Paris Jones, 2010 Roofie Award Winner for Best Production (Song) as well as 2011 All-Freshmen Team member, sat down with TOTR to talk about his recent release (The Black Hour EP), his previous work, his creative process, and where he wishes to go from here.
TOTR: With all the love and rotation The Black Hour EP is getting, where would you rank it compared to your other two releases?
Paris Jones: It’s at the top. I mean, J.A.P.A.N. 2 Paris isn’t even on that list. I hate that album with a passion.
TOTR: Yea, you can tell your sound is much more progressive on your last two releases.
Paris Jones: I’m just more in touch with the artist I am now. When I make a beat, I’m envisioning it for myself vs. back when I was trying to sell beats, I was trying to cater to the Kanye’s or Lupe’s. My music is much more personal now, it’s 100% honest.
TOTR: The one bright spot to J.A.P.A.N. 2 Paris is “Winter” featuring April Kelly. Why do you think that song has had so much success?
Paris Jones: Oh, the video. The video is really on some next level stuff. Clement & Co. revived that song and actually gave it a chance. If you look at it, the original video actually came out in 2009 and only has like 3,000 hits. It had been out for a long time and nobody really knew about it. But when Clement & Co. did the video for it, then it was like, “Yo this song is so dope”. I even showed the song to record execs and people in the game and they were like, “we’re straight”. Then after the video, I showed it to them and they were like “This song is hot; how come you never showed it to us before?” Clement & Co. saved the day on that one. Big ups to John Harry Baliton, John Bollozos, and all those guys. Kat, what up?
TOTR: "Sky Of Love" has to be one of my favorite tracks from you. How did that song come about?
Paris Jones: That was just pure creativeness. When I did the beat, I called my manager up who at the time lived next door to me, and I told him “Yo, you gotta hear this beat.” My manager writes too so I gave it to him and he was going to start writing a song to it. Then like 2 hours later I was like “Yo, i have a song to it already.” I told him, “You need to check out this song”, then I played it for him and he was like, “This song is incredible.” That’s basically it. That’s when I was my most creative out of all my tapes and songs, “Sky of Love” is that one song that I still try to top every time I put something out. That’s my favorite song that I’ve made so far. The beat is original, there’s no sample, it’s just all me. That’s how creative I would be as an artist with everything being original, not like flipping a sample.
TOTR: As far as production goes, what gear do you use?
Paris Jones: Reason 5.0 and Cubase to record. Cubase has this thing when it exports; it exports with a rougher sound or even more of an indie sound, where as with Pro Tools or Logic, it’s a much cleaner sound. I like Cubase more personally. I also use a midi controller and a laptop.
TOTR: So when it comes to constructing a beat, do you prefer sampling or live instrumentation?
Paris Jones: Both. If you can sample and put live instruments on it, that’s the sound I’m going for. When I finally get in the big studios and I get in a position to do the things I want to do, that’s going to play a big part in it. I think putting instruments over samples is the greatest sound. That’s how I can get that indie sound or that sound that I’m looking for. But I enjoy sampling; I think it’s an art. I think it takes talent to be able to take something somebody else has, and take it to the next level. It’s like what I did with the Phantogram’s sample on “In My Head”. When I listen to the original sample, I felt like I took that to the next level and added so much more energy to it only using a little 5 second clip that I looped.
TOTR: You record, you produce, you rap; what aspect of your music do you feel you have the most room to improve?
Paris Jones: Oh, my raps. I’m not that great of a rapper. I’m not. I just say stuff that makes people go “Damn, that dude is right.” I don’t really get super lyrical. I just say a bunch of deep stuff. Especially on the Black Hour EP; when the creativity left, I was almost depending on saying deep stuff. I didn’t want to rely on that too much so I really want to work on my lyricism and work on my creativity. I pray every day that I get more creative because that’s the biggest part. How else can I be different from everybody else besides the obvious that I make all my beats and do everything myself? How can I be the best? I just want to get better at rapping and get better at making beats. I’ve been making beats since I was 12 years old but I didn’t start rapping until I was 17.
TOTR: With that in mind, which aspect do you hope to be remembered for?
Paris Jones: I just want my music to be remembered as a whole. I just want people to say, “this kid made great songs.” I feel like nobody has that anymore. You listen to people and think, “he’s such a good lyricist” or “he’s such a good producer” I just want people say, “he’s just a great artist.” I want to be the Michael Jordan of all this, you know? Or if Kanye is the Michael Jordan of rapping/producing, than I want to be the Kobe Bryant. I want to be the next best thing. And arguably be better. I want it to be a conversation of “Who’s better?”
TOTR: Speaking of Kanye, I feel I have to ask, Graduation or My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy?
Paris Jones: Late Registration. That’s my favorite Kanye album.
TOTR: See Graduation is my favorite. I think MBDTF is somewhat overrated. It seems like many feel it’s his best piece of work but I don’t think it’s better than Graduation or Late Registration.
