1. J-Zone Book Excerpt #3: Back On the Plantation - When Rappers Get Day Jobs.


    Third excerpt from J-Zone's forthcoming book, Root for the Villain: Rap, Bullshit, and a Celebration of Failure . What happens when your rap career ends and money is short? You go the Tim Dog route and juice a woman for comeback album money, you go the Hammer route and launch another search engine, you occupy Wall Street while you starve and freeze, or you (gulp) get a J-O-B! A hilarious look at a foray into the foreign territory of the 9 to 5 world, post-rap career. The book is now available at Go Villain Go and on Amazon.com

    I couldn’t believe what I was hearing after the high school basketball game I had been covering was over.

    “Yo man, you J-Zone?” the point guard asked me before I could ask him about his 19 point, 8 assist performance.

    I asked him to repeat his question. Not to flatter myself, but to make sure I’d heard him correctly. My ears weren’t bullshittin’.

    “Ummm,” I stammered.

    “Dude,” he cut me off. “The YouTube videos of you chillin’ in the drive-thru at White Castle and licking whipped cream off those foam titties are classic!”

    I was part shocked that someone born after 1985 knew who I was by face, part embarrassed that my attempts to be professional as a sports reporter were trumped by being known as the Onion Ring and Titty Man, and part flattered that an obscure and pseudo-famous rap guy like myself was even remembered years after my modest music career had gone kaput. I guess that’s what happens to the quasi-successful middle ground rap man who’s teetering the top of a fence that separates two universes - he eventually falls over to the “real” job side. And it fucks up folks who fail to realize he wasn’t that famous in the first place.

    Levels of status

    First, we have the megastar. When the musical careers of 50 Cent, Lil’ Wayne, and Kanye West come to a halt, there’s an ice cube’s chance under a fat girl’s ass that they would ever work nine-to-five jobs. Imagine Wayne attempting to pass a piss test to become a second grade teacher and kissing Birdman on the mouth for good luck before taking the ATS-W exam. What about Kanye raking up $11 an hour to re-rack returned U.S. Polo Association shirts at Sears?

    When the musical endeavors of megastars no longer hold any weight, they’ve already become big enough entities to make a living via movies, their own lines of wife-beater shirts, and unscheduled appearances at events where they break Moet bottles over the heads of artists who are hot at the moment for pay. They’d never dare step into a nine-to-five; it just doesn’t compute after that much time on top. If you’re naturally crazy or irresponsible enough to never stand a chance in the world of day jobs, God usually grants you success in entertainment so you won’t starve to death.

    Next, we have the Recreational Indie Rap Artist (RIRA). The Raptionary would define him as such:

    Recreational Indie Rap Artist : (reck-ree-ayshun-ul-indee-rap-ahrtist) noun.
    1. A rap hobbyist who earns his living outside of the music business. Thus, he can typically afford to release music and perform for free.

    The pinnacle of his career was holding down the opening slot at shows and churning out an album that was a compilation of all his 12” singles and mixtape freestyles. After his post-soundcheck performance, the RIRA broke out immediately because he had to work in the morning. Chances that he’ll ever be recognized in public long after he’s active are hovering at around zero and he’ll never have to field questions about why he never “made it” or why he’s no longer giving enough of a shit to still be trying. Through it all, the RIRA avoids the culture shock of entering the nine-to-five world in his 30s and 40s. Thus, his predicament is better than one would think.

    I can’t forget about the “Golden Era” legends. Current releases from them are scarce, but they’ve laid enough hip-hop classics to wax to get placement in respected foreign music festivals or the Rock the Bells tour. Their aforementioned classic song catalogs also allow them to have their music licensed on a major scale and avoid getting laughed off the phone when they name their guest appearance fee.

    But the most enigmatic of all is the quasi-successful middle ground musician. He got to enjoy his I-do-what-I-love-for-a-living phase, only to be awoken by a 500-foot drop into the working world that the other levels of entertainer don’t typically experience. He had potential, but never really got over the hump. His music is now largely available for free on various blogs and virus-laden bit torrents on the internet, but these days he’s got bigger fish to fry - like trying to get some overtime. By the time he gets home, he spends his hour of free time in the kitchen preparing tomorrow’s bag lunch and ironing his shirt and slacks.

