By: Sylis Barnaby
You might not know his name yet, but if 24 year old J.Wells has anything to
say about it (and he does), you will soon. Through collaborations with Tha Liks,
Goodie Mob and now Kurupt on a full length album, this West Coast producer/MC is
set to carry on the tradition laid forth by the likes of Quik, Battlecat and NWA.
This is J.Wells.
Philaflava: So the album's Digital Smoke. How'd you and Kurupt hook up for this?
J.Wells: Well me and Kurupt been making records since back in 2001, the
Puff, Puff Pass tour. Ya know, we put out the Wolfpac Mixtape together and we
had I Didn't Change on there and a few records. Then I did Digital Master and
on this one, we decided to just, you know, do it full fledged. I signed a
distribution deal this year for my record label, Bonzi Records. And we just
decided to come together on the project and make it a collaborative effort.
PF:Y'all got a lot of guests on here.A lot of West Coast influences, obviously,
since that's where you both are at. But I see you got Goodie Mob on there, how'd
that come about?
JW: Well Good Mob, you know, Kurupt's always worked with Dungeon Family since
Streetz Is A Mutha. And we've always had a good relationship with the whole
Goodie Mob/Dungeon Family. I actually have a house in Atlanta and a studio. Ya
know, they were in the studio at the time and we were working on some stuff and
they just jumped on it. It just came together. I did Goodie Mob's single "Play
Your Flutes" on One Monkey Don't Stop No Show.
PF: Since you both produce and rap, if you had your choice, would you prefer to
be more like a Kanye West and be on every track you produce, or more like J.
Dilla, rapping only occasionally?
JW: More like Dr. Dre. Just kinda, here and there, when needed. Letting the
PF: Speaking of Dre and the West Coast and all that, what do you think of the
state of the West Coast now?
JW: Oh, I love it. I love what Ice Cube did independantly, selling that many
records independantly. That was great. I love what Game is doing and what
Snoop is doing. And as far as what Snoop is doing, bringing a lot of the guys
on the West Coast together on one project like the Big Squeeze album. I think
that's great cause there has been division on the West Coast but I think there's
some unity starting. And that's always really been my position, ya know, J. Wells.
I've worked with, ya know, from when Kurupt had his problems with the Dogg Pound...
being a producer I've been in the middle of a lot of stuff and I've tried being
the peace maker as much as possible.
PF: Now is there anyone coming up on the West Coast, or anywhere else for that
matter, that you think is gonna be that next big dude? Like how Snoop was, or
Cube way before him.
JW: There's two people that I really feel like that they are undeniable. One is
Stylistic Jones and the other is Tri-Star.
PF: Stylistic Jones was on the last Liks cd, right?
PF: Speaking of Tha Liks, how'd you get hooked up with them? I know J-Ro's been
like your mentor.
JW: Yeah. Well, I met J-Ro when I was probably like 16. And um, I'm from the San
Fernando Valley, 818 area, originally from Chicago, but I moved here when I was
about 12 years old. So I just came up around J-Ro. Ya know, he was good friends
with Stylistic and me and Stylistic went to high school together. He introduced
me to J-Ro, I started giving J-Ro beats. Ya know, J-Ro started having me in the
studio and one thing led to another.
PF: So what's the significance of the title, Digital Smoke? I know you had the
album Digital Master, is this kind of like a continuation of that?
JW: Yeah, well, Digital Master was basically more like a compilation, where I
basically said I'm the digital master...the master of digital. Ya know, (DJ)
Quik once said "Man, J.Wells is the master of digital." And Quik's always been a
mentor to me, he's mixed songs for me and he always told me I was one of the best
guys' that he's heard make digital sound like analog and sound dirty and bump. So,
from that I said I'm the digital master and I let that be known on this record.
And this next one, Digital Smoke, is the digital master and we got the king of
the smoke, ya know, Space Boogie: Smoke Oddessey . It's always been Kurupt,
original Chronic member. So we made the whole album smoked out and digital.
Which means it's new, we got the new guy on production, behind the boards.
PF: From what I've heard of the album, it sounds kinda like some throwback, fun,
West Coast summer time music. Is that what yall were goin for, since it's coming
out in time for summer?
