JASON SHAW AKA J. GATZ
Interview February 23, 2009
How fired up do you get thinking about the possibility of somebody in five years talking ‘bout, “Man, first time I heard that Gatz line…”?
That’s what I live for. That’s why I do it. I told Mike I’ll do this show for free. I want people to be like, “Yo, that dude can rhyme. That dude’s dope. I’ll fucks with him.” That’s it. It’d be great to make money, but I live for being on stage and being appreciated. I just want people to know that I’m dope and that I’m good at rhyming. So that somebody will be like, “Yo, when Gatz said this and that…”
I want to be an inspiration. I’m not saying a role model – I’m just saying I would love to be an inspiration to the next generation of hip-hoppers and MCs. I’m not saying they should do everything that I did, but maybe I’ll inspire them to write one of their best lines. That’s what’s up for me. Changing the game. Be unique. Be unique to the point where, when somebody’s trying to say something, you’re like, “Man, you’re rhyming like Gatz.” That’s what I’m talking about. I want to be like that. If anybody raps like Busta, they rapping like Busta. That’s his. Somebody rhyming like D, that’s DMX. Even Jay…you can tell when somebody’s trying to be like Jay in a minute. I just want to be one of those cats. Somebody where their style and their whole presence is just so unique, you can’t duplicate it without getting called out.
Hip-hop is a culture. That’s what Russ says. You got MCing, the rapping. You got DJing. You got breaking. You got graffiti. The way you talk. The way you dress. That’s why it’s a culture. I do hip-hop, but the part of hip-hop that I do is rap. I’m an MC. I love hip-hop, everything in it. And I was raised on all of that. Motherfuckers was always tagging in my neighborhood. I wore my pants baggy. I listened to rap. I listened to people rap. Motherfuckers was breakdancing.
I love hip-hop because it raised me. It made me who I am. It raised me almost as much as family members. On TV, or just motherfuckers on the block. That whole culture is part of me. Everything I do. When I talk. Even still how I dress. I love it. I love seeing people breaking. Busting a cipher out in the middle of the street. Cause it’s love. It got that bad rap or whatever, but you go to the roots of hip-hop and all of it, all it was about bringing people together. That’s what it was.
When I met my boy JNX, I was just going to this YMCA, and they were having a hip-hop collaborative. They would bring kids out of the community — teach ‘em how to write rhymes, teach ‘em how to DJ, teach ‘em how to break. This was when I was 15 or so. It’s a place on the Southside, 63rd and Kedzie. One of my boys was going there, he was getting paid to go there and go through these classes. And my boy Jace was one of the teachers there. I wasn’t getting paid or nothing. I just went there because I love hip-hop. I was just going to see what was going down. They were just bringing kids out of the community, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with 63rd and Kedzie. It’s a mostly Hispanic neighborhood, and it’s kind of rough. And to see all these kids learning hip-hop, and breaking and battling and stuff, and there was no beef. It was just love, and you could see they were enjoying themselves. And they were learning something, and felt like a part of something. At that moment, that’s when it really, really set in, that it was a big part of my life, and it was just love. I loved seeing it, and it made me feel good to be around it. That’s what the roots of hip-hop is. It’s love. That’s the simplest word I can bring it down to.
What other lessons have you taken from it? You said it raised you…
That it can be harsh. It’s just like anything else. I’ve lost battles. I done seen people lose battles. It taught me how to become better. Become stronger. It instilled a good sense of sportsmanship in me. Like, okay, I ain’t win this time. I’ma just get better, I’ma come back, and then I’m gonna whoop your ass. And then there you go, and you win. It was no hatred though. You lose, and motherfuckers might be like, “Ah, you suck.” “Alright. Alright. I lost. Okay, you can talk that. But I’ma come back and prove you wrong.” And I’ve done it.
So I guess it instilled, yeah, a sense of sportsmanship, and making sure you’re on your shit. Making sure that if you’re talking about it, you can do it. Just backing your shit up and being able to take a loss.
It makes me mad as hell when they try to blame hip-hop for violence and all that other shit. No. You suck as a parent. I was raised around hip-hop all my life. I always tell people, all the neighborhoods I was raised in had a nickname. You know your neighborhood by the nickname. Terror Town. Dodge City. Killer Ward. I was born in a house at 77th and Cramdon. Right by Louchi. I didn’t know him back then.
That’s where I work. 71st and Ingleside.
(excited) Fucking Terror Town! And Mos stay over there too. M.O.S. stay over there too. I didn’t know none of that though. We all stay in the same neighborhood. Luke from over there, on 84th and Stoney Island, we call that Dodge City over there. My side of Stoney’s not that bad, but if you go on the other side of Stoney — the east side of Stoney, I’m on the west side of Stoney — actually, I guess it’s all kind of integrated now, but you didn’t want to go on the east side of Stoney. And then I moved over into Killer Ward, which was 87th and Ashland.
So I was raised around all of that. And my parents were good. I was raised around good people. My mom made sure I stayed around good people and stayed away from bad people. And made me know the difference. We were listening to the Geto Boys, “Mind’s Playing Tricks On Me” back when I was like, four and shit. Five. And she let us listen to the unedited version, this and that, but she would explain to us, you know, “Don’t say them damn words,” and to learn something from it. And I remember the lyrics to it, and she was explaining them to us.
Parents don’t take that type of care no more. They letting the TV’s raising them. And I don’t blame ‘em, because I don’t like getting in trouble either. But don’t nobody wanna take the blame for shit. YOU fucked up raising your child. Don’t blame it on hip-hop! You can’t. How about this? Go into the communities and make ‘em better. Rappers rap about shit that they was brought up around. Go into them communities that they was from, make ‘em better: they ain’t gotta rap about it no more! I know I make it sound simple. It may not be that simple, but that’s what I think.
Come see J. Gatz March 14th at Double Door…