J-Blev, the latest act out of Colorado Springs, has elevated his sound with the help of Turf DJ Ktone. The title of his latest mixtape, And Then There Was Me, alludes to the solitary nature of being a rapper, in which an artist must step out on his own to make a direct impact on his environment. Originally from Pensacola, Florida, J-Blev has the gift -- or curse -- of being the newest face in Colorado hip-hop. We recently chopped it up with the Hustle Hard Records and Dirty Limelight affiliate on art, love, and war.
Westword (Ru Johnson): Your flow has a distinct dialect. Where are you from?
J-Blev: My home is Pensacola, Florida. I also lived in Riverdale, Georgia, for seven years, where I graduated high school in 2003 with Ciara -- yes, "My Goodies" Ciara. If you're reading this C, you should hit me up; I'm ready for the big league!
Ww: Who is J-Blev?
J-B: J-Blev is the ultimate juggler. I'm a music artist, producer, college graduate, father, husband, full-time employee and am an only child. Not to mention I'm Source Magazine's Colorado talent show champ, Feat Factor and Core DJ approved.
Ww: Walk me through the process of creating a mixtape. Do you just choose beats and themes that you like and go in?
J-B: For the most part, yes. That's the way I do it, but of course nothing is written in stone.
Ww: The debate on the importance and role of the DJ rages daily. How did the inclusion of DJ Ktone as host enhance the purpose of the mixtape?
J-B: The inclusion of DJ Ktone gave the mixtape the essence of a true rap/hip-hop project, the way the legends did it before me, [with] scratches, skits, etc.
Ww: The first full track on And Then There Was Me is your manifesto announcing you've returned to the game. Where have you been, and why does the game need you?
J-B: I took a year off after my 2008 mixtape, New to the Neighborhood with DJ Smallz, in order to help my girl with the pregnancy. I believe the game needs me because I have mastered the art of blending meaningful concepts with entertainment value. I think that's something that most people would agree is lacking in my genre.
Ww: On "Local Artist Title," you talk about eliminating the idea of being considered a local rapper. How does living in a city that you're not from change the dynamic of your representation?
J-B: When people think about me as an artist, they mostly think about the Colorado music scene because that's where I have accomplished the most. Before I moved to CO, I was doing music and opening for major acts, but not nearly as much until I moved here.
Ww: When the first strains of the outro started to play Kanye's "And I Wonder" I thought, this could be really good or really bad, and you got pretty personal on that joint. Do you feel like discussing your struggles authenticates your experience through rap?
J-B: Yes, because as I stated earlier, not many genres do it these days. I think that's why Drake succeeded. He wasn't scared to get personal and be himself instead of going with party, party, party, all the time. I feel most people don't listen to music to learn and be preached to; yet mental stimulation here and there has never hurt as long as there is a good balance.
Ww: "Sexual Gratification" is hilarious and explicit; you mention that you're a Scorpio with a "special glow." Why do you prefer sex over power, or vice versa?
J-B: Ha-ha. I don't prefer sex "over" power, but I do agree that sex is a form of power. It's been seen throughout history. Most of the wars that we read about in history books were sparked because of a woman. Either the man wanted to show out for her, wanted her, or had made love to her and lost her, thus sparking his bitterness and hunger for war and redemption.
Ww: The mixtape seems to have a theme of an artist that can stand on his own. What are your plans for sustaining your craft as you build capacity?
J-B: I'm just going to continue honing my craft and being true to myself. It's worked for me so far.
Ww: In times of social change, often it is the artists, the photographers, writers, poets, speakers, etc, that give witness to the revolution. In what ways do you consider what you do to be art?
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J-B: Artists portray what they see by painting or drawing it, photographers do it by capturing a moment in its natural beauty. As far as writers, I am a writer and rap is just another form of poetry. We music artists portray what we see and go through over instrumentals, in the sense of painting pictures with words.
Ww: You live in Colorado Springs. Do you do any cross city connecting with Denver?
J-B: The mixtape with DJ Ktone was the chess move that I saw necessary in order to spread my name into Denver. I am the first artist that lives in the Springs that has done [a mixtape] with him, I believe. Anyhow, Denver has a more recognized music scene than the Springs in most ways, so I'd advise any artist looking to become a factor in this state to network with them. They have a lot to offer.