Yung Joc Interview
|Label:||Swagg Team Ent/Polo Grounds|
|Next Project:||Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood|
|Twitter:||Yung Joc on Twitter|
|Website:||Yung Joc's Website|
With few on the label side willing or able to foster the growth of an up-and-coming artist to his or her full potential, more and more musicians are finding that they are their own best business advocates and taking the reins by establishing their very own imprints. Unhappy with the results of caving to label pressure on his sophomore LP, Hustlenomics, Yung Joc decided that, this time around, things were going to be done his way – now, with the help of his newly-formed Swagg Team, he’s preparing to take listeners nationwide on a tour of Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood
With guest features on three of ‘08’s top 10 singles (Slim‘s “So Fly,” David Banner‘s “Get Like Me,” and Swagg Team signees Hotstylz’ “Lookin’ Boy), as well as one of ‘09’s biggest hits thus far (Bobby V.‘s “Beep”), Joc hasn’t let his self-proclaimed “slip-up” slow him down one bit. Now, the College Park emcee is getting ready to release his third studio album, set to include previously-featured street single “Real Hard,” via Swagg Team/Bad Boy/Atlantic sometime later this year.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Yung Joc steps into the Booth to discuss the business-side savvy he developed over the course of ‘08, what he looks for in a potential Swagg Team signee, and his ongoing efforts to bring fun and creativity back to the game.
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Yung Joc Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is an emcee who spent 2008 working so hard, he didn’t stop by the Booth for an interview. But we’re gonna forgive him, ‘cause he launched a brand new label imprint, and he’s gearing up for the release of his third studio album later this year. Returning to the Booth for the first time since May of ‘07, my man Yung Joc – how you doin’?
Yung Joc: I’m good, what’s up with you, homie?
DJ Booth: What’s up is, it’s a brand new year, so we had to get you inside the Booth. I need to know, though, Hustlenomics dropped in August of 2007 – have you just been vacationing for a year and a half? Tell everybody what you’ve been up to.
Yung Joc: I never stopped working, man! Let’s be real, and start the interview off the best way we can possibly start it off: we’re gonna be honest with it. Okay, everybody knows that Hustlenomics wasn’t the classic album I would’ve liked it to be, it didn’t perform as well as I would’ve liked it to, okay, great – we all make mistakes, we all fall down sometimes, but the part that people respect the most is when you can get back up, get back on your grind, and do it all over again and make some noise again. That’s what it’s all about, so to ask me, where have I been have I been vacationing, hell no! I’ve been workin’. I’ve been workin’ on my third album, Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood. [In] 2008, I turned my whole situation around. It was crazy; after Hustlenomics dropped, nobody called me right away like, “Hey man, I want you on a record.” It was like, “Hey, I don’t know about Joc, man; I think he fell off.” I turned right around in 2008 – if you take the time to look at it, for the whole year, I was on three top 10 singles.
DJ Booth: You were honest with me; you said Hustlenomics did not meet the commercial standards set by its predecessor, of course your debut, New Joc City. Specifically, what do you think happened?
Yung Joc: I’m gonna be honest, man, I’m gonna tell you the truth: it’s what it is. When I came to the table with my first album, I peaked my first album. I didn’t do it by myself – it was a collective effort – but I came to the table with “It’s Goin’ Down” and “I Know You See It” and “Dope Boy Magic.” Those were three singles off my album. I came to the table, before I signed, before I did any business dealings with Bad Boy, Atlantic, Block Entertainment, or anybody. Come around on the second go, certain people came in – I’m not gonna say names, but they know who they are – like “Nah, I wanna do this now, ‘cause you did that already, and people want something new,” and I was like, “I don’t know, I want people to hear this, I want people to hear that,” and they were like, “We’re gonna do it this way,” and I’m just like, “A’ight.” I’m gonna be honest, I’m gonna tell you the truth: I wasn’t happy with the project.
DJ Booth: Would you say – and I’m just gonna play devil’s advocate here – in retrospect, you would still have let it out?
Yung Joc: To this day, now?
DJ Booth: Yes.
Yung Joc: It’s kind of funny that you ask that, ‘cause, honestly, that’s why I feel like I’m getting the type of success I’m getting now. I’m making a whole ‘nother type of money, now that I’m a CEO. If I hadn’t had that – we’ll call it a slip-up – if I hadn’t had that slip-up on that album, I may not have began to push myself even harder on the business side, and educated myself more on the business side, so I wouldn’t have some of the relationships I have now. But let’s be honest; if I would’ve said, “No, I’m not gonna put this album out till y’all let me do what I wanna do and put out what I wanna put out,” that could’ve caused problems within my label, you know what I mean? I don’t really know what would have happened if I would’ve said, “No, let’s wait.”
