De'Wayne Jackson Inspires Us To Move Passed Fear

LA-based artist, De'Wayne Jackson has a burning fire to push himself above and beyond. Having moved from a small town in Houston to the bustling life of Los Angeles, he takes risks and expresses those fearless strengths in his latest EP Don't Be Afraid. He effortlessly hones in on a diverse soundscape, merging qualities of alt-rock, RnB, and hip hop, and takes us on an deep and emotional journey.

We chat to De'Wayne about his latest EP Don't Be Afraid, the biggest hurdles he's had to overcome, and what we can expect from him in the future. Ayla Dhyani writes.

Tell us about your EP Don’t Be Afraid. What does it mean to you?

To mean it really means just what it’s saying, “don’t be afraid.” I just want to tell anyone who hears the EP, that you literally only have this one time, only one chance to make a difference and an impact on your life or somebody else’s life. You can’t be afraid to try and to go forward. I feel that a lot of people have dreams, but they’ve got their own thing going and just do what’s comfortable. I believe that people should do what they believe in, and that’s really what I was trying to say on the EP. I think it’s very important and we’re all still trying to learn and grow from that concept.

Absolutely. I’m sure we can all relate to that. From a musical standpoint, what can listeners expect from the EP?

There are a lot of different sounds. There a lot of combing genres. There's the rock sound, the hip hop sound, the RnB sound, but they all combine to give these stories. We tried to bring it together sonically and change the tempos up to create something different to what you’d expect. It's just a good mixture of a lot of things that I’m inspired by. I really want to give a taste of all of it on the EP. That way people can really understand where I’m coming from and that I really just don’t want to be boxed in as an artist. As far as different sounds go, I just wanna make cool music. Whatever genre comes out.

Based on your latest track 'Truth Is', you had quite a religious upbringing. How did that influence your style of music?

For me, with the religious thing, it really gave me something to believe in and really gave me a lot of faith. Even if it was just prayers or believing in a higher power, I really just looked to that for guidance. It helped me make that move to LA from back home. Having faith and having religion behind me really played a big role for me. It gave me something to lean on.

With your move from Texas to LA, how do you find the difference in the hip hop community between the two cities?

It was a huge difference. Back home, I stayed in a suburb just outside of Houston, which was very stagnant. It's very closed minded where I'm from. You do one thing, then you take the next step, then you take the same next step, and there’s just a cycle that goes on. I find LA is a lot more open minded and I feel that I’ve learnt a lot more about myself. I’m still learning a lot about myself, but LA just really gave me the opportunity to really find who I was instead of being in this box of things that you have to do because your parents or your community are telling you to do things a certain way. It was a big change in a really positive way. It showed me who I wanted to become, so it was a good transition. I really love it here.

Absolutely. I feel that it is so important to pull yourself away from the box that you have been placed into your entire life. There are so many preconceived notions about who you are, and to take that step and discover yourself organically is pretty powerful.

100%. I completely agree with you.

And how did you first start writing music? What was the initial influence?

I was about 14yo and I had some friends that I went to school with who were trying trying to get a studio going. Of course, we didn’t have any of that or any money at all (laughs). So, my cousin ended up buying me a mic and once I started to really put my foot in, it really connected with me like nothing else I had ever done in my life. I had done sports and other things like that, but when it came to music, it really connected with me both emotionally and spiritually. It was from then on that I knew I wanted to do it. 

What’s the most intense moment in your music career so far? A moment where you felt “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this."

Honestly, I just had a show the other night for the EP launch. I had this feeling when I was on the stage where it was the most intense feeling I’ve ever felt. I really wanted to make myself proud and make my family proud, and make the people who came out to support me happy. It was a crazy feeling. I’d just never really felt anything like that. It wasn’t about the pressure or anything, I just really wanted to give a beautiful show. It was great.

I feel like we’ve touched on this already, but what’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome?

Definitely moving to LA. When I came out here I was living in a small studio apartment in Hollywood, paying rent that I couldn't afford and I was working two jobs. I worked at Taco Bell in the night time, and this paint company in the morning. Doing that and still trying to create music was very difficult for me. It was really tough. It was a dark time for me, honestly. Having just left home, it was really hard. It was difficult for me to not call my parents and ask for help or just go back home. But it inspired my EP, so now I’m just happy that people like it and hopefully it continues to grow. That was definitely the hardest time.

Now that you’ve pushed yourself to that level, what do you anticipate for the future?

For this year, I really want to work on an album or my next project. Whatever that’s going to be. I just want to continue to make new songs. I really want to get on the road as well, and perform this EP for as many people as I can this year. I really want to do that and just spread it as far as I can. That’s the main goal for me.