    It can take anything from a drastic plunge in record sales, kids, impending financial instability, a growing disinterest in the music business, or the realization that paying for an MRI with no health insurance costs what that gold toilet in Master P’s bathroom costs - any or all of the above can make the quasi-successful rap guy fall into this reality. This reality is now mine. I once trotted the globe, had the option of sleeping until noon, plugged women on different continents based on the perception that I was more famous than I really was, and landed on the cover of a skater magazine with a music article or two in it. In my current reality, those conquests hold as much weight as a copy of Bobby Seale’s Seize the Time at a Tea Party meeting. In this reality, I’m starting from zero.

    A Job Ain’t Nuthin’ but Work: Be Careful What You Wish For

    In 2009, it was painfully clear that it was time for me to make some real loot. Teaching a music course at my Alma mater was gratifying, but short-lived thanks to state budget cuts. My mother suggested that I go back to school to become a K-12 teacher, but what kids will listen to some guy telling them to read pages 17-31 for homework after they go on YouTube and discover he made a song about accidentally taking an underage girl to the movies and treating her to a box of Sno-Caps? After two years of matching James Evans from Good Times ’ yearly salary via random DJ gigs and beat sales, sports reporting, fruitless job hunting, and blogging for charity, I finally got my first “real” job in over a decade.

    I landed the job due to my being humble enough to know that there’s no such thing as being “overqualified” these days. After Katie from Utah moves to NYC to live out her dream via an exorbitantly-priced Master’s degree in education, you can find her teaching alright... teaching the new girl at the bar how to pour a Guinness Stout and use the right amount of grenadine in a Tequila Sunrise. Therefore, I didn’t scoff at pushing gym memberships for my re-introduction to the working world. Eleven years after my small record label took flight and I told my boss at Automobile Club of America to go fuck himself, I was telling some wide and fried heifer she was a Milk Dud away from having a heart attack, and dropping $222 upfront and $36 a month was the only action that could prevent her caked-up arteries from slamming the breaks on her ticker.

    “Look ma’am, you’re in trouble if you don’t lose weight,” I pitched on my first sale attempt. “Can I tell you about our summer special?”

    Hey, don’t scowl at me. The only way to make any real money in America is via the next person’s fear. Ask the church, your mechanic, your lawyer, your shrink, the IRS, the creators of match.com, your HMO, or Suge Knight circa 1997. Fear-based income is recession-proof; I tried to get rich via making people fear fatness.

    When you’re pitching a gym membership to every person who comes through the door like they’re a bitch with a fat ass and you just came home from Rikers, you tend to be pretty low on the respect meter in the eyes of snobs in Nouveau York. People ‘round these parts would rather drink wine, eat expensive cheeses, collect degrees like Garbage Pail Kid cards, and give you that bourgeois impression that they’re doing something significant when they’re doggy paddling in school debt. There are no real “qualifications” for sales jobs at gyms, so a dinner conversation with your girlfriend’s family feels something like a pleather turtle neck. To chat it up with some of the gym’s members about the life and times of “The Situation” from Jersey Shore can be a bit taxing too. It’s also worth noting that in an industry where many men have gone bald from pumping steroids, I was known as “the guy with the hair.”

    “Jay, you can’t let potential members walk out the door,” my boss pounded daily throughout my first month on the job. “They can say they can’t afford the gym or ‘I’ll think about it’ all they want. If they walk out, you lost.”

    I lost quite a bit. I did find moderate success tracking down due fees from members over the phone, but that prowess can be attributed to a decade of chasing dollar store rap moguls around for the remaining $4.50 owed on a $500 beat they bought from me. Nonetheless, when it came to meeting my sales quota and stacking that commission, I was a blown transmission. My last day on the job featured me angrily attacking the gumball machines at the front of the gym for no valid reason whatsoever. I realized then that I was in no shape to be working in the real world.

    To be fair, there were some very real and sharp people at the gym. The experience gave me a take on some other folks besides hip-hop brats. One day I fell into a discussion with a woman who had spent some time in Europe. When I began to give accounts of my time spent overseas as a little-known musician, she asked me if I attended college. After all, how could a thirty-something year old black man with a nappy ‘fro and honey oat bread Subway sandwich crumbs on his gym staff shirt be educated and well-traveled enough to know anything about Iceland? The vibe only got more bizarre when she learned I graduated college with honors. Then, the elephant Crip-walked through the gym’s doors and farted.

    “Jay,” she said flatly. “You’re a little overqualified to be working at a gym.”
    No. “Overqualified” is a fancy synonym for “yeah, whatever nigga, just grab a broom.” The Raptionary would define a music degree like this:

    Music Degree : (myoo-zik dih-gree) noun.
    1. A laminated document from a university that is primarily used as a dustpan. It comes in handy when sweeping up paper shreds, pushpins, and random shit off the office floor.

