Encounters with Deities: The J-Zone interview
While Shoals talks shop with Dave Zirin, I'm gonna bring someone with a completely different perspective into the fold...
For those unfamiliar with J-Zone, there isn't a lot I can tell you that you can't find on his Wikipedia page: Producing for everyone from Biz Markie to the Lonely Island and E-40, dropping a string of classic albums, writing for Slam and for Dante Ross' website...The man played a seminal role in the (then-viable) independent hip-hop scene of the late 90s/early 2000s, rapping with as much personality as a young Eazy-E and cultivating "swag" before infants knew what swag was and consequently killed the term. He is perhaps best known for developing a distinct production style that follows in the tradition of Prince Paul, DJ Muggs, and Psycho Les, but is all his own. But beyond J-Zone's musical talents, he has also been a world-class tastemaker. His opinions on music, film, women, and fashion, have always been influential, and his hoops knowledge--which he often expounds upon on his must-check twitter feed--is critical. Zone was cool enough to give me his opinions on the recent NBA happenings, and what follows is our interview:
Dr.Lawyer IndianChief: Why do you think that in the US, NBA basketball consistently been third in popularity behind the NFL and MLB for the past few years?
J-Zone: Because there haven't been characters in the NBA like they used to have. Basketball players are unbelievably bland and boring individuals. With the exception of Ron Artest, AI, Shaq and Delonte West, who is quote worthy? These dudes are 28 years old and all they talk about is playing X-Box and being a Drake fan. In baseball, you have Carlos Zambrano dismembering a Gatorade machine with a baseball bat, then have Pedro Martinez claiming he'd wake up the ghost of Babe Ruth and drill him in the ass, with a pitch. Then you have Pedro throwing old man Don Zimmer to the ground and watching him roll about 5 miles. Baseball players still have jheri curls, which is a great thing. Keyshawn Johnson gave the NFL some life when he left a voicemail to his exes new man saying “he as nothing but free time” to whup his ass. Entertainment. The NBA has lost so much of it because these dudes have zero personality.
Dr. LIC: You've been pretty open on twitter about the Lebron situation and predicting he won't win a ring. Who do you think presents the biggest problem for the Heat? Do the Heat even make it out of the East?
J-Zone: It's easy to say “we just wanna win”, and insinuate that there will be no ego issues. OK. That’s D-Wade’s team. Remember when everyone packed up and went to LA in 2004, only to get mopped by Detroit? Those guys weren’t on the same level as LeBron, Bosh and Wade in terms of individual star power, but everyone just gave em the chip after the trades went down. And now, teams will be anxious to whup Miami's ass after LeBron guaranteed a bunch of titles. Despite all that superstar talent, I still don't see them getting it done. I’d still want Wade to take the last shot too, and I can’t see LeBron rolling with that when the time comes. I'm curious to see if they can get past Boston or Orlando, let alone whoever comes out of the west.
Dr. LIC: What is Lebron's legacy now? If he does end up winning a ring, does he redeem himself?
J-Zone: No. He's in a spot where he can't really win no matter how the chips fall. I don’t blame him for leaving Cleveland, but I thought just following the wave to Miami was a little weak. The difference in Jordan, Magic and Kobe -who I’m sure LeBron wants his name mentioned alongside- was they wanted to beat everyone, including their fellow superstars, with the help of one other key guy and a good supporting cast. Get some real help, but forming a dream team takes some of the fun out of it. I personally would’ve liked to see him in Chicago with Noah, Rose and Deng, but whatever. He’s fucked either way, it’s a Catch 22. If he wins, they’ll say he took the easy route and if he loses, he’ll be tagged as a bum. I’m sure he saw that going in though.
Dr. LIC: Any thoughts on LeBron thanking Akron, Ohio, but not Cleveland in his recent farewell newspaper ad? [Ed. note, this was before LeBron caved and thanked Cleveland in Akron]
J-Zone: Neither LeBron or Cleveland owe each other anything. Its like your first girlfriend, your whole social circle knows you as an item. But you reach a point where you hit a stalemate and break up before you marry. If the dude goes on TV and tells the world they’re breaking up before he tells the girl or if when shit goes wrong the girl tears him down, both are equally at fault. LeBron doing the whole ESPN thing was corny and arrogant in an unlikable way, but at the same time, grown ass men in Cleveland running around burning jerseys when they should’ve been at work or home with their kids is even stupider. It’s big business, players make moves all the time. If a 25 year old athlete is all your city has to be proud of, you’re in deep shit. Fuckouttahere. He leaves and the entire city nosedives? That‘s deep.
