‘Growing up having to rap like that puts you ahead of the pack. I’m comfortable going at n*ggas if needed, you feel me?’
Gunshots are popping off on Dalton Ave, but JAG’s brain ignores them. He’s in work mode. Determined to pay homage to the block that raised him, ‘Chubby’ always felt obliged to shed positive light on an arid neighborhood. At 35, he’s damn near seen it all. ‘It seems like yesterday,’ JAG reflects when reminiscing on Cassidy bringing him along with Larsiny Family. Fate introduced the two at a car wash in New Jersey, ‘He f*cked with my verses, and the rest is history.’ Few rappers can solidify their voice from coast-coast, but with JAG’s latest album LOREN MILLER, the origin story is brought full circle.
I connected with JAG through Twitter a few weeks back. I was first introduced to his music through ‘Kaepernick Effect’ and have since been enamored with the ability of his voice to spark change. The visceral verses penned by JAG were fueled from a place of deep emotion. Unsurprised to learn of his battle-rap past, I asked him how that setting influenced his career. With instant confidence in his voice; he explained the setting. ‘Battle rap was what we were born into. It was the staple of rapping in the hood. The Pit in LA was a hot spot. N*ggas were going at each other’s throats. Growing up having to rap like that puts you ahead of the pack. I’m comfortable going at n*ggas if needed, you feel me?’
Don’t mistake this confidence for a prideful facade, JAG is aware of the impact his voice has. On LOREN MILLER, he teamed up with fellow West Coast lyricist + TDE artist, Reason, for ‘How It Feels To Be Black.’ Within JAG’s verse, a line stands out and forces a pause for reflection.
‘They want us all dumb, they afraid if we pick a book up.
Even more afraid if we get up out of that car.
That they told us get up out of, if we listen, it’s like they shook up’
During the call, I asked him whether he thought his music was becoming a form of activism for those suffering in a systemically racist system.
JAG pauses and calmly replies, ‘You know, I never really thought of myself as an activist, or looked at it like that. I always want to speak for the people, though. I’ve had high-level artists, and industry people tell me the same thing. It’s a dope feeling. If my tracks can help others, I must be doing something right.
‘That’s a beautiful thing,’ I reply. As we ran through LOREN MILLER track by track, I couldn’t help but notice JAG’s family-like relationship with Boogie and Reason. If you saw JAG on LA LEAKERS, you noticed him commending Reason mid freestyle.
Needless to say, there’s a lot of love between them. I reflected briefly, and asked JAG for his opinion on ‘mumble rap’ and the notion that the younger generation lacks penmanship.
‘Man, it all revolves around what people behind the scenes and radio puts out. That shit sells. Speaking on Boogie + Reason, those are two talented n*ggas. I know Boogie from the gang shit, and Reason and I connected through the rapping. Having all of us representing the West Coast on the album was important to me. The West is on top.’
Throughout LOREN MILLER, the resonating themes on the two part album are the relationships, memories and tribulations that went down in and around Loren Miller park. The past 365 for JAG have changed the course of his career. Alongside ‘Kaepernick Effect,’ and the upper-echelon features on 2700, he’s cemented himself amongst the premier lyricists of the era. He even graced the NBA’s All-Star freestyle. Our full conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
Jonas: My interpretation of the two part album was one based on the listener’s ability to retain a full length album. Can you elaborate on the decision to divide the story into two parts?
JAG: That shit is exactly what I was trying to do. In today’s age, people’s attention span is short as f*ck. Putting it in two parts allowed my full story to be heard. All of my beginnings center around Loren Miller, and the block. From my two albums (Dalton Ave + 2700) I focused on the block, but I think Loren Miller ties it all together. LM was a staple of the neighborhood, that’s where all our shit went down.
Jonas: On LOREN MILLER you enlist the help of legendary emcee, Crooked I. When you were finalizing the tracklist, did you enlist Crooked I for the legendary influence he’s had on the game?
JAG: Don’t get me wrong, Crooked I is a legend, but it was more on some friendly shit. I wanted him on the track, and he came through. He’s mad talented, but at this point I’m confident in my shit. I don’t need a ‘big’ feature to promote the tape.
Jonas: Do you have a personal favorite track off the album?
JAG: It’s gotta be Pastor. While ‘How It feels To Be Black’ is probably the most important, I had that energy on Pastor. I went in to the studio and picked from a few beats and ran with it.
Jonas: Woah, that’s mine. The production is wild — verses are even better. Additionally, the shout out to Swizz Beatz’ Pops was pretty wild. How did you guys connect?
JAG: We met through Cassidy back in the day. He has always been a source of wisdom. I got love for Swizz too.
Jonas: Lastly, I wanted to commend you on highly successful 2018-2019. What’s next for JAG? Got any news for the people?
JAG: I got so many plays happenin’ bro. Shit is really exciting. If you follow me on social media you probably saw TIP and myself in the studio. On top of that, I just released ‘Ballin.’ I really got so much more heat in store for the people. Stay tuned + keep bumpin’ LOREN MILLER!