Hailing from Long Beach, California, JMega is a Wordsmith of high calibre & professional execution. Being a solo artist & member of a trio named True Masterz, he has proven to show a solid & versatile set of skills. As for being one of the few to kick raps with a “conquer the beast and civilize the savage” mentality, we decided to interview JMega so we could learn more about his evolution as an artist & to see what kind of influences helped fuel his drive to spread knowledge over beatwaves. The questions sprung from a collaborative convo between Pascal and Nadia and we hope y’all enjoy reading the answers as much as we did composing them and getting to know more about JMega.
N: Before we get into the realm of the GOD, What are some of your favorite Hip Hop artists and albums of all time, past and present?
JMega: There are so many talented artists out there that have already given us classic work, it’s difficult to narrow it down like that. I’d have to say my top emcees are Rakim most definitely, KRS-One, Kool G Rap, Slick Rick, Cube, Gza, but I can keep going for real. That’s the beauty of hip hop, the infinite amount of styles and techniques. The experimentation and creativity. That’s what makes hip hop so addictive. There were certain albums, like Mobb Deep’s “The Infamous” and “Hell On Earth” that really stand out to me. “It Was Written” by Nas, “Muddy Waters” by Redman, “Niggaz 4 Life” by NWA, all these albums. “Temples Of Boom,” “Beats, Rhymes, and Life,” I can keep going without a doubt. I studied the music, these artists, the culture, because I’m a fan of hip hop. If it’s dope, best believe I’m checking for it. I think the most recent album I was really feeling was “Marcberg” from Roc Marciano. I’ve actually been checking out some work from Action Bronson lately, and I think emcees like Elzhi and Planet Asia are dope.
P: How did you get into Hip Hop Culture and how did you start MCing?
JMega: I think the record that made me want to start emceeing was that Common Sense joint “I Used To Love H.E.R.” I was just a kid, but that beat and the story he told and the way he flipped it, captivated and inspired me. To me that’s what the culture is, it’s telling a story. It’s telling our story. I wanted to be a part of that so I decided to pick up the pen. I was always impressed by those kinds of joints, like that one by Nas where he personifies the gun, or even back with Melle Mel and “The Message.” Hip hop is a powerful tool that, when used properly, can manipulate millions of people in a positive direction.
N: How do you feel about the current state of Hip Hop music and culture and how do you think we can improve this?
JMega: Well nothing lasts forever, everything is constantly and rapidly changing all the time. This world goes through phases, and as an artist you can only stay true to yourself. However, in terms of what gets airplay or the 100,000 views on a youtube video, I feel has nothing to do with the music at all. Everything is much more corporate. More politics. More marketing. Basically more money. And I feel the music, the culture, is getting lost is the process. I see too many emcees trying to imitate or duplicate what’s currently popular, instead of trying to create something better. I truly believe that if everyone stopped trying to be like everyone else, and instead attempted to be greater, than we can get back to where we need to be.
N: How do you write? Do you have a certain method or environment, do you carry around a notebook?
JMega: I still write in a book no question, but I definitely don’t carry one around with me. I have dozens of rap books in a box, all of them completely full of raps front to back. Could be thousands of rhymes, I’m not playing. It might sound strange, but I always looked at rapping like fighting. You look at the world of fighting and there’s multitudes of styles from all over the globe, each with it’s own strengths and weaknesses, but all worth studying if you want to be the greatest fighter. It’s the same with rhyming. The combination of lines and rhythms, can connect in an infinite amount of ways, like a fighting style. I basically try to rap like Bruce Lee kicks, straight up.
P: You have an extensive discography (Including True Masterz). How did your style develop with every release and what kind of evolutions you think you made from each of them?
JMega: That’s an interesting question. To be honest, everything I do musically, whether its an entire album or just a song I put on youtube, is somewhat of an experiment. I might try out a new style, or a theme that heads might not expect. I love to write, but I always strive to be better than I was yesterday. Everyday is a chance to improve, to strive closer to what the mind views as perfection. In this thought process the style must elevate to survive, especially in this time where everybody raps. I used to have a regiment of two songs a day, but I’ve slowed down recently. I’m at a point now where I like to take my time. “Niggaz Iz Kingz Forever” took seven months, that’s the longest it ever took me to put out a project. I’m in a different stage where I know what I want to hear, and I’ll take the time to make it happen.
P: As your source for inspiration, would you say they have changed from the beginning of your catalog up until now? For example, 5% references which have become more dominant in your lyrics over time.