DJ Booth: But you’re happy with the end result?
Yung Joc: Hell yeah, man – I’m good. It was a very good learning process. Think about this: of all the people who have flop albums – a slip-up, we’re gonna call it – how many of those people bounce back?
DJ Booth: It’s hard – not many, you’re absolutely right.
Yung Joc: How many of those people bounce back, and as soon as their album drops, and it’s a bad album, they still put out their own artists and hop on top-10 records?
DJ Booth: I’d say one out of 10.
Yung Joc: I’m gonna be the example for that one out of 10; I’m the exception this go-round, in my case, see what I’m sayin’?
DJ Booth: Mm-hm, I set you up for it.
Yung Joc: [laughs] Thank you, my friend.
DJ Booth: Joc, it’s 2009; I’m sure you had thought, “Okay, by this time I want to do this.” Where did you think you’d be? Are you where you thought you would be right now?
Yung Joc: Well, considering the slip-up, I though I would be in a different element at the moment, artist-wise, as far as bein’ able to say, “I want to do this,” and “I want to do that.” I had to compromise on a lot of things due to the slip-up. But guess what? Once again, it worked out so good for me that now my label deals with me differently, ‘cause they respect that business side. With them respecting that business side, I’ve had enough time to cultivate my artistry, and just make sure that that’s better. I’ve got some stuff, I’m tellin’ you – I’m about to drop this new single called “Wham,” featuring Slim – you know, we did the “So Fly” joint. I’ve got something perfect [for him] to be on, and it’s gonna drive the women crazy, the club crazy, radio crazy, it’s gonna be people’s ringtone, so just get ready for that record. Me and Nitti are back in the studio, and when we come down this go-round people have just got to be ready.
DJ Booth: We talked about the title of the album; it’s gonna be Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood. Should everyone expect the same lighthearted, charismatic Yung Joc they’ve come to know, or is some of the material going to be a more grown-up, mature Yung Joc.
Yung Joc: It’s gonna have some songs on [there] that you’re gonna definitely be able to jam to, a lot of radio records, a lot of club records. And, you know, it’s crazy, ‘cause I had a record that I did a while back called “A Couple Grand,” and so many people loved that record – if you go on YouTube and check out “A Couple Grand,” you’ll see a million people saying that that’s one of my best songs ever. I kinda gravitated away from that record, ‘cause I felt that it was so graphic and so violent, and due to the nature of the record, I was like, “I don’t want people to see me like that.” But it’s crazy, a lot of people love that side of me, so on this album I’ve got a little bit of that, too. Not too much of it – just enough. I think this is an album that people are gonna be able to pop in and go from one to 12.
DJ Booth: You know, a lot of artists say that; what makes you so confident that that’s the case on the new album?
Yung Joc: ‘Cause I know, when I’m listening through the music, I’m goin’ through the music and saying, “Eh, that’s okay,” and I’m like “Eh, that sounds good,” but, you know how it is: when you go through 10 songs and you’ve got one of them that’s like, “Oh, that’s it!” you hold on to that one, right? Well, I had that feeling over 15 times. I love it when I hear it, know what I’m sayin’?
DJ Booth: For as long as you’ve been recording, you’ve got 15 solid records – do you feel like you could put out 15 solid singles?
Yung Joc: The only thing about it is, not all of the 15 are going to be radio records, but they’re gonna be solid singles. ‘Cause some of the content on some of the records, it’s not radio-friendly. Honestly, even on the first album, I didn’t want “1st Time” to be my third single.
DJ Booth: But it had that radio appeal…
Yung Joc: I don’t give a damn about no radio appeal; at that time, I did not want “1st Time” to be my third single. I was like, “Look: we need the third single to be ‘Patron’ or ‘Knock It Out,’ or ‘Hear Me Comin.’”
DJ Booth: They didn’t listen, though
Yung Joc: They didn’t listen!
DJ Booth: Does that upset you, that you knew what was best for your career and you were forced to go down a different path because of some suits?
Yung Joc: Well, it doesn’t upset me because, had I known differently at that time on the business side of things, I would’ve just said, “Okay, I know how to do this: I’ll start my own campaign. I’m gonna print me up some T-shirts for the songs I love, I’m gonna go in and press [copies of] that record, so when I go to a place I can drop that off to people, I know how to get some independent radio promoters,” you know what I’m sayin’?
DJ Booth: Mm-hm.
Yung Joc: I know how to start doin’ some stuff virally. If would have known more people that do certain things, like now, I would have been able to go get a video done for about $15,000, and it was like a $150,000 video. I mean, I knew how to get a video done, but, in my mind, everything was gonna be $50,000 or more, ‘cause at the time it was like that.
