I know ya'll been waiting on this...and it is here! My conversation with J. Holiday, the D.C. Cadillac Kid that has had us all swooning over his breakout debut single "Bed." The Capitol Records artist released his critically acclaimed debut album Back of my Lac just two months ago and is now sharing his voice with the country on the Double Up Tour.
I crossed my fingers, wished on a star, and said a prayer that this interview wouldn't get rescheduled again and after about 3 months of emails, phone tag, and texts, we finally got the chance to talk again. I literally had pages of questions from fans wanting every juicy detail of his life. However, as you'll read, once we began to talk, the conversation took on a life of its own. J. opens up about the music industry, love, his fathers passing, and why he wants you to just ride with him...
J. Holiday's Shoutout to the Readers!
Continue reading to check out part deux of the J. Holiday Exclusive interview!
Part 1: The Basics...Back of my Lac
Melody: So, your album’s out!
J. Holiday: Yes, ma’am!
Melody: So how are you feeling about that?
J. Holiday: It feels good, I’m just at the point now where its time to turn on the after burners to make sure I stay here, you know, in the place that I’m at.
Melody: Right, you’re a pretty low-key dude, you’re real just chill, so did you wild out just a little bit for your release?
J. Holiday: Definitely! I did have 3 different release parties in New York, D.C., and Atlanta. Of course when I was in D.C. I saw my family. When I was in Atlanta I saw my music family and of course New York is New York, so did a little bit of wildin’.
Melody: Let’s go through the album, which is definitely one of the best albums of 2007, just off top. It was really highly anticipated, I think a lot of people where waiting for that album. The title track, “Back of my Lac” which is pretty much about how you wind down and get through things, so is that one of the most personal songs on the album?
J. Holiday: Yeah, definitely. We named it that because that is actually a song that I wrote that was on the demo package and it’s one of the songs that I got signed off of and that song is basically a song a that I wrote when I was about to quit. I’m like ‘Man, I don’t know if I want to keep doing this music thing, it’s pointless, it’s a waste of my time.’ I was just like, we have to name the album this, because this is what got me through, which got this album even out. That’s why we call it “Back of my Lac” and we ready to just keep it rockin’.
Melody: Let’s talk about some of the songs that you wrote on the album. I know you wrote “Fallin’,” “Ghetto,” and “Back of my Lac,” are there any others that you wrote?
J. Holiday: “Fallin’,” “Ghetto,” and “Back of my Lac,” I co-wrote on “Be With Me,” I co-wrote on “Without You” and I co-wrote on “Laa Laa.”
Melody: Okay, now “Fallin’,” I have a hard time picking a favorite, but that’s definitely one of my favorite songs on the album. Was that from personal experience?
J. Holiday: Actually that’s from a combination of a lot of stuff. I’ve been in more than one relationship, more than one serious relationship. Lets just say that every male would be a liar if they said they didn’t break up with a girl or that girl broke up with them, and they didn’t sit at home and wish they had them back. Every male is going to do that, I don’t care who you are, so that’s me just putting it on front street. Like, I know I messed up or whatever but I really need you back.
Melody: So “Ghetto” from the first verse, it just takes you, it captures you from the front so that’s definitely a hot song, is that one of your favorite songs?
J. Holiday: Um, anything I put my pen on is my favorites [laugh], yeah definitely. I mean I’m more of a soulful person anyway. I’m not this selfish type of artist, like I’m only going to the make music that I like to listen to. There’s people that like to listen to the real soulful music, and then there’s people who listen to the R&B classic type of music, and then there’s people that like to listen to the hip hop sounding music. It’s like I tried to put a little bit of all that into the album but anything soulful I love.
Melody: Speaking of sounds, I’ve read a lot of pieces and feedback and views and people kind of place you in the category of an R&B thug. Is that a misconception, do you embrace that, or is that something that you really don’t feel is accurate?
J. Holiday: I mean, what really an R&B thug?
Melody: I don’t know…
J. Holiday: You’d be pretty surprised, not to put anyone on front street but, as far as my music is concerned, I’mma always be me. I’mma show people who I really am. I’m not going to try to sugarcoat anything for the public or anything like that. Trying to make it seem like I’m this goody-goody two-shoes, now I’m in the club wildin’. If you can’t accept that through my music, then you really can’t accept me. And there are a lot of artists out here, that sugarcoat things, then they be out in the street and people see them, it’s ‘Oh my God, why is he acting like that?’ And it’s like, okay that’s who he really is but he did tell you that through his music, so you didn’t know that. So I don’t necessarily look at it as being an R&B thug, I just look at it like being me. You gotta look at it like my mom’s a preacher, so I can’t be that much of a thug. People don’t really listen to the story or really try to get involved the person or really listen to the lyrics that I’m really saying. Versus saying ‘Well, he said something about smoking didn’t he, oh that’s gotta be a thug’ or ‘oh he said something about drinking, oh that gotta be a thug.’ There’s preachers that take communion, that’s wine, you don’t call them no thug. So it’s like, people really need to figure out what their definition of R&B thug is.