JW: I mean, to be honest, I just make what I like and what I feel and I just
hope that people like it too. I can only be me, that's how I was trained. If you
know The Alkaholiks, they just always did what they did. I'm a little bit
different from the typical Alkaholiks sound, but I'm still me. I just do me.
I make the records I feel regardless of what's blowing up on the radio. I just
do what I'm feeling. We just make feel good records, that's what it's all about.
PF: It's gotta be kinda hard to not make those records being out in Cali all the
time. I wouldn't know about that being stuck on the East Coast.
JW: Yeah, man. But you know, we got that record with the Goodie Mob. It's got
that 808 in there, it's real clubby. But I got my West Coast-out records in
there too. I gotta do it.
PF: As a West Coast producer, there's a lot of people like Quik, Battlecat and
all those producers. Does it get intimidating putting yourself out there as West
Coast producer? Cause inevitably people are gonna make the comparisons.
JW: I've already been compared to them. It's a beautiful thing because they've
already been inspirations to me and mentors. I met Battlecat when I was 16,
back in the day. He became a mentor to me and helped push me along. Quik did
the same thing, when I was 18. Quik one day, pulled up next to a club and I
jumped in the car and we drove around Hollywood for about an hour just chopping
it up. To be compared to these guys is great. It's almost like they knew where
I was going and they wanted to make sure that, ya know, me being from the West
Coast, wanted to make sure I did things right. But bigger than that, me being
known as a producer is great, but I'm a label owner. I'm an executive and a
business man. Bonzi Records is my label and I'm basically building up a
company like Dr. Dre did.
PF: Are you trying to establish other artists beside yourself on Bonzi?
JW: Yeah, we got Stylistic Jones and Kimmie, who sings. I got Shorty, who
was also on Game's album. He sang the hook on the song with Busta Rhymes.
PF: So you're trying to cover all bases with rap and r&b?
JW: Oh yeah. I've worked with a lot of R&B people, from Ne-Yo to Keyshia Cole.
Ya know, Angie Stone, Nicole Wray. I've definitely, as a producer, been doing
r&b. It shows in the music, the melody.
PF: Aight. So, outside of Kurupt, if someone came up to you and said you have an
unlimited budget to work with one other rapper - past, present, whatever - for a
whole album. Who would it be and why?
JW: Ice Cube. Cause I have great respect for Cube and I've never worked with him.
And I think if me and him got together, we'd make some smashes.
PF: Do you have any plans for a tour for this album?
JW: Yeah, we might be doing something this summer with the Dogg Pound. I might
be going out with them and pretty much promoting and assisting with whatever
Kurupt is doing with DPG and Snoop.
PF: How about a single or a video for the album?
JW: Yeah, we're shooting a video next week. It's All We Smoke. Ya know, the main
thing is really, this album is...I've expressed many times in interviews and
it's a point I've got to make. I wouldn't be here without the Latin community.
The Latins, on the West Coast and throughout, they've supported me continuously
when I put out records on the street. When I did the Wolfpac and Digital Master,
I sold those out of the trunk of my car. Before I did my distribution deal with
Fontana. Just like Too Short did and Jay-Z back in the day, I was a real hustler.
And what I saw in the street is that the Latin community supports West Coast records.
When I go to Dogg Pound shows and Liks shows, I see the Latins there and they
support man. And I just gotta dedicate Digital Smoke to them, and let them know
that we do embrace them for the love and support they show for this music. And
it brings some peace to the friction between the black and the brown that's
on the streets of LA and the streets of the West Coast.
JW: Kurupt right now is shooting a movie, "Days Of Wrath."
PF: Oh, aight. I was actually gonna ask him about that. If he had any plans for
JW: Yeah, he's shooting "Days Of Wrath" and that's one of the reasons why he's
not present right now. It's been a rigorous schedule. But he told me to let the
fans know to support Digital Smoke.
PF: Yeah, it comes out June 5th, right?
JW: Yes sir.
PF: And the single's All We Smoke, and the video's gonna be available online and
yall are gonna try to push it to MTV, BET and all that?
JW: Yeah, it'll be out June 5th. We got the video coming and we also got a DVD
from the Dogg Pound. The Saga Unfolds DVD.
PF: Yeah, so what is the current status of the Dogg Pound, given their ups and
JW: Daz is in complete support of everything we're doing. And Daz has also been
a mentor to me. As far as a producer and just an artist and a businessman. Daz
is a great business man and he supports everything we're doing, know what I
mean? We just all gotta play our positions and be in different places at
different times to make everything as big as possible, know what I mean?
