Interview - ASON & JFlames
Introduction by ASKEM: From the seed to the tree we grow.
Around 9 years ago I was given a CD from a friend that contained music from two guys called Ruinz Ason & J Flames. I honestly struggled to accept it at first because I really wasn’t feeling the UK hip hop or grime scene at all, I have always been a devotee to US hip hop and the only real UK sounds that did anything for me were the sounds of Rodney P and a handful of others. I gave it the benefit of the doubt and listened…And Listened. I was rocked. This sound was not only raw but had an edge to it that really resonated with me. I got to meet Ruinz & Jay not long after and have grown to be proud to call them friends. I have seen these two young brothers (actual brothers too) grow their sound and vision through pure passion and creativity. Watching them from afar has been an absolute inspiration and I have many times remarked to both of them that I hope my young son has the same amount of passion and creativity. Early this year I met a young man named Charlie Taylor, an aspiring screenwriter with an immense talent and drive very similar to Ruinz and Jay. Fast forward a few months and here we are, The Fifth Element Hip Hop Revue. A project I founded and placed the editorial responsibility with Charlie. Charlie recently interviewed Ruinz & Jay and for me I feel really good about this, seeing such young talent move forward, I am convinced these guys will go really far in this world and for me that is such a reward. So without further ado I will let the seeds I see sprouting into mighty trees shed light on their talents.
CT: Tell me when you guys first started making beats?
RA: Our dad is a musician and in 89 he bought an Atari. Old school. He made the transition from being a musician to programming beats. Us as kids about four years old at this point were watching going “Whoa!”. It was the first time we have seen a computer, and we were in the studio until late watching all this music get made. So, when we were about five our dad began to teach us the keyboard, learning chords, so we started at about five years old making music.
CT: Atari, damn that’s old I certainly can’t relate to that earliest system I had was a PlayStation.
RA: Our dad had Doom, with the little joystick and when we finished making music we would just play a game or two, remember it like it was yesterday.
CT: So, you started to make beats at around five, when did you start getting serious with your music? When did it stop becoming a hobby?
RA: I mean, it’s still a hobby. It’s never not going to be a hobby because we love it. it’s all we know. The moment it stops becoming a hobby we probably wouldn’t do it anymore. I think we have always been serious about music. When I was in primary school, about seven years old, me and two of my friends formed a group like we were TLC, just singing immature songs so throughout my life it’s always been serious because there’s nothing I have wanted to do other than this. Music has always been in our house; we have always had equipment to make music we’ve always been performing. I remember we used to go to our auntie’s house, and our cousin had toys. We would just act as a band with his toys. Our dad gave us a Yamaha DD5, (if you’re old school you remember that) it was a drum machine. We used to be on that all the time making beats and then performing for our mum. It’s gone from that to having our own studio. Both me and J went to College and University studying music. We literally live, eat and breath this.
CT: I’m guessing that J is the beat maker and you’re the rapper?
JF: Recently we have swapped roles. So ASON been making beats and I’ve been rapping for the past 3-4 months but we’ve always been both. At first we were just producers.
RA: I wanted to be a producer and shortly after my brother became one, we were producing our own individual music, we had different crews.
JF: There were two genres at the time and I was a grime DJ, constantly on radio stations like Heat FM were as ASON was doing Hip-Hop. At around 2005 Hip-Hop and grime were very separate, it wasn’t like it is now where Stormzy and Skepta have combined the two. It wasn’t until 07-08 where I left my crew, grime took a step back and ASON left his crew. We thought, F it lets link up, I will do the beats and you do the bars. It has been like that since then.
CT: So d’you guys have any projects going on now?
JF: Well I have just released an album called “Interstellar Master”. It’s two EP’s that were done in July mashed together and added two more songs, that has picked up some speed on SoundCloud. That’s the first album I have done where I done vocals and I have gotten good feedback from it. We’ve also been touring as well. Been to places like Barcelona and Germany twice. ASON has been working on some projects with Sony ATV. Remember Soul 2 Soul?
CT: Of course! Back to Life.
JF: Yea so he’s been working on a couple of tracks with Soul 2 Soul keyboardist Simon Law. We recently did an advertising track for The Body Shop, a beat that we both produced.
