Jay Quest (Kicks n Snares), playa. Bright Talent in '08
werd: james niche
So, last week I get an email from this guy asking me how he can get an interview. I check his info and he is a hip-hop producer here in Rochester, as are quite a few people, but this kid had something different.
Yeah, he’s young and working out of his home studio like everybody else, but this kid has an edge. He’s young, creative and hungry. Not only that but he seems to really know how to make something out of nothing, and I am not referring to his music being nothing, I mean what resources he has.
Like every young artist, there’s no money and million dollar studio, there’s just appetite and desire.
I met Jay as he finished digging through a few crates and had some vinyl on hand to prove it. I will let our interview do the talking for Jay Quest, one of Rochester’s youngest and brightest…
ACT:LIVE: So you started producing, or playing music on a mission in 8th grade, huh? You actually picked up some gear?
“My brother, DJ Sight, had an old Casio keyboard, but he never used it. So I used to go down into the basement and start messing around with it, started playing all kinds of different melodies on it. From there on I just stuck to that keyboard for about seven months. It was with that keyboard that I learned how to layer sounds and put melodies into patterns and count out bars.
Then, I got the Yamaha DJX2, which was another keyboard that had actual real sounding drums. It was nice because you could tweak out all the sounds and make them hit as hard as you wanted. It also had a sampler on it.
That’s when I first was introduced to sampling because I was always curious as to what that button did.
There was a song off of Cannibus’ first album called “Honor You” that was playing and the sampler picked up about eight seconds of the guitar part. I didn’t even know that the loop was recorded when I saw that the memory for the sampler was full. I didn’t know what that meant. I thought when the loop was playing that my CD was scratched up, and that it was skipping on the sampler. I was like, “What the hell is going on here?!” It took me about five minutes to figure out what I did, and that’s where the whole sampling thing came from for me.”
ACT:LIVE: So, all by accident, sort of.
ACT:LIVE: Where did you go from there to support your thirst for gear?
“Well, in 2002, I got a summer job and saved up about $800 to get my first real sampler. I winded up getting jerked for it at the House of Guitars. They got me good.
I bought the Korg ES1, which was a phrase sampler. So, I took it home and, at this point, I was fairly familiar with the ins and outs of the different gear out there, but I couldn’t layer anything on it. I thought to myself, well, I can either just struggle with this piece of equipment or try to master it. OR, I could just go get what I actually need.
I ended up exchanging it for an Akai X20, a generic version of the MPC 1000. No metronome or nothin’.
I ended up growing out of that and needed more, so I went back out to Webster and was working at McDonald’s to save some more cash.”
ACT:LIVE: How did that work out for you?
“Man, I was working my ass off out there. I almost got fired because I would sneak in like twenty extra hours a week there just staying on the clock and pretending I was still scheduled. They didn’t like that.
(laughs) But ain’t that some shit? I almost got fired for working too much.”
ACT:LIVE: That is some shit man.
“That’s where I met my man Inno, at McDonald’s. We went to Webster Thomas High School together, but we really started kicking it when we were working at McDonald’s.
We’d be in the grill area at work just talkin’ about music, and I found out he knew how to rap. But before we could do some of the things we wanted to do, I ended up moving back into the city and lost contact with Inno for about a year.
When we met back up he was still looking to make beats and he picked up some gear, that’s around the same time we started our group, “Kicks & Snares”. “
ACT:LIVE: So, who is “Kicks & Snares” now?
“That’s me, I do the beats and he spits.”
ACT:LIVE: Yeah, I’ve seen Inno’s name popping up a lot of places.
“His first album, I did like seventy five percent of the production. The second album of his, he had a lot more attention so he started working with a lot more Rochester area producers.”
ACT:LIVE: He got out, but what did you do?
“Well, that’s it. I was making these beats, but wanted to get my name out there. What I was originally going to do, before the Jay Quest vs. 9th Wonder CD was remix the whole Jay-Z “Black Album”. That didn’t work too good because I bought the a capella CD and it got scratched up, so I was only able to remix one song.
Then I said, forget all that, I wasn’t going to spend another twenty dollars on another CD. I decided to do a CD with just beats by me.
