With so many people trying their hand at Hip-Hop, it can be difficult to filter out who’s worthy of listening to, as opposed to those who have no business getting into music. But in the end, how can you deter someone from pursuing their dreams?
When it comes to Boston’s Jake the Snake AKA J the S, he’s neither the artist that will clog your eardrums with nonsense, nor does he resemble the material left over on the bad end of a strainer.
Originally from the West Indies, Nevis & St. Kitts to be precise, he later migrated to Massachusetts and honed his skills through the battle circuit, while making a name for himself.
Now with the underground experience behind him, he sets forth to bring his proficiency to the frontlines, and working with MC’s like Kool G. Rap, Joell Ortiz, Ras Kass, Devin The Dude, and B.o.B. just might do the trick.
The ex-middle school teacher turned full-fledged artist has been busy as of late putting the finishing touches on his My Will project, as he prepares for his official release, The Last Days.
With the moniker “Jake the Snake,” most people might relive their childhood and once again capture the image of the old WWE wrestler parading around the ring with a fake persona drummed up by Vince McMahon. But one thing is certain, when speaking of this new-aged “Jake,” he is surely not that.
iHipHop.com: So you’re originally from the West Indies, and then you moved to Boston?
J the S: Yeah, I’m from Nevis & St. Kitts in the West Indies.
iHipHop.com: Was it a tough transition for you at first going from there to Boston?
J the S: Before I moved to Boston, I moved around Massachusetts, but it was the obvious sh*t; like the weather. It was a little different for me because the American mentality is really different from the West Indies. I didn’t really even know what racism was until I moved to America, you know what I’m saying? Being from where I’m from race wasn’t an issue, and that’s just how I was raised.
When I came over here, I’d be friends with whomever in elementary school, and a bunch of white kids would be like, “Why are you hanging out with him?” They would say things like that, and I would just be shocked, because I never really heard sh*t like that before. Plus the way the American lifestyle is fast, and I feel time slows down back there [Nevis & St. Kitts].
iHipHop.com: When did you really start taking rhyming seriously?
J the S: Probably not until I was nineteen. I used to break dance, write graffiti, and freestyle for fun. Then when I was about 17-years-old my man took me to the studio, and he asked me to spit a verse. I really hadn’t been writing too much, so I told him I was going to write some sh*t. So I came back and recorded it, and I thought it was so ill to hear yourself back on the recording, and from there I started doing more and more stuff. It just snowballed, and I couldn’t stop. So from that point, that’s all I wanted to do.
iHipHop.com: When did you start getting a name for yourself?
J the S: I would say back in 2003… I linked up with some cats that had a studio, and they wanted to help me put out a CD. So I started doing open mic shows, and I started entering battles even though I don’t really like battling, but I knew that I needed to get some attention. After that, I started winning battles here and there. In 2003, I won this battle called the Super Bowl Battle, and it was one of the biggest battles in New England, but they don’t do it anymore.
I beat a lot of well-known rappers, so it was crazy and that started getting me attention. From there people were like, “Who’s this kid Jake the Snake?!” That really fueled me because I’m not a battler, I’m s songwriter, but I needed to get people’s attention. Then I dropped a CD and it started to get a local buzz, and I really started to go hard with it.
iHipHop.com: I actually spoke with another Boston artist not too long ago, and we were discussing how people associate Boston Hip-Hop with the “Crabs in a bucket mentality.” What’s your opinion on the state of Boston Hip-Hop?
J the S: It’s still that same mentality, and a lot of people will try to tell you that it’s not. Edo G hosted this show called the Unity Fest, and I performed, so did Big Shug, and a lot of other major Boston artists. The club was sold out and it was great because you had a lot of people in the same building who never really f*cked with each other before. But to be real, it’s almost kind of fake because when it’s over, it goes back to the same way it is.
