Rapper-producer J Rawls was motivated by something other than money when he was deciding which song would launch his recently released “The Hip-Hop Affect” album. He ultimately went with “Face It,” which features Sadat X of Brand Nubian and Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers and it wasn’t because of commercial appeal, either.
“I didn’t put ‘Face It’ out thinkin’ I’m going to become a millionaire,” the Ohio-based artist says. “I put it out because I believe in it -- I really believe in what it says. I think that’s what’s missing from hip-hop a lot of times today. There’s not that passion. I guess the artists are passionate about making money, but not necessarily the passion of believing in what you do and trying to make a difference. I just think that’s important.”
The Hip-Hop Affect
That type of passion is a mainstay throughout “The Hip-Hop Affect.” New single “Jewel” features J Rawls rapping about the reality of marriage and fatherhood, including both the joys and the struggles inherent in both.
“The whole album is about how hip-hop affected my life, how those guys changed me and I didn’t even know them,” he explains. “When I think back to the first time I heard Brand Nubian, it made me want to research and learn more. That was just exciting to me. When I think back to Wise Intelligent and Poor Righteous Teacher’s “Holy Intellect” and “Pure Poverty” albums, those things shaped my career and shaped who I am as a person as well. I don’t know if hip-hop shapes in the same way anymore.”
In order to provide the same inspiration throughout “The Hip-Hop Affect,” J Rawls featured a bevy of diverse artists from around the country and with different styles he believes in, from New York producer-rapper Diamond D to Chicago rhyme slinger Rhymefest to Pittsburgh rap pioneer J. Sands to the Bay Area’s Casual and Boston’s Edo G.
This type of range reminds J Rawls of rap in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Miami’s 2 Live Crew made booty shake music, Compton’s N.W.A popularized the gangster sound, New York’s Brand Nubian, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest delivered thoughtful, inspirational messages with clever lyricism and Atlanta’s OutKast was emerging as one of rap’s most inventive groups.
“What I really appreciated about rap growing up was that it was versatile,” he says. “We had our gangsters, the girls with the big booties [in videos]. We had that, but the media would support everything, not just the stuff with the girls with the ass-shake. There was a wide selection. If you turned on the radio or BET now, it sounds like everything sounds the same.”
J Rawls hopes that “The Hip-Hop Affect” brings similar balance to the musical landscape.
“My whole point was to shed light on how it used to be,” he says, “and maybe even give some props to what was in the past and maybe see if we can get a few converts.”
For more from Soren Baker follow him on Twitter: @SorenBaker.
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