Directed by Ricky Shabazz
Welcome to a brand new series we’ll be running here at the dopehouse, in conjunction with Cluster Mag and Ricky Shabazz & The Boom Bap Boys. In this new series, dubbed The Produce Section, we’ll be highlighting some of Hip-Hop’s finest producers, from old to new, young and old. If it’s quality, you can be sure we’ll be covering it. For the first in our series, Cluster Mag sat down with BBAS’ J57. You can read an excerpt of the interview with Cluster below, and catch the entire thing here.
“I’m lucky to learn from the people I know,” J57 tells me as he cues up a sample and pats his dog, Suri (co-producer). “A true student doesn’t emulate what they hear, they take what they are taught and apply it with their own flair,” J explains as he lists specific tricks he’s learned from masters. He cites Marco Polo as the “illest with bass lines,” an affinity that Marco personally passed down to him. DJ Premier is another mentor. Premier is the king of chopping samples, taking source material and re-deploying it in altered forms to unleash its hidden potential, an expertise J has not taken for granted. But J, too, has a fair share to offer his teachers and peers alike. He recently worked alongside Premier arranging Nas’ new single, “Regeneration,” which he recorded alongside the Berklee Symphony Orchestra. In this network of crews, hip-hop gods, and students, J57 cites the constant exchange between other artists as what keeps him advancing.
When J hit his teens out in Long Island, the mid-90’s ‘golden era’ boomed through New York and the soundtrack for parties in the ‘burbs reflected just that. It was around the customary keg one night that J57’s friends took to freestyling—spilling loose words and beer on the linoleum floor. But with no beat, a freestyle’s potential remains half-built, so J57 began beat boxing. Before long, he was the official beat boxer for the ciphers that had begun to crop up in the hallways as the hip hop virus made its way across the island.