Already music production royalty, Florida’s Jim Jonsin puts the pedal to the floor with his foray into professional racing.
Photography by Navid // Interview by Chad Giron
Florida-based superstar producer Jim Jonsin might not be a name you recognize off hand, but you’re sure to know the hits he’s been involved with (T.I.’s “Whatever You Like,” Soulja Boy’s “Kiss Me Thru the Phone,” Beyoncé’s “Sweet Dreams”). Even as a figure at the top of the production heap, Jonsin wasn’t too busy to create the nascent racing team Rebel Rock Racing while juggling his music career, which took flight with Trick Daddy’s 2004 hit, “Let’s Go.” And on top of that, the Grammy-winning musician launched his current label, Rebel Rock Entertainment, and Rock the Foundation, the Florida based non-profit aimed to support and raise money for grade school music programs. Here, Jonsin speaks on how he manages his schedule without pumping the brakes.
YRB: What does DJ Jealous J mean to you? Jim: That’s when I started my music career back in 1988 and I decided to try to figure out a DJ name. I was with a friend at a fair and he picked up a shirt that said Jealous J and I thought it sounded cool. I don’t know what that was about ‘cause I’m not really a jealous person. I’m actually far from it.
YRB: What would you say to your younger self now if you could talk to him? Jim: Change your name! [Laughs] No, I wouldn’t really change much ‘cause a lot of the influences that guy had in music is the reason I do what I do now. It was an era in music that was so important to hip-hop – you know, the bass music and all that. All the Atlanta records, all the deep south stuff – all the stuff that we’ve been doing this whole time would be nowhere without people like Afrika Bambaataa. I, like, idolize those guys. I still use a kick and snare that’s EQed very much like “Planet Rock”’s kick and snare. I used it in “Motivation” for Kelly Rowland. I mean, it’s not a copy and it’s a little clearer, but they were just geniuses with sound!
YRB: Your first single under your old label, Cut It Up Def, dropped under the same name. What did it take to sell a substantial amount of units for an indie label? Jim: ‘Cause we were so young and willing to do anything to make it, we would literally take 12-inch [records] from the plant and drive from Miami to Sarasota, Fort Myers, Orlando – we would go everywhere we could DJ and promote our music. It was a lot harder than now in the Internet days, but we made a point to go to any city that jams out on our music. We just showed up and built our fan base.
YRB: For your next track, you made your rapping debut on “Party Time,” which has a drop sample for “Planet Rock.” Have you done any rapping since? Jim: I did that song and an album to follow up on my label out in California, Heat Wave Records. The reason I even did that track to begin with was ‘cause we had it all set up for an artist to come in, but we ended up just saying we can do this ourselves. I wasn’t really much of a rapper, ‘cause I don’t like being out in front like that, but I jumped in and crazy enough it became kinda a radio hit. YRB: Nowadays, what do you use to produce your beats? Jim: I still use an MPC, an Akai MPC drum machine, I use a 2500 and I use Logic Audio with the sound module with an analog console.