Filed under: Features,Interviews,Not Your Average,Rap Veterans,Staten aka Shaolin,The 90's Files
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Best known for his two independent singles and involvement with Marley Marl’s Future Flavas radio show, Staten Island’s J.Force revealed that he has a long history in the rap game dating back to the late 80’s when he sat down to share his story with me recently.
Robbie: How did you start in the music game?
J. Force: I made a record in 1993 called ‘Bullseye’. I sampled Black Moon ‘How Many MC’s’ and I mixed in Special Ed ‘Think About It’. Came out with a single in ’94, pumped it out my trunk, I wound-up selling to two major retailers in the city of New York – one was Fat Beats Records, the other one was Beat Street in Brooklyn – and it was all history from there. A lotta overseas people came to those stores and bought the record. I had a logo of a jester on the sticker. I also mixed it at the House of Hits with Marley Marl. I was fortunate enough to get Marley to mix the first record. Then I put out a second record in ’95, called ‘For All Thoze’ and ‘Runnin’ On E’, and Marley mixed those as well. I sampled Deathwish on ‘For All Thoze’, and for ‘Bullseye’ as well. That was my favorite soundtrack for a long time.
How did you meet Marley originally?
The first time I spoke to Marley was at a record store. There was a vinyl spot in Nanuet called Tapeville USA, and he’s like, ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I brought Mike Tyson to your show on WBLS’. He was like, ‘Oh shit! What’s your name?’ Then I said to him, ‘Out of everybody that took that Otis Redding sample for ‘The Symphony’, what in the world possessed you to change the beat for part 2? ‘Cos I don’t like part 2′. Marley appreciated my honesty. He said, ‘What are you doing tonight? Do you wanna kick it for a little bit?’
How did you know Mike Tyson?
I was in front of WBLS in 1988, and my friend had this 380GX car that he was parking, and then we see him! We just wound-up talking to him. He had two bodyguards that looked like they’d had it with him – they were done watching him for the day – he was like, ‘Yo, let’s go party’. We were like, ‘Nah, I’m trying to get into WBLS’. He’s like, ‘What are you doing going to WBLS, white boy?’ I said, ‘I’m going to check-out Marley Marl and Kevvie Kev‘. He was like, ‘You know I’m a KISS [FM] man myself. I’m a Red Alert man, but I’ll go fuck with Marley’. So we went up and Marley was freaking out over the fact that Mike Tyson was rolling into his show. Marley taped us that night, because BET was doing a story on him. Mike made me rap for Marley and everything. I was nervous and stuff, but…Marley still has it on tape, by the way, it was a really embarrassing moment – I had long hair.
Why did you have long hair if you were a rap fan back then?
I’m a rock drummer by nature. I was brought-up playing he drums. That was around the time when jean jackets and long tweed coats were in style, and that was my look. What was ill about me was I could spit like I was from the hood, but I didn’t look anything like it, so it was kinda wild to see. I was tall and skinny with long hair. I was so nervous to be around Marley, he was like a god to me. I actually learned a lot from working with him and watching how he cuts records and produces and stuff. That was the best education in the world.
A couple of years later I ended-up doing the Future Flavas with Marley Marl and Pete Rock, where of course I rocked he SP-1200 live on the air. I collected a barrage of freestyles and exclusives from 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, U-God. I had one with Sauce Money, KRS, Black Rob, just a whole bunch. I was just bangin’ out all these exclusives before and after the show, that was my thing for a minute. I don’t know if you remember that record ‘Kingz Kounty’, by Jaz-O? I did that one as well. I was always on the b-side. I got no credit on ‘Kingz Kounty’. I was also on Rawkus, on a Big Daddy Kane test-pressing that was called ‘Three’s Company’, and the flipside, which was my record, called ‘Foundation Symphony’, where I chopped the ‘Cramp Your Style’ break. I did a whole slew of movies with the networks – BET and VH1. I did the whole Beef series; I did Bling for VH1, which was the Blood Diamond story. I also did Rock The Bells for Open Road Films – that was the Wu-Tang Clan movie, the last Ol’ Dirty Bastard live on stage performance. A movie called The MC. I rocked with Killa Sha, and of late I did two Roc Marciano remixes – ‘Warm Hennessy’ and ‘Do The Honors’. I made it into the SP-1200 official book, which is coming out with a hard-cover right now. I’ve been rocking the SP-1200 for many years.
I enjoyed the Cadillac Respect remix project you did earlier this year. What was the inspiration behind that?
I call them ‘Revisits’, they’re technically not remixes. I called-up the old classics that made-up the Golden Era of the game in the 90’s, most of the stuff that I’m missing nowadays. I figure just let me revisit these joints, which really hasn’t been done before. I’ve been blessed – Kayslay has been playing them, the Heavy Hitters – and I haven’t even started pushing it yet. There’s an original joint from me on there called ‘Pink Chicken’ – we might come out with that as a single around Christmas time with a new joint on there.
