Get Familiar: J. Kennedy
Midwest transplant, J. Kennedy, is following a time-tested path. As a dual-threat MC/producer, the 28-year-old creates soundscapes that would make some of your favorite producers’ favorite producers turn green with envy. Gritty samples, soulful keys, and playful bounce are his signature sounds — used to perfection.
Along with this Get Familiar, aboveGround is proud to premiere the exclusive new project from J. Kennedy, California Dreaming. The 10-track instrumental project is the perfect backdrop to kick back and take in the summer weather. Download it for free down below.
Name: Jonathan Kennedy
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Discography: California Dreaming [06.08.2012]; Love Expectations [TBD]; Tomorrow [Aug. 2012]; Medaforacle – Abandoned Tracks Vol. 1 – Track: Hurt [June 2010]; Ivan Ibarra – Brief Pack Vol. 1 – Track: Hot Dogs and Ramen [July 2010]; Brookside Bird – Inhale – Track: Life Is Livin’ [Aug. 2011]
How did you get started making music?
It was actually a random day in the late 90s. I happen to stay over at my cousin’s house who was a local artist in San Diego, he was working on his demo for Loud Records. I woke up because he was loud, I heard him rhyme on a karaoke machine to Montell Jordan ft. Master P & Silkk’s “Lets Ride”. That was the joint by the way! Ha. But I asked him could I get on the track, have in mind I never rhymed before and he agreed. I spit the lamest verse ever! I thought it was dope but it wasn’t. That’s the first time I heard myself record and from there it continued. But I actually started rhyming in like ’95. It wasn’t till around 2000 when I finally decided to start making beats for myself.
Who do you consider to be your biggest musical influences?
This is not in order, but my biggest musical influences are: Biggie, Common, Rakim, Pete Rock, Nas, 9th Wonder, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, DJ Premier, Hi-Tek, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Wu-Tang, Brand Nubian, Dilated Peoples, OutKast, Dead Prez, NWA, De La Soul, and more.
Since this new project is instrumental, who are your biggest influences in the production world?
Man, production wise: 9th Wonder, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, The Alchemist, Evidence, Damu The Fudgemunk, Oddisee, Just Blaze, Kanye West, J Dilla, Dr. Dre, and more.
When you sit down to make a new beat, what’s the first step in your process?
The first thing I do is dig through tons of records and just start selecting. I’ll have about 15 records to my side and just start playing those to see what I want. I have several beats that contain about 5+ samples from different songs and I just find a way for them to work. It normally takes me about 30 mins to find something I want to sample.
What kind of hardware/software do you use?
Pro Tools, Reason, Recycle, Audacity, Turntable, MPD32, MPC2000, DJ mixer, and tons of records.
If you could do something over again in your life, would you? What would it be and why?
Yes, college. I feel if I were still in college, my music would be more advanced because all I did was go to class and record music everyday. You meet a lot of artists in college who are looking for a break, things just could be a lot different for me.
Tell us about a great music memory that you’ve had.
Well, man…I remember when I was going to give up on music. My best friend at the time happen to attend A3C, she was aware of me wanting to give up on music because things just weren’t turning out the way I envisioned it. So, the second night she was at A3C, I was home taking down my studio. Out of nowhere she calls me, it was super loud. She says, “Hold on!” then out of nowhere some guy jumps on the phone and it was 9th [Wonder]. He gave me the most heartfelt advice I ever had. Right after that day, he listened to some of my beats, gave me more advice via UStream and the rest is history.
That’s crazy how your friend hooked you up with 9th! How did his advice change the way you make beats?
Well, the way I was making beats..I wasn’t quite worried about the fundamentals, I was just making beats. He let me know about timing, which is key when it comes to loops. So, he gave me a few points and then I do loop, it all sounds like one track instead of separate chops. I started mixing a little better also.
What’s in the future for you, short and long term?
Well, due to me being a soldier in the U.S. Army, I’m just going to continue with that, releasing music everywhere they send me, and stay humble. I do have future projects coming, such as Love Expectation, which is a self-produced EP, and I have another instrumental project releasing titled Tomorrow, but til then I’m just focusing on the release of California Dreaming dropping June 8th. Ha! [Editor's note: The release was originally scheduled for June 8, but was pushed back due to timing issues.]
How do you decide — with all of these projects in the works — which ones to use on which release?
Since I’m 80% producer and 20% emcee, I feel that my instrumental albums should be released first because they’re easier for me to come up with. If I feel something is not to my liking, I won’t release it until it is. Quality over quantity.
Download/stream J. Kennedy’s California Dreaming LP below.
Get FamiliarJ. Kennedy
Meet Midwest-by-way-of-SD MC/producer, J. Kennedy, and check out the premiere of his brand new project, ‘California Dreaming’.