This article and interview piece is very important to me for several reasons but the main being because I can now say I have interviewed one of my favorite rappers of all time. That rapper is Just Jack and if you don’t know who he is I would say he is someone whose lyrical content falls in the same realm that Slug (of Atmosphere), The Streets, and Yoni Wolf. But he’s different.
Just Jack is like the rap version of Todd Solondz. He paints surreal slice of life pictures with lyrics that are introspective and honest af. Oh and he produces the beats to. Besides me being a huge fan of Just Jack, I am also fascinated with the fact that he never got as big as he should of. I am fascinated as well with that he is someone who had fame but now lives a pretty normal life. Even though I have my opinion that he should have been more known, as I found out in our interview, he doesn’t even care about that.
About Just Jack
Just Jack is a rapper from England, who first released an independent album in 2002, called The Outer Marker, which included the track “Paradise (Lost & Found)”, which is an early example of what will become the Just Jack sound.
That Just Jack sound being:
- verses – with introspective lyrics that deal with slice of life milieu rapped in a flow that is almost full on rapping but still has a somewhat sing songy spritz (like 20-25%) added in.
- Chorus / Beats -His choruses and his beats sound to me like indie pop rock with EDM influences (way before that was cool).
That album gained Just Jack enough buzz to get signed with Mercury and in 2007 he would release Overtones which included the tracks “No Time”, “Writer’s Block”, “Starz In Their Eye’s”, “Glory Day’s”, and “Disco Friends”.
Then in 2009, he released All Night Cinema his last major label album, and even though it had the track “The Day I Died” which is a now classic, it just didn’t do the same numbers.
Just Jack wouldn’t release music for another 7 years. But in 2016 he came back and started releasing more of that classic Just Jack dropping a project that year and in 2017, and he has plans to drop one this year as well.
How did you come up with the name Just Jack? Is it a reference to the will and grace character? I was going to call myself ‘Jack’, just my name. Then someone asked me what my artist name was going to be – I said “Jack”, they said “What, just ‘Jack’?” and that was that. Also, it fitted at the time because I was doing everything on my own. Definitely not a W & G reference.
Where are you from? I was born and grew up in North London. First in Islington, then moving to Camden Town when I was 8.
How old are you? 43
Do you get recognized often in your daily life? Thankfully, very rarely. I went through a time when I was getting recognized regularly, and I guess I liked it at first, but after a few times the novelty wears off. Its weird being watched while you’re eating or reading on the train.
How has being a dad influenced your newer music? As someone who writes partly about daily life, it was impossible to ignore the fact that I’d become a father. I’ve written a few songs now directly related to the experience of trying to bring up kids. My only concern was trying to avoid sugar-coated clichés and over-sentimentality. The songs have become more overtly emotional since I became a dad, too – I think I just feel certain things more deeply now.
What inspired the song annabelles dilemma?That song is about a woman in a shitty marriage. She is trying to work out whether to stay and live in a familiar world that she hates, or leave and face the unknown on her own with two kids. Not many things make me really angry, but emotional or physical abuse, particularly against women, makes my blood boil.
I am all the way in the states, pittsburgh, pa to be exact and I am pretty sure I might never get the chance to see you perform in person but I am wondering do you or did you ever perform in the states back when some of your earlier work was popping off? I played once in NYC and once in LA in 2007. They were fun shows.
Sometimes as a fan there are certain songs that you wish you could ask the artist what they meant when they made that song and Just Jack has a song that has bothered me for a good 7 years. He has a song called “Starz In Their Eyes” which I have always thought tells the story of Amy Winehouse’s rise and eventual demise. I mean listen to the song yourself and tell me it doesn’t mirror her life almost perfectly.
Well I finally got the chance to ask Jack about the song;
Bro is “Starz in their eyes” about Amy Winehouse? What inspired you to make that song?
Starz was mostly about the young and naive being seduced and used by unscrupulous business people, and the perpetuation of the idea that your ultimate goal should be fame, whatever the cost. Watching the press build people up only to crush them, made me angry enough to want to write that song.
I still think it’s about Amy Winehouse.
I have always wondered, where the production for your songs come from? Do you work with a band? do you make beats or do you have producers you work with? I started out as a beatmaker and that’s how I still make a lot of songs. For ‘The Outer Marker’, ‘Overtones’ and ‘All Night Cinema’, I made beats, wrote songs, and then fleshed them out with live instrumentation. Those records were co-produced and mixed by Jay Reynolds. Everything since then has been produced by me with the help of various musical friends. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great musicians. It’s a fun but slow process.
Who are your biggest musical influences? Gangstarr, Eazy E, Masters At Work, Carole King, Aim, Phoenix, A Tribe Called Quest, Roots Manuva, The Beatles, Danger Mouse, Bruce Springsteen, Handsome Boy Modelling School, Daft Punk, Francis And The Lights – to name a few.
What are your plans for 2018? I’m planning a UK tour for November, with hopefully a couple of European dates. I’m also going to write a new EP to release late summer.