On Deck: Joe Cool (Interview)

January 19, 2012 5 comments

When it comes to listening to new artists, regardless of genre, there’s a natural hesitancy on the part of music fans—especially in Hip-Hop. As natural skeptics, most of us won’t give a new rapper a chance without first asking a barrage of questions: Where’s he from? Why is he special? What’s his best song? The list goes on. It’s kind of our attempt at filtering out music we think we won’t like before it even gets to our ears. Sometimes, though, that natural hesitancy and skepticism can cause us to miss out on dope music—music we might actually like. Joe Cool makes dope music—no questions asked.

With music bloggers still drooling over his hit single, “I Wanna Sell Drugs,” and the release of his highly-anticipated mixtape, Cooley Hi, the Chicago-born, Louisiana-bred rapper seems poised to become Mr. Popular in this new school of emcees.

Mostly Junk Food: The first song most people heard from you was “I Wanna Sell Drugs,” which came out in September. How did you come up with that song and was it based on a true story?

Joe Cool: Hell yeah. I made the beat first and was just vibin’ to it for a couple of days. I was just in that kind of mode. It just clicked. I was going through that situation at the time. I was trying to get my music the way I wanted it and trying to get noticed. At the same time, I’m still playing this daily worker shit. A lot of young black men go through that shit. I know a lot of regular dudes who sell drugs. It’s not because it’s something they want to do, they just end up in bad situations. I was thinking about it, but was like, “I can’t get caught up because if I do it’s going to be a wrap.” I’m 22. I’m starting to feel an urgency now. I’ve been chasing this since I was 15.

MJF: How long were you doing music before “I Wanna Sell Drugs”?

JC: Probably six years. I was around 17 when I was like, “This is what I’m going to do. No one’s going to tell me anything else.”

MJF: Did you ever get discouraged between then and now?

JC: Awww, man—the stories. When I first started producing I was 16 going on 17. I tried to reach out to a whole bunch of people. When I first started recording my songs, I got in contact with Soulja Boy’s manager. I used to ride with them for a little bit.

MJF: As a producer?

JC: As an artist and producer. This is before Soulja popped.

MJF: Was this when he was in Mississippi?

JC: Yeah. This is when he was living in Batesville. My homie Miami Mike was just picking up artists he thought was dope at that time. He had Soulja and he was doing shows and stuff. Everybody else was kind of in the back. I used to be mad hype. I was like, “If Soulja pop, I’m going to pop.” It didn’t work like that. After that I kept trying to perfect my shit. Then I got in contact with Spitta (Curren$y) a little bit after he got off of Cash Money. I was messing with this guy I met in New Orleans and he put me on with some other guy who worked with Curren$y. One day I called him and he just so happened to be in the studio and I emailed him two beats. He was like, “Yeah, those beats are fire.” That nigga probably don’t even remember that shit, but I do. That was big to me.

MJF: Did Currren$y end up using the beats?

JC: Nah, he didn’t. I was kind of bummed. I was like, “Whatever, I’ll just have to make doper beats.”

MJF: I see a lot of new artists who come in with their own in-house producers. Drake has 40 and Boi1da from the OVO—Wiz came in with Cardo, Sledren and the whole Rostrum Records team. You said you produce your own music. Do you produce all of it and do you have a team around you?

JC: I have a pretty dope team around me. It’s me, my homie Aartt Shou and my homie Ant. We really try to produce everything. Aartt Shou, he’s a rapper and producer and Ant produces and engineers. They both have some production on Cooley Hi.

MJF: How did you get the name Joe Cool?

JC: I like the Peanuts—Snoopy, Charlie Brown. Plus my last name is Brown. I used to go by my real name, Terrance Brown. One day I was just flowin’ and I said “Joe Cool.” I was rapping on the “Everybody” instrumental, that old Fonzworth Bentley, Kanye and Andre 3000 beat. I said it and was like, “Damn, that felt good.” I was like, “Welp, I gotta keep it now.”

MJF: One of the consistencies I noticed about your music is that almost all of it has a smooth feel to it. “October Afternoon” showcases you rapping over Kool & the Gang’s “Summer Madness,” which DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince later sampled for “Summertime.” Where do you get your musical influences from?

JC: I fucking love Marvin Gaye. My granddad put me on when I was real young. I didn’t know anything about making love to anybody. He gave me a cassette of Midnight Love with the a-side and the b-side. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was cool. I just like a lot of smooth stuff anyway. It just catches my ear. I listen to every genre besides country.

