Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Nick J

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Nick JAnyone that is friends with Brad Real is a friend of mine. Brad has been tearing up the Indianapolis rap scene for quite some time, and just continues to grow. He has even started to collaborate with some local singer/songwriters. The guy that I am sitting with today knows Brad… and has worked with Brad on several occasions. He is a producer that understands grass roots and what it takes to produce a good album. He actually has a new album coming out in January. Not only is he easy to get along with, but he’s an incredible talent just loaded with potential. This guy is a producer… I wonder if he has ever produced any beats… you know, electronic dance music stuff. Maybe I will ask him! It is my pleasure to introduce you to Indy’s very own… Nick J.

What’s the J stand for?

My last name is Justice. It’s a memorable last name, but I’d like people who listen to my music to focus more on the catchiness of “Nick J” than the criminal justice system.

You have a song titled Boiler Up. Does that mean you went to Purdue? That’s where I graduated from, so I’m glad you don’t have a song about the Hoosiers!

“Boiler Up!” I did not go to Purdue University, but one of the groups I produce a lot for, Lux & P, are all about it. (I went to Ball State University – Cardinals!) It was meant as a hype song for anyone who likes the Boilermakers.

Some call it rap… others call it R&B. I might even call it rap. What do you call it?

I feel like rap is a more modern version of hip-hop. Rap is the dance, pop, or even hardcore cousin of hip-hop. R&B is the slower, almost all-singing genre that expresses more emotion. That’s just the way I look at it.

Where are you originally from?

Born and raised in Indianapolis! Pike Township to be exact. I am very proud to be from this city and even more proud to be a musician in this local music scene.

You have a new album coming out. That has to be exciting. Tell me a little bit more about the album, the process, and what your overall expectations are for the new release.

Yes, my album “The Nicest” comes out January 24, 2012. The album started out being a collective work of the “greatest hits” from the artists I produce for. Then, I decided to have these artists (and some new ones) record a few brand new tracks to add to the album. It turned out really well. Since most of the songs I am using were already recorded, I did not end up spending a ton of time in the studio. However, I spent more than a few hours getting the best versions of the old songs and recording the new ones. I had the whole album mastered, copyrighted the new songs, and put the whole thing up on iTunes. I expect it will be popular. Hosting so many different artists and sub-genres within hip-hop… there really is something here for everyone.

You are friends with Brad Real. He is killing it here in the Circle City. You guys are in the same scene… is there a lot of competition or do you all play nice and share successes with one another?

Brad is awesome. There is no competition; we help each other. When he started out, I did almost 100% of his production. We worked together on songs and I even rapped on a couple of them. (Laughs.) Now that he is expanding here in Indy, he helps me through publicity, shout-outs, and the continued use of my music. Not to mention, we are both on his label, 8729 Records. It’s a great relationship.

Speaking of Brad, you worked on the song Mumble. I LOVE that track.

Thanks! One day he gave me a few clips from a song by Mr. Kinetik and asked, “Hey, can you make a beat and chop these samples into the hook and bridge?” And what came out was the best that I could do with it. Brad’s verses just came together and made the whole thing complete.

“The Nicest” has a ton of names associated with it… including Brad, Lux and P and many others. Where do you find these artists? How do you decide if you want to work with them or not?

Brad Real and Lux & P had been my friends long before we started working on music together. Making songs with them was easy once we realized that we all had some kind of talent. A few other artists on the album, such as Ephect and P. Hardy, I met through Brad and Lux & P. When I hear an artist’s work, I ask myself if I think I could create anything that would sound good with their style. Besides that, professionalism and lyrical content are big factors in deciding whether or not I work with an artist.

96.3 seems to be the only hip-hop and R&B station in the city. Do you do a lot of work with them? Has your work ever been featured on the air?

I don’t do a ton of work with 96.3 on a personal level. However, I have had songs I’ve produced featured on this station. Stop, Drop, & Roll by Lux & P was my first produced single on 96.3. Also That’s Me by Lux & P, and Nowhere by Brad Real have both been on air. Other Indianapolis stations that have played our music are 100.9 and X103.

Who is MVL?

MVL is a female singer in the Indianapolis music scene. My connection with her was her feature on Brad Real’s song Married to the Music. I have also produced a few songs for her and she has performed them at a few of the same show Brad has performed at.

Christmas is right around the corner. What’s on your wish list?

(Laughs.) Movies (of course), maybe some clothes, and the music lover’s essentials… iTunes gift card and blank CDs.

Do you have a job outside of music?

I do. I have a degree in criminal justice (I know my last name makes it appropriate) from Ball State. It has been very hard to jump into the perfect career right out of college. I am working for a private security company right now. It pays the bills for now until I decide what I’m doing next.

When you produce a track, do you work from home or do you have a studio?

For the most part, I work on production at home. I have a nice little set up where I can concentrate and get things done. But I also collaborate with other producers including Majestic of Bad Boy Ent. and Michael Miller of M Productions. This gives me the opportunity to get in the studio and give my input to other producer’s tracks.

If someone wanted to get into producing, where should he or she start? What does it take to produce a track?