DJ Booth: Absolutely.
Yung Joc: Right now labels aren’t really interested in doing artist development anymore.
DJ Booth: They’re not doing it at all! [laughs]
Yung Joc: They want you to come in radio-ready, video-ready, hood-certified, let’s go.
DJ Booth: Well, everyone’s holding their money tight to their vests anyways, so it’s no surprise that that’s the situation, but clearly you used your business sense and your experiences, and you turned it into a brand new label imprint, which you’ve named Swagg Team Entertainment. Joc, how much swag does it take for an artist to get signed to the label? Let’s pretend that there are a lot of aspiring artists listening to us right now, and they’re just itching to know how they can get on your label – give ‘em the details.
Yung Joc: How about we do this: let’s not pretend, ‘cause there are a lot of aspiring artists that are itchin’ to get on, and they want to know what it’s gonna take to get in on it. What it is is understandin’ that, look: nobody wants to start from scratch anymore. It takes too long. It lets someone know how serious you are when they can come to your city or surrounding cities and they already can see you’ve got a buzz, ‘cause that means, somewhere in there, you get it. That’s what these labels are looking for: people who understand what it’s gonna take.
DJ Booth: So a prospective artist has to not only be good at his craft, but also has to have that same business sense and mentality that you’ve developed and that you understand, and which enabled you to start this label, correct?
Yung Joc: Yes sir, because what it takes is, it takes somebody who’s more than an artist. Let’s be for real: the artistry of this thing is only really about 10 or 15 percent of it; the rest is business. I used to hear that before I got on and I was like, “Yeah, okay.” And then, once I got on, it was like, “Oh, wow, it really is.”
DJ Booth: Joc, the two acts signed to your label who you’re pushing are Hotstylz from my hometown of Chicago and the GS Boyz from Texas. How do you prioritize both releasing your own new project and securing the prominence of albums for two relatively unknown groups?
Yung Joc: Okay – what’s the name of my imprint?
DJ Booth: Swagg Team Entertainment.
Yung Joc: The word “team” is very important. The word “team” is very important. I’ll say it again: the word “team” is very important.
DJ Booth: Got it.
Yung Joc: I have a team put together to help me helm this, facilitate all the needs and efforts that it’s gonna take to make it work.
DJ Booth: For a listener who hears your material, and then they’ve heard the material of both these acts signed to your label – Hotstylz and GS Boyz – I think what they come to expect is fun music. If you listen to 10 random singles in the industry right now, there’s not enough fun in the music. So, to quote Heath Ledger – rest in peace – who played Joker in The Dark Knight, “Why so serious?” Why does this industry take itself so seriously?”
Yung Joc: Because naturally I’m a fun person – whenever I’m out of my element, it’s not gonna be what I want it to be, so when I hear music that makes me want to have fun, I gravitate towards it, and that’s the type of stuff that I end up putting out.
DJ Booth: Is that what gravitated you toward Hotstylz and GS Boyz, or is that something that they were able to develop after you guys met?
Yung Joc: Yeah, something that gravitated me towards them; it was like, “Ooh, it’s refreshing, it’s new.” When I leave this place, I want people to say, “You know what? One thing about Joc: whatever music he was involved with, anything he touched, when it came on, it felt a fun kind of way; it wasn’t just another song.” When I drop it, I want it to be distinct and clear that you know Swagg Team is a part of it. That’s what I’m trying to do.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. If I’ve gathered anything from our interview today, it’s that you have very high expectations, not only for yourself but for this label. Should we not talk again for another 11 months – which I hope is not the case – what do you hope will have transpired during this year?
Yung Joc: My business efforts will have definitely become more concrete in the mind of the consumer. Because, one can feel that they’re hot, but if the consumer doesn’t think you’re hot then you’re gonna have to keep workin’ till you convince the consumer.
DJ Booth: If I wasn’t convinced before, I certainly am now, Joc.
Yung Joc: I appreciate that. Thank you very much, man.
DJ Booth: You’re very welcome. Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood is gonna be coming to a neighborhood near everybody sometime this year. Let people know how they can find out about all this stuff – give them a website or a MySpace page.
Yung Joc: You can check me out on MySpace: myspace.com/yungjoc, check out new music and more.
DJ Booth: I wish you nothing but the best of luck on tour, overseas and your return to the states, and the promotional push for the project. Thank you for joinin’ me inside the DJ Booth.
Yung Joc: No problem, man. Y’all do yourselves a favor and keep aligned to Yung Joc, Swagg Team, baby. Holla.
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