J Rawls is probably best known for his production on the ” classic hit “Brown Skin Lady” by Mos Def and Talib Kweli on Rawkus Records.” His work in hip-hop through the years is well respected. Most recently, he released what he refers to as his final album project as an artist, The Legacy, opting to concentrate more on the 2nd phase of his legacy as “Founder/Owner/Producer/DJ/Educator” with his new label Polar Entertainment. To that end, I’m certain we will find more of J Rawls’ work making it’s way to market soon enough. No, this is not the end… It’s only the beginning. But first we celebrate ‘The Legacy’ thus far.
BTR: Tell us a bit about J Rawls for those that don’t know?
J Rawls: I am from Columbus Ohio and I have been producing music since the late 80’s. I was blessed in 1998 to have the opportunity to work with Mos Def and Talib Kweli on the Blackstar album, producing 2 tracks, Brown Skin Lady and Yo Yeah.
BTR: You’ve done some really great work with the likes of The Beastie Boys, Wordsworth, Masta Ace, Mos Def and Talib Kweli and many others. How did you come to the point of working with these artists given that you hail from Columbus. Ohio?
J Rawls: I had one chance with the opportunity to work with Kwe and Mos, from there, I used networking and relationships to have the chance to work with other artists. It has been a great journey and I have been blessed.
BTR: More specifically about Black Star’s Brown Skin Lady back in 1998… How did that collaborative effort between J Rawls and Black Star come about?
J Rawls: I had met Kweli through friends in Cincinnati. I was a college student at the University of Cincinnati and when I met Kweli he had not yet released the Fortified Live 12 inch on Rawkus. By the time that came out and he had a buzz, he told me to give him some beats because he was working on an album with Mos. I gave him the beat tape, the rest is history.
BTR: Are you a traditionally trained musician? If so, what’s your instrument?
J Rawls: No I am not. I play keys by ear, but not as well as I would like.
BTR: I noticed in your BIO on Polar Entertainment that it says “When his biography comes out in novel form, they will all be listed!” Is there a book in the works?
J Rawls: No, I am currently working on my dissertation to obtain my PhD. That is the only book I am writing now. LOL
BTR: Who are your influences?
J Rawls: Primo, Lord Finesse, Q Tip, Diamond D, Pete Rock, Quincy Jones,
BTR: What’s your studio rig looking like these days compared to what it looked like say in 1998/ 1999?
J Rawls: Its actually not changed much. I still use the Ensoniq ASR10 to make beats, I use a 73 Fender Rhodes, a Korg Triton, and an Akai MPC 200xl. That’s about it..
BTR: Do you have a favorite piece of gear?
J Rawls: Ensoniq ASR10
BTR: What’s your creative process like when you sit down to make a beat?
J Rawls: I usually just listen to music while I am doing something else, such as cleaning or writing. Once I hear something inspirational I start with drums. Once I make the drums the rest comes easy!
BTR: What advice could give to young aspiring beat makers?
J Rawls: Never give up. Its getting harder out here to do music….dont stop. Real talent shines through.
‘The Legacy’ features Illa J, Oddisee, Wordsworth, Nottz Raw, Blueprint, JG the Juggernaut and many more as well as production from Kev Brown, RASHAD, The Mighty DR, Rob Riley, Lakim and DJ O Sharp. The feature list and production credits are mad impressive. So let’s talk about the latest project “The Legacy” …
BTR: Why did you choose these particular folks to work with on “The Legacy”?
J Rawls: Many of them I have been fans of, such as Kev Brown, Illa J as a singer, Words, Masta Ace….Some of the new people will be working with my label POLAR ENTERTAINMENT. Expect projects from Ceezar and Jean P and some new artists not on the album — Satele and Brittany Nacole
BTR: How long have you been working on this project?
J Rawls: A couple of years. On and off…
BTR: Do you have a favorite joint or a favorite collaboration on it? If so why is it your fav?
J Rawls: Nah. The whole album is my baby. It was fun to do…
BTR: The Legacy is said to be your last project. What’s the story behind that?
J Rawls: I am at a point where I want to help other acts from Ohio and other places that don’t get much spotlight get a shot. My label POLAR ENT. Will be releasing many projects stay tuned!!
BTR: What type projects are coming up for Polar Ent?
J Rawls: Satele will be releasing an EDM project, Brittany Nacole will be releasing a neo soul project. We have a Jazz album, and of course MORE hip hop with Ceezar!
J Rawls – The Legacy
1. Alpha feat. Barb Fant
2. My People (Prod. By Rashad)
3. Bills feat. Masta Ace (Prod. By Bombeardo)
4. The Legacy feat. John Robinson, Ceezar & Lea Anderson (Prod. By Lakim)
5. Pure Love feat. Keisha Soleil (Prod. By Rob Riley)
6. Rio feat. Rashad (Prod. By Rashad)
7. One Time feat. Wordsworth (Prod. By The Mighty DR)
8. Southside feat. Ms. Sara D (Prod. By Bombeardo)
9. Mr. Cool feat. P Blackk, Jean P & Driskill (Prod. By Kev Brown)
10.Nonstop (Prod. By Rob Riley)
11.The Rest of My Life feat. Illa J (Prod. By The Mighty DR)
12.Omega feat. JG the Juggernaut (Prod. By DJ O Sharp)
13.Bonus: Best Producer on the Mic II feat. Oddissee, Nottz Raw & Blue Print (Prod. By J Rawls)