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NL Interview: Jim Jonsin Evolves From DJ To Songwriter/Producer For Beyonce, Lil Wayne, And Britney Spears

NL: Business aspect of music versus creative relationships. How do these two polar characteristics of the music business affect you when they have tendencies to interfere with each other? For example: the reported lawsuits over royalties paid, sample rights, etc. for Lollipop? Does it interfere with your creative relationships with artist, or do you keep it separate? Is there just an understanding that “that’s business, but we can still get in the lab and make some hit records”?

JJ: I’d love to say that it’s that simple. It doesn’t affect my personal relationship, for example, the Wayne thing. I truly believe he doesn’t have a clue of what’s going on with royalties and who’s getting paid. He’s a creative guy. He stays in the studio. He doesn’t do the business, his lawyers do, and his business people do. I don’t let it tarnish my relationship with the artist. But… if you haven’t paid me for two or three records that I’ve done for you, why in the hell would I do another record with you? I can give that record to somebody else… and I can get paid for it. Nothing against him as an artist, but their business people got to get it straight. They’ve got to learn how to pay people for their work.

NL: The industry seems to be pretty amazing right now for lovers of all music genres as many artists are realizing the greater reach potential they can have by making genre-crossing music.

JJ: Yeah, it’s so funny you say that. Usher just did a song with Pitbull, what’s the name of that song?

NL: DJ Got Us Falling In Love Again. Yes, it’s all over LA radio.

JJ: You know why? Because when you taste that worldwide music, like Oh My God, and you taste that pop… ‘Cause right now hip-hop, R&B, everything is pop music. The world loves it all, so you might as well get used to it, because the world of music has changed. Snoop Dogg is on a record with Katy Perry, “California Girls.” That song did a “1-8-7 on an undercover cop.”

NL: Exactly. Everybody is jumping all over it, and I wanted to ask you what do you think about that in terms of the organic crossing over into different genres by some artists versus what can be described as a calculated move into a specific genre because, as you said, you can see/get a taste of that pop money. Do you think that all artists should consider stepping out of lanes versus staying in them?

JJ: No. I think what I was trying to say is that music, itself, has crossed genres. Not so much like you have to change who you are as an artist, no way. You have to respect and understand that there’s a big world out there, and to do a record with a little more pop sensibility doesn’t hurt you. You know? I mean, if you go back and listen to Flo Rida’s mixtapes before he had his first big taste of pop music, right? Listen to that. He was signed to Po’ Boy Records. They were doing, like street rap music. He got a little Apple Bottom Jeans song, crossed over, and then all of a sudden he was a super pop star. My home boy Pitbull, that’s one of my homies, that’s one of my brothers. He’ll tell you, he was doing street rap music and he’s like man, “Fuck that. I’m trying to get this money.” And he’s getting that money. Respect or not, I don’t give a fuck. Excuse that, but the bottom line is, you’re in this music business, you’re struggling to make it, you’re trying to make money, and the world loves music, you do whatever you want to do.

Can I tell you something that’s a shame. Look at Vanilla Ice, and MC Hammer, and Will Smith. They broke boundaries and in one album sold more than most rapper’s careers, and they were shit on by everybody saying they were too pop. Well, at least you could go bring your fucking kids to go see them. You can’t even bring your kids to go see most of these rap artists. So I’m saying, I take my hat off to guys like that for breaking the ground. And I do respect every type of music, rap music, and all that. But I think that it’s really good that Flor Rida is doing his music and that Pitbull is doing his music, because I can bring my kids out to see their show.

Will. I. Am just got a star in Hollywood, right? He wasn’t going to get that if he would have stayed with the music he was doing when he first came out. So, not to… I love early Black Eyed Peas. I love hip-hop. My favorite music goes from classic rock and then to hip-hop, but traditional rap. But after that, you know, there’s gangsta rap and all types of stuff you gotta do. I work with a lot of people like that and I respect what they do. 100%, that’s their sound. But T.I. experienced crossover. So on that side, he is a real artists from the streets that knows how to make that type of music. He’s also a great writer and he knows how to make pop music.

NL: Speaking of that and how music has changed and has become very versatile, do you think that traditional hip-hop or traditional R&B, because you know R&B is R&B/Pop, now R&B/Pop/Dance. Do you think the traditional forms of the genres can make a comeback for any particular artist, or do you think that everybody just really needs to accept the fact that it’s changed and embrace that?

JJ: No, no, it’s definitely… all music will stand. And you know, look, John Mayer’s still doing his thing. Alicia Keys does her thing. Beyonce’s doing her thing. Usher… I’m not saying that it’s going to be written off, it’s just, you know, you might want to do one or two songs. That’s all I’m saying. Be a little different.

I love R&B music, man. I just worked with Tank and it was incredible. I did the “There Goes My Baby” record with Usher. I know my R&B. Don’t get it twisted.

NL: I noticed you’re very good at bringing great, empowering rock elements to music with some of R&B’s greatest musical divas (Beyonce – Save The Hero, Monica – Mirror), what’s your approach to going in and creating these very personal and expressive, yet strong songs reflective of women and their struggles?

JJ: I love emotional music, but I gotta be honest with you, with “Save The Hero”, that’s the brainstorm of Rico Love. He came up with the topline for that and the concept is all him. I gotta be honest, that guy is incredible. He’s the one I also did “There Goes My Baby” with. He and I both have a little bit of a softer side when it comes to that type of thing. I have a strong relationship with my mother and my sister. My mother was taking care of me and my brother and my sister through a lot of tough times at a younger age. So I see that, so I gravitate toward songs like that. There’s a couple more that’ll be coming out real soon that have that same feeling. One I did with David Ryan Harris. “Mirror” with Monica, I did that with Andrew Frampton. So there’s some other stuff coming out that sounds incredible. I know you’re going to love it if you love that.

NL: Future projects? What can you tell me about future projects and even some of the artists that you’re working with?

JJ: I’m working with Wiz Khalifa. Tank, of course. B.O.B’s new album. Yelawolf. We’re working on that new project. Mr. Hudson. Britney Spears. I just worked with J. Lo again, Keri Hilson.

NL: You worked on Kelly Rowland’s upcoming album, can you tell me about what you did for her and what direction you think this project is headed in?

JJ: I think her music on the album is… she’s got some dance music and she’s got some really good R&B/Pop stuff. I think the direction… I don’t know if it’s fully stamped out yet. I think it’s kind of… I don’t want to say… it’s like Euro/House meets R&B/Pop. But it’s really good. She has her own little thing going on, and it sounds very soulful and strong.

NL: Do you think this project is what’s going to set her up, finally, independently of Destiny’s Child?

JJ: Yes I do.

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