Interview: Jason James and Rodney Hazard

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed a CD by Jason James and Rodney Hazard called “Marvelous World of Color” which I thought was real dope. Rodney Hazard reached out to me and we ended up pollying for a while and I ended up asking him a million and one questions about their project so I figured why not just interview both of these cats?

First things first, where are you two from?

JJ: I’m originally from Vancouver, BC but I consider myself a resident of Planet Earth.

RH: I was born and raised in Worcester, MA but now I live out in NY I came out here to study graphic design at St John’s in Queens.

How did the two of you guys link up?
JJ: When I heard “Sidetracked” on Joe Budden’s “Halfway House” project I went on a warpath trying to find Rodney. After hearing that beat I knew he was a perfect fit for where I was trying to go musically. So after a few days of failed leads and google searches I finally found him on facebook and before I could ask him about making music together he hit me with a “Let’s work” message. It’s been on ever since.

RH: about two years ago, I ended up getting a placement on Joe Budden’s “Halfway House” album. I produced a song named “Sidetracked” which really got my name out there. My stage name was Syrenn at the time…but on the production credits they had my government listed (Rodney Hazard) which I’m assuming made me very easy to locate. Jason went looking and found me…one thing led to another that’s we how ended up here.
Jason, how long have you been MCing? What inspired you to pick up the mic?
JJ: I’ve been writing creatively for as far back as I can remember. I started playing around with the idea at 15 years old but personally I believe there’s a huge difference between loosely rapping and holding the title of MC. In terms of being an MC and taking it seriously, I entered that arena around 20 years old.
Hazard, how long have you been producing? What equipment do you use?

RH:  I have been producing for around 5-6 years now I think, and I use my MacBook pro(of course) and an m audio radium 49.
How did you two come up with the title “Marvelous World of Color”?

JJ: The idea for Marvelous World Of Color came from a flight that I took into New York. As we were landing I was looking out the window and I was captivated by how massive it was and how all the lights seemed to blend together into one giant ball. From that point forward we just developed that idea and built a foundation for this album.

RH: Well it was a collective of things really…Jason came to CMJ last year here in NY and he was talking about that title with everyone and he started to mention how lights begin to look when you are 30,000 feet in the air…and how these lights represent a collective of experiences that only one person can have…

This album sounds like NOTHING else that’s out right now which is a great thing! Did you’ll choose to make something totally different or did it just turn out that way?

JJ: We really don’t go into the creative process trying to make something that’s left field. With this album we actually started with the typical Hip Hop formula and it naturally went in the other direction. Both of us have a vast taste in music so we more or less pull influence from many different sounds and genres. We just try to do our best to be as creatively free as possible.

RH: We wanted to do something creative..Meaning we wanted to leave a legacy behind with this album. Create a lane that had never been there before. We also knew that the key to saying something new is patience…so we took our time with this album and really let it, in our eyes, reach it’s full potential.

It sounds like each beat was tailor made for each rhyme, how do you two work together when creating music?

JJ: With me being in Vancouver and Rodney in New York when we worked on Marvelous World Of Color, the creative process relied heavily on communication and making sure we were on the same page. Not being in the same room together made it nearly impossible for us to work around a particular vibe so we had to make sure that the line of communication was open. Emails, phone calls, text messages, we did whatever we had to do to make sure the vision we both shared was taking shape the way we wanted it to. All of the songs were written, produced and recorded with both of us on opposite coasts and I think that’s what made the sound so unique because you had influences coming from 2 different cities to create one cohesive body of music.

RH: We really work well together. Jason studies my patterns and helps me tailor it to his lyrics and I do the same for his rhymes to my beats. Even though we’re not in the same place most of the time…we work as a team regardless.

“Fame Us” and “Better As You” are some of the deepest and well thought out rhymes I’ve heard in years. Jason, what’s your process for writing your rhymes?

JJ: Thank you. I really don’t have a process. I’m not one of those artists that can go into the studio and write something on the spot. I generally wait for the inspiration and I take it from there. As a writer I don’t like to have boundaries. I have to be free to create when and where I want or else it just doesn’t happen. What helps me a lot is that I don’t think in individual song format either, I look at a song as a piece of a larger picture which gives me the space to go far outside of the normal artistic restrictions that come with Hip Hop music.

Beatwise while listening to the album I couldn’t tell if these were samples or not, which is a huge testement to Hazard’s production skills. Do you sample or play or both?

RH: Thank you my man. I do a lot of both but it’s true if I do sample something I don’t try to use it as a crutch. It’s a foundation to build on, but I rarely use in it’s original state.
“Exit: The Marvelous World” is a real dope dedication to Jason’s grandmother. Was it difficult writting that rhyme?
JJ: It was hands down the hardest song I ever wrote. My Grandmother was and still is extremely important to me and when she passed it took a few years for me to put words to the emotions. I think I wrote that song 20 times over 2 years trying to find the right way to say goodbye. When we recorded the song I did it in one take because if we had to do it over I wouldn’t make it all the way through. Towards the end you can hear my voice start cracking. There’s no way I could’ve done it over again.
What are ya’ll favorite songs off the album and why?

JJ: My personal favorite is “If It Feels Right” mainly because of the beat. It was that song that jump-started the album and determined the direction I went creatively. Without “If It Feels Right” we would’ve made a completely different album.

RH: “Go” is my favorite…It just makes me think of the future ahead and why we really do this thing you know? Also that has always been the song to perform to me…I think I hold that track the closest simply because Jason and I did a lot of back and forth communicating until it came out right.

What can we expect from you guys in the future?

JJ: We’re currently 2 songs into our next album, Pyramids In Stereo. From what we have confirmed for the album so far, keep expecting us to push the boundaries of music and creating a complete experience for the listeners.

RH: Pyramids In Stereo is our next album. Look out for a possible EP as well…And if all goes well I’ll be dropping a beat tape called “SeaOfPulses.”

Good looking for your time! Any shout outs? (Both)

JJ: I just wanna say thank you to everybody who has supported this album. From the blogs to DJ’s to the listeners, it seems like everybody who has it and has listened to it from top to bottom is really passionate about it. I couldn’t ask for more.

RH: Shouts to Couch Sessions man, we love the support and I’ve personally followed this site for a while. Shouts to the Wolfgang and to those who haven’t heard our tracks yet. We still have millions of people to reach! Listen+Share!