Melody: You worked with a lot of great producers and up and coming producers and writers, is there any one that you worked with that you feel you connected the most with, that really got you as an artist?
J. Holiday: Actually the guy that produced “Ghetto,” he has a clique called State of Emergency, they’re basically a clique of live instruments, they play live instruments. He was definitely was real instrumental in my Marvin Gaye influences and he was there in the beginning stages of the demo. That’s just a relationship that I’ve had over the years, even when I was with my group . We just always seem to make magical music together. We got songs that are reminiscent of Mint Condition and stuff like that. It’s just some songs that some people aren’t ready for yet, but that’s definitely one of the people that I connected with the most on the album. His name is Donnie Scantz.
Melody: Well shout out to him, he did you good on that song, I love “Ghetto.” Now you also worked with Ne-Yo on the album, but none of the songs made the album, is there a reason why?
J. Holiday: Actually, I worked with Ne-Yo in the way beginning stages of the album and he actually wrote some dope joints, but after years of preparation for the album, it got to the point of well, certain songs started getting pushed to the side. By me being a writer, of course they’re going to, the labels and everybody’s always like, well we have to make sure he makes some money. Which isn’t really a big deal to me, I feel as long as I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, I’m going to make money anyway. But they started leaning more to the songs that I was writing, because of course I’m the artist. But he wrote some dope stuff, and Ne-Yo, that’s one of my homies. I’m pretty sure we’re probably going to work on some stuff on this upcoming tour. We’re going to be out and about, so I’m sure we’re going to work on some stuff, might surprise you and put something together.
Melody: That’d be interesting, I’d love to hear that. There was only one song that had a collaboration, with 8 Ball & MJG, but it didn’t make the domestic release. Is there a reason why?
J. Holiday: Honestly, I wrote “City Boy,” I’m really not sure why it didn’t make it but I’m pretty sure it’s the politics, some people scared, everybody has their opinion of what song they think are hot and what songs they think are dope, so as long as it’s making a release, then I’m cool, I’m happy. I’m going to let God do his work.
Melody: Well, with technologies these days, eventually people will hear it.
J. Holiday: Oh I know, if I have anything to do with it, they’ll hear it anyway.
Melody: Yeah, so people are going to hear it. Speaking of technology, your advance and a lot of songs got pretty much leaked early on over the last couple of months before and a lot of the songs that didn’t make the official release, but a lot of them were some wonderful songs.
J. Holiday: Thank you…
Melody: A lot of people would say ‘Well, why didn’t this song make it?’ and I know there’s a lot of politics, but just off top, from what I heard, “A Love of Your Own” and “Don’t Wanna Lose You” are…
J. Holiday: Actually, “A Love of Your Own” might, we’re supposed to be doing a re-release, and that may be one of the songs that make the re-release. People can still be looking out for that. Like I said, it’s politics, you’d be surprised how many politics going to making an album and that was personal situation. Actually, Donnie Scantz did that one too, big shouts out to him, but you know it’s sad that, especially African Americans, that we live so much off of status, that other things get pushed in the background because we still thinking about ‘Well. We want to be up here, so we’re going to hold somebody down there,’ or what ever the case maybe. That’s what I’m trying to get away from, I’m trying to get the people away from the politics and get back to making real music and making real decisions that make sense, versus it being that ego thing or it being something like ‘Well, if we put that song on there, somebody else’s song that I like better going to be taken off and I want to build that relationship.’ I don’t care about all that, I don’t care about none of that stuff. I want the best music for the album, anybody else that got their feelings hurt, they can keep it moving. That’s just how I look at it because it shouldn’t be about strictly relationships. It should be about the music.
Part 2: The Music
Melody: Definitely, that’s one of the things that I really, really like about you as an artist, and you as really a person, is your whole philosophy on music and bringing back real music and real R&B not really being with everything being status quo, and the politics of music. I know, but the average consumer definitely isn’t tapped into that...
J. Holiday: [laugh] …and it’s sad that, and this is why music is the way it is now and people do end up messing up because you’ll have artists that are really dope, dope artists and they’ll have people holding them back for so long that when they get a chance to make those decisions, they make all the wrong decisions. Because, like now, it’s like ‘I don’t care what you say, you’ve held me back for so long, I’m going to do what I want to do.’ Which you still help, you still need a little bit of guidance, but it’s like, let’s bring it back to the actual music. Where the artist will go sit down in the studio for two months and then come back and be like, ‘Aight, tell me which songs y’all like and which songs y’all don’t like.’ Versus saying, one by one, each song ‘Nah, I hate that song,’ let the artist be creative. That’s why my album sounds the way it sounds because those songs were done over such a spread out period of time that none of them can sound the same because I didn’t do them all back-to-back-to-back.
