J-Zone, self-proclaimed “jack of all trades, master of zero,” may be familiar to you for any one of his six lives: Indie hip-hop’s class clown; an off-kilter producer with his own identifiable style; a frustrated music business casualty who penned a nervy memoir about the life of the working class musician (Root For The Villain); a tongue-in-cheek, encyclopedic music journalist; a late-blooming drummer with a knack for channeling the spirit of classic break beats or a DJ with a deep love for funk 45s.
On his seventh solo album (and twelfth overall), Fish-n-Grits, J-Zone visits all the stops of an artistic and musical journey that spans well over two decades. Comprised of both limited edition 7” vinyl-only releases (dating back to 2014) and all new material, Fish-n-Grits is equal parts vocal and instrumental. The New York native uses his rap time to pick fights with the delusional state of the music industry, gentrification, the good and bad of nostalgia, police brutality, political correctness and hip-hop’s generational conflicts, but never without his signature brands of humor and sarcasm intact.
As a student of samplers, drummer, multi-instrumentalist and collector of archaic studio gear, Zone was able to chef Fish-n-Grits into his most sonically versatile album to date. A stew of dirty, funky live drumming, bizarre samples, pulsating percussion and menacing bass that stretches in vibe from a circa 1969 funk instrumental to a twisted, analog interpretation of trap music, Fish-n-Grits has moments inspired by just about everyone. It’s obvious that The Meters, Prince Paul, The Incredible Bongo Band, Project Pat, Kool and the Gang, Public Enemy, George Clinton, Kool Keith, Bernard Purdie and Tim Dog have all carved out space in Zone’s music library, but the sound remains his own.
J-Zone’s zany alter egos (Chief Chinchilla and Swagmaster Bacon) also get booth time, as do long time collaborators Al-Shid, Prince Paul and Has-Lo. Serving as a bridge between Zone’s 2013 comeback offering (Peter Pan Syndrome) and a forthcoming group project with Prince Paul and Sacha Jenkins (SuperBlack), Fish-n-Grits captures his development as an artist and musician, with occasional nods to the past.
In the meantime, J-Zone can be found laying down drum tracks (Danger Mouse, Marco Polo, Stretch & Bobbito Documentary, Fresh Dressed, his own drum break series), throwing down live funk 45 sets, repping SuperBlack, making the occasional beat and interviewing unsung musicians for Red Bull Music Academy.