What moves you?

For me, just being a better artist and being a better person. I really want to be good at this. That’s what really pushes me. Of course I want to take care of my family and do that, but I really want to be a good artist. I want to grow, tell stories, and reach out to others. I just want to be great to be honest (laughs).

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Stream Don't Be Afraid here.

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MC ZotheJerk Evokes Power With Raw Vulnerability

MC ZotheJerk has teamed up with soulful producer Frost Gamble to create their powerful new album, Black Beach. Set to drop May 23rd, the album includes hard-hitting features from KXNG Crooked, Guilty Simpson, Sadat-X, Boldy James, Tone Chop and Young Bleed. Each artist brings a full force of raw and honest material that is in keeping with Zo’s push for creating vulnerable moments in music and life.

We chat to Zo about the motivation behind creating Black Beach, the writing process working with Frost Gamble, and the importance of being vulnerable in order to convey true honesty through music. Ayla Dhyani writes.

I feel like your new album is such a powerful production in the climate of today’s society. What does ‘Black Beach’ mean to you?

The album is really a snapshot of life and times of a black man in the United States at this time. We just tried to give a real honest depiction of the emotional struggle. The journey from the streets to being more aware of what’s going on politically. I’m just trying to touch all my bases.

When you were writing tracks for the album, were you writing for your listeners in the black community as a message of support or were aiming towards creating an awareness to all other cultures?

Well, I look at music as moments. So when Frost would send me some production, I would essentially spew out whatever energy I received or felt in that moment. It could be something I was reading that motivated me or a concept I had floating around in my head. Anything in that moment. I really try to make my music ‘user friendly’ for everybody, but I really direct the messages with a more empathetic ear towards the black community. Mostly because we don’t really have any leaders and it’s time for somebody to emerge. So I’m trying to fill that void.

Tell us about your creative process with Frost Gamble?

Well when I first heard him, I didn’t know that he was white. All I heard was this soulful sound that he had, and I was like “wow, this is phenomenal!” Then I found out that he was white and I was like “bro, just from listening to your music, I never would have picked that.” It was just interesting because he’s just so passionate about helping everybody. We just really clicked. There’s a real emotional feel when we work together. It’s just a very very emotional journey that we’re in. The way that he feels and the way that he likes to help people is the same way that I love to give and work with people. We just want our music to be as honest and emotional as life is. So we try to really get our honesty in every song.

How did you find working on the record together from different states?

Yeah, so the album was recorded over three states. So Frost would send through a tonne of tracks and it would take all of about 15 minutes to do all those songs. So the process wasn’t too difficult. We recorded in Detroit. Actually at the same studio where Eminem wrote some of the tracks for Infinite. So that was a blessing.

You’re from Detroit originally and have moved around a fair bit since then. How do you find the changes in the hip hop scene in each city?

Yeah, I’m from Detroit, then I relocated to Kansas city then I moved to Ohio. Hip hop wise, there’s really talented people in every state that I’ve been to. It seems like there’s a lot of emulation where people think that they have to emulate whatever the “hot-current” sound is. The creativity has been dying off. I’ve noticed it everywhere I’ve been. But then you’ll see a spark and you’ll see someone bringing that consciousness and creativity to the forefront. Hip hop is alive and is very well. I think that people will eventually get away from trying to recreate “radio hits” and singles that they feel have these catchy jingles, and eventually get back to being honest with the music. Everywhere I’ve been, no matter where I travel to, everybody has the same story. They say that their hometown doesn’t support their music; that nobody likes hip hop and they just want to hear what’s on the radio. In my opinion, the reason those songs on the radio work is that the person who wrote it, wrote it from the heart. So when they did it, it was pure. You have to find that moment in yourself where you can be just as honest. With our album, it was difficult for us to pick a single, because we just threw out so much emotion on every track. The conversation might be different, but it’s the exact same mood and exact same energy around the music. It’s just that they say it different. But it’s still the same.

Absolutely. As long as you stay raw and true, then you’re able to touch people’s lives and connect on that deeper level.

Exactly.

You’ve gradually moved into a more soulful sound. Tell us a bit about how your sound has developed over the years.

When I grew up, my father would play a lot of soul music. It was the era of Motown and I always had a lot of passion for music. But I was into more street music at that time because that’s just kind of where I was at in life. I found that I would make this music and it was difficult for me to be vulnerable within that sound. That’s where the soul music comes from. It’s the vulnerability of the music. And if you think about that – if you capture a piece of your soul, your innermost thoughts, emotions and feelings on song – that is extremely powerful. It gives you power within your vulnerability. I can tell you that I was in love with a lady and my feelings got hurt. I cried about it and could still be a man about it and still have that power behind it. Through that, we can lead our community into a better place. Then, on the other hand, I can also tell my son I love him in a song I write for him and give a piece of my soul out to him. I finally got to a place as an artist where I can touch that emotion and record a piece of my soul through soul music because it is emotional and authentic.

