Real Talk with Joe BlowBy Joe and ThomasOver the course of our evening with Joe Blow, we learned a lot about the rapper and the person. For one, we learned that they are basically one and the same. Not in the cliché sense that Joe Blow “keeps it real,” but in the sense that Joe Blow is constantly a genuine, down-to-earth dude—on and off the mic. Among his many qualities, two that stood out to us were his focus and his dedication. When he’s not in the studio recording—which he estimates is five to seven days a week—he’s on the road performing. Last week was no exception to Joe Blow’s constant grind. When we arrived at his studio in Hayward last Thursday night, he had just returned from Akron, Ohio, where he was finishing up his album with Yong Bossi. The following morning at 6 am, he was heading to Kansas City, Missouri to perform with Cellski. His brief layover in the Bay included our interview, an impromptu remix of Clams Casino’s “I’m God” spawned by his interest in knowing what we’re listening to, and recordings with Husalah on tracks for Joe’s upcoming album (including a hilarious outro skit performed by Husalah—mark my words).The interview began the way everything seems to begin for Joe: with a joint (he’s transitioned from Swishers to papers, he explains). Once he was medicated (for the moment), we began talking about his childhood memories of rap. Did you grow up as a rap fanatic?Yeah. I grew up listening to rap all day, everyday. I was in the rap stores every Tuesday trying to see what’s new. I was one of the dudes who liked someone like Yukmouth so much that if he was on one song on someone else’s album, I’d buy that whole album. Then, I’d learn about that other rapper’s music and give him a chance.Who specifically did you grow up listening to?My favorite rappers were Tupac, Bad-N-Fluenze, Mob Figaz, Too $hort, Yukmouth, Dru Down, 3X Krazy, San Quinn, Messy Marv, E-40, and Cellski. Cellski’s my good friend, too. He’s been in this a long time and he’s constantly giving me advice. Everything he tells me, I take it and run with it.You’ve worked with Stalin a couple times, and obviously you’ve worked with Jacka a lot. Do you envision yourself eventually having your own label the way those guys do?Definitely. That’s why I started Blow Money Records, cuz that’s what it’s eventually gonna be. Right now I’m on Artist Records but I do plan on having my own thing. What I really wanna do is bring up other talent. When people are looking to me, I want to be able to look at someone else and find someone who I think is dope, too. I’ve got a lot of young niggas like my boy F.A. [the Fonk Arist] in Kansas City and Street Knowledge—I’m trying to focus on them. I’m bringing Street Knowledge to my show in Kansas City tomorrow. I want to bring him along so he can get that Midwest love and so they can see he really is what he’s saying he is.How do you mentor a rapper?Exposing them to what Jacka exposed me to. When he first started having shows in Kansas City I was just like, ‘I’m going with you.’ And I’d book my own flight. I’d just see how he is with the people, and with the crowd, and how he’d do his shows. I wouldn’t even be onstage or anything. I’d just sit back and watch at first. I’d get to see how he handles everything and what to do so that when it was my turn, I knew what to do.To a certain extent, you came up under the Jacka’s wing. Has he ever given you any explicit advice?All the time. He’s taught me so much about this game. He’s why I started Blow Money Records. He was always saying, “You’re always gonna be my boy and my artist, but I want you to have your own thing, too. I don’t want you to just be my artist forever. I want you to have your own label and have your own artists.”“Joe Blow” has his own sound and personality, but you do sound like you’ve been influenced by Jacka.Definitely, definitely. He’s one of the people I listen to who inspires me to make music. I listen to a lot of people and think, ‘okay, that’s cool.’ But when I hear Jack, it makes me wanna get in the studio. It makes me wanna work.How did you and Jacka initially team up?I’ve known Jack for a while. He’s from Pittsburg, and I was staying in Pittsburg for a minute, so I always saw him around a lot. We knew the same people and we have a mutual real good friend—this guy Montana. So whenever I was with him, we’d go hang out with Jack.Your first album took us by surprise. Before that came out, your features were dope. But your first album exceeded expectations, don’t you think?That’s what I think about every time I do an album. Ain’t nothing gonna top the first one. No one thought it was gonna be that good. But now, they expect that from me.Does that motivate you?Definitely. Every time I go in the studio, I’m thinking I gotta make it doper than that first one cuz everyone is still talking about my first album.You said you’re headed to London next week. Who are you working with in London?This young dude named Kaz—he’s dope and he’s only 15 years-old.Wow. Does he have a thick British accent?Yeah.