Melody: Well it was a well-crafted album…
J. Holiday: Thank you.
Melody: …so kudos to you! Now “Bed” was the last song to be recorded, right?
J. Holiday: Yes, exactly.
Melody: Did you record “Bed” after the release of “Be with Me?”
J. Holiday: Yeah, that was way after the release of “Be with Me.” Capitol and Virgin [Records] had just did a merger so a lot of people that we had working on “Be with Me” isn’t part of the system anymore. I just think at that point in time, it just didn’t get the right push. Because I lot of people are like ‘Yo, what happened to Be With Me?!’ and nobody knew about me and then when “Bed” came out, it was like ‘Oh this the same cat that did Be with Me?’ or ‘I heard that song before and just didn’t know who that was.’ Then what happened to this one? It’s like, it is what it is. It’s the politics, it’s the egos, it’s the everybody-wants-to-be-on-top, that’s what happened.
Melody: No, you're right, you are so very, very right…
J. Holiday: It’s like, I’m trying to get that. People always say, what happened to hip hop, or what happened to R&B? And real talk, it don’t start with the artist. It starts with the labels, I’m sorry to say that, but it does, ‘cause the label make the tell-all, be-all decisions.
Melody: Oh, definitely! I know a lot of artist get frustrated and to tell you the truth, man, you have some fans!
J. Holiday: Oh, they be scared to let me talk.
Melody: You have some fans who were ready to come tear down Capitol Records.
J. Holiday: [Laugh]
Melody: They were serious! No you really have some outstanding fans and they love you so much that they really have been like ‘We need to promote him, because they not doing it right!’ So, I’m so glad that you were getting the shine that you were getting because just hearing some of your other material, I was like ‘This album is going to be really great,’ and I think a lot of people will be happy to hear to hear it because it is real R&B…
J. Holiday: Right, I just tried to approach it like De’Angelo approached his first album. I’m going to do me, I’m going to make my music and see what the world like you know what I’m saying. I make all types of music, it doesn’t just stop with R&B, I do everything and I feel like artist should be able to do everything. It’s a growth thing, it’s a growth process. I’m going to take my time, I’m going to still be here. I’m going to be like Avant, even though people don’t respect Avant, Avant been around. You can’t nothing away from that man. He has faithful fans and he’s still here. As long as you stay true to yourself, it will happen for you.
Melody: Once you have a fan base, they will follow you and as long as you stay true to who you are and don’t lose yourself in the industry, you’ll be alright. So let’s talk about the Chocolate City Mixtape. That could have been a whole album.
J. Holiday: …and that’s the point that I was trying to get across. Just as an artist, I work all the time if I’m at home. I haven’t been able to get into the studio that much, but a lot of that mixtape I did at home. I have a Pro2 set up at my house and you would think that was a commercial studio but it wasn’t. It’s just that I’m trying to get people to understand, look get on your grind, work! I’m going to give you a whole free album, that’s basically what it was, just called it a mixtape. This a free album, even though it’s some commercial tracks on here, I’m going to give you all new songs. I’m going to show you that you can make music, you have to love what you do.
Melody: That comes out though, that comes out in your work.
J. Holiday: Yeah, I definitely was trying to get a couple of the fella’s attention and show them, I know I got “Bed” on the radio and of course it’s a big baby making song, but it’s like I make music for everybody. There’s just not one situation that happens, life is about a lot of things other than just love and getting somebody to bed. I just tried to portray that in the mixtape. Give a couple more songs for the fellas, and we are probably going to reprint that up too and start shipping that out.
Melody: That’s good though, when we first talked you would say this whole album – the ladies can listen to while they are in the tub but the guys can put this on their ride and ride to it too, and that’s not easy feat when you can put together an album that transcends different audiences and I think you did a good job with that.
J. Holiday: That’s how I grew up, man. I had church on Sunday and I was on the streets on Monday through Saturday.
Part 3: Life, Being a PK, and his Father...>
Melody: Let’s talk about that because that’s something we have in common, I’m a preacher’s kid too. I know I lot of people on the outside say, oh preacher’s kids, they like this or they like that. But being a preacher’s kids, it’s something that not everyone can identify with. I know you said your moms really supportive and a real preacher would support of their kid, but sometimes I call and I’m like I don’t want to talk to the preacher, I want to talk to my dad. Do you ever get that with your mom?