100%. That is the true essence of creating. Tell me, what stands out for you as a pinnacle moment in your career and journey with hip hop?

Well the moment that changed everything for Frost and myself actually came from my son. Back in Detroit, I was making street music and a lot of people around Detroit at the time were dying. We lost a lot of real, great, talented artists and it just got overwhelming. So I wanted to start fresh. I had a son, we relocated to Kansas. Getting to Kansas, I was having a conversation with my son one day and I remember saying to him, “you can do anything you want to do if you do your best.” And he actually asked me, “well, why aren’t you number one with your music, dad?” (laughs). And I thought… you know what, that makes sense… if I’m teaching you this, and you’re not seeing it from me, you can’t respect what I’m saying. So I told Frost that we gotta get this turned up, we gotta take it to the next level. Then the production got hotter and I was getting more and more vulnerable. The more pain that I could get out, the better the music was coming out. So from there, it was just a method of mastering how to channel that emotion and bring that out and say it honestly. How everything came out, is honestly just how I felt. It may be something angry on this song, or super happy on this one, but as long as it was an honest depiction of that moment and those emotions, I got stronger and stronger within the sound. That was hard to find, though. That took some time.

What moves you?

(Laughs) well, the only thing that really moves me honestly is just life. The beauty of the simplicity of the human experience. Everything that drives me and moves me. The process is such an easy thing: to live and be a good person. Morally, everybody knows right from wrong inside. I just don’t understand why humans don’t act human any more. It baffles me. We just need to try to be a better person. Every day.

 

Pre-order Black Beach here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/black-beach/id1210542439

Reach out to ZotheJerk and Frost Gamble:

https://www.facebook.com/zothejerk.frostgamble

ZotheJerk

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Frost Gamble

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Searching For Substance With Tone Chop + Frost Gamble

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Tone Chop and Frost Gamble are a force to be reckoned with. Having dropped rap battles in the streets of New York since 1989, this synchronised duo have been in full force throughout the evolution of hip hop from day one. With Chop based in New York and Frost in Winnipeg, the two have an undeniable chemistry that no amount of land mass can come between. Always on the grind, these lads pay homage to the Golden Era of hip hop in their latest EP Veteran. The smooth samples and cut-throat rhymes uphold the passion they have for the true craft of hip hop.

We chat to Tone Chop and Frost Gamble about they're thoughts on hip hop today, the process of putting their latest EP Veteran together, and what we can expect from their upcoming album in 2017. Ayla Dhyani writes.

 

So first up, tell us how the two of you first hooked up. I hear you used to do rap battles in New York in the early '90s.

Chop: Yeah, it wasn't like we were rivals. It was basically just friendly competition. Then we decided to team up. Frost decided that he didn't want to rap anymore and just wanted to make beats. We were in his basement making 4-track recordings and that's where we started. We've been making music since then and constantly getting better. The rap battles weren't too heavy, though. It was just friendly competition and a way to get music out there. 

Frost: Yeah, I think Chop really captures it.  'Brag-rap' was just expected. Everybody talked about themselves. So if you wrote rhymes, you'd talk about how great you were. But like Chop said, I recognised that I was better suited to making beats than rhyming. I know it was a good move. I listen to Chop today and I enjoy it just as much as I did back then. 

Well that's great that you both found your path and stayed in sync with similar aspirations and inspirations.

Chop: Exactly. We grew up liking the same type of artists anyway. We're from the same era, so the music that we grew up on and the music that guys today grew up on is a lot different. We like to make music that we like to listen to. That's why we work so well together.  We like the same sound. That's the best thing about being independent, because we make music that we like. 

Having witness the evolution of hip hop throughout the years, what are your thoughts on the genre in today's climate?

Chop: I mean, I salute everybody doing what they're doing, but I don't really listen to a lot of it to be honest with you. I'm usually a little bit more vocal about it, but I'm trying to be easy (laughs). I think it's trash to be honest with you. It has to have substance, and I find a lot of the stuff on the radio today doesn't have a lot of substance. There are a lot of people rapping out here, and I feel that it's all the same. They're all just doing what everybody else is doing, and it's not anything different.  I mean, I don't follow suit and neither does Frost. The only suit we follow is our own. I do like a few new artists, but not too many.

You both pursued solo careers from the '90s onwards, tell us a bit about that journey for each of you.