JMega: Definitely. In the beginning I had no knowledge of self, no value of life, but I loved to read. So I would be living like a savage, but reading books like “They Came Before Columbus” and “Before The Mayflower” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” not realizing these were seeds being planted. When I write, I talk about what’s on my heart and my mind, and growing up in LA, a lot of my early raps would reflect the troubled mind state I was in. But I was always searching for something more. It was around 2005 when I was living in Chicago, I met a 5% who looked out for me. We would smoke and talk shit, and every now and then he would talk about the Supreme Mathematics, and the Original Man, and things of that nature. I started writing about it. When I moved back to LA, it wasn’t until I connected with MighGawd that it all truly became clear. He was my enlightener, straight up, The things we would talk about and build upon, lead me to Islam, and I started incorporating that in the music.
N: Since you refer the Five-Percent Nation and the Nation of Islam, what differences do you see, for those unaware, and what do you take from it?
JMega: This is a wonderful question, and I will try to keep it brief because we could spend the entire interview on this subject alone. To me, both go hand in hand. I’m a Muslim, and I am also a student of The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Personally, I feel Father Allah provided a bridge that could connect people like me to what The Messenger was teaching. I know a lot of Muslims who attempt to discredit The Nation and what The Messenger taught us, but they are unsuccessful. I don’t hold it against them. Knowledge is 360 degrees, so all truth must connect for the cipher to be complete. To me, it’s all Islam. The Nation teaches us what is true, and we have a responsibility to speak that truth, especially now when so many are trying to keep the truth from you.
N: You are self-managed, how do you deal with the business side of the industry? And what are some difficulties you had to overcome?
JMega: At this point, I feel like the industry is in a free-for-all. Everybody has their own company, everybody has an album out, everybody has a video with 10,000 hits, everybody is touring, everybody has their own t-shirt or sneaker or whatever. I feel like some sort of dinosaur because I’m still focused on music, while other artists are focused on branding. There are a lot of sharks and snakes and vultures out there that you have to be aware of as usual, but its getting harder to tell with all this internet shit who’s legit and who isn’t. When it comes to business, keep a level head and always calculate what’s to gain and what’s to lose. I’ve had my share of both.
P: While album covers are usually a big focus for artists, your cover arts are a pure definition of “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” care to elaborate why?
JMega: That’s funny. I never heard our cover art described in such a way. Well, I always liked how the old vinyl covers looked from the 70s, and I try to capture that feeling with our cover art. When I think about it, most of my favorite albums didn’t have an elaborate cover. The focus was always on the music. I feel most artist today are focused on “packaging” and not the “package” unfortunately, however a lot of the cover art I have seen recently has been impressive. And these days presentation is everything so that is something to consider.
P: How did you get in contact with MighGawd and DJ Grazzhoppa individually to form True Masterz?
JMega: Grazzhoppa and I had done some previous work on a few songs that Reef Ali had produced, and I really liked his style with the cuts and samples he would flip. It’s like he would scratch how an emcee would rap, if that makes any sense. He quickly became my favorite deejay. A few years after I moved back from Chicago, I was staying in Long Beach. MighGawd was staying in Long Beach too. He had reached out to me, said he heard a few joints and liked what I was doing, then he sent me some beats in an email. I was hooked when I played the first joint, and we started building from there. We made a few joints,i think the first one was “Bust Back” which had Grazzhoppa cutting for the chorus. And in my mind, playing it back, the shit just connected. It made sense like mathematics. I asked Grazzhoppa if he was interested in forming a crew with him on the cuts, MighGawd on the beats, and me on the mic. MighGawd had the name already, and the rest is history.
N: From inside sources we’ve heard about a collaboration with CDS from Da Shogunz. Can you tell us more about this project?
JMega: Your sources are right and exact. I can tell you that the project is going to be dope. From the beats to the rhymes, top to bottom nothing but real hip hop. It’s half way completed at the moment, but already I know the people are going to feel it. Trust me.
P: What are the plans and goodies in store for 2014 & beyond?
JMega: Well I’m getting older now and I’m entering a new phase of my life. Things that used to be important to me, seem insignificant now. This life is a fleeting moment, so my plans are more focused on living righteous and taking care of the ones I love. I will always make music, and I started working on my next solo project called “Darker Than Black” which should be ready by the end of this year. True Masterz music is always being cooked up in the lab, so never stop looking out for that. And I would like to do some travelling. Let’s see if we can get True Masterz overseas this year, that would be dope.
Any last words to the Hiphoppas worldwide that are reading this right now?
JMega: Peace to The Nation. Peace to all my people out there who stay true. All my emcees out there keep writing, my beatmakers out there keep digging, my deejays out there keep spinning. I want everybody to know that whatever it is you ‘re going through, you can rise up out of Babylon, and be the God you were born to be. Peace.