Producing is a form of creativity. In order to even think about getting into creating music, you need to have some sort of talent. In my personal opinion, anyone these days can use loops and samples on the production software to create an instrumental. But to actually make an original, harmonically legit piece of music, someone needs to learn the notes, chords and keys of music. Besides the melodic part of the beat, rhythm is very important. You have to be able to not only create an interesting drum pattern, but to know what sounds good with the melodies. Lastly, mixing the beat is important. All the sounds need to be well blended in the headphones, speakers, your car and whatever else. Those are the main components of instrumental production.

In your opinion, how has the Internet changed the way people absorb music?

The Internet has made listening, creating, distributing, and buying music easier. It’s that simple. It is easier for both the buyer and the artist. Local artists have it easier as well. The internet has made finding their name and music much more convenient than in the old days.

Tell me about your affiliation with 8729 Records.

I was working with Brad Real before 8729 was even created. Once he and his dad created the label and made it official, I signed on and have been an in-house producer ever since. I work with Brad and Big Tid and I’m sure there will be more artists joining us eventually.

I have talked to Brad about this before… but he doesn’t use a lot of profanity. He might not use any. How does that affect being surrounded by a scene that pretty much demands you swear to fit in?

Well, other people might notice that you don’t use profanity, but it is not going to affect their opinion of you. If you make good music, you make good music and it shouldn’t matter if you cuss or not. I think Brad and my other artists have been very virtuous in not going crazy with profanity. Being a producer, I don’t have to worry about that, but I would prefer that a rapper doesn’t dirty up my track too much with their language.

You did some work on Rise Above. Jason Firebaugh was on that track. They both have appeared on a presents six bands for six bucks. Have you been to one of those yet?

I think I might have a couple years ago when it first started, but I’m not sure. I have been to so many shows that they kind of all blur together. (Laughs.) I have heard great things about six4six and I will definitely try to get out to the next one.

I listen to a lot of electronic dance music. Have you ever produced a dance track?

My definition of dance music varies a lot. I can make dance rap, dance pop, dance R&B, and other forms. But I do not think I have ever tried an electronic dance techno type beat. It sounds like a lot of fun though.

The single Stop, Drop & Roll had a ton of success. That was early on in your career. Has anything else you produced since had as much success?

Yes, Stop, Drop, & Roll by Lux & P featuring the Hoosya Boyz was on 96.3 and performed at many college parties. It was my first produced song on the radio. Brad Real’s Nowhere and Rise Above have both had as much success if not more. They have both been featured on Indianapolis and out-of-state radio stations. Nowhere features Jon Young and J. Cash of Orlando, Florida and they have promoted the song on their albums as well. Rise Above, as you know, has a music video in rotation on IMC and is very popular in the rock scene, as well as the hip-hop crowd. I am very proud of those songs.

Do you ever write lyrics for the tracks you produce?

(Laughs.) Not anymore. When Brad was still a young pup coming up in the music scene, he featured me on at least three songs. I rapped on a few verses and the hooks. More recently, I helped Brad write the hook for a song called That’s Sketch. I even have a part on the chorus. That song is on my album.

What’s next for you… what does 2012 have in store?

This next year will see the release of my album and hopefully the expansion and blossoming of my producer skills and the artists I produce for. I think it’s going to be a good year.

Surely you have been to some shows… what’s the best concert you have ever been to?

Well, it’s a tie for two completely different shows. One was a fraternity party Lux & P had at Purdue. It was in the giant basement of this frat house and there was a DJ booth and decorations and even a “back stage” area. There were, of course, lots of college kids and lots of drinking. It was fun. Lux & P had a pretty large audience and everyone was dancing and getting into it. They even had a special appearance from one of their featured artists. That show was cool. Second was when Brad Real opened up for Cypress Hill at The Vogue in Broad Ripple. That show was incredible. The Vogue is already prestigious to begin with, but to see Brad up on stage and hear my music coming out of the speakers was awesome. He did an excellent job for a crowd that big. Those are my two favorite shows.

Let’s say someone approached you about producing a country song… would you laugh and turn your head, or give it a shot and see what you could come up with?

I should give it a shot! I am ALWAYS open to trying new things, especially when it comes to a new producing style. You never know if it could work until you try it. And, if it sounds good, then that’s the beginning of something great.

Since you are producing all this music, The Nicest could have a TON of tracks on it. How many songs are you looking at?

I have produced many many songs. Many will never be heard past my computer or the artist’s stereo. But there are also many that need to be heard by everyone. I have fifteen tracks on “The Nicest”. Ten of them are the “greatest hits” I have chosen and the other five are brand new just for this album.

The album comes out at the end of January. How will you be promoting the new release?

I will be promoting the release first through social media, like Facebook and Twitter. I will also have my own producer website set up very soon. This will make it easier for people to access links to my music and information. I’m in the process of creating a video commercial to put online that will be promoting it, too. I have many small ways that I think will get it publicized.

Thanks for taking the time to sit with me today. In all of the interviews that I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.

I appreciate you interviewing me! It’s been great expressing all these thoughts that I have been taking for granted. I appreciate all the support everyone has given me and the artists I produce for. I am excited to pay everyone back with good music. “The Nicest” coming January 24, 2012!

Click here to follow Nick J on Twitter.

Click here to “like” Nick J on Facebook.