We recently caught up with Los Angeles rapper J Smooth and took him on a trip down memory lane. We discussed his early musical beginnings, his experience in the army, attending business school, touring and his latest album titled "Plan B." Get to know J Smooth, his non-profit organization and his music.
How long have you been making music and songwriting? At what age did you realize you wanted to pursue it?
I've been singing and dancing since I was 4-years-old, at least that's what my mom says. When I was in first grade, I was in my first play. Then when I was 11, I joined the church choir. Freshmen year I got into performance choir, where I used to sing and dance like the show "Glee," but I didn't started rapping till my senior year in High School. It was then that I knew I wanted to be an entertainer after a class trip to the House of Blues in Hollywood, where I ended up performing James Brown's "I Feel Good."
After that, I started to write songs, but right after I graduated High School, I joined the U.S Army, which believe it or not, it was there that I improved my rap skills because the army is such a melting pot I was exposed to other forms of Hip Hop from all over. During my time in the army, I entered Freestyle battles and performed at open mic clubs around the base. Once I was done with the army, I went to college and I was taking Business classes. It was then that I made the decision to pursue my music career. After my music business and music law classes, I dropped out of school and officially became J Smooth. For the last 6 years, I've been chasing my dream.
Can you tell us about your first performance?
Well the one I count as my first performance, I would say was the one that changed it all for me. My first big performance with my own DJ and back up dancers happened in August of 2006 at the Feria Agostina Nicaraguence (Nicaraguan Fest) in The City of Industry, CA. It was there in front of 8,000 people that I rocked my first big performance. Best of all, it was when I turned my parents into believers. I moved them as well as the crowd with my performance.
What inspires you and what makes your style unique?
I think what makes my style different is my diversity because I'm inspired and influenced by many different artists, cultures and languages. My ability to mix them all together and make them my own [makes my style unique].
What's your ultimate musical goal and what have you learned while trying to accomplish this goal?
My goal is to make it big, I mean really big and make myself a house hold name like Jay Z or Will Smith. I would really like to be a Latin Diddy and conquer more than just being an artist and music, but a writer, producer, entertainment mogul, with music, clothing, movies and business with “business” being the key word.
If I learned anything it’s that It's not called "THE MUSIC BIZ" or "SHOW BIZ" for nothing. Being in the music industry is a business and the better your Business knowledge the greater your chances of success.
Tell us about your latest album, “Plan B.” Did you collaborate with other artists on this record?
Well "Plan B" is my second album hence the name. I continued my theme of a multi genre and bilingual album, like my first album, but this time around, I had a better game plan with a clear focus on what I wanted to achieve with this album with most of the production duties taken up by my little brother "Imfamous," and he as well stepped up this time and became an executive producer on this album. So, together we picked out all the music and features.
Back officially for this album was Johnny Michael, a very talented hard working R&B artist, who I’ve worked with before on a song (which was a hidden bonus on my first album this time around). JM and I get the uptempo dance floor record "Get Down." I also got a chance to work with Bronx New York Rapper Cost on the uptempo anthem, "Show Me The Money" which also features my brother/Producer/Rapper Imfamous with a show stealing verse. I’ve got a pair of songs featuring R&B/Jerker Vice 45. On the Latin side, I got a song with Cuban artist Paloma Michelle, I also collaborated with Amor Latino and I worked with a New Dominican artist named Robinson on the Latin American Summer anthem "Dime Que Tu Quires" (Tell Me What You Want)
Who makes your beats?
Well most of my Production comes right out of 570 Records with Genius Producer Imfamous. Ive also had the pleasure of working with On The Block Production (Tommy "T-Gunns" Parker, Norman "Normatic" Jackson and Curtiss King), who will be handling a lot of production on my next album.
Are you working on any projects at the moment?
Currently, I'm working on my next album "Flight Plan," which I plan to release later this year, as well an all Spanish EP. I'm continuing to write for other artists and featured on songs with new artist like Tony Sans, Madisen Hill and Roger Lee.
Is there anyone you wish to work with?
I would really like to work with Kanye West, The-Dream and Daddy Yankee because I would like to see how they work.
Do you give back to your community in any way?
I started a Non Profit Organization called "Fundacion La Esperanza" (Hope Foundation), to raise money for underprivileged school children and kids with disabilities in Nicaragua with plans of helping more Latin American countries.
I know that you’ve had performances all over the world. Which location was your favorite and why?
I couldn't really narrow it down to one, so I’ll have to say two. One was a performance I had in Diriamba, Nicaragua in front of 20,000 plus people where I had an hour performance. I was the headliner and my performance ended the festival.
Second, was when I opened up for Daddy Yankee. I had a 35 minute performance in front of another 20,000 people. Those two performances are my favorite because of the size and energy of the crowd. It was unbelievable and I really wish they could all be more like that and bigger.
Which countries would you like to visit?
Right now, we are working to move into South America for a concert tour. I’m definitely doing really good on the Latin Side of things, but eventually I would like to hit Europe and Asia.
What is the toughest experience you've ever had to overcome?
I had a performance at a Mexican festival and most of the performers were Tex-Mex singers. Well I got to the stage to perform and after my intro, the crowd started chanting "Gasolina. Gasolina, Gasolina," referring to the Daddy Yankee break-out hit. I guess they thought I was Daddy Yankee or that was just the only Reggeaton song they knew.
Well the crowd got really loud and they took to pushing the stage back and forth. It was almost like the scene in the Selena movie, when she first performed in Mexico. I thought the stage was about to break. So, I looked at over at my DJ Reflection he asked "What are we gonna do? I said, “Let’s just do Gasolina". Luckily for me, my DJ had the instrumental of the song and I just performed the song and the show went on.
Who do you look up to? Who has influenced you the most in your life?
I'd have to say my parents. They both have been very hard workers ever since I can remember, working two jobs each to make sure my brother and I had everything they never had. That's where I get my Hustlers mentality, where hard work and determination pays off.
Where can we catch you next? Any upcoming shows?
I’ve got two events coming up. I'll be performing at the "Spring Into Health Fest" April 23 at Martin Luther King Jr Rec Center 3916 S Western Ave Los Angeles CA 90062
and April 30 at the 2nd annual Nicaraguan appreciation fest at 3541 W Temple St Los Angeles CA 90004
What's the best piece of advice someone ever gave you?
The best piece of advice I ever got in this Biz was from Pitbull. He told me to always be persistent. He said he sent 20 songs to DJ Laz before he ever played one on the radio. He also said that once the money starts to come in, to not waste it on buying jewelry and expensive cars, but to invest it into property and businesses.
The music industry can be tough. Do you have any advice for musicians just starting out?
The best advice I can give is to remember that this is a business and to treat it as such,
and take the time to learn your craft. The more you know the easier things will be.
Where can we find more about you and your music?
Anything else you'd like to add?
Yes, thank you so much for your time and interest in myself and my music, and everyone, go get a copy of my new album “Plan B.”
Don't forget to catch J Smooth live:
4/23/11 - "Spring Into Health Fest" April 23 @ Martin Luther King Jr Rec Center 3916 S Western Ave Los Angeles CA 90062
4/3011 - 2nd Annual Nicaraguan Appreciation Fest @ 3541 W Temple St Los Angeles CA 90004
About the Author
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