Paris Jones: MBDTF you know, that was good. It’s another great album. His albums are good, he just has good albums. I don’t know if it’s for the time or what. You can’t compare College Dropout to Dark Twisted Fantasy. With MBDTF he took whatever he’s trying to do to a totally different level. And he did it during a time that he was really struggling, which is really hard. That’s like me with the Black Hour EP; that was supposed to be a full length mixtape but it’s only 8 songs. It’s like “I’m struggling in life right now and I’m trying to make songs and trying to please the fans and trying to please myself, while trying to live up to my previous work artistically and you’re going through all these things and you’re stuck in this place and it’s very difficult but you have to keep rolling with music.” So I applaud him, it’s like 13 tracks but I applaud him for being able to create while being in the situation he was in. He was in a bad position and turned it into a good one. With Late Registration and Graduation, he had everything going for himself and he was at the top. When people say, “you really see who a person is through adversity” that really is when you see who they are and that’s when their true personality shows. I was in a position to see Kanye at his lowest point and he was still able to deliver. That made me proud because when everything was going on, you know, after his mom died, he broke up with the girl he was with since College Dropout, everything with Amber Rose, then 808’s, then he was suicidal and I was like, “If he stopped doing music, that would affect a lot of people.” I’m glad that he understood the responsibility that he had to the people that looked up to him because it’s easy to get caught up. I get caught up too and I’ll feel like, “I can be all these great things, I can do this, I can do that” but sometimes it’s like, “is it all worth it?” Sometimes I just want to quit. It really gets hard but you have to keep going because if you’re going to affect millions and millions of lives, how many lives would change if we stopped doing what we do?
TOTR: Which unsigned artist would you like to collaborate with? And I’ll say unsigned because I feel like if I didn’t, the easy answer would be Kanye.
Paris Jones: Well no, I wouldn’t want to work with Kanye because I wouldn’t want to live in his shadow. I’m sure Kobe wouldn’t want to go play for the Bulls. D-Rose is having that problem right now. If I was to work with a signed artist it would be Cam’ron.
TOTR: Really? Cam’Ron? That’s surprising.
Paris Jones: Yea, I love Killa Cam. Before Kanye, I was a huge Dipset fan. But unsigned in the hip hop game, it would be MF Doom. I’m not sure if he’s signed but he’s dope.
TOTR: What is your definition of selling out?
Paris Jones: Selling out is when you compromise what you’re about, for money. A lot of people say ‘Ye sold out when he did 808’s but I don’t believe that because if that’s who he was, then he was just expressing himself artistically. The ones who sell out are the ones who have a message or a certain agenda they want to reach and then the label tells them “No, you need to do this for money” or “No, we’ll give you this much money if you just do that”. Those are the people who sell out, people that don’t stay true to themselves to get cash.
TOTR: What do you hope to achieve with each release?
Paris Jones: I don’t even know anymore. The more people don’t recognize how good I am, the more it feels like “Ok, what do I do now?” There’s all these people talking about and rapping about b.s. that are getting all the attention while I’m sitting here making real stuff. My mixtape’s sound like damn near albums. The Black Hour EP sounds like a damn album. I’m trying to get into directing. I’m trying to talk to Clement & Co. about helping me get good at stuff like directing. I mean, I rap, I produce, I mix and master all my stuff, it’s like “How can I up the ante?” Directing or something, I have to do something else. The more unrecognized I am, the more I feel like “Ok, I have to do something else.”
TOTR: What accomplishment are you most proud of at this point in your career?
Paris Jones: I don’t know man. I’m a pessimist so I’m not really proud of too much. I feel like I haven’t really done anything. I’m not where I want to be. I’m making music and I’m glad I finished my 3rd installment of work. I don’t think there is anybody doing what I’m doing at the caliber that I’m doing it at. But if it’s not getting heard by the masses, it’s like “how many lives am I changing?” I’m really not where I want to be at this point in time. So as far as me being proud, I’m not proud of too much. I take every battle that I win and chalk it up as a win so I can eventually win this war. But if the war’s not won yet, then I don’t smile. I haven’t won the war yet so I don’t get happy off of the little stuff. I’m not proud of myself right now. Hopefully, at the end of the day when my career peaks, I hope I’ll be able to say “I’m proud of myself and I think this is what God wanted me to do.”
TOTR: Do you feel like there is more that you can do to get your music out independently, or would it take an act of God at this point or something else to help spread the word?
Paris Jones: Whatever the Lord’s plan is to make it work. I can’t call it. I would love to be signed to a major label and all that because there’s nothing like -- I would literally need some divine intervention to get the buzz I would need to do what I want to do without a major label. So literally, I need God to be like, “Yo, whoosh” and everybody all of a sudden loves me. I don’t have a gimmick, I just make music, that’s all I do. I’m not like the "black jackass" of hip hop. It’s not like “I got good music, now watch me jump off a cliff! Ohhh I broke my arm!” I’m not doing any of that. I’m just a regular dude that makes good stuff.
If you haven’t already, make sure you check out Paris Jones’ The Black Hour EP available HERE.
Interview conducted by: Anthony Militano