    When the gym’s basement flooded, that “overqualified” shit gave me an insane amount of leverage over the rest of the staff - I got to use the squeegee instead of the mop. Jobs in the working world share one parallel with the entertainment business - both are based on timing and who you know. A lot of people with music business connections don’t have many working world connections. That meant that I was the perfect candidate to change the gym’s TV channel when that whale-sized, party plate-ordering broad on the recumbent bike just had to watch the Goddamn Food Network when everyone else wanted World Cup soccer. I may have been the only person on the gym staff with a Bachelor’s degree, but the only piece of paper worth diddly shit in my reality was the sales sheet. Decade-old college achievements didn’t produce numbers. My ability to convince Big Shirley to stop eating mofongo and buy a personal training package did. That lucrative skill is typically learned sometime around high school, when you’re competing with drug dealers and jocks to pull girls. It’s called the gift of gab, and if you’re attempting to hurdle-hop in the real world without it, you’re fucked. Take your 30-page senior thesis and shove it up your ass.

    Working in sales also made me more curmudgeonly than I already was, because constant smiling is a requisite.

    “Jay, c’mon bro,” my boss would plead. “You need to smile more!”

    My theory on smiling unnecessarily goes like this: Would you stand at the urinal if you didn’t have to take a leak? Would you just pull your cock out, stand there holding it, and gaze starry-eyed at the Koehler logo on the top of the urinal simply because you have the ability to shoot piss from it? Case closed. I was without a doubt the Homie D. Clown of the fitness industry for four months.

    Crunching Numbers

    Today, I’m juggling a temporary support staff job in a financially-strapped school district and three low-paying side jobs. At school, the kids keep me sharp by testing my wits daily. (When my ex-barber zeeked my afro and turned it into an accidental hi-top fade, the kids gave me my current nickname around school: “House Party”.) My fellow staff members are chill enough to make work bearable, enjoyable even. (The principal breaks into the Kid-N-Play kick step dance whenever I enter his office.) My supervisor is a human encyclopedia and the greatest boss I’ve ever had. It’s also worth noting that he was Rakim’s sixth grade math teacher. Soaking up daily spills of knowledge from the man who taught arguably the greatest MC of all time how to put seven MCs in a line and mathematically destroy ‘em makes my days that much greater. However, policy says I’m not entitled to full salary and benefits for doing a job that I’ve even been told I’m “overqualified” for (yet the person I replaced got full salary and benefits) because I didn’t take a test that isn’t even being offered for another two years. Yeah, that makes as much sense as the girl with the Coke bottle body getting the record deal over the fat girl with the golden voice, but that’s just the way shit goes. The rulebook protocol of nine-to-fives and the dysfunctional protocol of the music business - neither is better than the other. Just pick your poison and develop an immunity to it.

    Some of my music peers have been cornered into doing arbitrary freelance work and shooting social network pleas for relevance. Financially, the music world has become a barren wasteland for many, so some days it seems like squaring up for a 30-year bid in the world of “mature adults” is the move. After 10 months in that world, I can't say I endorse it.

    To be continued in the book...

  2. You might wanna peep...

    • Afonso

      When will the book come out? Looks promising!

    • egotrip

      Coming soon... November 15th to be exact.

    • Jim

      Damn. This shit is really sharp. Kinda depressing too.

    • http://www.djlowkey.com DJ Low Key

      Can't wait to cop it, J-Zone is hilarious!!!

    • http://govillaingo.com J-Zone

      Thanks. And indeed it is depressing! Have to laugh at it, though.

    • http://bastardswordsman.tumblr.com/ Dart_Adams

      Fear based income IS recession proof. Real shit. Can't wait to read this book...


    • great_nate

      i haven't worked for a year and start a new job next week. i am already dreading it! thanks for the laugh zone!

    • http://govillaingo.com J-Zone

      Good luck Nate. I'm not saying quit if it sucks, but a little insubordination never hurt anyone.

    • Masterpiece

      Good read J, i used to love those monthly mixshows u used to do, u need to bring those back ASAP!

    • http://govillaingo.com J-Zone

      Thanks. Gators n Furs, word!

    • jamiejam

      this is sort of funny... to be honest..
      Apple Giving away iPad 2's in Honor of Steve Jobs Death (founder of Apple) .. http://goo.gl/055sq i just went ahead & got 2..lmao

    • Flintskins

      I'm actually going to spend real US currency on this.