[Joe played us several tracks that he and Kaz have done together. The British kid sounds very good and the beats, which are all produced by Pack and Bandit, knock.]How did you find him?My producers, Pack and Bandit, hooked us up. They know him and they were fans of his. So once I started hanging out with them, I started listening to [Kaz], and I instantly became a fan. He and I have the same sound.Do you have a following in London?Yeah. I’ve actually been noticing that I do. I track my YouTube videos, and I have a lot of UK followers.This is your first trip to Europe?Yeah. Just got my passport. About to really be International Blow!What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from being in the rap game?If you wanna do it, you’ve got to work hard at it. You’ve got to do it like you’d work at your day job, like you’d hustle on the block, like you’re taking care of your daughter. Whatever you’d go hard at, you’ve got to go hard at this music, too. You can’t look at it as just a hobby. I’ve dedicated my life to music. To the point where I’ve put a lot to the side.When did you decide to make that full commitment to music as opposed to other hustles?It was once I started receiving all the love. When I saw that people appreciated the work that I was doing, it made me want to keep doing it. The fans make me go. And this is a legal, legit way for me to take care of my daughter, so I’m going hard.How much of your own music are you sitting on?Hella songs. Hundreds of songs. I’m ready to just give away a whole album cuz I just want it to be heard. I don’t care about making money—I just want it to be heard. I’ve got a whole mixtape I’m thinking about just putting on the internet for people to download. And I’m done with Real Recognize Real. The only reason I ain’t put it out yet is cuz I’m still debating about making it a double album.Are you still working on an album with Lil Rue?Yeah, I guess we’re still gonna do that. We’ve been working on it for about a year, and we’ve got a lot of music. We’ve got more than enough music. But he’s been putting out a lot of music, and I’ve still been doing things and working on the shit with Bossi. Me and Rue are sitting on a lot of tracks and we need to get it out, but we just wanna do it right cuz we know how dope it is and how big it could be.Why is there such a strong connection between the Bay and the Midwest?When I go out there, I see that the way they live is the life I write about. I feel like they can relate to it. They show a lot of love out there, and we show love back. Dudes like Ampichino and Young Bossi.What was the collaborative process on your album with Young Bossi like?Jacka and Ampichino were working on their album the last couple of years. So when Jack would go out there, I went with him a lot. And when Amp would come out here, Bossi would come with him. So we’d mess around on music together in the studio when Jack and Amp were working on their project.How would you describe your taste in beats?It’s pain, it’s struggle, it’s real music. So I can’t collab with a lot of artists just based on who they are. It’s about the music for me. They’ve gotta have the same taste in beats as me. For instance, I was a fan of Young Bossibefore we started working together. That’s my friend. We’re not just working on an album—that’s my friend.Do you read what people write about you on the internet?I do. I go to Google and type my name in because I’m curious what people are saying about me.Have you ever adjusted your music based on what you read about yourself?Hell no. Especially cuz all the talk is good. So it lets me know that my fan base likes me, and I’m making them happy. But a lot of people depend on the internet too much and don’t get out and let people see them and network. You’ve still gotta show up and let people see you. That’s why I like performing live. People get to see me, touch me, and I get to shake their hands, smoke some weed, chill with them.Have you noticed you’ve improved at performing live over the years?Oh yeah. I remember my first show; I performed in San Jose with Jacka and Fed-X. We were