I always liked ‘For All Thoze’. Was that you’re most popular joint?
A lotta people ignored ‘For All Thoze’, except for DJ Premier and Stretch Armstrong – two of my favorite DJ’s. They played everything I ever did, for which I’m equally blessed. I was on ‘Battle of the Beats’ back in the day on Hot 97 with ‘For All Thoze’. It went up against Lost Boys ‘Music Makes Me High’ [Remix]. Just a little tidbit for ya. I lost…
Why did you stop rhyming after those two singles?
I heard Jo Jo Pelligrino back in the day, and I kinda felt like this is not really my 24 hour thing. I like to fish for samples and make beats. I actually produced about four for Jo Jo, at the same time I was working with Killa Sha and a couple of other guys that were coming to the House of Hits. Larry-O had a group, and I was working on some stuff that didn’t come out. I really did take a step from rapping. I started getting closer to my 30’s at the time, and I felt like, ‘It’s a young man’s sport’. I kinda felt like I was too old to keep rapping.
When had you started rapping?
Kev-E-Kev and AK B, they had a crew back in’87,’88, and I was the white kid in the crew that rhymed. They were the GMC Crew. In that time I recorded a barrage of demos produced by Kev-E-Kev and AK B. We did a buncha joints – ‘Identical To None’, I did a song called ‘Skeezer’, another song called ‘Ultimate One’, one song called ‘Brace Yourself’. I’d love to find them, some of them were pretty good! They were DNA Records, Super Lover Cee‘s label, and they were actually produced by the late, great Paul C. McKasty and Marley Marl. We did some WBLS shows around the map, and in years after that, I ran into Ski from the Bizzie Boys at WBLS and wound-up becoming a member of Payroll Productions, which was the Bizzie Boys, Supreme Nyborn and all those guys from North Carolina. So I ended-up fusing with them – shout-out to DJ K-Nice. They’re coming out with a 25th anniversary record too.
To make a longer story even longer – I’ve been rapping forever. That’s what I did after the deejaying, after the breakdancing. I was also in a Pringles commercial, breakdancing in 1986 – token white boy! [laughs] I was nasty at the popping and ticking, I used to do all of that stuff. I kinda did everything but graffiti. I was deejaying the whole time that I was rapping, and eventually I got sick of just waiting on other people to get me beats, so I started fishing for my own stuff. I fell in love with the SP-1200 around 1990, 1991. I’m holding some heat, Rob. If the ball would start to really roll quick, right now, I’ve got about a ten year run without even making another beat. Cadillac Respect is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of those were Future Flavas exclusives that were never available ’till now. It was like I made a business card with some catchy little interludes.
Those Future Flavas remixes were one of the highlights of the show for me.
I had two SP-1200’s and a mixer, and I was right next to Pete Rock with the two turntables, and I would rock live. We had Mobb Deep there one night, and so was Heltah Skeltah, and they would freestyle live over my music, over the SP-1200 beats. The Roots were airing it out too, for like 20 minutes I would keep popping beats in! I used to love it, I used to do it all for the props.
How long were you with the show?
I would say from ’98 to 2001, or if not, ’99 to 2002…I have no conception of time or years. We did a coupe of Westwood shows, too, on the weekend. We would rock in the UK and America at the same time. It was pretty ill. Marley was ill because he would rock right outta his house! He brought all the old transmitters from the old Hot 97 and he put it in his house, so all the guests came to Marley’s house.
What were some of the highlights?
One was the Black Rob freestyle. He had the ‘Woah’ record out strong at the moment and he just lit it up. Heltah Skeltah – Sean Price and his partner – they were airing-out a J. Force beat for twenty-something minutes on the air, it was crazy. There was also a cat who no one ever heard of again, his name is Unabomber. He was killin’ about three beats that I set him, all in a row. The Raekwon exclusive that I did – I did a revisit of a Raekwon record that never came out. They’ve never released that.
We would rock on the air, after the show was over I would ask Marley, ‘Do you want to step into Studio A and make any of these exclusives? Just grab the rapper and go record it for real’. He was like, ‘If you wanna do that, man, that’s cool’. So right after the show we’d walk across the hall, literally, into the A Room, where Mama Said Knock You Out was recorded. Same studio that they recorded all the Juice Crew stuff, ‘The Symphony’. Marley has a radio room, a mixing room, a recording room – all in his house.
That was the big place with the pool, right?
Marley’s House of Hits – Chestnut Ridge, New York. He went from the Bridge to the Ridge!
What other stuff did you do with Killa Sha?
