Record Label: Redefinition Records
J-Zone, self-proclaimed “jack of all trades, master of zero,” may be familiar to you for any one of his six lives: Indie hip-hop’s class clown; an offkilter producer with his own identifiable style; a frustrated music business casualty who penned a nervy memoir about the life of the working class musician (Root For The Villain); a tongue-in-cheek, encyclopedic music journalist; a late-blooming drummer with a knack for channeling the spirit of classic break beats or a DJ with a deep love for funk 45s.
On his seventh solo album (and twelfth overall), Fish-n-Grits, J-Zone visits all the stops of an artistic and musical journey that spans well over two decades. Comprised of both limited edition 7” vinyl-only releases (dating back to 2014) and all new material, Fish-n-Grits is equal parts vocal and instrumental. The New York native uses his rap time to pick fights with the delusional state of the music industry, gentrification, the good and bad of nostalgia, police brutality, political correctness and hiphop’s generational conflicts, but never without his signature brands of humor and sarcasm intact.
As a student of samplers, drummer, multi-instrumentalist and collector of archaic studio gear, Zone was able to chef Fish-n-Grits into his most sonically versatile album to date. A stew of dirty, funky live drumming, bizarre samples, pulsating percussion and menacing bass that stretches in vibe from a circa 1969 funk instrumental to a twisted, analog interpretation of trap music, Fish-n-Grits has moments inspired by just about everyone. It’s obvious that The Meters, Prince Paul, The Incredible Bongo Band, Project Pat, Kool and the Gang, Public Enemy, George Clinton, Kool Keith, Bernard Purdie and Tim Dog have all carved out space in Zone’s music library, but the sound remains his own.
J-Zone’s zany alter egos (Chief Chinchilla and Swagmaster Bacon) also get booth time, as do long time collaborators Al-Shid, Prince Paul and Has-Lo. Serving as a bridge between Zone’s 2013 comeback offering (Peter Pan Syndrome) and a forthcoming group project with Prince Paul and Sacha Jenkins (SuperBlack), Fish-n-Grits captures his development as an artist and musician, with occasional nods to the past.
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Joseph Abajian (DJ Jab) founded Fat Beats in 1994 with nothing more than a shoestring budget and an earnest obsession with the music, the culture, and the brotherhood of New York’s burgeoning rap scene. What began as a simple vinyl shop in Manhattan’s Lower East Side quickly became an integral hub for artists, both aspiring and established, to convene and collaborate on new projects. Joseph’s timing couldn’t have been more impeccable. When the 90’s cultural zeitgeist – and, in turn, the music industry establishment – chose hip-hop as its new arbiter of cool.
International tourists and touring artists alike flocked to Fat Beats for rare vinyl, kindred spirits, and exclusive in-store performances from Jay Z, Eminem, Gang Starr, Outkast, Slum Village, Mos Def, and more. One thing was clear: the Fat Beats phenomenon could no longer be contained in a single basement shop.
In the late nineties, Abajian proceeded to open new stores in Amsterdam, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. He further expanded the company’s profile to include global distribution and record label branches. Distribution has since proven to be the company’s strongest and most enduring enterprise. Today Fat Beats Distribution stands poised as one of the country’s pre-eminent distributors of vinyl & specialty item records: a proud survivor in an industry now famous for its mortality rate. Despite market fluctuations, technology innovations, and stylistic revolutions, Fat Beats has remained steadfast in its commitment to the timeless vinyl format and to the loyal community who keeps it spinning.
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