J. Holiday: Not now, I can talk to my mom just regular, like I’m talking to my other peoples. Growing up, of course, I didn’t talk to her a lot, that’s when I had my homies but I think for me, it also depends on the type of character that you have. Because a lot of preachers kids, both of their parents are in the church, the typical preachers kid, their mother and father are in the church. My dad was straight fresh out of D.C., my mom was from Carolina, my mom was a preacher, my dad was dude from the street. He didn’t go to church, he read the bible, he knew the bible like the back of his hand, but he didn’t go to church, smoked cigarette, drank beer, and that was my balance you know. It gave me that automatic, that thing in my head that said you know what, I can think for myself. If it’s something that I don’t want to do, or something that I don’t feel comfortable with, then I won’t do it or I just won’t feel comfortable. A lot of stuff I didn’t do in church because I didn’t want to be fake about it. I was like, I know that’s not where I’m at so I’m not going to be fake about it. I think most PKs, they’re forced. Like if I told my mom I didn’t want to do something and she knew I didn’t feel comfortable doing it, she didn’t make me do it. Most PKs are forced, and that’s when they rebel, like they just came fresh out of Babylon. It’s just I think I had that foundation to where I knew how far to take it.
Melody: I know a lot of people think that your dad just walked out, but your dad passed when you were young, you were 11…
J. Holiday: Yeah
Melody: and I know you said it’s still with you, so how does losing your father at a young age, how does that affect you now?
J. Holiday: Now I’m older, honestly it’s crazy because it’s a catch 22, because I love singing and I’ve always said that I would give all this up to have my pops back, but then on the reverse side, had he never died I probably would have never ended up here. Because a lot of the circumstance and situations that happened after him passing away led up to me being exactly where I’m at right now, so I can’t be mad but at the same time they always say everything happens for a reason. Even though it’s something that you may seek, you might be pissed, and you might even be mad at God, or whatever but it’s like God will never put more on you than you can’t handle. That was something that I had to go through to see exactly, it helps me be a better father to my daughter, it helps me say you know what, I’m going to make sure I don’t make that same decision. My daughter don’t have to grow up like I grew up and she can make whatever decisions she wants to make in life. So it helps, but then you get those time when you’re like, awe man, I wish I could share this, I wish I could share that, but it is what it is.
Melody: A lot of the things that we go through in life shape who we are today, so I can definitely identify with that, and I think that a lot of people can identify with that whether it be a loss of a parent or their parent just not being there in general.
Part 4: What's Next...
Okay, so let’s talk about “Suffocate” because that’s your second single and I know you took a lovely trip to Paris to shoot the video so when can we expect that?
J. Holiday: “Suffocate” should be adding on the radio around the 13th and the video should be coming soon after that. I just actually saw the second edit of the video yesterday and it’s looking pretty good. It’s looking pretty romantic!
J. Holiday: Well, we shot it in Paris so I don’t know how you could not look romantic in Paris.
Melody: So, Nik from America’s Next Top Model, she the love interest in the video?
J. Holiday: Nah, we were going to use her, but we ended up using Jennifer Gordon, she the same girl from the first [“Bed”] video, we wanted to make it something consistent to where it really is a story line. It’s not about having the next prettiest girl in your video, it’s about actually telling a story and being consistent. I think people have been scared to do that, like ‘Aw man, we need to go get the next flyest chick that was in the Maxim Magazine’ or whatever and it’s not about that.
Melody: Well, they were all gorgeous girls so…
J. Holiday: Oh yeah, definitely! But I think the consensus, for especially African American music, is to have the next best girl in your video because such-and-such just has so-and-so in the video and you have to outdo them. But now we got a girl that don’t want to do any other videos, so it’s like now what are you going do? Because you can’t get her, so now what are going to do? But we just trying to bring back the essence of saying we are going to build careers and relationships and have fun doing it.
Melody: Have you thought far enough ahead to what your third single might be?
J. Holiday: Honestly, I would like to switch it up a bit, because I don’t want people to get caught up into this strictly lovey dovey in it. Because that’s not what I am in whole, I got different sides to me just like everybody. Everybody has different sides to them and it’s just to show them the passion inside. That I can take care of my woman, and love my woman and then the side that may even mess up and say I did crazy stuff but I still need you back, or the side that says we need to better as African American males. Just getting people involved into Blackness again. What’s funny is, even though I say certain things on my records, always make sure you look at the credits, just because I said, doesn’t mean I wrote it. Like the two song you pointed out, I didn’t write those songs. Ride with me, get involved completely. That’s what I want people to do, get involved completely and understand just who it is that I am. I may cuss sometimes, I may get mad and say ‘Ah Shit!’ but that’s just life. It’s talking about a specific situation and you like, ‘Yo, you fine as a muthaf--’ that’s just what it is. It’s not that I’m going to walk around the house calling you a M-Fer, that’s just saying yo, right now, I’m trying to get at you. I’m going to make sure people ride with me and I got a lot of positive stuff to say. I’m like Common, I’m for the people. That’s one dude, I definitely respect and ain’t changing for nobody.
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