Here it is folks. The final cut of my ‘Johnny J – Remembered’ piece, recapping the interview I did with the late legend back in 2006. Thanks to Sam Coley, without whose help this would not have happened. I hope you guys enjoy this.
Back in 2006, I flew to LA to make a documentary about Tupac Shakur for the BBC. I interviewed many cool people, from David Banner, to QD3, to Candyman 187 (Havenotz in this MF!!!), but one of the experiences that I have the fondest memories of is the 3-4 hours or so we spent with legendary hip-hop producer Johnny ‘J’ at his studio just outside LA.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Johnny had been one of my all time favorite music producers since I was a young kid. I started listening to ‘Pac when I was around 10 years old, and just as I’m sure many other fans would tell you, the soul of Johnny’s productions stood out from the beginning. Tracks like ‘All About U‘, ‘Hit Em Up‘, ‘Picture Me Rollin‘, ‘How Do U Want It‘ were bonafide classics since the day they hit the radio, and even after ‘Pac passed, Johnny’s posthumous productions were generally the ones that we fans held close to our hearts – songs like ‘Until The End Of Time‘, ‘Letter 2 My Unborn‘, and ‘Ballad Of A Dead Souljah‘.
Johnny turned out to be one of the coolest cats I ever had the pleasure of kicking it with. We sat back and chopped up the state of the current hip-hop scene, our grievances with the remixing of Pac’s music by Eminem et al, and much much more. We must have spent about 2 hours talking, not including the interview we did which lasted over an hour. We took photos of Johnnys studio, his platinum plaques and I even kicked a few rhymes in the booth, busted out a few licks on Johnny’s Fender Jazz Bass, and gave Johnny a copy of the Swami album ‘So Who Am I’ that we had recently released through Sony BMG. Then we jumped in Johnnys car and he dropped us off at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in Hollywood.
Over the months that followed I spoke to Johnny a few times and we had every intention of meeting up next time I was in LA. Unfortunately this never happened. In 2008 Johnny got arrested and locked up for 6 months, the official documents unearthed suggest for a DWI, but the sentence seems overly harsh for it to be that simple. A few months into his sentence, he died. The jail claimed suicide, but I didn’t believe that for a second. The real circumstances may never be known, but I and others believe he was murdered after a racial altercation. For those who may not know, in the California prison system, fraternisation betweens Latinos and Blacks can get you killed. It is thought that Johnny may have been called out by other Latinos who may not have been too happy with Johnnys work with black artists. Johnny was not the type of person to back down and unfortunately this may have been what got him killed.
Since his death, I had been pondering the idea of some sort of tribute, aside from what I wrote at the time on my blog. A few months ago, a friend of mine who teaches Radio and Communication at Birmingham City University stopped by at my place, and we hit upon the idea of editing down the interview I had done with Johnny, recording some new parts to explain what had happened, and syncing it with unseen photos from my trip, as a recap of the interview, and a tribute to Johnny.
Fast forward to now, and it’s done and will be going online in a few days time. Watch this space – I hope you guys enjoy it.
RIP JOHNNY J – ‘UNTIL THE END OF TIME’