In this interview, we talk with J.Smo of BUNKS about Hip Hop, his music, and who’s currently impacting the scene.
His mixed genre project, Purgatory, is now available.
When did you start making music? Has it always been an important part of your life?
It first started in 1999 more as exploration and experimentation but started getting serious around 2002. My great aunt was a well known pianist and organist in her community as well as a teacher. My dad toured in bands playing bass and guitar before settling down as a pastor in the ’80s.
Music has always been the one constant, stable thing in my life. It’s always there for whatever purposes. To lighten the mood, lift spirits, zone out, release stress, and it never talks back or yells at you (unless you listen to metal of course).
What is it about Hip Hop that draws you to the genre?
I honestly have no clue but Hip Hop is more than just music. Hip Hop is a culture which has been commoditized, fashioned and marketed for commercial profit. I’ll avoid going too deep in this interview but rap music on the commercial/mainstream level has been used a tool to fulfill many separate but similar agendas; all with not-so-positive side-effects (or intentions).
Many impressionable youth are negatively impacted by the images and messages propagated by the mainstream media via rap music which all end up being used to downplay Hip Hop as the positive cultural force it always has been. There was a time, pre-2000, when positive, uplifting Hip Hop could be heard on the radio daily…not so much anymore.
Back to the question… I was 6 years old when I bought my first cassette tape. It was 1988 and I lived in the very small, rural community of Lynchburg, Tennessee (yes, where Jack Daniels is made). With that said, Hip Hop and rap music was not big there but I had television and radio at a very early age so I knew what was going on in “pop culture”.
That first cassette tape was MC Hammer’s Pray single, then I got into Naughty By Nature, 69 Boyz, Biggie, Outkast and the list goes on and on and on… No matter how much country, classic rock or metal music I was surrounded by during various times of my life… I always LOVED Hip Hop, always.
It is what it is, I suppose.
How do you write and make your music? What does your creative process look like?
Up to until recently I would just use my studio time to vibe out and create music that sounded good and made me feel good. Whatever came out “in the moment” (that was dope) stayed and everything else got erased or turned into something new.
More recently I have been teaming up with independent bands of all genres outside Hip Hop to remix and collaborate on blending my style of Hip Hop production with whatever style of the song I vibe with enough that I get the itch to want to remix it. Sometimes there’s a break, intro or a riff in a song I can’t get out of my head; those are the songs I typically remix (as long as the band is cool with it).
My forthcoming Purgatory EP is 6 songs of this nature where I teamed up with indie musicians from all over the globe and various genres to create Hip Hop versions of their music. The release date is still TBD.
Who do you think is making an important impact in the Hip Hop world today?
So many people there’s no way I can keep up or even attempt to bring light to all of them.
Gregory Jerome in OKC. Paul Willis in Sacramento. The whole Team Backpack movement. Chuck D is still doing HUGE things after all these years. Masta Ace is still doing HUGE things after all these years (creating, touring, educating) despite having M.S.!! KRS-1 is still impacting Hip Hop as always and all the artists who study, overstand and realize Hip Hop is a culture and a movement intended to bring positive change and impact to your tribe of people and the communities around you.
Do you make your own beats?
What prompted you to record the song “Angelo’s Breakdown”?
I will just leave two links for anyone that wants to know the full story involving the burning down of a 300 year old log home.
It could be considered bizarre or crazy by some but this is actually an older song written in 2006(ish) that I never officially released. It is a collaboration with my long time friend and partner C Bret of Stephenson Rd, based in the rolling hills of rural middle Tennessee.
Angelo’s Breakdown (video with vocals) | Angelo’s Breakdown (story video, no vocals)