The following is an excerpt from the J Rocc feature by James Ernesto Lang, published in Bondafide Magazine #5, their Old School x New School special. J Rocc talks about the making of his album Some Cold Rock Stuf and his time working with J Dilla.

J Rocc, a name probably unknown in the mainstream yet is one of the most fundamental cats in
hip-hop. A founder member of L.A. turntablist crew the World Famous Beat Junkies, J was the third
member of Jaylib and is part of the Stones Throw family. He also makes number one in many
heads’ DJ lists. After years of being known solely for his selective and manipulative powers
on the turntable, he’s now turned his hand to releasing an album, Some Cold Rock Stuf.

“Dilla was still alive when this album was signed,”
he recalls down the phone from his L.A. crib. “That’s
how long this has taken. Egon [who runs Stones
Throw Records with Peanut Butter Wolf] was like,
‘You know we paid you in advance for that album?
Where is it?’ Then I realised he was serious.”

It’s taken a while for others to get their head
around it too, with J recently resorting to tweeting,
“MY ALBUM IS NOT A MIXTAPE,” all caps to emphaise that, while he’s thrown out more
mixtapes than most DJ’s have records, this is his
first album proper.

The album is old-school through and through,
and an encyclopaedia of breaks. It both
demonstrates J Rocc’s reputation as a digger
of crates extraordinaire and his ability to suck-up
new technology like a hip-hop hoover. The LP
is both contemporary and like something that would have been played out loud from a boombox
back in the day. “I used CDJs on the album for
looping, time stretching, all that stuff. But I use
Serato to make beats too. I use anything. I used
to use a 4-track before I had a sampler, layer
those beats on top of each other. I got no problem
looping a break by hand – it’s 2011, you can use
whatever you got.“

“Me and Egon went back Me and Egon went back and forth with it. Jeff and
Wolf agreed it was a good idea – Wolf didn’t hear
it until a week or two after mastering. He wasn’t as
hands on as he is with Dam Funk, Hawthorne and
those dudes. I’m different – I don’t pull out my stuff
for him to listen to in the car like those guys might.
Some tracks I definitely had an audience in mind,
like the megamix cut-up, to make it danceable. But
some of ‘em I was just trying to make beats, not
really for a certain audience. Just making it for me
in the hope that people will listen to it and dig it.”

Part of what makes this a real album, in J’s
terms, is that it is a vinyl release. “I can just put
a download up on Soundcloud anytime and call it
an album. This [album] had to be more concrete.”

Unsurprisingly, making the physical product look
sick was a priority. If you owned tens of thousands
of records, wouldn’t you want yours to stand out
a little? Both the vinyl and CD versions of the
album come elaborately packaged. “The
DangerDoom vinyl on Lex Records was dope.
Oh No and Alchemist did a chainsaw – it’s not supposed to be sharp but you can damage
yourself. I actually just picked up vinyl shaped as
a fan by A Taste Of Honey – that’s pretty crazy
looking. I have a ‘50s Disneyland record that has
each record in a booklet…

“I know my vinyl’s expensive. That’s why we made
it some other shit, we tried to make it so you
get a couple other things like the poster and
stickers. Jeff Jank designed the album packaging
with Gustavo Eandi, who did the drawing. Jeff
submitted a number of covers but wasn’t happy
with any of them. Now he’s spent so much time
going back and forth with the printers because
they kept fucking it up. He had to make the jewel
case for the CD by hand and took that into the CD
place, a prototype, because there simply wasn’t
anyone that could do that. Jeff went really all out;
he put time and effort into it to make sure it all
made sense. He wouldn’t settle for the first try, he
always wanted to change it up.” [See photos]

What if Stones Throw had said they
wanted to do download only first, then see how it
does before a vinyl release? “I don’t know, man.
It would have to be my second or third album.
My first album has to be vinyl, be official. Even if you don’t have fancy artwork, if you can
just do a limited press, then that can only be a
good thing. You gotta take care of the vinyl purists
– there’s always somebody out there that wants
the vinyl, not the CD or download.

“The vinyl pressing plants, they’re the last of the
Mohicans. But as long as someone’s pressing
records up they’ll be in business. Unless, like
Technics, companies stop making the parts. Even
that equipment is ancient though! They’re probably
working on a new edition made in 88…”

J Rocc took much inspiration from Dilla during
their friendship and since his passing. “On Donuts, all the
time stretching, plug-ins and crazy shit, all done
in-house. He didn’t care what he was using –
whatever was available. If I came over to his
house hyped about Ableton, he would have tried
Ableton. When Madlib bought some little in-house
sampler, Dilla went out and bought one too. He
didn’t trip, he was definitely a technology head.
He’d be like, ‘Yo, J Rocc, you didn’t get these
plug-ins yet? Man!’ He would use keyboards and
all that shit too, but… if I could show him what
Ableton could do now he’d be like, J Rocc, what!

“If he was here now, he would have been on
some other shit.. Probably like Flying Lotus plus
him plus Madlib plus a frickin’ dash of Questlove,
Alchemist… everyone who is influenced by him.
Imagine all the dopest elements of those people.

That would be him right now, ‘cos all those dudes
were influenced by him. He switched it up every
fucking time. The beats he was playing me just
before he died were some other shit! The last
batch, man. They were like Donuts, but a different
style. Still chopped loops but… I can’t even explain
it. I would go to Dilla’s at least once a week just
to kick it, play records, smoke… just chill. Common
would be there ‘cos they lived together, Ma Dukes
would be there… he would definitely, definitely be
on some other shit. He just got his keyboard back,
his Voyager, just before he passed… MAN. Then
he would’ve took it somewhere else from there!
All this shit now, he would have done three or four
years ago. You would know who the father of the
style was.

“With Stones Throw he went back to the
underground. ‘Fuck all this major label shit, these
fools fucking with me. Just put my shit on Stones
Throw. They wanna release a beat tape? Go
ahead, release the beat tape.’ He was close to
everybody. From Jeff Jank to Wolf, even probably
some of the people that were in the office at the
time — everyone was hella close.”

J Rocc is in the right family when it comes to vinyl
appreciation. Stones Throw could run a great
business solely out of digital sales, but they’re
one of the few last bastions of keeping wax alive,
and J and his mates still make the time to wade
through the vinyl underbelly of Los Angeles. “But
I don’t really run into anybody if I go record shopping. Usually I’d go with Madlib, [Beat Junkie]
Rhettmatic… L.A.’s so spread out. Everybody goes,
just they don’t tell each other when. Everybody
tries to be secretive. There’s a lot of good records
still out here man.

J Dilla & J Rocc photo by Egon, circa 2004

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