J Staffz


I’ll assume anyone interested in reading about Toronto hip hop producer, J Staffz, is also interested in professional men’s tennis. In tennis, we have players like Rafael Nadal, who are not always the prettiest to watch, or the most versatile, in terms of their arsenal, yet they work hard and compete like an angry bull. Then we have players like Roger Federer, who grace us with their class and magical dynamism each and every time they step foot on the court. J Staffz is Roger Federer. Just the other night I watched him play a very expensive-looking piano – owned by Number 9 Recording Studios in Toronto – with the effortless grace of a natural-born musician. Then he shuffled over to the adjoining room and blasted eleven new beats… grimy enough to contest anything coming out of the smoking section at Lex Luger’s crib.

Yet I don’t think that’s J’s lane, per se, the Lex Luger B.M.F. style. After all, classical music, along with good wine, is J’s guilty pleasure. He seems to perform best in the studio when he’s injecting classical vibes into the heart and soul of hip hop beats. So if I were to really weigh in on this dude who spends most of his time holed up in “Mom’s basement”, massaging the keys and tweeting, whose produced for the likes of Wiz Khalifa and Tony Yayo, I’d say he’s destined to be a heavyweight in the rap game. Toronto is in good hands, heads.

So what have you been working on lately?

Just making people a lot of music, basically, and that’s about it. Working on that and working on my social networking game, working on JStaffz TV.

I guess the biggest record you’ve done is the Tony Yayo record, “Officer Ricky”, right?

It was actually called “Somebody Snitched”. It was quoted as “Officer Ricky” because he says that a lot in the chorus. I did the Wiz Khalifa record too, with Boogz Boogetz, called “Meet New People”, and then I did “Young Rock Starz” on the exact same day. It’s funny because when I went and gave them the beats to do those records, I never knew they were going to use one of the other beats for the song, and then it was so weird when the song came out, because Yung Berg was on it, and they didn’t tell me that either, so it was kind of a shock when it came out. I was like, “Hold on a second”. And then they shot the video and they didn’t tell me that either, and I was just like, “What the hell, man?”

The Wiz Khalifa video?

No, here’s the thing. When I met them, I went to the studio just because Boogz Boogetz was on Ustream, and he was like, “Hey, come out”. So I went, sat there all day, getting baked for like five hours. Before I even played any beats, we just chilled, and it was like twenty minutes before I had to leave, because my manager was with me, or at the time she was with me, my friend Vanessa, and she had to work the next day, and it was like 11 o’clock at night, and we’re four hours away from home. We’re in like St. Catharines or something.

That’s where I was born. [laughs]

That’s why it was so weird, because Wiz was just there by himself.

Wiz was in St. Catharines?

Yeah, by himself. It was like two years ago, maybe 2008, 2009, summer of 2009. We just hung out. We didn’t really do anything, and then Wiz’s like, “Play your beats”. I played three beats and I got to the one that he liked for “Meet New People”, and he’s like, “Yo, leave it on”. He’s just sitting there nodding his head, and he grabs a blank piece of paper, and a marker, and scribbles his verses. That was crazy. I just went there to hang out and play beats, and then all these records come out. Wiz ended up putting one of them on his mixtape, and then Boogz Boogetz did a mixtape hosted by DJ Khaled, and both the songs were on that. I was like, “Oh my gosh”.

And with the Tony Yayo record, how did it feel to be slotted on one side of that beef with Rick Ross?

I didn’t even care about the beef. I followed it because it got press, but when the record came out I remember people calling me up and saying like, “Yo, I’m in Atlanta and I heard the track.” That was so cool to me because at the time I only had a couple records on regular rotation in Toronto, or across Canada. I never had anything that was played in other countries that people really liked. Even when G-Unit called me in 2007 or 2006, they were like the biggest rappers. They were like Young Money now. So that was kind of a shock, going from some kid in Brampton who just makes rap beats to the biggest rapper in the world calling you.

You’re from Brampton?

Yeah, man. I’m a Bramptonite.

Where in Brampton?

Hawarden and Mayfield.

There’s a lot of talent coming out of Canada, it seems.

I think it’s just all coming out now, because there’s been a block as far as popular music goes, in Canada, for a very long time. Drake and Justin Bieber opened that up. But you got to think, who was the last big rapper we had, who was as big as Drake? Maestro?

Snow, maybe.

But that was only like shutting down malls. Maybe Maestro. That was the early 90s. Canada only gets a good rapper every ten years. That’s retarded.

When you’re producing, do you use mostly the boards?

Yeah. I don’t like sampling. I feel like I’m cheating, especially because I know how to play the piano. It’s like plagiarizing when you’re the best reader/writer in the world. Not that I’m the best.

Well, you’re obviously on the right path. Do you have a strict business plan?

Kind of. Up to a year ago I used to be this crazy money-hungry “pay-me-for-beats” kind of artist. I wanted a thousand dollars for each beat. Then I realized the artists who have a lot of money… like the world is set up so that the artists who have a rich mommy and daddy just suck. They’re not really that good. And a lot of the ones who don’t have money, they’re amazing. Like the guys you find playing on the side of the road, or in the TTC, are amazing. They’re so good, and then the guys that are like, “Hey, I got ten grand, you want a beat? Can I get a beat?” You listen to them rap and you’re like, “Dude, just keep your money.”

Who do you like to listen to now, when you’re not working?

Tyler the Creator. He’s just crazy, and he breakdances. He makes like goth hip hop music and he breakdances. He’s a sick dancer. Cory Gunz is good. He blows my mind. Probably a lot of Drake. He’s been putting out a lot of emo music, well not emo, but emotional. But that’s good. Because if you listen to So Far Gone, all those songs are stories. He’s one of the artists who’s realizing when you tell your deepest secrets in song form, people take a way more personal approach. They get connected to you. They feel like they know you. As opposed to rapping about cars, clubs, girls, and getting hammered. Rapping about that stuff is cool, but having seventeen songs about that on your album is just ridiculous. It’s not any fun. I feel like music is getting back to the point where people are talking about real things that are going on in their lives; real stories. I feel like hip hop at least is getting back there, and that’s great.

You rap too, don’t you?

I’m weird. I’m like a part-time rapper. I like doing it, but that’s only because I get free studio time, and I get free beats. I don’t really pay to do it. If I had to buy beats, and pay for studio time, I probably wouldn’t do it, because I have way more passion for making beats.

But words come with it sometimes…

The only time I really get an urge to write a rap record is when I make a beat that’s really good. Then I remember that I just don’t like rapping very much. Because I’ll do one song, and then everyone’s wondering when the next one’s coming out. And I won’t have another one. [laughs] Like, I did this mixtape called The Staff Meeting.

Right, I couldn’t find it online.

Well, I didn’t want to promote myself as a rapper. Because a lot of people were like, “Hey, like what do you really rap about?” I’m just like, “I rap about making beats.” That’s like my whole thing, and there’s not that many people who can relate. I feel like if I go through something really traumatic, or say my career explodes and I become this huge producer, then that would be an opportune time to start rapping, because I can rap. I just haven’t been through enough to make a full ten to fifteen song mixtape, because ten of the songs would be about how much I hate rappers sometimes, and the rest would be about how I sit in the basement, and drink wine, and how I don’t like partying very much, and how I just watch movies. I wouldn’t be rapping about killing people, and drugs, and that stuff, because I don’t do that. I like going out to restaurants, so that’s all I would rap about.

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