    • http://carteblanchela.tumblr.com/ Roland

      The Zone!
      Ill cop the days it comes out. J is underrated in all he does. Rappin, Beats, Journalism. Been makin me laugh since Music for tu Madre!.Keep it comin J-Zone. P.S. You best keep it comin with music too, we need it.

    • Woody Harrelson

      Money still don't buy happiness tho... I've met plenty of miserable-ass rich muthafucks...

    • zack

      Reading this as I have to leave for work in 2 minutes. heh

      I think this'll be my first book purchase since I picked up 1984 about 3 years ago.

    • http://www.rap-rebirth.com Jesse

      Great read J-Zone. You hit on something that doesn't get talked about a lot. I often wonder where all my rap heroes from the 90s ended up. Best of luck to you, I'll check out the book when it drops.

    • http://www.reverbantion.com/hollamann Holla Mann

      as an aspiring or 9-5 rapper this shit is possibly the greatest piece of literary genius I've ever read. Far from depressing but inspirational. definitely coppin!

    • http://junclassic.bandcamp.com junMaf*ckn

      Maad insightful and extremely well written.

      Someone from Rolling Stone or Spin Magazine need to hire this man.


    • Cheapsoles

      Book dropping Nov. 15th, now I know what to tell my wife I want for my birthday (same day). Be turning 37 so this looks to be a funny ass trip down memory lane.

    • http://govillaingo.com J-Zone

      Happy birthday on the early tip! Good looks on the feedback, all.

    • Josh

      Great Read.
      When does the book release?

    • raine4398

      over the years i have downloaded damn near your entire discography... i feel obligated to buy your book... but i am returning it after a trip to my job's copy machine...

    • Haileh


      really appreciate your pieces. Can't wait for your book to come out.

      I especially like the pieces on rappers like Tim Dog, Poison Clan, Too Much Trouble, Ganksta NIP and the likes. You really understand the value of entertainment vs. keepin it real.


    • http://govillaingo.com J-Zone

      "Official" street date is 11/15, but it's available on Amazon, CreateSpace, or direct through me next week. (Actually it's available now, but I'll start posting links on Tuesday.)

    • Pretty Fred

      Im a RIRA and i feel im in a good spot. Have held a 9-5 since i was 17, in my late 20's now, life can go either way and im ok with that.

      I salute you and hope you don't look at your past as a failure because well you DID it and that can't be taken away from you.

    • http://govillaingo.com J-Zone

      Thanks G. By the way Pretty Fred was my uncle's nickname.

    • T-bag

      Sorry you have to work a 9 to 5 now like the rest of us peasants, must be tuff.

    • Black Gallagher

      Going to cop this...any way to work out getting an autographed copy?

    • http://www.circa95.com Reph

      cool read.. the writing style is dope..

    • Esoteric_Daddy

      Looks like a good read. I need a break from the work related readings and Malcolm Gladwell offerings.

      I love music with everything I do but I took the school and work route and show my support through purchases (with the occasional download). Glad to see someone offering insight on real life. Props for your humility and courage brother.

    • Imhotep El Bey

      Islam Moor, cant wait to read this. Awww man. Real Tawk my dude. lmmfao. Depressin Truth but, FUNNY AS SHIT

    • qbd1

      Dope dope dope. but right now im broke as fuck so I cant ditch out no money to buy no book no matter how dope dope dope it is. I have no clue how I'm going to get an income. I've been jobless for 3 months almost and I can't find the motivation of doing something dreadful. I have no particular talent apart from a good ear and good taste in music. I do have a Bachelor degree with Honors in Film Production but that just means I write good essays and take some nice pictures and can do basic editing work. Nothing that spells out experience. So I guess for now I'll just keep bothering my mama playing all my J-Zone records loud in the morning. I really want to produce movies though. Not as a director, but a producer. I'd like to work with a director. And a writer. In fact I'd like to turn your book into a funny ass movie. Yo Zone, you ever into writing movie scripts? That would make a killing.

      Anyway I'll get the book anyhow. My aunt would give me some cash if I go bring her the paper right now and walk her dog too. ILL WRITING. Keep it up. PEACE.

    • http://govillaingo.com J-Zone

      QBD - Thanks for dropping in. Always wanted to mess with movies in some capacity, but never go the chance to outside of a cameo in an R.A. The Rugged Man flick. Keep the faith!