Chop: For myself, I was just making mixtapes for a long time. But we were always working together throughout that time as well. There would always be a few of his beats on each of my mixtapes. I always liked to keep him included in what I was doing. I like writing over other peoples' beats and freestyles. A couple of times we were close to making an album, but it just didn't pan out. It's better that it happened now anyway. I don't have any more obstacles that are stopping it from happening anymore. A couple of times it felt like we were getting close to where we're at right now, but a few obstacles got in my way, which I won't go into now.

Frost: Yeah definitely. In my opinion he was definitely getting close to where we are now. It's satisfying for me, because he needs to be heard by people. Talent and hard work and perseverance is supposed to pay off and I think he's got all that. So it's great that he's at this point now.

Chop: In my opinion, I'm one of the best. I had people telling me since I was a young kid that I was one of the best. And I still feel that way. 

Frost: And that, to me, is what's missing. I don't understand emcees that have a different attitude. That's the difficult thing for me. I can appreciate that the music changes, the style changes, the fashion changes, but to see yourself as an emcee in the tradition of hip hop, you need to take pride in what you're doing. I think that's changed and it's difficult for me to get my head around. 

Your latest EP, Veteran, pays homage to the Golden Era of hip hop in a very real way. Tell us about the process of putting it together.

Frost: It's pretty easy. I mean, we're working from different areas of the world, but he can tell me what kind of beats his looking for and I understand what he's saying. We put things together pretty quickly. We did it all over e-mail. He recorded vocals in his home studio, and I did mixing in my own home studio, and that's what you hear on the EP. That's exactly what we did. 

Chop: Frost did the same on the last mixtape I did as well. He did every track on that. The same way we did this. I sent him vocals to all my tracks on the last mixtape. That's how we do it. We already got about six joints already on this upcoming project, and this one is going to be far better in my opinion. This last project we did was about getting noticed and getting the right exposure, so now that we are, we're just putting some more fuel to what we're doing. All it really does is make the fire burn a little brighter.

You have an album coming up in 2017, what can listeners expect from that?

Frost: It depends. So far we've been knocking off tracks that are pretty consistent with what we've been doing. Stuff that comes naturally. We'll find a nice sample to chop up to vocals and he can just easily jump in and in a day or two knock out a couple of bars. It just flows naturally. But we've also got to think about the question you raised, which is that we don't know exactly what the album is going to be. We've been doing this a long time, but this is still very new to us. We're not used to doing all kinds of interviews and enjoying people checking out the music until really recently. So I don't know. We're going to stay true to what we believe in. We're going to continue making tracks that we've always made, but how and when is still a big question. And we're grateful for that.

Chop: We're knocking easy ones out first. We've knocked out some nice ones already. It's the same type of formula, but it's going to be better and more well-crafted. I feel that a lot of people don't put their heart and soul into what they're doing, and both of us do. I know people who have been doing it not even half as long as we have, and their heart and soul isn't in it anymore.

What's your favourite track on the EP?

Frost: I've gone back and forth on this. I know it's cliche to say, but I truly love every track on the album. But I think it's got to be 'Step Up'. The base-line on that track is sampled from one of our basement parties from back in '96. Chop was freestyling so hard and we recorded it and sampled it. To hear him rapping over that in the video from the single is definitely my favourite.

Chop: For me, 'One Two' is one of my favourites for sure. There's something about that track. I go back and forth with a lot of the tracks, but I've been playing that a lot lately.

You've both been in the game since 1989. What has been a pinnacle moment for you in your career so far?

Chop: For me, I was working with this artist Tony Moxburg. I did a track with him and he got Kool G Rap freaking on that. He rapped over my beat. That was one of my favourite moments of all time.

Frost: That's a tough one. One of my favourite memories was seeing Psycho Les' head bob to my track. I'm a huge fan of The Beatnuts. They were just so fearless in what they sampled and what they created. And to see Psycho Les losing it in the crowd at this show I did with an artist here in Winnipeg was pretty great.

What moves you?

Frost: We're both pretty passionate people, so I'm up all the time. I'm always thinking about what next moves we're supposed to make, all the problems that could come up that we've got to get in front of. I'm very focussed on what we're doing. But in terms of what inspires me, just making music. When I send a beat to Chop and he responds with new rhymes on that beat, that just gets me going and keeps me moving at all costs. 

Chop: For me, my main motivation is my kids. That's my number one motivation. On top of that, Frost has always been on fire too. With the last bunch of beats he sent me, I killed them all. One after the other, everything is on point. He inspires me. But there are rappers who inspire me as well. There are a few dudes who I can listen to, and they make me want to keep going and be better. 

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