The Rhyme and Reason podcast has been pushing Mancunian MC J.Chambers since first catching him in support for Oddisee, back in September 2015.
It’s been a good six months for him. He’s racked up shows opening for acts including Akala & Dead Prez, and has been spending more time in the studio on the back of a development deal with Ey3media. We caught up with him to ask him about honing his craft, his future plans, and freestyling with a certain Mr Lamar.
Kendrick Lamar dropped into the Brighter Sound workshop in March, and footage of you in the cypher with him went viral. You looked very cool and collected, how were you feeling when you held that mic?
Ha-ha! I’m glad I looked calm and collected, because believe me I wasn’t. To be in the presence of somebody who is a massive influence on my music was amazing. And to see him reacting to my punchlines and feeling my flow was a feeling money can’t buy. All thanks needs to go to Brighter Sounds and Reebok for putting on such a dope event.
Who, or what, inspired you to start rhyming and when did you realise you were good at it?
I guess life and my family inspired me to write. There’s a lot of musicians in my family – musicians, singers, rappers….. There’s a heavy love for music in my bloodline and so I guess it was expected.
My first rap I wrote to the instrumental of Mo Money Mo Problems by Biggie, I heard it and felt compelled to try it and I did ok with it.
I had an idea I was good with words in college as we had a poetry assessment in English. I wrote a cool piece, and my teacher asked me if I write poems or lyrics. I put out a demo called My Story which I recorded when I was 21, and that was what made that realisation sink in. It was the first rap I put out online and the reaction was mainly positive, it made it onto local stations, so it came from there really.
Musically, what are you listening to at the moment?
The Internet, Kendrick Lamar, Cul De Sac, Children of Zeus, Curren$y, Dayne Jordan
Congratulations on the development deal. What’s that meant for you this year?
Thank you, it came as a confirmation that this is what I want to do and that I’m on the right path. It’s been great to be working with JSD and Nik from Virus Syndicate, they’ve done a lot of things I’m aspiring to do so I’m just learning loads and developing my craft. We’ve got a lot planned – all will become clear in the summer…
It’s clear from your releases that lyricism matters to you. I guess you could be described as a conscious MC – what drives you when you’re writing?
Life in general is the biggest stimulus, I’m always people watching and just trying to grasp a better understanding of human behaviour so I can comment upon it in music. I write a lot of my material on the move so if I’m on a walk or on a train or whatever I tend to write a lot of material then.
I feel as a hip hop MC, lyricism is the most important thing. For me, it’s like a badge of honour, being able to tell your story but in a way that other people can understand is always the end goal. For example my tune “Sometimes” is one people relate to (shouts to Alice Gasson who sings on that one! Check out her stuff).
Bare people, at shows or on social media, want to talk to me about that song as they can relate to the theme. I’m at that age of 25 where traditionally you’re supposed to have everything figured out and have your “5 year plan” intact, but if you have creative ambitions that’s hard. It’s that choice of a doing a reasonable job which you do for the sake of it, but the pays alright, or taking a gamble to do what you love. That’s the message of that song and a lot of people understood that. So in terms of what I strive for lyrically, that’s the biggest example. I can’t remember who said it, maybe KRS, “… an MC’s job is to reflect the times”. That’s what I strive to do.
There’s tons of hip hop coming out of Manchester at the moment. Why do you think the scene is so healthy in the city?
Manchester has always been an epicentre of Uk Hiphop. Look at our legacy so far. Ruthless Rap Assasins, Krispy 3, Broke n English, Virus Syndicate are just a few names that helped open the door for us to come and do what we do. Manchester has always had it, it’s just previously the industry tried to ignore us, and people felt like they had to migrate south to get up there. However now groups and artists are staying here and proving that you don’t have to.
I feel the scene is so healthy because a lot of the more experienced artists. Some from the groups mentioned earlier are reaching out to artists doing their thing and helping out offering advice and just working with them, so this collaborative mind state is enabling the scene to go from strength to strength.
Also up here I feel we have different stories to tell from the artists down south and so for hip hop lovers it’s kind of refreshing to hear a new perspective with a slightly different accent to what their usually accustomed to.
What’s coming next?
I don’t want to give too much away as got a lot of plans for this year but I’ll say in the next few months. A New EP, more visuals and certainly more shows!