I even did a song with Devin The Dude a couple of years ago called ‘Crabs In A Barrel’ where I was touching on issues like that. It’s real artificial, but there are some people, who are trying to eliminate that, and I like to see people come together and try to get passed that, but there are still a lot of people who hate. But you got cats like me, [Big] Shug, and Termanology doing it and showing that you don’t have to be headhunting with each other.
iHipHop.com: So talk about My Will, what can people expect to hear from that?
J the S: I don’t want to call it a mixtape, because it’s definitely not a mixtape. It’s all original production, and it’s been properly mixed and mastered.
I don’t want to call it a “street album” either because that’s so cliché, but I guess you have to call it a mixtape because it’s not my official album. It’s kind of like a prelude to my album, and it’s going to give people a sense of what to expect from The Last Days.
I got people on there like Donnie Goines, Kool G. Rap, B.o.B. from Atlanta and some other people. I’m not that dude that’s going to spit bars and bars and bars, because people get tired of that. These are all songs with concepts, ideas, and just creativeness. I’m going to be putting it out as a free downloadable mixtape, because times are hard right now and I don’t blame people for not coming out to shows and buying CD’s. So I’m going to give this one out to the people.
iHipHop.com: Staying on the subject of collaborations, you also worked with Joell Ortiz, Ras Kass, along with the aforementioned. Was any one of those collaborations your absolute favorite?
J the S: I worked with so many dudes like Skyzoo, Devin The Dude, but I would probably say working with Devin was my favorite because we did the track and then we just kicked it. He was really cool besides just the rap sh*t. So working with him was the best, because it came real natural and so he was my favorite collaboration so far. Even though it’s old now, but it still is. B.o.B. was cool too, and he’s a talented artist.
iHipHop.com: Every new artist comes into the game with certain goals. So what expectations do you have for yourself?
J the S: I wanted to be the biggest artist I could, but I didn’t want to sell my soul out. Right now I kind of changed my goals and priorities, and now I feel like I can speak on more things than I could a couple of years ago. If I was to say some intelligent sh*t a couple years back, people didn’t want to hear that; they wanted to hear me talk about some fly sh*t, selling drugs, or whatever. I feel like the time is right as of now, so my main goal with The Last Days album is to make something that’s going to last. I want to make something that I can be real proud of, and I didn’t sacrifice anything.
iHipHop.com: I read that you were also a middle school teacher at one time, was that something you just fell into?
J the S: Yeah man… When I was in high school I got into a lot of trouble, and I was about to be kicked out of school. So they made me join this volunteer program after school for elementary kids. I never worked with kids before, but I started doing it and I love it. I was so naturally good at it, and the elementary school wanted to hire me to work there.
So I did that, and as I got older I started working at other different programs in Boston. Even though I didn’t have a degree to be a teacher, I had enough experience, so they brought me in. The only reason I stopped is because the music started taking off, and I had to leave teaching to do this full time, but I miss it a lot.
iHipHop.com: Would you go back to it if your schedule allowed you to do so?
J the S: Yeah, I was thinking about it that, and just thinking about how long do I want to even be in this game. I might drop this album, and then say f*ck the industry. I’m going to always love Hip-Hop because it’s in my DNA, but the music business and Hip-Hop are two different things.
iHipHop.com: Also with a lot of new acts being released, are you concerned that your voice might get drowned out?
J the S: When I was younger in the game, I felt the same way. There are always new cats trying to come up. Right now you have the XXL [Magazine] with all the new kids on the cover, and last year they did the same thing with other artists. I used to care about that sh*t, but now I don’t because I’m confident that I don’t sound like anybody else, and the way I come across is very unique. There are a lot of “hipster rappers” that are very popular right now, and I’m not knocking anybody’s style.
But these kids are getting snatched up by the labels because of their image, I’m not saying that it’s a gimmick, but can [they] make a career from being all about the 80’s? I don’t know… There are dope rappers that come out on that sh*t, and honor it, and I wish them the best, but I don’t care because I don’t sound like Mickey Factz, Charles Hamilton, Asher Roth, or the Cool Kids; that’s not me. I’m not knocking that, but that’s just not what I’m about. So I don’t get concerned with any of that truthfully…