It was a hard decision because I thought it would be just too boring doing a plain beats CD. Everybody’s doing that, so I needed something different, plus I wanted to be able to put my name alongside a big name. If I just put out a “Jay Quest Beats” CD, no one would care who the fuck that is, but if I put my name next to a big star, people will pay attention. I had to do something that nobody else did up here yet.
I decided I would put my beats up against another producer on a CD, so at the time, the hot shit was 9th Wonder. I put about forty beats on it, with that Jay-Z remix I did at the end.
ACT:LIVE: I heard about that, and I also heard that CD moved places too.
“When I finished it I just started putting it up online everywhere I could on all the free download places and all that. I didn’t think it would move any units, but after a few weeks at Record Archive, they were down to only two CDs of mine. I guess a lot of people were buying it.
I was like, damn. But, where it really took off was at a Dilated People’s show in Buffalo, where I was trying to bring a bag of like a hundred and twenty CDs to sell. They didn’t let me in to sell them, so I ended up just giving them all away and people thought I was with the Dilated People’s crew. I don’t know if those guys were actually listening to the CD, but not long after that I was getting calls at like three in the morning from people all over telling me they loved it. I guess there were people from Pennsylvania and Ohio, all over, at the show. This was back in ’06. Their manager wanted to fuck me up. (laughs)”
ACT:LIVE: Was it hard dealing with that amount of attention when you were just starting? I mean, it’s not like you had a whole catalogue of music to offer at that point.
“Yeah, I don’t know if I was ready for all that because when I put out the 9th Wonder CD, that was like a little bit more than half my beats.
I had to step back and build up my library, so I didn’t get back to answer all the calls I was getting. I would go to the Record Archive and just keep buying record, after record, after record.
At the time, I was laid off for like eight months and just sat up in my room everyday making beats.”
ACT:LIVE: So where did the Jay Quest vs. Green Lantern come into play?
“I started working again, and noticed my name was dropping off a little bit and I wasn’t hearing the same hype I was hearing before, so I had to make another move.
I was going to do a 9th Wonder Part Two, but 9th Wonder’s name wasn’t around like it was the year before. That’s where Green Lantern came in because he was hot. He still is, but he had some big shit going on at the time.
I went all out on that CD and took my time. I also, didn’t put as many beats on the Green Lantern CD because I know that the average listener probably wasn’t really remembering, or even listening to much past track sixteen on the 9th Wonder disc.
So, it was simple. Eleven tracks from me, and eleven tracks from Green Lantern. Like a beat battle. At that time I also had people laying vocals over a lot of my music, so I thought I would feature some of those too.”
ACT:LIVE: How did that disc do?
“That one went way faster. Because of the buzz I had before, I had people that were ready and put the disc up everywhere for me. I didn’t even have to do much. I sold close to seven hundred copies just myself, but it has had over ten thousand downloads online. I had a lot of bootleggers helping out and it worked.”
ACT:LIVE: That internet man, it’s caused so much stress for so many artists, but that’s a perfect example of how it is helping out so many coming up. Didn’t Nikal Fieldz do the artwork for that disc?
“Yeah, he worked on that and has done a couple other things.”
ACT:LIVE: Does that lead us into the current CD you are working on?
“Yeah, I had so many people looking at me man, I had to keep going. I really knew I had something when I started getting people shitting on me and my beats. You know people are at least paying attention.”
ACT:LIVE: Yeah, we know all about that.
“Yeah, but before the new CD, I was working on Inno’s new disc, “Back To Basics” and had a spot on Nikal Fieldz’s disc, “Almost Somebody”. I was starting to work on a bunch of people’s CDs.
Build and Destroy, Coach and them, they’re my boys and I did some tracks on their new shit too.”
ACT:LIVE: I had the pleasure of meeting both Build and Destroy at their listening party last month. I thought those were some cool dudes, and the new material I was able to hear was really good. The production value was impressive.
ACT:LIVE: I heard that you did your first “album placement” deal…with Big Suge?
“Yeah, he used to be down with Gangstarr and them.”
ACT:LIVE: How did that happen?
“I did a track for Keith Murray of Def Squad, the dude who got that together worked this out for me. The one with Keith Murray is called “Ruff Enuff”, it’s on my MySpace page.”
