Enter JO.EY. – a young producer with a soul rooted in classic hip-hop, but a taste for that new futuristic sound. Now, we’ve all seen that description within the bios of many new cats rising to the music scene surface via SoundCloud, but what might separate JO.EY is the simple fact that he’s from London, a musically-thriving city in all other realms with the exception of hip-hop. The factors that make up JO.EY’s music are only but one piece to the puzzle – that London flair fused with a heavy background in America’s last original art form creates a sound that’s both new and familiar. We caught a few moments with JO.EY to talk about his favorite albums, his work with London brand Gumball 3000 and what’s happening for the hip-hop scene across the pond.
How did you get into music?
Well initially I was heavily involved in acting (theater mainly – Unicorn Theater plus some work with the National Theater), and thought if I could combined my ability to scribble rhymes with my performances, it would make me more of an all-rounder. Heading into sixth form (which you guys would call the last two years of high school, I think), I met great like-minded individuals who would share the same interests as me in regards to a love for very intricate rhymes and poetics, and we would display our skills in regular common room and playground cyphers. However, in terms of core beginnings of musical experiences, I am 100% a Neptunes kid, raised by Pharrell’s amazing space-like major 7th chords and Chad’s crazy synths! In addition, The Clipse, Jay Z, Nas, Snoop, and The Dogg Pound are mainly what I would overdose myself with daily staring at my TV screen after coming home from school as a young fella. I could go on for ages, trust me!
The influences you listed are fairly newer artists (FlyLo, Jay Z, Thundercat, James Blake, Mos Def, The Internet.) What kind of music was playing around the house when you were a kid?
Biggie and Pac where heavily pumped through my big bro’s speakers, along with some early Jigga and Nas! My brothers had love for the west too with that pure gangsta rap shit – Dre, Daz, Kurupt, Snoop of course, Quick, and Ice Cube. Also, a lot of R&B and soul – Faith Evans, Aaliyah, Mary J. Blige, and Janet Jackson! I’m a 90’s baby! My big bro had a crazy CD collection full of everything hot during those times and before.
Your top 10 albums of all time. Think of it this way: these albums are going on your gravestone for people to remember your music taste by.
Haha ahh this is a tough one, and it probably will change in time, but for now I will say –
1. Reasonable Doubt – Jay Z
2. Good Kid m.A.A.d City – Kendrick Lamar
3. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
4. Doggystyle – Snoop Dogg
5. The Black Album – Jay Z
6. The Neptunes Presents…Clones (The Neptunes)
7. Lord Willin’ – The Clipse
8. Boy In Da Corner – Dizzie Rascal
9. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below – Outkast
10. College Dropout – Kanye West
Aahh how can I leave out ‘It Was Written’ by Nas, ‘Born Sinner’ by J. Cole and ‘The Score’ by Fugees? We will go with these for now though.
What’s your creative process? What was the process for manifesting this EP?
Really, just trying my best to match the sound choices with the emotions described on the song, and of course firstly making sure the songs are written in a very lyrical and stylish way. I chose to write all the hooks and full melodic songs as well on the project just because I like things being said exactly how I picture them in my head. Also, because I base all my inspiration from real life experiences, I like to make sure that specific details and emotions are included in the song to accurately reflect the situation or feeling which I am trying to describe.
Can you explain the title behind the EP, “Pre-War: Defying Convention”?
So basically I am giving you what I like to call a whole experience labeled ‘Defying-Convention’ which in total shall include 10 tracks and two singles (which will be released officially this summer). However, I am not giving you the experience all in one to encourage more attentive listening. Instead, I have divided the experience up into three parts: Pre-WAR, WAR, and Post-WAR – the two singles shall be released under an extra section called ‘Military Only Personel (MOP)-Defying Convention’. Each section shall have a distinctive feel and emotion to it as a whole for listeners to enjoy. I labeled the experience ‘Defying-Convention’ simply because of the different approach in terms of sound and content which I have taken, compared to your usual emcees; but I’ll leave the listeners to make a judgment on that. In addition, carrying the “Alternative Regime” mentality, I have defiantly channeled a very futuristic feel regarding instrumentals, complimented by raw and intricate rhyming styles.
The influences you listed are pretty evident throughout the two songs you sent, what stylistic influences made up this EP?
I would have to say FlyLo played a role in inspiring the sound choices, as well as some Neptunes-based grooves. Also, you could say my melodies have a Pharrell/Odd Future-like feel to it.
What other artists are you currently working with, or are looking to work with in the future?
I’m really digging this soul & electronic group called The Hics who I would love to scrap up some shit with in the near future. There are also a few more who I can’t actually remember right now because of the blunt I just hit like a hour a go (laughs).
I know a lot of artists hate the question of genre-labeling, but for this type of ambient electronic-soul sound that has been on the rise, what name would you give it?
I guess soul & electronica might be an alright description, but personally for me I just call it the shit that gives me goosebumps with the perfect groove haha, I need to copyright that!
How did you get into working with Gumball 3000? Are there any parallels between your work/creative process with the brand and your music?
It’s crazy because it all began from me sending them an email describing how much I love the brand as a whole, but particularly the apparel. I knew about Gumball 3000’s reputation for super cars etc, and was always a fan. However, it was an outstanding band – who are big brothers to me – called 2morrowsVictory from the UK who drew my attention to the Gumball apparel, and I instantly fell in love with it. I began purchasing a load of their gear and featuring it in videos as well as on show dates, and then hit the apparel team up explaining my love for their shit. Then, they appreciated what I had been doing and loved my music and so we went on from there.
To answer your final question, yes certainly. I have always been a real fan of streetwear as I believe it projects the energy of where I am from (South London, England) through the outlet of fashion. I incorporate situations and emotions which you may face coming from where I’m from in my music, and also a reflect of the “Joys Of Every Youngster” (which I sometimes use as an acronym for my name – JO.EY.) Gumball 3000 apparel certainly has a very young and uniquely cool feel to it, reflecting a similar vibe, plus I see it as rather exclusive because not too many people wear it, but that’s their loss I guess *laughs*
How is the UK hip-hop scene? Anyone from the UK music scene we should keep an ear out for?
If I’m honest, I don’t really feel the majority of the urban songs which come on the charts/mainstream etc, simply because I’m so bored of hearing the same pop rock/EDM beats that emerge. However, you do have the few great emcees who have held it down such as Skepta, Wretch 32, Akala , Mic Righteous, and Ghetts, and coming up from where I’m from in London (Peckham), Giggs has represented like a proper G! However, besides the master emcees who I have worked closely with such as Fred Fredas and Deacon – who you should certainly keep your ears peeled for – you would be a complete doughnut (as we the English would say) if you didn’t listen to Mike Skinner (The Streets), who was a real inspiration of mine growing up on his music. I have been caught up on many late nights studying his albums (especially “Original Pirate Material”). He’s one cat I’m always listening to.