I knew he was outta there when the Cavs choked in the playoffs for the umpteenth time and they got booed crazy. And how many rings does LeBron have? Last time I checked, one, the one around his bathtub. So he, ESPN and everyone who felt indebted were all frontin. Only Kobe deserved that type of attention for a god damn trade and he probably wouldn‘t have even done that. Everyone involved was super corny. Unemployment is documented at 9%, and realistically its around 20%. At the time, oil was gushing into the Gulf. The amount of attention everyone gave that situation was disgusting. It warranted one day of headlines, no more. That shit was on the cover of the newspapers for a week straight. I thought Miami was a soft move, but at the same time this is a business. Fuckouttahere.
Dr. LIC: What are the Celtics trying to do stacking up old guys like Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal, following the signing of Rasheed Wallace last year?
J-Zone: Get endorsement deals with Ben-Gay and Motrin.
Dr. LIC: I know you've never been much of a Knicks fan, but for comparison sake, How can you contrast the D'Antoni style Knicks with Riley's Knicks with Van Gundy's Knicks, style-wise?
J-Zone: By their activities in May. Two of em are either still playing or explaining why they just lost. One of em has been done for over a month and is sampling D’Anillo Gallinari’s new summertime Cibatta bread.
Dr. LIC: Also, did you ever have any allegiance to the Knicks? If not, who did you follow growing up in NY?
J-Zone: I used to like the Knicks, especially in 1991-92. That’s when Greg Anthony jumped off the bench in a Hawaiian shirt and got into a brawl. But believe it or not, I was always a Blazers fan. Clyde Drexler was my favorite player growing up. The 1992 finals when they played Chicago was when I gave up and finally gave Jordan his props as the best ever. You couldn’t tell me shit about the Portland Blazers. Clyde, Terry Porter, Cliff Robinson, they were fuckin legit. I knew I wasn’t a die hard Knicks fan when I was cracking up at Reggie Miller just killin em and throwing Spike the choker. I watched that shit live, and I was lovin every minute of it. I was rootin for Reggie because he had the balls to straight shit on the Garden. He left without crutches, so in that case, the Knicks deserved to lose. I would've broke his legs the way he shitted on us!
Dr. LIC: Does Amare Stoudemire offer the Knicks any improvement over last year?
J-Zone: No. Well, maybe if Steve Nash finds a way to join the Knicks.
Dr. LIC: How do you feel about Amare's well-publicized trip to Israel and his quest to find his spiritual roots in Judaism?
J-Zone: Hey whatever makes the man happy, that’s his personal life.
Dr. LIC: What happened to Allen Iverson?
J-Zone: He’s probably back in the studio to do a part two to “40 Bars” and doing an album with T-Pain. Now that he’s out of the league, David Stern won’t care. I respect AI but he's the NBA's greatest all-time 21 player.
Dr. LIC: What has to happen for the Knicks to go .500 or better this year?
J-Zone: A whole lot of forfeits in the Atlantic division.
Dr. LIC: Any thoughts on the Nets moving to Brooklyn?
J-Zone: As much as downtown Brooklyn has been gentrified in recent years, the Nets’ audience will be primarily comprised of Idaho natives that are thrilled to be in the hometown of that Jay-Z guy.
Dr. LIC: Ron Artest or Lamar Odom? Who do you roll with?
J-Zone: Artest all day! They’re both from Queens, Ron is from Queensbridge and Odom is from Jamaica. Odom grew up not too far from me, I live in Jamaica. But marrying a Kardashian is not hip-hop. Thanking your psychiatrist after winning a title is very hip-hop. Ron-Ron all fuckin day.
Dr. LIC: Any other predictions for this season?
J-Zone: Delonte West will get caught on a Harley hiding a 22 in the bell of a sousaphone. That's my main man though, and my twin!