Meet J-Doe: The first signee to Busta Rhymes Conglomerate Records, who's been writing other people's hits for over five years.
You probably know O.T. Genasis as the new face of Busta Rhyme's Conglomerate Records. Busta's first signee, though, is another L.A. guy, J-Doe, who's had years of industry experience under his belt. You might remember his 2011 hit, "Coke, Dope, Crack, Smack," or more likely, the remix and video, which featured T-Pain and David Banner. Though the titles of both of the Conglomerate signee's biggest hits are similar, J-Doe is a whole different kind of rapper.
He's recently had another breakout hit, "#iongivafuhabownuhn" (read: "I Don't Give a Fuck About Nothing"), which shows his ability to spit carefully-timed lyrics while still keeping a freestyle energy. The Busta Rhymes-directed video shows clips of Vine users rapping along to the song, along with cameos from Busta, Raekwon, DJ Khaled, Ace Hood, and Problem, showing just how well-connected J-Doe already is as his career begins to take off.
Even his latest single, though, is barely a preview of what's to come, as he'll explain below. J-Doe's been working with Busta for years now, though in the beginning, Busta didn't even know he rapped. J-Doe came in the game as a songwriter, and he'd already established an impressive resume-- more so, an impressive career-- before his first single, writing hits for multiple Grammy Award-winning artists. You might wonder how the "iongivafuh..." rapper has managed to write songs for Danity Kane, J.Lo, and Kelly Rowland, but his appreciation for all types of genres show in his ability to write songs both for himself and for others.
I recently sat down with J-Doe to talk about Conglomerate, working with Jamie Foxx, and how songwriting has aided his hip-hop career. If there's one thing we can learn from J-Doe, it's that good things happen to those who wait. His patience, and his willingness to wait his turn, has put him in the good graces of hip-hop's elite. He's been working marvels behind the scenes for years, and now it's his time to shine.
HotNewHipHop: J-Doe, thanks for stopping by, man. How long you been in New York?
J-Doe: Got here yesterday, early. Took a lil' nap, and started the press run, man.
HNHH: It's crazy, right? You used to this type of thing?
J-Doe: Nah, this is my first real press run. This is brand new for me.
HNHH: You're still based out of L.A.?
J-Doe: Still livin' out there. Absolutely.
HNHH: So let's take it back a few years. You started out your career songwriting. Did you think that was gonna be your full-time profession?
J-Doe: Nah, man. I never thought that. I honestly started songwriting on accident. I just happened to be producing for people that were songwriters--
HNHH: You were a producer first?
J-Doe: I was a producer first. The producing would pay me here and there. The artistry [rapping] never paid. One thing led to another, and I ended up songwriting. I just caught a passion for it. I ended up writing a song called "Damaged" for Danity Kane. That was the first time I received any type of payment for my music that was worth anything. From there, I was songwriting just to keep some kind of income going until my artistry worked out.
HNHH: Most of your big songwriting creds are in the R&B world. Was that sound always natural to you?
J-Doe: Yeah, it was just after the Danity Kane thing. Songwriting is a whole 'nother world. It's different; it's nothing like production or being an artist. I still had to learn how to really structure songs. It came naturally, but it was a learning experience.
HNHH: So you're paying all your bills songwriting. When did you get your first break as an artist?
J-Doe: Maybe two years later [after "Damaged"]. About three years ago, I had a song called "Coke, Dope, Crack, Smack," featuring me and Busta. And then I did a remix to that with me, Busta, David Banner, and T-Pain. And the remix just took off. I was getting YouTube videos of people dancing to it all over the world. That was my first moment.
HNHH: That was before you were signed with Busta?
J-Doe: I had just started working with Busta at the time. That was the first song I released since I signed with him, but we didn't have a major deal yet. It was just an idea that Busta had. Conglomerate was just beginning, you know what I mean? So, Conglomerate just started, I just signed, it just happened all right then. And we just kept pushing from there.
HNHH: Since "Crack, Smack," have you been putting a lot more work into your own music?
