But doesnt it take a while to get to that place?
Yes it does. I mean sometimes producers are lucky and some are around the big X already and around the big producers where they will say, "That will be perfect for Janet Jackson," and give it to her. Unfortunately, I didnt have it like that.

DX: You have branded yourself with the tag you have on your beats, everyone knows it is a Jazze Pha beat. Branding was obviously important...
Well it was important at first, then after a while to some people, mostly creative people it becomes obnoxious as you start to over shadow the artist a little bit. People start getting offended by the fact that it says Jazze Pha has produced the track.

DX: Like?
I am not going to say no names [laughing], but certain artists dont want me saying my name on the beat. That is the downside of working with big artists.

DX: So when that happens, do you say, "okay, fine"?
Yeah, it's cool. It's just one of those things. I mean when you work with certain artist at that time of a certain caliber, they thinking so much and they start to over think things. Like, "Jazze Pha is going to make it off me." You know there is going to be a lot of stuff coming up that I am purposely not going to say my name on because I do it to make it hater-proof.

DX: Do you have a lot of haters?
Of course, but I dont call them haters, I call them underachievers.

DX: You kind of expect the ego when it comes to rappers, but there is a lot of competition between producers too...
Oh yeah there is a lot of competition. There is like a real quiet war going on and you never know when someone is going to strike. The war goes on on the inside of the game. You know people might let you think you are doing something for a couple of weeks, but then they turn around and say that someone else is taking over the whole project and you need to talk to that person if you want a song on there. This is how the ball rolls and one hour can determine a certain factor as to if you work on a project or not.

DX: Any project you have missed out on that you wish you could have been a part of?
Let me think. Oh yeah. Beyonce, I love her. I would have loved to have been on that project.

DX: Werent you supposed to be on that project?
Argh, its hard to say that, because everything that happens happens for a reason. But that is going to happen and it will be bigger than ever as the excitement is building.

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