    • http://rjd2.net rjd2

      zone, you are my hero. as a post-apocalyptic occupant of the zombie infested shithole that is the music industry 2.1, i just wanna say....fuck this place. many days i wanna break on through.....i need this book in my life asap. -rj

    • http://govillaingo.com J-Zone

      RJ! Good looks. I got you on a book, no problem.

    • http://www.soundcloud.com/tulsi Tulsi

      This is a very dope assessment! I've been what you call a hobbyist rapper - I had a steady day job for 6 years that I fell ass-backwards into. I only kept the job because I had a son. But I used it to fund music the whole time. Small successes but money wasn't going to make or break me because I was pulling in decent cheddar at my dayjob (biggest accomplishment in music was playing the Xgames).

      However - I recently I got laid off so now I'm grinding music steady (as long as the sweet nectar of unemployment checks are flowing) but I do know that the clock is ticking and I'm lucky that I have some experience to fall back on if (when) the time calls. There is only a small amount of money left in music, especially independent music (and you better be committed to playing your ass off if you want it and even then it might not work out for you).

      Can't wait for the book! I've been peeping your writings for years (back on your old website too).

    • the letter d

      Many thanks for all of your music and writing. More people involved with Hip-Hop need to write. I just went straight to your website and grabbed a copy with the "audiobook". I am about to go grab some rubbing alcohol and clean my tape deck!!!!!

    • http://govillaingo.com J-Zone

      Thanks for reading. And thanks for the support!

    • buckemdwn

      Your'e definitely one of my all time favs. Just ordered, and cant wait to sit back and read.

    • Joe Pineapples

      As a RIRA myself, juggling work (finally got 9-5! for how long. who knows? Used to doing tons of shifts and such) and trying to hit local open mics, write and produce and do like thousands of things at once... I really feel where you are coming from. Its hard to keep the passion sometimes. I got round to ordering your book from you finally... Direct, cause I want you to get as many royalties as possible, and when it arrives its gonna be a great read... And with 30 hitting 2 days after that street date, I'm looking forward to checking your wisdom. Peace

    • http://govillaingo.com J-Zone

      Appreciate it Joe, thanks. Keep the faith!

    • JT

      i don't understand j-zone. he stopped making music to write books. self righteous move. it's fucked up. he quits music cuz nobody cares, to write a book. j-zone is one of those rappers who starts feeling like a loser as he gets older, and quits. big daddy kane is still spitting man. you won't see kane quit to write books, ever. was hip hop something you did for fun, or was it always a job? i know ppl that never made a dollar off music, that been rapping with passion 15 plus years. it's something they do cuz they enjoy it. j you sound depressed and lost. make music, relax, you don't have to start wearing slacks and ties just cuz you're getting older. slow down and get adjusted to a "real life", cuz you think you're supposed to? weak. do you. be you. i might be the only j-zone fan that likes j-zone less after reading this.

    • Cam

      Damn J-Zone!! This was the best hiphop read I've had in a while. I fit the label as Recreational Indie Artist. But since my 9-5 is as a pharmaceutical rep, I can relate to your grind somewhat (minus the former industry success). I'll be copping that book.

      @JT: Once you love hiphop it doesn't stop and I'm sure J-Zone rhymes somewhere, but at 30 man, you get these things called light bill, phone bill, mortgage, and broad who likes to eat out.....shorty can't eat no verses man.

    • http://crushcongregation.blogspot Crush Congregation

      Looks like I will be reading again.

    • Joe Pineapples

      Just read your book finally... First book in an age I just picked up and read my way through since time. Yeah good shit don't always last long as a RIRA, as I've found again (goodbye 9-5 and ample time to hit mics), so its all about finding the time to grind... Hard to keep the head up. At least your book has been entertaining light relief with plenty knowledge dropped throughout. Gotta agree about the whole technology thing: How the fuck you do anything on half of these devices? I plead ignorance myself. Thanks for the awesome read! Peaces

    • http://www.neotenyservicedesign.com.au/ Scott

      am not that interested to music especially rap but I will admit that I enjoyed reading this story and I am looking forward to the full book.

    • Lee

      I loved this. I need the book. Im glad Im self employed. Peoples vanity and fear of new growth keeps me afloat. Im a barber.

    • Joshua Scott

      haha! I shot that J-Zone titties video. Didn't know it had reached "classic" status! here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AdEbTzqWCY http://www.joshuascottphoto.com