An interview with DJ JS-1: Tales of partying with Luke, Rza, Sugar Ray…wait, Sugar Ray?

The new album from DJ JS-1, Ground Original, reset a nice precedent, a return to the “underground” of flows, beats, scratching, you know, all the constituents missing from those “aboveground” albums, but overly emphasized by the skinny backpacker crowd.

Unlike most discs put out by DJs, JS-1 didn’t go Sonny Bono-ing around the industry for freestyles; instead he held house with hip hop stars ranging from KRS to Casual to Kool G Rap to implement a session of exclusive anthems. Interestingly enough, JS-1 was able to front the money needed to make the album by linking up with questionable mainstream “rappers” throughout his 14-year career as a DJ. We’re talking spinning MTV specials with that super-tan cat Skribble, whoa.

So, in Life and Art’s endless quest to unearth funky shit, we linked up with JS-1 to discuss a little bit of the problems in hip hop today, as well at his distaste for Charleston Chews. After one interview attempt was cut short due to a mutual need for pizza, not for an interview, one eventually happened.

Q: So, was opening for Sugar Ray a version of paying dues to get back to the original underground?
JS1: As far as name-wise it didn’t do too much for me, even though it’s in front of 10,000 people a night – it was 10,000 15-year-old girls that like Sugar Ray. Well…they were paying me nice…it helped me fund some of the projects I’ve been doing because I literally pay out of my own bank account for any of the projects I do, I don’t have funding from anything.

Q: Did having a moustache help you out?
JS1: A little bit…

Q: As far as the 15-year-old girls go?
JS1: The 15-year olds, they’re in the crowd, but the cute 22-year olds, they seem to find their way where they can come and meet you. I didn’t mind hanging around Mark McGrath, trust me…

Q: There are a lot of pretty big names on this album (like Big Daddy Kane, Planet Asia, Masta Ace etc.)…
JS1: I busted my butt to try and get in touch with these guys. After they spoke to me they realized that I was coming at them in a good way and just trying to make some good hip hop music, not trying to make money off their name.

Q: Some of my influences growing up were Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Charleston Chews, how about yours?
JS1: Hmm…Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, lemme try and top that…well, shit, I always liked Cannonball Run. But, I’m not really a candy guy, well…Sour Patch Kids, I like that (laughing).

Q: What do you do when you’re down in Miami?
JS1: I’m a warm weather person, even though I’m stuck in New York; do the typical, go to South Beach ’cause the chicks are over there, then the “half-chicks” we gotta avoid. I did some graf off of I-95. Last time I came down I went with Rahzel and the RZA was leasing a house, they seemed to enjoy the Miami lifestyle…especially when you got that kinda money, I’m sure it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Then Rahzel did a song with Luke, just hanging with him…when you’re with that guy, it’s kinda a fun night…I was having fun just in the lobby in his office.

Q: What, naked girls bent over like they’re tables?
JS1: Yeah, exactly. It’s not to bad to hang around that guy. Eventually one day I’ll probably end up moving down there…it’s my escape from the New York music industry. I just like the vibe down there. Even with the Winter Music Conference coming up, it seems like it’s geared more towards house music…Europe’s the place to go (for real hip hop).

Q: Well, as far as Europeans go, if you found a twin in Miami, like Jean Claude Van Damme in Double Impact, would you hate on him for wearing “black silk underpants?”
JS1: I think I’d be pretty uptight about that, pretty pissed, yeah. That’s not my angle – tight clothes or expensive clothes – I don’t wear either.

Q: So you never rocked Z Cavaricci’s (the infamous octuple pleat, super-taper pant of the early ’90s)?
JS1: Not gonna catch me in them. I leave all the ones with the tapered legs at home. Anything gathered around the ankles isn’t in my closet. No shiny shoes with buckles either.

For more info visit

Sven Barth can probably be reached at