J-Doe: Oh, I always have though. Even though we didn't have a real outlet yet, I always would record songs for myself, as if I knew it was to come. Now, I'm tryin' to slow myself down [laughs].
HNHH: How'd you meet Busta?
J-Doe: Through songwriting. I was writing for Jamie Foxx, and Foxx hooked it up. Well, it wasn't his intent to hook it up-- he was doing a hook for Busta, and he needed somebody to write the hook. He called me and my boy Lonny [Bereal], we showed up, wrote the hook-- Busta loved it, and he kept bringing us back, writing, writing, writing. He eventually asked me to play some of my stuff. And that turned into... this [laughs].
HNHH: You've stayed working with Jamie Foxx. You had three records on his latest album, right?
J-Doe: I had three records on his album that just came out [Hollywood]. I had four on the album before that [Best Night of My Life], which was five years ago [laughs]. Foxx, he's a guy I would call a friend in this business. He's a great person to be around.
HNHH: Jamie Foxx, I mean, that guy's a superstar. What was it like working with him?
J-Doe: You know, as a songwriter, you just gotta try to keep your composure. The thing that famous people don't like is them having to be "on" when they should be working. I kinda learned early how to keep my composure, be there, and do what I'm supposed to do.
When I first met Foxx, I was introduced to him as a songwriter, and he didn't even care. You know, it takes some time, man. Eventually, I got a song through, he heard the record, and he started calling me personally to come write with him. And now, shit, I work with him all the time.
HNHH: So you've written for Jamie Foxx, Kelly Rowland--
HNHH: Yeah, you obviously know how to write a pop song, or an R&B song, but your most recent stuff is pretty hard hip-hop. What's the difference between writing for another artist and for your own material?
J-Doe: It actually comes from the music. When I hear music from a producer, it inspires me to think one way or another. Also, when I work with artists-- like Foxx, Tyrese, Tank-- they all typically come with the ideas. They come with: "I have this beat; this is what I wanna say."
I listen to so much different shit. My mix on my phone, it's so confusing: You'll be listening to John Mayer, then fuckin' Slim Thug, then some India Arie... But when you study all these different types of music, it comes natural when you writing it. It just so happens that the rap part of it was what I lived, in my life, and then the rest of it came from my interest in exploring different levels of musicianship.
HNHH: How'd you first get into music?
J-Doe: I was playin' drums in church, like 10 years old. I was absolutely terrible, but that was my first thing, then I started playing piano, like 13 or 14. And then in high school, I started playing marching band drums, and in marching band was when I really started freestyling-- on the bus, with the band [laughs]. When you think of it now, it's so, like, cliché, like what you would see in a movie, but that was how it all really started.
Then I started battling, in high school, and then people started knowing me and would bring their boys and try to battle me and shit. There's when it really took off, and I recorded my first song at 'bout 18.
HNHH: Has your experience writing for different genres helped out your own music?
J-Doe: It's definitely made my music more melodic and given it much more depth. My music has grown a lot more now that I'm a songwriter.
HNHH: Can you walk us through the features on your first tape, Welcome to My Fan Club? You had Tank, Eric Bellinger--
J-Doe: Man, I've known Eric Bellinger for a long time. I produced for a group he was in years ago. We just been friends for a long time. Tank and I met around the time Foxx and I met, and Tank has also been a really great person that I got to know. He gave me a lot of help and guidance in the industry.
I had BJ the Chicago Kid-- he's another guy that I been knowin' forever. You know, I was just talking to BJ last night, and him and I were just talking about, like-- so many people in the circle we came up in-- all of them are having their time right now. Me, Eric Bellinger, BJ, Jhené Aiko, Bad Lucc, Problem... all these people were right in the same circle, and now all of us have come into our own. It's crazy.
Welcome to My Fan Club, that was a project where I wanted to display my musicianship. All of my shows I did with a full live band. I was playing the piano and rapping at the same time, like on some hip-hop John Legend shit.
HNHH: Let's talk about the new record, "#iongivafuhabownuhn" ["I Don't Give a Fuck About Nothing"]. Did y'all put a lot of work into making sure that was the next big single?
