The year was 1992, a couple of decades after Kool Herc pioneered the musical portion of the hip-hop culture by extending the breakdown beats. It was in the latter part of the year that I was given the considerable pleasure of meeting and starting a friendship with the man known as J Rawls. Now when I met J Rawls, he had already realized that production was where he wanted to be, and was in the early stages of nurturing his art.
Several years prior, J Rawls, along with two of his friends from the block in Columbus, Buka and Duane, started off like most at that age did, rapping the lyrics of "La Di Da Di." A few equipment purchases later and the group "Dope Beat Specialists " was born. J Rawls, known as Dynomite then, was a rapper and did the beat box. The group made music purely for the love of hip-hop and for the love of music. Being formed in the Midwest, quite a distance from New York, the idea of getting signed and having a "deal" was about as likely as winning a multi-million dollar lottery prize. As J Rawls will tell you, "...We did it because we loved it. We did it because it made us feel a certain way and there was nothing like hearing your voice on tape..."
Now I know that there are several of us Hip-Hop heads out there that got the bright idea to make our own remixes when we were younger – to become dub mixers, with our dual tape decks we took current songs and made them our own, simply by recording bits and pieces onto blank tapes in a planned pattern, matching the beats. J Rawls was on another level even then, finding the original scores that created the hooks that we jammed to then. Again, let J Rawls tell it, "...we had our Dad's old records that we grew up on... I can't describe to you the undying excitement when me and Buka found our first loop... Kool & the Gang 'Wild & Peaceful' – the jungle boogie joint that EPMD had used. Man we went crazy... HIP-HOP showed us that an old James Brown loop was really not that old when you put a fat kick and snare over it..."
I started this bio out with the reference to Kool Herc, because I feel that J Rawls is one of the cats in Hip-Hop who has taken that part of the music and made it his own. His own personal growth in producing the music, at least from my viewpoint as emulated that of Hip-Hop's own, especially the beat-making. During our college years at the University of Cincinnati, I had several opportunities to watch the growth artistically. I would love, and still do, to be in the studio with him, watching the piece take shape, like a painter with a blank canvas, J Rawls would take a sample, and add this shade of bass, or this hue of a horn, or a tone of treble, and all the while adding the touches that distinctly mark it as a J Rawls production.
Professionally, his years in Cincinnati were good as well. Through his Lone Catalysts partner Jermaine Sanders, who he met through Buka, he met MOOD, The Five Deez, and Hi-Tek. With Five Deez member Fat Jon, J Rawls is one half of the group 3582. Through MOOD, J Rawls was introduced to Talib Kweli, and as all true heads have the Black Star album in their collection, you know J Rawls was the mastermind to the beat behind "Brown Skin Lady." Some of the artists J Rawls has worked with include Masta Ace, The Beastie Boys, Wordsworth, Jonell, US3, and Venus Malone. This is just a beginning to the vast amounts of albums, singles, collabos, and guest appearances that J Rawls is to be credited with. When his biography comes out in novel form, they will all be listed! Now as he takes off on another plane of existence with his art, I'd like to present to some and introduce to others, the undeniably talented, legendary J Rawls.