MJF: Who are some of the non-rap artists you listen to?

JC: I like a lot of indie bands. There’s this band called The Radio Department, I listen to a lot of their stuff and I sampled a couple of their songs. I like Foster the People. Their album was really good.

MJF: Who were some of the rappers you listened to growing up?

JC: The first rapper I ever heard was probably Snoop. After the Internet got big and everyone was on Limewire, I was listening to Em’, Jay (Jay-Z)—the obvious ones. I listened to a lot of Onyx. It’s just something about that street shit—that New York shit. I used to want to be from New York so bad. I listened to a lot of P. Diddy too. I aint gon’ lie. And I listened to a lot of B.I.G. and a lot of Ma$e.

MJF: It’s interesting because you haven’t listed a single Louisiana rapper yet. Did any of that influence you?

JC: I fucked with the Hot Boyz when they came out. I fucked with that shit heavy. But the music from everywhere else, I always listened to that more because what I was hearing every day in the street—it was the same ol’ Louisiana shit.

MJF: Do you ever put any of that N.O. Bounce sound in your music?

JC: Sometimes. A lot of the beats I used to make were heavy on—down here it’s called jig music. It kind of has some bounce to it. I used to put a lot of that into my beats. I’m influenced by a lot of that southern shit on the production side. It’s kind of on that Texas-sounding shit, with some Louisiana shit. I listen to a lot of bands. A lot of times I hear music that I like and I’ll sample it. Even if it’s a pop song, I’ll try to sample it in a way where it’ll sound hard as fuck.

MJF: Do you think that’s an advantage—rappers who also produce their own work?

JC: It is. A lot of artists don’t have avenues to get exactly what they want. It’s harder for them to paint the picture because they have to depend on somebody else. When you can do everything, the beats, the whole record—you have an edge.

MJF: What do you think of the atmosphere in Hip-Hop right now? There are a lot of new artists that are making a lot of noise.

JC: There are a lot of new faces. That shit is cool as fuck. Everybody was saying Hip-Hop was dead. Now it’s like, if your favorite rappers are everybody you hear on the radio you’re losing. It’s really about the new artists right now. We’re supposed to keep shit going. We’re supposed to surpass everybody. That’s how I look at it. Motherfuckas should be trying to be better than B.I.G. and better than ‘Pac and all those people they said were great.

MJF: Tell me about Cooley Hi and what fans can expect from it.

JC: I worked on it for a couple of months. The first mixtape I put out was Mixtape For No Fucking Reason. I released that in 2010. Cooley Hi is my second tape, but it’s feeling like my first—probably because it has more meaning to it. It has a definite sound. It’s not just scattered thoughts. I just wanted to go for the shit that I’m going through now. It’s a lot of shit that I think about, shit that I see. It’s more in my mind and I’m telling actual stories.

MJF: Do you think as a rapper, or artist in general, that you have a lane?

JC: I don’t know. I feel like I’m pretty balanced. I just do whatever I feel. I’ll do some conscious stuff, but I like a lot of hype ass shit too.

MJF: Let me throw out some names for you: youheardthatnew.com, the smoking section, mostlyjunkfood.com, 2dopeboyz, onsmash—the list keeps going. What does it mean to you to have your music featured on all of these marquee blogs?

JC: Man, it’s fucking crazy. It’s really unreal to me. We’re in this new age of Hip-Hop and I feel like the Internet is a crucial part of it. Before I even thought about going hard and trying to get featured on blogs, I would just be on those sites looking up all the new shit and checking it out. Now when I see myself on some of them it’s weird. And I still have a regular ass job.

MJF: What does the rest of 2012 have in store for Joe Cool and what kind of impact do you want to have?

JC: Just a hell of a lot of music, some dope ass visuals and a lot of shows. I always wanted to be one of those guys that people talked about because my music was that shit and because they related to me. That’s all I used to think about. That’s why I started music in the first place. In a sense, it helped me raise myself. Nowadays, a lot of people don’t have dads and you can’t go to your mom for certain shit that only men should talk about. So I feel like music, it helped me raise myself. That’s why I want people to relate to me. I want to be ‘that’ rapper.

You can follow Joe Cool on Twitter here and download Cooley Hi below.

DOWNLOAD: Joe Cool – Cooley Hi