J-Doe: Nope, that wasn't supposed to be the single. It was actually supposed to be this other record called "All I Know," produced by The League of Starz. And then last minute, a record I had done a year and a half ago ["#iongivafuh..."], just resurfaced. The label heard it, Busta heard it, and everyone was like, "Hmm, I don't know. This might be the one." And we just went with that.
HNHH: You've now got O.T. Genasis on Conglomerate. Anyone else?
J-Doe: Right now, it's just me and O.T. And they're signing this new guy, Aaron Cooks, from Syracuse.
It works great 'cuz we're signed to different labels. I'm on Sony Columbia, O.T. is on Atlantic, so we all have our individual team that is rooting for us. And then at Conglomerate-- what more could you ask for? Busta's always there to, you know, connect the dots, whatever it is that you need.
HNHH: So Conglomerate is the home base?
J-Doe: That's the home. The Conglomerate is where it all started. My situation is Conglomerate, then Louder Than Life, which is Salaam Remi's label, then Sony, which is the parent company.
HNHH: Do y'all have any Conglomerate collaborations coming our way?
J-Doe: We already put out two mixtapes. We just put out the Catastrophic part two mixtape. That was just mixtape stuff, just to familiarize everybody with the rapping. We probably will start doing more actual songs together-- we already have one. I don't know when, but we already shot a video for it. Jahlil Beats did the beat. The video's crazy, the song's crazy.
HNHH: As the two main guys on Conglomerate, you and O.T. have very different styles rapping-wise. Is there an image you're trying to convey as an individual within Conglomerate?
J-Doe: Glad you asked that. My image is going to be something that people haven't seen for quite some time. When I came up, what was the most inspiring to me, what made me really wanna do this shit, was the fun music: P. Diddy & Ma$e, Missy Elliott, Timbaland, uh, Busta Rhymes [laughs]. That sound wasn't about killing nobody, about no drugs that you sold; it wasn't about shit that's, like, harsh. They just had a great time, you had a great time listening to it, and then, you know, you played it over again to stay in that feeling. That's the feeling I'm gonna provide for the world.
This record that I started off with, "I Don't Give a Fuck About Nothin'," doesn't give me the opportunity to do that yet because the space that I was in at the time when I wrote it-- I was a songwriter, and now I'm being used by people who ask me to "write this, write that," but there isn't no conversation attached to this favor that you're asking. That's where it comes from: "I don't give a fuck about nothin'-- nigga, where the money?!" [laughs]. As Tyrese would say, "You have to have a bottom line." There's shit that you're just not gonna do.
But from this point on, there's gonna be an energy connected to my music that is freeing, that's just, like, fun. That's gonna be my ambition.
HNHH: With this sound, are you trying to take us back to the '90s?
J-Doe: No, not at all. The sound isn't gonna go backwards at all. But the energy and the feeling of those songs is what's gonna be brought to life.
HNHH: You've got a few very successful veterans in your inner-circle-- guys who have been through it all. What's the most important piece of wisdom you've taken away from any of these guys that's gonna help you going forward?
J-Doe: Man, I think more so than just taking wisdom away from them... I still have 'em. They wouldn't see me out here doing something wrong without calling me, like: "Nah, you gotta go this way," you know? I've learned so much from Tyrese, Foxx, and Busta over the years just by watching, not so much from tutelage, per se.
I don't even know if all of them saw this happening. I've just kind of played my lane so well. I never forced my artistry upon them. I always was just there doing what I'm supposed to do. If I was called to be a writer, I got there and I wrote, and I didn't say nothin' about the hot song I recorded last night [laughs]. They don't care about that, know what I mean? And that's partially why I was able to remain with these guys for so long and build the friendships.
A lot of people are so desperate for opportunities that you off-put people: "It's not even worth the talent he can offer me 'cuz he wants so much from me." You know, I just built a great relationship with them, and I think the relationship and the friendship is the goal there.
HNHH: Alright, man, that's all I got. Thanks for introducing yourself to the HotNewHipHop community.
J-Doe: Of course man.