Love it or leave it, hip hop has always been and will always be a product of the greatest city in the world. New York is home to more culture, style and flair than anywhere else on the planet. Hip hop music was born in the streets, parks and clubs throughout the five boroughs. While the music has stretched from coast to coast, touching down and carving out unique regional personalities from Atlanta to California, for my money New York wears the crown.
There is no shortage of MC’s in the city. There’s talent everywhere you look. What’s happening in music right now is proof positive that hip hop isn’t content to rest on the notions and sounds that came before. Hip hop is forging ahead with a new crop of talent ready to not only carry tradition, but to blaze new paths in the sound scape and culture of the music.
One of those new voices is JUMZ, a NY lyricist with a gritty, honest east coast pedigree. His versatility enables him to create songs that appeal to New Yorkers as well as listeners all over the world. He’s a man on a mission. JUMZ took time from his busy grind to explain just why he’s here making music, and why we should all pay attention.
Shiny Glass Houses: Thanks for taking the time to talk. I read your bio, it seems like music was your safety net coming up. At what point did you realize that writing raps, making music was your way of channeling your energy and emotion?
JUMZ: When my father passed I didn’t have much emotion, I don’t even remember crying much about it. My dad always prepared me for death in general, to him death was a part of life. Being raised by him made me a bit cold when it came to feelings and sharing them and I learned to keep everything I felt, good or bad inside. I turned to art. I used to draw or make graffiti cartoons and bubble letters in notebooks, and then I turned to writing short stories, comic strips and poetry. I didn’t realize those were outlets that got my mind off the emotions I suppressed and then eventually music is what finally let out the beast.
SGH: NYC is battle tested. It’s the birthplace of hip hop. How did you get your feet wet in music business?
JUMZ: I started in the business by street-teaming. Myself and another kid from the neighborhood would hand out flyers for major labels and get invited to special events. This was during the whole Mase/DMX era of hip hop. To me it was fun wearing promotional shirts and hanging out with label execs. Of course I had no idea I was being exploited but at the time I didn’t care. In my mind it was a privilege to be apart of the business at such an early age and have people of importance actually give a fuck about what some kid thinks when it comes to music.
SGH: Did you feel intimidated or pressured to measure up to that stigma of being New York City MC?
JUMZ: Once I finally decided to take on music as a career I did feel pressure to make sure I sounded and portrayed what people thought a NY rapper should sound like. If you find any of my old stuff online you can tell I listened to a lot of Nas. It’s to the point where a lot of people said I sounded like him. I mirrored my whole style to what he used to do. It’s real funny when I think of it now, it doesn’t make any sense to rap a certain way because of the region you’re from. Just make music you want to hear, just be you.
That’s the only issue I have with my city. There’s so many close-minded folks in charge of the music scene here who don’t give artists that don’t remind them of the 90’s era a chance. Bloggers are so stuck on this “golden-era” of hip hop. It’s the reason NYC doesn’t have more mainstream acts poppin’ off. Hopefully guys like myself, or French Montana, and A$AP will help New York blaze a new trail in hip hop once again.
SGH: You mentioned artists like A$AP, yourself and French Montana blazing a new trail for NYC hip hop. Where is the sound headed? How much impact does your city have on your sound?
JUMZ: I can’t help but to look up to the people from my city that make it in this day and age. We’re underdogs now, we have to captivate people in other states to get recognized. Now we have to work harder and step our swags up, which is fine cuz I’m open to the challenges.
The new sound of the city is just a melting pot of the hip hop culture, so today not only do we have to be original in what we do but we also have to cater to the audience that buys records. That’s just business. I’m not going to make a whole album about how hard my life was and expect some young lady in Alabama to want to play my shit everyday. The album as a whole has to have an element of fun, passion, and then reality.
SGH: How much does hip hop influence today’s culture?