ACT:LIVE: I heard your music was leaking into the UK, I’m referring to the 9th Wonder CD….
“Yeah, yeah, that’s a funny story. This dude out of Baltimore used to do email blasts, but he never put commas in between the email addresses in the “cc” box in his email. So, I got this email blast with all these famous people’s email addresses, like Jay-Z, Prodigy and everybody you could think of. There were almost two thousand email addresses.
What happened was, I decided to copy and paste every one of those emails.
I started doing blasts, but this was when, with AOL you could only send out so many emails at one time, so one night I sent out a bunch of them and next thing I knew I heard, “Goodbye”. It took a few days to get my internet back on because they were shutting people off that were doing that through AOL email. I sent out like two thousand emails and the max was like, twelve.
Anyways, when the internet was back on, I guess some of the emails made it through and one of them was to Rego Magazine in the UK. They did a review, loved it and published it. Since then they were telling me to keep sending more music. When I sent them the Green Lantern album they said I really improved. I was lucky and about four other magazines picked up on it too.
I had a lot of haters hittin’ up my page when that Green Lantern CD dropped too; everybody thought that I was putting my beats up against his to say mine were better. That’s not why I did it. I did it to get my name out, that’s it. And it worked.”
ACT:LIVE: I have noticed that a great number of hip-hop artists are releasing their music in the UK or other places overseas before they release it in the US…could you shed some light on that for me?
“A lot of that has to do with sample clearances. A lot of CDs now will be missing tracks on the US version because of US copyright laws. Ghostface Killah, Pharaoh Monche, there’s just two out of a lot of guys.”
ACT:LIVE: I was checking out your MySpace page and noticed you have a good collection of videos of yourself…you’re quite a character man, really. You seem to have a good sense of humor and you seem pretty camera friendly. Why not start your own YouTube show?
(laughs) “Yeah, I was thinking about doing that, some friends told me that too. I was thinking about doing a documentary of just wherever I go. A lot of people hit me up on YouTube all the time. I get on there show some people some moves with what I do.”
ACT:LIVE: You should be careful of that because like any other trade or talent, what you do is valuable and you shouldn’t just give it away.
“Yeah, a lot of the old-school dudes get on that YouTube shit because it’s cheating, but I’m not going to give away my secrets or anybody else’s. In my opinion, I think you should learn to master what you do on your own, if you are just doing what somebody else does you’re already behind and won’t be the best you could by learning with your own ear.”
ACT:LIVE: So what message would you like to spread about yourself and what you do as well as what your contribution is to Rochester’s music scene?
“I’m hoping and working towards putting Rochester on the map with music, along with all the other local artists. A lot of people don’t even know about Rochester, they don’t even think this is a city. I’m trying to show a lot of people out of town the opposite. We’ve got a lot of talented musicians here and luckily we have a few like Emilio Rojas, Hassaan Mackey and Nikal Fieldz who are making it out of state and out of the country to represent Rochester. We just need everybody to work together and do their thing.”
ACT:LIVE: What’s your superhero name man? Everybody’s got one.
Jay Quest has a new CD entitled "Put Your Headphones On", coming soon. It's going to be featuring quite a few local MC's, including Azariah, Inno and Black Sinatra.
I want to thank Jay Quest for calling me up and getting out and meeting with me. I want to also thank Al Fox for another great set of photos. Jay’s a cool dude and I wish him the best. Just keep workin’ man.
We decided to meet at Manhattan Square Park downtown, and it was a great choice. I love that park and it was a beautiful, warm afternoon. That park is soon becoming forgotten about and it’s a shame. I know that city developers have plans for renovation in place, but dammit they take a long time.
I bet if it were a casino they would have that up faster than you can “What’s that smell?” at The Barrel.
Coming up very soon is my sit down with David Ginnis and the good folks at REHAB, the monthly vinyl and life rehabilitation clinic.
We also have pics from Junior Vasquez at TILT Nightclub coming up as well kiddies!
Right now we're listening to:
Public Enemy "Shut Em Down" ("Apacolypse '91: The Enemy Strikes Black", 1991, Def Jam)