RA: We’re also working with many younger artists, doing some production with them. I’ve stopped producing and focused on song writing for the past 5 projects. Now it’s kind of J’s turn to put stuff out and I can be a cheerleader now. Last year we started a record label and signed a young artist, released his first project in July, name is 8TRED. The label is called “Music4Weirdos”. It came from a conversation we had. We made some tunes and we don’t know which one of us said it but it was “Yo, you got to be a weirdo to like our stuff!”. So, we did a song by that name and based our label on having unique music. We tell our artists to express yourself. But for me personally I’m just spreading the word and keeping an eye out for young, upcoming artists. Writing, producing with them for a few days a week. We’re getting old so we’re looking for people that can be current but also be an alternative the same stuff we usually hear. We’ve been doing this since 1988 and we’ll be doing it until 2088. It’s all about spreading that awareness and keeping it real you know.
CT: In my age group, I personally am considered a bit snobbish when it comes to music and for some of them I don’t like because they don’t keep it real in my opinion. Do you think there’s anybody in the mainstream that “Keep it real”?
RA: Well here’s the thing. That term “Keeping it real” has two kind of meanings. Keeping it real to yourself. And keeping it real to the mainstream, the latter being hard because who exactly are you keeping it real to? Is it the culture? The expectation? The illusion that you built? So, when you’re on that level, keeping it real is hard because the life you’re living isn’t exactly real, its celebrity. In a sense, people are keeping it real to their celebrity and their perception of them. For myself it is this a true representation of what I currently believe and stand for? That’s keeping it real to me and I can’t judge others because they have their own interpretations.
JF: I agree, at the end of the day I don’t know what they’re feeling inside. You can assume they’re not being true. But then again if you’re fake, then keep it real by being fake! Many people have been successful have kept it real by being fake.
RA: Ah but that is where it gets tricky. They can be fake but keep it real to the culture. They confuse it. They can keep it real to the culture but not themselves. Listen, one of my favourite artists is ODB. I don’t think there was anybody realer than ODB.
CT: That’s real interesting I never thought of it like that. Fair play. Alright, let’s finish on this. You both make beats and rap. So, I want your top 5 beat makers and top 5 lyricists.
JF: But do you want rappers or lyricists?
CT: Take your pick.
JF: I’ll go with rappers then.
RA: Nah do lyricists that’s harder.
JF: But I think if I do lyricists it would be the same people everybody pick. Rappers would be different. If I was to do lyricists I’d go Common, Lauryn Hill, Big L.
RA: Andre 3000?
JF: Put Andre in there definitely. 5th one, I got to give it to Jay-Z.
RA: For me it’d be the same honestly.
(I start smiling at the fact they have the same tastes)
RA: I see you smiling you probably got only of those.
CT: You want to know mine? Alright I got Kendrick, Nas, Common, Big Daddy Kane and Rakim.
RA: How old are you bro?
CT: I’m 20.
RA: And you got Rakim and Big Daddy Kane? You weren’t even born when Rakim was at the peak of his career.
JF: We weren’t even born when Rakim was in the peak of his career!
RA: I think Martin has been brainwashing you.
CT: No, it’s all me. I started listening to Old Skool a few years ago and because I am constantly around the music out today I craved something different so when I started to dive into history with Rakim and especially Big Daddy Kane I was hooked.
JF: Favourite era 80’s or 90’s?
CT: Gun to my head I would say 90’s. Alright producers, I rarely see people’s top 5 producers so I’m interested to see what you guys pick.
JF: I was recently watching The Breakfast Club and this guy was on it. I must put this guy in my top 5, Salaam Remi. Timbaland, most recently Zaytoven. UK, Mike Skinner from The Streets. 5 would be Ski Beats who did Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt” and does a lot of work with Curren$y.
RA: Mine would be Pharrell, Timbaland, Kanye West, Mike Skinner and last one. See Salaam is sick but what about Q-Tip? You know what right? I’m taking it all the way out there. Prince. Prince was everything. He’s probably my number 1 inspiration. People see him as a singer but he did everything with the music.
CT: That’s a real interesting pick I didn’t see that coming. I never understand when people pip MJ to Prince, they're completly different Michael was the voice and the entertainment. Prince was the music. Gentlemen thank you for the interview I appreciate the time.
Ladies & Gentlemen thanks for reading. Below is JFlames' aforementioned "Interstallar Master". Give that a listen
We also had to give Ruinz some love so here's some work which includes "Music 4 Weirdos". The song they named their label after.