Finding Our Way with Jansport J


Some may know him as Sport The Pharaoh, others as the Soul Provider. But most will know him simply as Jansport J. One thing we know for sure is this Covina, Californian native is determined to make his mark on the music industry. Dedicating the last eight years to becoming a full time producer, Jansport J's journey has seen him work with artists such as Planet Asia, Kool G Rap, Strong Arm Steady and AZ, just to name a few. Identifying his style as "soul-sample based sound", Jansport J makes music that reflects his hip hop roots. We chat to Jansport J about a journey from false hope to opportunity, the song that sparked his ambitions and how his recent Instrumental LP 'For Love.' became a soundtrack for all of the things we do for love. Jesse Kuss writes.

For those who may not be familiar with your work, how would you describe your production style?

I try to do a little bit of everything, and have my work be a reflection of the different styles of hip hop I grew up listening to. My bread and butter and more notable style would have to be the soul-sample based sound. I am a soul provider.

You chose beat-making as a serious career path around 2005. What has the journey been like for you since then?

Probably the hardest yet most rewarding journey I've taken. Over 7-8 years there have been so many failures and false promises, as well as moments of growth and amazing chance-in-a-lifetime opportunities. The whole experience has not only led me to become a better producer, but a stronger man. Persistence and a strong sense of purpose has definitely been the key for me sticking to it this long. I made the decision to not be bashful over my aspirations in 2005, and took the initiative in 2008 to dedicate every day to making my dream of being a full-time music producer come true. Despite all of the "no's" and false starts, my passion and those few successful opportunities have fuelled me to this point where I am finally starting to see the fruits of the labour. It's an amazing feeling, and I want to continue a tireless work ethic to make things happen.

I've heard you mention the likes of J Dilla, Pete Rock and DJ Premier amongst some of your biggest inspirations. What is it about their style that you are drawn to? How does that influence your own style?

What initially draws me to them is that they are all soul-sample based, like I am. They are the ‘sensei's’ of that shit. In order for me to have any longevity, I feel like it's necessary to study the greats, how they do what they do, and either incorporate small elements or take their way of thinking and apply it to their own. Very small example: Dilla is the greatest. A lot of people will take his drums, loops, chops, even the "Dilla siren" and use them as their own with little to no twist on it. Rather than blatantly steal his shit, I realised that Dilla branded his music with that siren. That siren lets you know it was a Dilla joint and got you even more hype about it. Sometimes you can't even wait to hear it in the track. So I took notice of that and now use my own sound trademark on my beats (the "woo!" sound from a Beastie Boys record). Just little things like that. It's important to know where you come from if you want to take the culture anywhere in the future, and that's why I study my heroes.

One of the songs that cemented my love of the 'old school' Hip Hop sound was 'Find A Way' by A Tribe Called Quest. Was there a particular song you heard growing up that made you realise this was what you wanted to do?

That's crazy, because "Find A Way" is my favourite hip hop song of all time! The song in particular that sparked my production ambitions was Missy's "I can't stand the Rain" when I was 11 years old. It had a new sound to it, and I overheard my sister talking to her friends about this new guy named Timbaland who did the beat. I bought Timbaland & Magoo's "Welcome to our World" later that year and that was it for me. I'd practice his drum patterns on my lap all the time. I didn't know how to go about it, but I knew I wanted to be like Timbaland when I grew up.

You have released a project more or less every year since 2008. You seem to devote a lot of time towards each project, is it important for you to take your time with each release? What is your process?

It is. Each project is like a child to me and really a time capsule of my thoughts/feelings at the moment. I draw heavily off emotion and concepts associated with my emotions at that time. I think of music production like jump shots in basketball; you practice every single day, even in the summer when there are no games. So I'll usually know that I want to start a new album, and just make random beats until a concept or idea comes to me. Once I get that, I hone in and start creating records in that lane.

You released your 5th project at the end of last year, an instrumental album titled 'For Love.' Tell us about the LP. What has the response been like?
For Love is the first instrumental project I've done that wasn't so concept-based, at least in creating it. It was more so just me meditating on what love is, what love means, what's healthy about love, what's dangerous about love, etc. The album is nothing more than a soundtrack for that whole period of me focusing on that. The response has been a unique one. I started off sending it directly to fans that sent their information to a specific email. Thanked them for their years of support, and encouraged them to share the album. I didn't send it to any blogs until a month after. However during that time, what started off as an email to 150 fans spread to 1000 downloads before an official press release. I've also gotten a lot of positive responses from fans thanking me for thinking of them first. So it's done what I wanted it to do; the people who connect with my music connect to it. That's all I can ask for.

You were recently voted 'Favourite Producer' as part of the True Sounds/ Native Instruments Producer Showcase in LA. How did it feel knowing you had that kind of support from your fans? What was the experience like for you appearing alongside a number of great producers?

I'm very appreciative to not only have fans that support my music, but ones that take an active role in making sure I succeed in my endeavours. My fans spread my music, send me positivity, and vote for me in online polls with a line-up of peers that inspire me daily. I didn't even vote for myself in that poll, my favourite producer is my man Willie B, of Digi+Phonics/TDE! But I'm so very thankful for that honour. It makes me want to work harder and not let my supporters down. The show was amazing, it was my 3rd year involved in it. It's kind of like a religious revival for LA Producers. We all know each other and a fan of each other's work, so to get in one room to press play to entertain a crowd and inspire each other, there's nothing better.

I understand you used to actually write rhymes as part of a group called the Rhythm Voyagers Crew, but you stopped because you hated the sound of your own voice? Is that true? Have you considered rhyming again since?
Yes, I hate my voice. (Laughs)  I know every rapper does. I still dabble in writing and can be instrumental in helping rappers put a particular record together. I do occasionally toy with the idea of doing something, but I don't know. I don't see it in the near future at all. I'm very content right now with striving to be the best producer that I can be. There's so much more room for growth in that department that I can't afford to dabble with rapping. I never say never, but we'll say probably not.  (laughs)

You have been spending quite a bit of time over at the Delicious Vinyl headquarters lately. Can we expect some exciting new things from you soon?

Yes I told them I'm about to start moving furniture in there. The experience with Delicious Vinyl has been amazing; it's felt like home since the first day I walked in. I've been working with Bizarre Ride Live (Fatlip & Slimkid of Pharcyde; LA Jay and J-Swift) on some new material. They're touring a lot right now, but I get in the office maybe twice a week and work on records for them. Also been working on some other material up there that'll be revealed in due time, that I'm very excited about. But all of the staff at the label, even all the way up to the owners Mike and Rick Ross, have made me feel more than welcome up there. I look forward to continuing to develop our solid relationship.


Dream collaboration?
MF Doom & Ghostface Killah

Last record you purchased?
Atychiphobia by Curtiss King

Favourite sample?
Any Black Ivory song on their album "Don't turn around."
I love Black Ivory, and Phyllis Hyman.

What stimulates your soul?
Soul music stimulates my ironic? That moment right
when I've added everything I'm going to add to a beat, I'll stand
up and just listen....that moment stimulates my soul.

You can catch Jansport J spinning that goodness at Paid Dues Festival Saturday 30th March in San Bernardino.