JUMZ: Everything in today’s culture is influenced by hip hop. You don’t see many ads that don’t include an element of hip hop these days. Hip hop is in our speech, in the way we dress, and it affects how we view one another. It’s not as taboo as it was in the early 90’s when the culture was considered “intimidating”. Now it’s accepted all over the world and it is probably the only genre of music that can blend with anything.
SGH: Clearly there’s a direct influence on kids. What do you want them to take away from your music.
JUMZ: I don’t really think kids should listen to all of my music…maybe some songs here and there. I speak on harsh realities that parents should speak to their kids about before they tune in to one of my mp3’s. I’m not here to be held responsible for your child’s actions. I’m rated R, if you’re a parent don’t let them watch this movie.
If children happen to be curious and tune in to what I’m doing, I’d let them know that I speak from my own point of view and if there are negative aspects of my life you can relate to, understand that I’m not doing those things anymore or I’m not living that kind of lifestyle. I talk about it for those who don’t have a voice or feel trapped within a system.
SGH: You have solid insight and a very real confidence about you. Being nominated by the Underground Music Awards must have been a great feeling, to be recognized as an independent who’s grinding and make a name for himself.
JUMZ: It was an honor to be nominated but it felt even more special to be nominated in my city. Unlike many artists where I’m from, the underground acts don’t travel as much. I was in a different city every other week performing. I didn’t realize that New York was paying attention. So when I heard about the nomination it felt pretty good, I can’t lie. Especially in the city where in every building it feels like there’s 10 rappers. To be considered above so many acts is pretty overwhelming.
SGH: JUMZ is a real unique name. Is there a story behind it?
JUMZ: JUMZ is what they use to call crack back in the day or Jumbles. The older guys would make fun cuz I was always a pretty lanky kid on the basketball courts. They compared me to a vile. I didn’t think it was funny back then but I started to use the name as a tag for when I would draw or write poetry. It just stuck with me since then.
SGH: I’ve listened to Independents Day front to back a few times now, and I have to say, it feels like a record. It plays like a fully realized project. Did you approach that tape with the idea of making an album?
JUMZ: I’ve only dropped one mixtape my whole career and it was before the web era was popular. My last two projects sound like albums because it’s too easy to give people lyrics over industry beats, to me you aren’t really selling who you are.
I’ve never really been into the conventional way of doing things, so I feel if I give my fans and potential supporters a completely original free project that they would appreciate the time I spent putting it together.
Independents Day took the longest time to be released, almost 2 years, and it almost never got released. There was a time where I got caught up in listening to mixtapes from all these majors that I got intimidated into releasing Big White Tee Music as it was originally suppose to be called. Then I realized that the music I made was the music that spoke to me and I embraced how different my project was from a Rick Ross or a French Montana or maybe a Kendrick Lamar, who in actuality inspired songs for my project through their individuality.
For example, I have a track called “Maybackin” and that’s definitely influenced by Rozay. My intro is a direct influence from the type of samples French would use for his tapes. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a fan of what the other guys are doing, I’m just doing it my way.
SGH: Is there a full length in the works?
JUMZ: There is an EP on the way called Built 4 My City. This will be my first project distributed to major markets and some secondary markets under HoodLife Music/Asquad records. Right now I have two tracks that I’m confident about and I’m looking for strong production to compliment the rest of the EP.
SGH: If you could co-headline a show with any artist, from any time period, who would it be?
JUMZ: I’m still new, so I would try to build off one of my idols fan bases. Definitely Nas.
SGH: Last question. What’s your drink of choice?
JUMZ: I always drink something smooth, like Bacardi Peach Red straight up with ice or with peach juice. I know it sounds like a girls drink but it’s what I like (laughs). At least until Ciroc cuts a check or shoots one of my videos…
—Independents Day is a career defining moment for JUMZ. He may be under the radar, but not for long. Sleep if you want to, but you’ve been warned. Be sure to follow JUMZ on Twitter at @JUMZ_FOREVER. Download the new tape, Independents Day at www.thatcrack.com/mixtapes/jumz-independents-day/