Cell phone for recording? Check. Functioning pen? Check. Notebook? Check. I dash off to the elevator wasting no time. He told me to meet him downstairs by the café. Walking out, I looked around but couldn’t see anyone recognisable. At least from a Soundcloud or Twitter profile image.
Looking to my right I finally see him. At first glance the colossal figure looked aloof with his arms crossed but his whole demeanour changed when greeted. He was far more welcoming. I felt terrible about my misinterpretation. I got to share a bench in the middle of Braamfontein with Justin Perrow popularly known as J-Lawless to his fans. He was more than happy to discussed his background and musical career with us.
Where did it all start? He grew up in Pietermaritzburg aka ”The Sleepy Hollow” in KZN and describes the area as “cool but a little too quiet” for his liking and immensely sports orientated.
“My mom used to listen to a lot of UB40. Uhm..That was, that was awesome. I really loved UB40 and a lot of 80s cheesy Synth Pop as well,” he said jokingly.
This influenced the type of music he makes currently. The slow transition from Rock to Hip Hop grew when he got older. The melodious Hip Hop spark combusted into a flame when he heard songs like “Juicy” by Biggie, “The way I am” by Eminem and “Gravel Pit” by Wu-Tang Clan with a bit of the producing influence from Dr Dre as well.
“I listen to his beats. They are so simple but hit so hard and so much emotion. And I think a lot of producers can strive to accomplish that,” he said nodding.
Pursing his rap career, he moved to Johannesburg and since every rapper needs a name to make their distinctive mark in the industry, J-Lawless had a fair share of coming up with names.
“I actually used to go about the name ‘Mr Mischief’ I wasn’t aware there was already a rapper called ‘Mischief’. RIP to Mischief,” he humbly said.
The new name came about while he was browsing through a magazine. He came across an article about a band called WASP and one of the artists in the band was called Blackie Lawless, an artist who lived by his own rules and was very unique. That lead to the idea of him just using “Lawless” and adding “J” for Justin. Which I personally think fits the whole principal of the music that he crafts.
“I like to do what I like to do. I don’t like really getting influenced. I like experimenting so that’s kinda what I strive to do. I strive to push the boundaries musically,” he explains enthusiastically.
It seems a number of artists have been supporting his movement namely artists like Blaklez, PDotO, Kid X, Bongani Fassie and Maggz on songs in past projects. When looking at the, “progressive, dynamic, exciting, lucrative and eccentric,” Hip Hop music industry as he describes it. J-Lawless got to share more of his view and what he thinks about it not forgetting what keeps him motivated.
“Well right now in SA we are in an interesting transition phase. Like Hip Hop’s really sorta risen up to like the mainstream and I think that’s exciting just to be a part of that and hopefully, you know, continue that and push a little bit further. Keeps me going and motivated. Obviously fans as well,” he said.
More on the topic of transition, Hip Hop is also adding more branches to its creativity where more rappers are using vernac in their rhymes. They are making the genre more South African and crafting it for the local audience which creates diversity and gives it a home-brewed taste.
“I think it is really exciting and I think what we are doing it claiming or at least making Hip Hop our own now. It’s obvious, it’s something that was adopted into our culture and yeah the fact that people are rising up now. And doing their own thing, making it South African. It’s really cool. I’m enjoying it,” he said happily.
As much as there’s growth and inspiration in the industry. There’s also the rough side of it. Beef. Everyone handles it differently. With J-Lawless, I was curious about his attitude towards it and how he would handle it.
“Right now at this stage I would try and avoid it or ignore it. But I get that the more further you get in the game, you know, you sorta claim a spot. And yeah, it’s Hip Hop someone it going to challenge you and someone is gonna like you know question where you are. And at that point yeah I’d probably go in. Uhm…right now though yeah I want to focus on making good music and crossing over a little bit more,” he said.
Moving onto his music. I wanted to dissect Cutting Room Floor: Vices EP, his recent eight-tracks project. The album cover has a bottle with recording equipment next to it, topping the image off with a cyan filter. The project is an accumulation of all the songs that he made in 2014 but didn’t want to go to waste.
“That’s what Cutting Room Floor means, editing Room floor. Tracks that didn’t quite make it to the project”, he explained.
He also describes the project as not being a final idea as compared to Revelation which came out previously. Placing him on the spot, he found it challenging to decide on his favourite song on the project. He eventually said “Walter White” for the energy of the beat and the last track “Know No better” which has a house vibe to it.
The future is limitless for this experimental artist. He hopes to feature rock artists on his future projects, but still wants to work with other rappers including Ifani and Reason. But also the lovely singer, Mariechan Luiters, from the Pop group Jamali. He also mentioned that he’s been trying to create a mixtape collaboration with PDotO called The Black ‘n Blue mixtape. He hopes to finally release it this year.
”I hope people don’t hold me to that. But I’m going to try. To try put P into the studio. But we need to get that going,” he said, promisingly.
Follow J-Lawless on twitter: @iAMJLawless
And Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/justin.jlawless