Strange Music Signee “JL” Talks DIBKIS Album, Media Representation, Artists Having The “Password” To Success, Tech N9ne, & More

If you’re a fan of Tech N9ne, then you’ve probably heard him mention Kansas City heavy in his music. Does Big Scoob ring a bell? How about 56th and Highland? If these mean anything to you then the name JL should sound familiar. The Strange Music signee is also a Kansas City native and grew up close by the same stomping grounds as, little to his knowledge, the man who would eventually change his life.

JL’s life changed when in 2010, he recorded a track with Tech and their working/personal relationship has been strong ever since. Now, seven years later, the rapper is signed to Strange Music Inc, shutting down streets for his music video in his hometown, and releasing his new debut album Friday, June 30th.

True: Let’s talk about your debut project DIBKIS (Do It Big, Keep It Strange.) What’s the background story behind this title?

JL: Years ago, I came up with a song actually and in it I said,”I do it big, keep it strange.” When I was thinking about the title of the song, I ended up making an acronym, which is D.I.B.K.I.S. It caught on really quickly and I just campaigned the shit out of it. A bunch of people got it tatted on them; it’s like 52 tattoos. So when I got signed to Strange [music Inc] it was just one of those moments where your first album has to be called DIBKIS. Now it makes all the sense in the world. My album is like the definition of that shit. It’s the balance of being that strange individual, tapping into mainstream. That type of thing.

True: The music on your album is definitely relatable to a lot that is transpiring in hip-hop and the world we live in. “Propaganda” explores the images that are represented in the news and in the media that our young people are witnessing while password serves as an open diary where you examine how a lot of artists are somehow ‘quote on quote’ making it faster than other artists who you feel are more ready. What’s your take on that?

JL: With “Propaganda,” it’s one of those moments…I’m a very conscious person; I understand how the world around us really affects us being in it without us noticing. “Propaganda” plays a big part of that. You know the news and different things we see on a regular play a major part in the way we are. The beginning of the song I say “As I was pouring my morning cup of tea.” We usually don’t give a shit. You think of Kermit with his tea. “As I was pouring my morning cup of tea, a news reporter’s story interrupted me/ sat my cup down on the granite counter in front of me/ adjust the volume, tune into the fuckery.”
I felt like if I was going to do my debut album, I had to at least address it because as a hip-hop artist it’s our job to talk about the times and be a representation of the times. Even though I didn’t want to get too deep on my album with political shit, I felt it was necessary to throw it in there and let people know that I’m aware and give a little bit of a perspective from my angle on that whole shit. That’s kind of what “Propaganda” is. I’m a hip-hop head at heart so you gotta represent that shit.
With “Password,” it’s like a joke – not a joke necessarily – but like a fun, almost parody song when I started creating it. The reason why I use that type of flow and adlibs on that joint was to be funny; to put out there how artists don’t work that hard, how they do this light, no heart in it type of shit and blow up off of it and get paid a lot of money. I’m not hatin’ on it at all but I just think it’s funny as fuck especially as an artist who has put a lot of time and energy and thought into my lyrics, into my music, into albums over and over again. It was just one of those things. Mayday produced the beat. We were in Miami when we did it. I was literally logging onto the internet when we were playing the beat and I said, “what’s the motha fuckin’ password?” We all cracked up and said, “dude that’s it” and I made the concept around that.

True: You recently shot your video for “Out Da Hood” in your hometown Kansas City. How was that? Did you have any of your friends pull up?

JL: It was a major thing. We actually shut down one of the main streets in Kansas City at 5 pm on a Monday. We blocked off a whole street so for Kansas City, it was a good look. We had everybody out there. We had multiple car clubs, motorcycle clubs, dancers, a whole dance academy out there, and of course a bunch of hood people; people from my hood that I grew up with, and just friends and artists all over the place. It was a real good feeling for me. We flew Nef Da Pharaoh in who’s on the song. It was a good ass time. The environment was just righteous. It rained that day, but the whole time we were shooting the video we didn’t get rained on. It was just the perfect background setting. I had a Native American dude tell me when you bring the rain like that it’s good luck so it seems to be true at this point with the success of that song and video. I think we gone be alright.

True: How did you and Nef link up? Did you send him the track and he sent you his verse back?

JL: Yes, I did. I’ve been following Nef Da Pharoah for a few years now. Kansas City and the Bay have a really strong, weird connection. I grew up listening to E40. E40 is in my top ten favorite rappers of all time. Him and my big bro Tech N9ne are like brothers. They have a really good relationship. Pharoah is E40’s new artist so I figured I’d be that person to bridge that new gap. I reached out to Nef, sent him the track, and I guess he was fuckin’ with it.

True: How did you and Tech build this working/personal relationship? How did that transpire?

