NWA is regarded as one of the most revolutionary rap groups in Hip-Hop history. Merging an unapologetic attitude with a rebellious bravado, the iconic collective reflected a desire to shift the status quo and ignite a movement. Their music aggressively broke barriers and set a progressive precedent that propelled the genre into new heights as a transformational art form. As a res
ult, it came as no surprise that the F. Gary Gray-directed biopic “Straight Outta Compton” shattered box office records as the most successful film of its kind. Beyond depicting storied tales of navigating the industry and fighting social issues, the movie personified their ability to introduce a style of storytelling that pushed the envelope, challenging artists to use their voice in an intentional way.
Spearheading this shift was Dr. Dre, a gifted producer with an unmatched ear for music that became a prominent figure in music for more than two decades. Now, another Compton is walking in his footsteps, carrying the fearless spirit that sparked a definitive turning point in music.
Recruited by Dr. Dre to produce on his Compton album, Jointz is a Compton-bred producer who brings a refreshing energy and approach to crafting genre-bending sounds that add value to modern music in a way that resonates with today’s experimental. In addition to working closely with legends like Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis on the recently-released Janet Jackson Unbreakable album, the BMG Chrysalis signee has produced for superstars such as Jordin Sparks, Rihanna, and Brandy, among others. Jointz just received his first Grammy nomination for contributing five songs to Compton, solidifying his place as a rising architect of sound who is following a vision to shape the next generation of popular music.
We spoke to him about his experiences working with Dr. Dre, what fuels his creative process, and his plans for making a lasting impression on the music business.
What was the experience like working with Dr. Dre and what made you the perfect person to collaborate with?
It was inspiring. It was like going to school for the first time, and you instantly love going to school everyday. To learn so much from someone like that was incredible dream come true. What created that opportunity and attracted him to me was quickly realizing that I’m someone who understands the value of being connected with the times and creating music that resonates with today’s generation, but I’m also unafraid to take risks. When you’re willing to take risks, your end product is even more entertaining. Dr. Dre is focused on staying true to what generates a feeling, like the endless classics he created back in the day; songs that tell compelling stories, delivered in a way that captures the attention of anyone who can relate. I also believe in that when I create my music. I want to be different, I want to do something that raises eyebrows, and that’s something that he liked. For him, it is more about how do I take what I’ve mastered and elevate it to the next level. None of his albums sound the same. They all represent a specific era and sound that he set out to create. I aim to leave the same legacy.
You take pride in being unconventional and introducing new sounds – do you believe artists and producers are truly being creative and taking risks?
I would say that we, as a collective of music makers and creators, are not taking enough risks. When you look at the overall pop side of music, the songs are good, but we’re not really pushing the envelope or breaking any boundaries. Yet, at the same time, when you look at the landscape today, we’re more open to embracing people who are taking risks, and that eventually rises to become the popular sound, which becomes the popular trend in culture and sets the stage of the future of music. Once that starts happening, it starts snowballing and we’ll start embracing different things on a higher level.
What is your personal approach to creating music and building a new sound?
I recognize what does exist, and see how I can capture that sound or feeling, but still add different elements that make my music innovative. Although I strive to be different, I still want to be relatable to the people. I want people to embrace what I’m doing and not be scared of it as well. Primarily, the space I create from is a place that doesn’t exist already. My sound can’t be solely inspired by what is already out there, or what someone else is doing. It has to be an original idea.
In addition to Dr. Dre, you’ve also worked very closely with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis who are icons that represent an entirely different spectrum of music – what are some of the key lessons you’ve learned from them both that shape how you create music?
The one thing that both have taught me is that whatever I do, whether it’s very different or left field, focus on capturing or creating a feeling. If I capture the feeling, whether it’s the topline or the melody, I’ve done my job. If I focus on the feeling, there will always be someone out there that connects with what I create. I can’t just be making stuff that sounds dope just because it’s the cool thing to do; it has to have more to it. People gravitate towards music that reflects emotions they experience in their everyday lives. That’s a valuable lesson both of them have shown me.
You’ve received your first Grammy nomination for your work on Compton. How would you describe that feeling and what it says about the strides you’ve been making?
Having a Grammy nomination is unreal. I remember when I went to the awards just to feel what it was like. I wasn’t nominated for anything at the time, but I wanted the experience. I remember when we were leaving, saying to myself that I’m not coming back unless I was nominated for something. I was saying that with the undertone that I wasn’t going to be nominated for anything. I didn’t see it coming. There are millions and millions of people after that same thing, trying to walk through the same door, and only one person can go through that door at a time. That also applies to number one spots on Billboard, number one spots on iTunes and winning awards. It’s surreal that what I’m creating has created these opportunities for me.
There’s been a longstanding debate about the difference between beat makers and producers – what have you learned about what separates the two and how would you classify yourself?
I’ve learned that you don’t have to create a single beat to still be a great producer. If you can conduct the right talent together and have them gel perfectly, you have produced. If you can coach someone, in terms of how they perfect their melodies on a song, you’re producing. There are so many different factors when it comes to making a record that deviate from simply making the beat. It’s much bigger than making a beat and sending it off. If all you do is send off beats and wait for feedback, you just made the beat, you didn’t produce the record.
It seems that beat makers are celebrated more commonly and earn a higher level of popularity than producers – do you believe this is true? If so, why do you believe beat makers gain more respect and recognition? Beat makers are celebrated more because they are constantly given the title of producer, and if that beat ends up being the beat on a hit record, they’re classified as the producer; whether or not they actually produced the record, or had a hand in anything else outside of the beat. So, even though producing entails so many other elements, the fullness of the process falls on that beat maker.
Having worked with artists like Rihanna who commonly experiment with new sounds and styles – is that that template of artist you seek to collaborate with or feel best fits your style?
Definitely, but it’s an interesting dynamic. I’ve noticed that the artists who have a little bit more success or don’t have much to lose seem to be the ones who take the most risks. Those are the artists who actually end up being the trendsetters, because they feel more comfortable in taking those steps toward where they want to take their sound. If they fall, they can get right back up and dust themselves off, as opposed to someone working tireless to reach that point, pouring everything into it. It’s a blessing to be around established artists who have that attitude and sense of fearlessness. I just wish some of the new artists were taking the same risks. That’s because, at the end of the day, an artist like Rihanna is inspired by newer artists who are being fearless and taking risks the same way, and they pull their ideas from those artists all the time.
You have a strong management team that includes Danny Carter (A&R Executive) and Denzil Foster (Foster/McElroy, Club Nouveau and EnVogue). How important is it to have a team of people assisting in navigating your career?
Danny and Deni whip me into shape all the time. Having a solid team is dope, because when you put a record out, you realize it wasn’t what you thought it was when you put it out, and they keep you on track. You may not get as many chances to prove to a consumer how talented and creative you are if they feel like you’re scaring them every time you release something, so having a team of truly supportive and honest people who know how to navigate the space and keep you in line is the bigger mission.
You’ve launched your own company and have plans to expand your movement in the coming years. Describe the inspiration behind your brand and what it represents?
The company is called You Made Us What We Are. From a spiritual standpoint, that can be a message to God. In terms of the team, you’ve blessed us with this talent and allowed people to understand and be impacted by the work that we’re doing. If we end up being successful with this, it’s because you made us what we are. Then, in another aspect, if we build an artist up and they end up being influential through their music, it’s not necessarily us, it’s the consumers who are buying into the product, so it’s an ode to the fans. That’s what it’s about. We’re entertaining and providing a message to our consumers, our fans, and God put me on this earth to inspire and deliver a message.
Interview Conducted By Julian Mitchell