History has proven that someone can be the most talented MC in the world, but if you don’t have solid production, you’re more likely to fall flat on your face. Even though fans might sing their favorite artists lyrics for years to come, initially the beat is what’s going to attract them to take a listen. From DJ Premier, to Pete Rock, to 9th Wonder, they’ve all helped MC’s fill their resumes up with head-nodding classics.
But if you want to take a closer look into the world of production, then pay close attention to West Coast native J Wells. This producer/rapper first got his start by touring with the Likwit Crew, which consisted of Hip-Hop veterans such as King Tee, and Tha Liks (formerly known as Tha Alkaholiks). After building up his buzz with "The Wolfpac Mixtape" which featured some of the best MC’s the West Coast has to offer, he quickly compiled a working relationship with artists throughout other regions as well.
Now he steps back in with his newest creation, "Digital Smoke", a joint project with himself and the one and only Dogg Pound Gangsta, Kurupt. CrackSpace.com had a chance to chop it up with the West Coast beatsmith as he breaks down the creative process of making albums, his association with Kurupt, and the art of making noise.
CrackSpace.com: So how did you and Kurupt come together for this album?
J Wells: Well we’ve been working together since the Puff, Puff Pass Tour back in 2001. When I first met him, I was on tour with Alkaholiks. So pretty much, we’ve been working together ever since then. We kind of accumulated records over the years, and he came with the idea, and supported me.
CrackSpace.com: What would you say is your first love? Producing or rapping?
J Wells: My producing is a monster of its own, I’ve been doing that for years. I just produced something for Keyshia Cole’s new album, and I got stuff with Snoop Dogg. I did the Goodie Mob record "Play Yo Flutes" a couple years back, and I’ve worked with Rakim. As a producer, its just been great. But I started off rapping like when I was around 12 years old. Then I started making beats like around 15, so I kind of let it all play itself out. I’ve grown as an artist, but Kurupt always told me to rap. He heard me rap a couple times, and he was digging it. So he kind of encouraged me to step up to that plate.
CrackSpace.com: What are some of the things you’d say you learned by working with King Tee and Tha Alkaholiks?
J Wells: Just to be yourself, know what I mean. Do what you feel, do what you like, and don’t follow everybody. Just go out there and do real music, like Tha Alkaholiks they always did them. They always had their own sound. Plus just learning all the different elements of Hip-Hop, especially from J-Ro. Like the importance of having a good show, and just about the roots of Hip-Hop, you know. Oh yeah, and of course how to get drunk. [laughter]
CrackSpace.com: [laughs] I’m sure that was an important lesson also..
J Wells: [laughs] Yeah man…
CrackSpace.com: So were you and Kurupt pretty much on the same page when it came to the creative process of the album?
J Wells: Well yeah because we had some songs together already, then we made some songs specifically for the album. We kind of rearranged some things, like I’d go to him for a track listing. He’d be like; "I like this, but add this song", and he say" put a verse here." Then he told me to add my solo song called "
CrackSpace.com: Do you think there’s any particular thing that makes West Coast production stand out than any other region?
J Wells: Well we’ve always had that polished sound, know what I mean. Like Dr. Dre, he’s the biggest producer in Hip-Hop, and he’s from the West Coast; and he’s definitely one of the most polished producers out there. Plus you DJ Quik, Battle Cat, and myself. We pride ourselves in great mixes and sound.
CrackSpace.com: Do you have any other projects in the works besides Digital Smoke?
J Wells: Well I’m producing for other people. Like I said, I’m working on Keyshia Cole’s next album, and I did some stuff for Rakim’s next record. I have my solo album coming out, and its called the "Inebriated LP." That’s going to be a concoction of party music, and just having fun man, know what I mean. I’m just producing for folks, and putting it down. I just did some stuff for Big Gipp from Goodie Mob, he got another album coming out; and I’m working on some stuff for Nicole Wray too.
CrackSpace.com: What advice do you have for other inspiring producers?
J Wells: Just to know the essence of beat making, know your roots, and just go in and make your own sound. Know how to take the drums off those old records, and know how to use the break beats. Learn how to be a businessman, because this is a business. So just learn everything you can, so you can be on top of things. Because if not, then you’ll be working backwards.