Interview With J Manifesto (@JdotOdot)

Q. ‘Vicari­ously Through Memor­ies’ is an album title drip­ping with nos­tal­gic sen­ti­ment. There­fore what peri­od of time in your life is it that you’re reach­ing back to?

I’m reach­ing as far back as grade school days, all the way up to events that happened a couple years ago. It’s just a whole nos­tal­gia album. There is no chro­no­lo­gic­al order in events, but more of a sea­son­al order. From the begin­ning of fall (which for us in New York is the begin­ning of the school year), to spring, and then finally sum­mer. All the while, hop­ping back and forth in dif­fer­ent times dur­ing my life.

Q. Is the inclu­sion of so many fea­tures on the album a pur­pose­ful decision to reflect your desire to tap into as many col­lect­ive memor­ies of those that you grew up with? Or is it more about sup­port­ing loc­al artists you’ve always been asso­ci­ated with?

It was more so, to tap into a wider col­lec­tion of memor­ies. It expands the stor­ies and at the same time, shows how, at cer­tain times, we grew up sim­il­ar to each and or had sim­il­ar feel­ings while in dif­fer­ent areas in our city. Like for example “The Greatest Bodegas are In Har­lem”. We are all from dif­fer­ent parts of New York, and we still had sim­il­ar sen­ti­ments about this sub­ject. Which I feel is dope.

Q. The open­ing track, Carry On’s sound is imme­di­ately iden­ti­fi­able as being part of a Golden Era of hip hop, defined by pro­du­cers such as J Dilla and Madlib. Was this a con­scious decision to reach back to a peri­od of music that you relate to more? And did you have to search far to find mod­ern pro­du­cers that under­stood your vis­ion?

I did­n’t have to search far at all. I actu­ally see too many pro­du­cers mim­ick­ing the j dilla style more than any­one. As far as the more cur­rent trap style in hip hop, I haven’t ran into those pro­du­cers. There is a pleth­ora of pro­du­cers with a “golden” sound with mod­ern twists. Through social media, you can find all types of people that do everything you search for. I feel that when you make a cer­tain type of music, the right people, artists, and situ­ations will find their way to you. There are so many dope artists and pro­du­cers out there.

Q. ‘Take Over The World’ stands out as a tale of both your per­son­al pro­gres­sion and burn­ing desire to cre­ate an altern­at­ive life­style for your­self; remin­is­cent of Nas’ I Can for it’s wide­spread reli­ab­il­ity instead of approach­ing the top­ic from an aggress­ive angle, typ­ic­al of most mod­ern hip hop. So were your young­er years less affected by the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of crime and the ghetto com­pared to your peers? Or were you just always more focused on the pos­it­ive ways of mak­ing an impres­sion on the world?

A bit of both. I was­n’t closely affected by the rough­er life­styles, but they were always close by. I have a lot of friends in the area I live in that are affected by it who are no dif­fer­ent then me. Just cer­tain decisions we made grow­ing up lead us to where we are. I’m no bet­ter than any­one. We all have our doubts, and our troubles. We all get side tracked and even lose sight of what we even want to do with our lives. We all get caught up in the allure of the pos­sib­il­ity of a faster life­style. Espe­cially at young­er ages.

Q. Dur­ing some of the skits between tracks, food is a top­ic of high import­ance being dis­cussed by the guys. Food has always been a meta­phor for wealth through­out hip hop’s his­tory but in this case it feels more like a sym­bol for com­munity. Explain the sig­ni­fic­ance of the skits through­out the album?

The skits are pretty much a look into me and friends hanging out circa the time in which the song it fol­lows is tak­ing place. Wheth­er we are jok­ing around walk­ing to the corner store or driv­ing around on our way to play some bas­ket­ball. And  910 times when me and my hom­ies are togeth­er we’re prob­ably gonna be eat­ing or are about to go eat. Food is a big deal to us and in New York, because of the diversity and the access­ib­il­ity. So many vari­et­ies of food avail­able at lit­er­ally any hour of the day. It even effects our slang. Which is where all these terms for money come from.

Q. ‘My T Shirt’ seems to address rela­tion­ship and iden­tity regard­ing the mod­ern black male’s and the black woman; themes of slavery, mater­i­al­ism and fam­ily leg­acy are styl­ishly inter­mingled with every­day issues so how does this reflect how you see the world?

 That song (“My T Shirt”) does­n’t really reflect that at all. I just ref­er­enced that as a meta­phor for my girl (at that time) going through a pile of my shirts (Which are more than likely made of cot­ton) to wear. What I was get­ting at in that song is how, for some reas­on our girl­friends like to wear our shirts all the time. As if there was some deep­er con­nec­tion between me, her and my shirt. As far as your ques­tion, fam­ily leg­acy is some­thing I think about daily. I also think about how the his­tory of my people (Afric­an Amer­ic­ans) we are taught, and lead to believe all our his­tory star­ted in Amer­ica as slaves. They acknow­ledge that we are from Africa but with giv­ing us the full story. That we wer­en’t just bread from former slaves but we were from a land rich of resources, full of people who were invent­ors, creators,kings, queens and rulers.

Q. How do you want fans of hip hop to digest your album? As in do you think it can speak to the aver­age hip hop fan nowadays or is it more about tap­ping into a con­scious minor­ity with a mind to grow­ing their pop­u­la­tion?

This album is for every­body. Who ever is ready to listen to it is who it’s for. I don’t try to aim my music at a cer­tain demo­graph­ic. Because I know that our ears are very diverse. We all walk around with devices that can hold thou­sands and thou­sands of songs. There is plenty of people who listen to all types of genres and sub genres that can listen to my album as well as the straight up hip hop head.  I know it seems like every­one listens to the same 3 artists mixed with the same 3 pro­du­cers mak­ing the same 3 trap beats but that’s just a child of the media. It’s not real. Not every one listens to that. And not every­one listens to just that. I enjoy my “ignor­ant” hip hop here and there. But then I also enjoy my con­scious and everything in between. The labels job is to make the artist seem big­ger than what it is, as if they have all the hip hop worlds’ ears. In order to push that artist. And from the out­side look­ing in, it would seem like that’s all we listen to. But our hip hop ears and know­ledge is way more vast than what is shown.

For more inform­a­tion on J Mani­festo vis­it



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