PF: Anyone, producers or Mcs, you're really feeling right now?
JW: As far as artists, ya know, I still love Redman. I love the album he just
put out. Redman's supposed to do the remix for All We Smoke. I got great
respect for Redman and everything he's doing, no doubt.
PF: If you had the chance to pinpoint one thing or a trend in hip hop right
now that's messing shit up, what would it be?
JW: We gotta start making different videos. All the videos are starting to
look the same. Same old girl, same old cars, it just is getting old. We need
to start getting creative. I got a track on Snoop Dogg's new animated DVD,
The Adventures of the Blue Carpet Treatment, the one we did with Katt Williams.
All animated. To me, that's what needs to go on - creativity. Something
different. I mean, we gotta address what all these fathers are saying about us,
like Richard Simmons, Al Sharpton. Cause we have an outlet, hip-hop, to do
certain things. And everything doesn't have to be about the bitches and the ho's
in the video. We can do different things and talk about different things.
PF: Do you think that part of the reason we keep seeing the same things is cause
it's so easy for people to get in, make their money, and get out without having
to answer to anyone? Like they don't have mentors like you had with J-Ro, Quik,
JW: I just think that there are a lot of followers in the game and we need to
get more innovators. That's what I'm trying to do, innovate. After this, I got
a solo album coming called Inebriated. Kurupt wanted to let people know that
J.Wells is my producer, but he raps now.
PF: So is that mostly you rapping? You gonna have some guests on there?
JW: It's gonna be mostly me, but I'm definitely gonna have some guests, ya know.
People flying in, flying out. Gonna put it together like a masterpiece. As far
as me rapping, this is just the set up for Inebriated. It'll probably be out
January or February of next year on Bonzi Records. I'm completely self-built,
with my own company. It's a fully staffed company, and that's what it's all
about. Being independent and owning your masters and your music.
PF: So the people on PhilaFlava would prolly kill me if I didn't try to get some
info on Kurupt from ya. Anything you can tell me about the Four Horsement
JW: The Four Horsemen? Well, they're all on their separate paths right now, ya
know. Killah Priest is doing his thing, Canibus is doing his thing. I'm actually
gonna put out Canibus' next record, through Bonzi. Canibus is back around,
that's the homie. Ya know, pretty much, everyone's on their own path. They're
all gonna come back together though in the near future and do something. And
Kurupt's got his own solo album coming out. Snoop is executive producing it so
they'll figure out what they're gonna do with it, probably on one of the major
PF: And there's gonna be some J.Wells production on it?
JW: Of course. Without question.
PF: Cool. Yall are kinda taking it back to where rappers weren't just going to
every hot producer to try to fit a style for each song on an album.
JW: See, that's what it's gotta get back to. We gotta get back to making albums.
A lot of people can make a beat and call themself a producer. But a real
producer can make a whole album. He can get with one artist and make a whole
project like Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson. You bring in your musicians,
you bring in your players, you bring in your magic and y'all sit and y'all make
an album. And that's what it's gotta get back to. It's gonna cut the budgets
down with the major labels cause everything's getting out of control with these
high production costs. We need to get back to the artist and the producer coming
together and making an album.
PF: It's refreshing to hear someone talking like this, from your position as
someone who's gonna be doing big things soon, if not sooner.
JW: That's the whole thing. I'm the extension of the Dogg Pound and Tha Liks,
the Likwit Crew name. I'm 24 years old, for whoever out there don't know. I'm
still young, in my early 20s. I'm really just here to keep the legacy going.
I've always paid respect and homage to Snoop and NWA and Kurupt and everyone
that came before me.
PF: Speaking of Tha Liks, you think they're done as a group?
JW: (pause)....Nah. Never. They'll never be done. We're talking about putting
together a Likwit Crew album. With Defari, Xzibit, J-Ro, Tash, E-Swift, try to
get Dilated on there. Everybody's that's associated with the Likwit name. Me and
one of my guys are trying to set that up and orchestrate that.
PF: Any last words?
JW: Digital Smoke, June 5th. They can check it out on on
http://www.myspace.com/jwellsmusic or http://www.bonzirecords.com.