Queen Latifah tweeted that The Black Eyed Peas Hit song “Yesterday” is one of the most original records she has heard in a long time. The video shows will.i.am looking through a series of classic Hip Hop records, where one of the first records that he pulled out and reminisced over was “Here We Go Again” by Def Jef.
In the late 80’s & 90’s, the self-produced Def Jef appeared on classics like “We’re All In The Same Gang”,an anti-violence single performed by a collaboration of West Coast Hip-Hop artists called The West Coast Rap All-Stars and produced by Dr. Dre. Jef’s production and remix credits include artists like 2Pac, Boss, Bones Thugs-N-Harmony, Kurupt, Shaquille O’Neal, Snoop Dogg, Nas, Mary J. Blige, Avant featuring Lloyd Banks, Maxwell and a host of others.
Dwelling in other entertainment arenas has also earned Jef Film and television production credits on theme songs for Disney’s “That’s So Raven”, and BET’s “Second Generation Wayans”, where he served as Music Supervisor and composer. Jef wore a few hats serving as music supervisor, composer, segment producer, co-writer, as well as featured artist on the MTV’s cult classic “The Lyricist Lounge Show”.
Def Jef has also effectively managed to avoid the inevitable “time warp syndrome” that has plagued many of his peers over the years. We revisited an interview of Def Jef from 10 years ago at his LA-based studio, and recently spoke with him regarding some of today’s topics.
Do you consider yourself old school? (Circa 2005)
it really doesn’t matter how I categorize myself, because people will label you how they see you. I appreciate being recognized.
What are your thoughts on the Meek Mill accusations on Drake using a ghostwriter. Does using a ghostwriter hurt an artist’s brand?
In Hip Hop, if you’re hailed as a lyricist, you’d better write your own verses to get those peer points. But it’s not that important to the public at large. The speculation might cause some of Drake’s peers and fans to give him the side-eye, but at the end of the of the day he has more number one hits than any rap artist ever. In my opinion Drake is a phenomenal artist, and is cut from the same cloth as any of the greats in any genre of music.
Does it hurt their brand? I think it depends on the artist. For example, if I found out that Jadakiss didn’t write his own bars, I would definitely be surprised, and I think that it could possibly compromise his brand. However, if it was discovered that an artist like French Montana used co-writers I don’t think it would negatively impact his brand.
Ghostwriters aren’t usually credited and many people may not know how to read music credits. If you compose music you’re also credited as a writer. I liked Quentin Miller’s (alleged ghostwriter) response. It was very mature. Drake did his thing and I’m still not counting Meek Mill out. Once a name always a threat.
Action Bronson and Ghostface have been in the media recently because of Bronson’s comments towards Ghostface on ESPN? What are your thoughts?
I’m not as interested in the scuttlebutt aspect of the story. What does interest me is that, historically, White artists have been appropriating and in many cases outright stealing Black music and culture for decades. At one point in history, music made by Black artists was called “race music”. Black artists weren’t even allowed to be on the album cover artwork of our own music. We couldn’t even stay at hotels where we performed and we had very little recourse.
You helped pave the way for rappers, producers, and artists to cross over into different platforms in entertainment. We’ve noticed that more Hip Hop producers like Timbaland, the executive producer of music for FOX’s hit show “Empire”, as well as producers like DJ Premiere, the music producer for VH1’s “The Breaks” are moving into TV and Film these days. What advice can you give those who are trying to venture into other platforms of the entertainment industry?
You have to know what you want to do. If you want to work in another area of entertainment, you have to immerse yourself in that arena and learn all there is to know. .
No, I don’t. The 2 songs are not the same and it’s an unfair ruling.
Does the controversy surrounding this song change the way you make music?
No. I don’t think Pharrell did anything wrong. They did a masterful job by staying within the legal parameters of songwriting and capturing a feel and were penalized for it.
What are some of the things you do to avoid clearing samples? (Circa 2005)
Just don’t use them. If I choose to sample, I always try to clear the sample right away. Once I get a sample quote back, I take it from there. I believe the thousands of pieces of vinyl and music was done so I can go through them and take nuggets that I like. I want to continue sampling, and I don’t care if I have to give up a piece of the publishing.