performing “Shooters,” my first song. It was a huge song by then, so everyone was amped. I was holding the mic way too far from my mouth, and the crowd couldn’t even hear me! And I’m like, ‘Ah, shit. I’m fucking up.’People say there are similarities between the rap game and street life. Do you think there’s truth to that?For me, definitely. When I first started making music, it was just like when I first started hustlin’. I was doing it because I liked to do it. [laughs]Is it uncomfortable to listen to yourself being so open?Not at all, because I’m comfortable with myself. I’m comfortable with what I’ve done and who I am. I don’t have anything to hide, and I feel like lots of people are going through this. I know a lot of people who are going through what I’ve gone through, and they tell me that everyday.Is it kind of therapeutic?Yeah. It feels good to get it off my chest. I’m still not used to it though. As far as liking to tell my story and get my feelings out. I don’t usually talk to a lot of people about myself. So it’s crazy when I listen to my music, I’m like, ‘Man, I’m really telling my life!’ I don’t normally tell nobody this. It’s really crazy to me. It’s new to me, too. I’m still not used to letting out my feelings and exposing myself like I do in my music.What’s your process for picking beats for songs?If I like the beat and I’m feeling it, I’ll pick up the pen and start writing to it right then and there. And that’s how I know if I like the beat—if it moves me to pick up the pen.Are you ever in the studio with the producers?Oh yeah. Pack and Bandit are in this room. You’ve got Rob Lo right next store. And then Traxamillion, Jeffro, and Lee Majors are upstairs.Whoa. This place is a goldmine!Yeah. This is the best studio ever. This is where everybody in the Bay comes to get their beats.Is anybody here right now?Everybody is here.Are you serious? I’m not leaving!You’re welcome here any time.I heard you say in another interview that you want to make movies. Is that still the case?Yeah. I want to act in something. I’m always watching Law and Order and thinking ‘Man, I wanna be one of the people in the background just talking to someone else who doing something else.’ The camera’s not even focused on me.[Laughs] An extra! You can do that. Have your manager look into that for you.He has been. We’ve been talking to people in LA who are trying to hook something up.On the song “Timeless,” you said “Shout out Lil B and Kreayshawn, but all that funny shit will not keep the Bay on.” You wanna elaborate on that?In terms of Kreayshawn, I don’t listen to her really. The songs she’s got, I’m not a fan of. It’s just crazy to me how a couple of songs can be so big that everywhere I go, they think those songs represent what the Bay is like. Shout out to both of them, cuz they’re doing their thing. But that’s not what’s gonna keep us going. That’s what’s hot right now so I respect that they’re doing it and getting their money.So you’re not a fan of Lil B at all?It’s that I’m not a fan of trying to do what’s “hot.” I like “Bitchmob Gangster.” That’s cool. [Joe gets on YouTube, plays “Bitchmob Gangster” video, and recites the lyrics.]Do you listen to the radio?Sometimes.Intentionally?Yeah, just to check it out and hear what’s going on. I usually don’t like it though cuz they play whoever they’re getting paid to play, rather than actually figuring out what the dope music is. They then make it so that song is considered dope, even though it’s not! Then, everyone who wants to get on the radio just makes that type of music, which isn’t dope to begin with.Joe Blow seems interested in knowing what’s going on in the rap world, but not because he’s preoccupied by hype or popularity. Rather, it’s just out of genuine curiosity and being a rap listener as well as creator. After interviewing him, we played a lot of beats for Joe Blow, by producers like Clams Casino, Harry Fraud, and Young Chop. He sat in his office chair and listened to the blasting music closely and studiously, from start to finish. When he decided to record a track over Clams Casino’s “I’m God,” Joe Blow became fully committed to it, which was no small feat. The room was filled with friends, producers, rappers, two interviewers, promethazine, and suffocatingly thick clouds of weed smoke. Despite the distractions, Joe Blow remained stationed at his desk, playing the beat on repeat, writing lyrics with his right hand, breaking up weed with his left hand. He didn’t stand up for nearly two hours, when it was time to get in the booth. The below track was the result.