We did a track called ‘Analyse’. I really didn’t love the beat, I just was playing him beats one day and he’s like, ‘Yo Force! I love that one!’ I’m like, ‘Really?’ I put it on by accident. He jumped all over it, I had the hook right on the disc. He ran with it. I’ve got some cutting-room floor Kila Sha lyrics, from a K-1 track, that I put a beat to. It’s a ‘now’ beat, it was supposed to be on Good Shepard. I also did the ‘Black Dracula’. I discredited on that by accident, Marley got the credit but I really did it.
Can you tell me more about hanging with Kev-E-Kev and AK B?
We were all upstate guys for a second, and they were the only guys up in town making noise. They had a deal with DNA Records – which was Super Lover Cee and Cassanova Rudd‘s label – and they were performing with those guys. I would go to some of the show’s in the city, and all round that time Paul C. was like a monster on the beats. I was like, ‘Wow! A white dude making beats!’ He was almost an inspiration for me as a young protege. I felt like, ‘Maybe it’s not impossible that I could get on the production tip’. Then he was murdered. It was just a really weird time, it’s kinda where everything fell apart. DNA never put the record out.
I was approached by this Canadian label [Goodfelons] for my ‘Bullseye’ record, which was going for $150 on Ebay – I did such limited pressings of it, maybe two or three thousand copies – and I turned them on to Kev-E-Kev and Ak B and they were like, ‘You have unreleased Paul C records with them?’ It’s called Welcome To Dopeland. It’s half produced by Paul C. and half produced by Marley Marl. They’re doing an instrumental version of the album too. That’s about to come out any minute now. I can’t wait to get my own copy of it, I’m a vinyl junkie too – I collect all that crap.
Nice. DNA was Hank Love’s label wasn’t it?
Correct. They also had a radio show, they used to do a ‘Star For A Night’ segment. They had Super Lover Cee ‘Do The James’,they had Kev-E-Kev and Ak B which came out with ‘Listen To The Man’ 12″ and the second one, ‘Keep On Doin’, but the album never came out.
There were implications involving Super Lover Cee and Paul C’s murder, right?
Yeah, people thought that Super Lover Cee let the murderer into the studio, there were all kinds of rumors. Super Lover Cee was on the run for a little while, he ran outta the state, was what I heard. They were never the ones that did that, but they were just implicated. I remember people said that Eric B. had something to do with it. It was crazy that time, man. I actually have Paul C. SP-1200 drum discs that I can load into my machine, which is a little spooky.
What happened with the Payroll Records connection?
I was supposed to come out on Payroll, but right before I did the label went under. I was gonna be one of the first white boys to rhyme on record, but it never happened for me. I went to Wild Pitch trying to get a deal and we were pitching to Loud. I was going back for two or three meetings with each label and they were like, ‘Wow, how do we market this?’. My style was nothing how my image portrayed. No one knew I was white on any one of my records. Me and Willski were very tight for a while. He had a song [with Original Flavor] called ‘Best Friend’s Girl’ which I wrote with him in a diner in New Jersey.
Within that same time, we were working out of studio in Inglewood called RPM. At RPM, a record I was working on with the engineer called ‘Dippity’ came out on East Harlem Records, which was the East Side Hoods. They had three or four 12″s at the time. It was the b-side to a track called ‘Funky Smiles’. It was in the Supercat era, like ’93 – my first real record that I did on wax wasn’t rapping at all. That was actually played pretty heavy, that’s actually the first J. Force vinyl.
One of those party breaks records?
Yeah, it’s called ‘Dippity’. I actually got the credit on that one too. I took Lou Reed ‘Wild Side’, I took Black Sheep ‘Choice Is Yours’, I took the Public Enemy break-beat, I had the Malcolm McLaren in there.
What did you make that track on?
I hooked it up on the SP-1200 and the S-950. I just left this track in the studio, I never thought it would become anything, and sure enough the owner of East Harlem Records actually took the master and mixed it. When he saw me, he was like, ‘By the way, I’m putting this on the b-side of my new East Side Hoods joint. You weren’t doing nothing with it’. It was pretty cool.
When did you get your SP-1200?
When I graduated high school. A sports commentator, Jimmy Cavallo, used to have a show on ESPN called Cavallo’s Corner. He actually fronted me the money to get the SP-1200. It was $1,700 I believe, one of the last models with the black trim on it. That was 1991.
What was the first live show you ever saw?
The Dope Jam Tour at Madison Square Garden. It was KRS-One, Eric B. and Rakim, Public Enemy and LL Cool J. I was in the twefth row from the stage. Nuts!
Did LL jump out of the huge boom box?
Yeah! He did ‘I’m Bad’ and the boombox came from the sky! Then he jumped out of the tape deck of a box radio. He was the main event. Scott La Rock had just got killed at that time, so KRS-One performed with his picture on the stage, with the turntables in front of it. It was crazy.
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