JL: It’s crazy because you know I grew up in Kansas City. One of the streets I grew up on was 56th and Highland which is a block you hear Tech N9ne talk about all the time. It was his stomping grounds for a long time, him and 7th street roll dogs, Big Scoob, all those guys. They were literally right down the street from one of the areas I grew up in, same block type of shit. He’s known me since I was young and over the years time passed he started hearing about my group “B. Hood” which stands for “Brotherhood.” He started hearing about us through the grapevine and then he found out it was us and he flipped out. He used to bring me to the studio. I used to rap for him all the time. Eventually, he just gave me the opportunity in 2010 to hop on a track and I shined on it and we’ve been working ever since. It took a long time for me to get signed in that aspect of things. You know Strange Music is a business. Everybody has to be on the same page. It can seem bias if a kid you’ve known since he was young you want to sign. It can seem like you’re being a little bias so I had to show and prove definitely. It took years. It took a lot of projects, a lot of work but it came around and I’m here now. Now my first album is Tech N9ne Presents JL so it’s a beautiful thing for me. On top of that, he’s my favorite rapper.

True: What’s your creative process as far as writing and music?

JL: For me, it’s different every time. I usually write to a beat because the beat tells me what to write. The beat gives me an emotion. I’ll take it somewhere off of that. There’s been a few times where I have a verse or something that I wrote maybe to some random shit and then I find something for it. But most of the time it’s created to that beat or I have an idea and look for a certain beat that fits that idea for myself. Sometimes I write in the studio. Sometimes I like to create on the spot. Just go in there and do the hooks off of mumbling almost until you find the right words. I’m a writer though. I like to think my shit out.

True: What do you think about the state of hip-hop today? A lot of people like to differentiate hip-hop and rap as two different genres of some sort.

JL: There are differences in it. Hip-hop has constantly been evolving and changing but has always kept the same core principles. There’s always mainstream music. There’s always underground music. The state of hip-hop right now, I feel like it is perfectly fine. Everybody listens to hip-hop. Everybody has a taste and a preference so I feel like there is room for whatever you do. If you’re yourself, it comes across. If you’re real in your lyrics, it comes across. It may be huge; it may be under the radar and support your lifestyle and pay your bills. There are so many ways
to be successful off of hip-hop.

True: What would you say you’d be doing if you weren’t creating music?

JL: If I wasn’t creating music I’d probably be like an engineer helping other people create music. In the future, I probably want to manage artists and help artists with their career and things like that. I would probably still be involved in it someway if I wasn’t actually creating music for sure. There’s still a lot of things I want to do and plan on doing business wise. But I love working for myself regardless I would be working for myself and creating my schedule when I wake up in the morning. In situations like these, your day is planned out for you.but I’m doing what I love so it is what it is.

True: Who are some artists who are currently in your playlist right now?

JL: I listen to a lot of shit. Of course I know every word to probably every Migos song right now. I can’t say that I don’t fuck with them. I fuck with them real heavy. Tech N9ne stays in my playlist. I like the Joyner Lucas joint. I mess with Joyner Lucas. He is a really dope lyricist, storyteller, a really creative dude. I really appreciate that. I listen to a lot of music. Usually, the hot shit I’m up on it and I appreciate it if it gets hot because it gets hot for a reason. If you can have masses of people singing your songs and wanting to play them, dude that”s winning. It’s for a reason obviously. Sometimes the media can push a bunch of bullcrap. If it ain’t tight, it ain’t tight. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. If I’m fuckin’ with the shit and it’s on the radio, I actually like it. I listen to Kendrick {Lamar}. The D.A.M.N album is probably one of my favorite albums put out in a long time. Kendrick is a monster. I fuck with the whole TDE really. Schoolboy Q. He the nigga.

True: What would you say your next single will be visual wise?

JL: Visual wise I got a song on my album called “Saturday.” It’s me, my homie Marley Young who’s on the hook, and then there is this guy named The Popper who is a Kansas City legend and veteran, and Tech N9ne. We’re all Kansas City guys. It’s one of my favorite songs on my album. That’s gone be the next visual.

True: So, free time. What do you do? Do you watch sports?

JL: Yeah. I watch sports. I’m not a super fanatic anymore just because I don’t like to waste my time on anything that’s not gonna benefit me really. I kind of stay out of it so much. I’m in the studio all the time. I’m always on the scene, one place or another, whether it be a party here. I know a lot of djs so I always go out and support because they support back. I’m an artist. I draw, paint, stuff like that.When I get some time I like to slap some paint on some canvases. Just randomly do shit like that.

True: Anything else you would like to say/add?

JL: DIBKIS. Do it big, keep it strange. First album on Strange Music about to drop. Dropping June 30th.

Follow JL on Instagram and Twitter. Make sure you cop his debut album DIBKIS June 30th.

Interviewed By: Simone Grant

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