Studio Spotlight: Black Jewelz, a Rapperlutionary Ninja
We spoke with rap artist, ninja warrior, and New Haven, CT native, Black Jewelz, just ahead of his recording session at Sage Sounds Studios and his appearance in the upcoming American Ninja Warrior - Minneapolis City Finals, airing Monday, August 20th @8/7c on NBC.
It has been a pleasure working with Black Jewelz in our Shelton, CT recording studio and his passion and dedication to his art and ninja training has been so inspiring to us. We hope you feel as inspired as we do when rooting for him alongside the rest of ANW Nation. Not only will you be cheering on a hometown ninja, but you just might catch a glimpse of Sage Sound Studios and our chief engineer, Nathan Sage working with him in the studio!
Now, let's get to the interview!
SSS: How did you first get into music - Was it a family member, friend, or another experience all together?
BJ: I was amazed by rappers I saw and heard as a kid. The way they could put words together that not only rhymed but made sense, all done to a rhythm: 2Pac, Jay-Z, Nas, DMX; they all impressed me. When Puff Daddy & Mase were popular, I was fascinated by their videos and performances. It all captivated me as a kid. I remember listening to “Is This the End?” by Puffy & Twista over and over to memorize and recite all the lines because I thought it was so cool. Reciting raps, especially difficult raps, by other rappers made me feel like I could rap. So I just started writing raps, and never stopped.
What was the first album that you bought?
Who are your biggest influences when it comes to rap/hip-hop, and/or music in general?
My biggest influences coming up were 2Pac, Slim Shady, Lauryn Hill, and Nasty Nas. Years later it was Mr. J Medeiros (of The Procussions), Theory Hazit, Shai Linne, and Timothy Brindle. A couple more influences from recent years are: Nirvana, Coheed and Cambria, and Sia.
When did you first start writing your own rhymes / composing your own music?
I’ve been writing raps since about 1997, making beats and writing poetry since about 2000. As a performer I began spitting at open mics, on street blocks, even at the Apollo Theater. I was too broke to afford studio time or equipment, so I just kept writing acappellas. I became known for a sharp and fierce style that was like a hybrid of hardcore rap and poetry. Over time it brought me tremendous respect and local fame among poetry and rap fans.
At what age did you first enter the studio and where?
I first started recording consistently at 23 in 2009, in my bedroom closet—about 6’ x 2’ x 8’—with no ventilation. I taught myself how to produce, record and mix. I never had anyone to help me to get in the recording process.
What brought you to the origins of our studio/former namesake, White House Productions?
I was tired of recording in my closet, haha. I also finally had someone who was willing to sponsor some of my recording process.
What advice would you give to an artist entering the studio for the first time? ...Preparation you would advise, advice for working in the studio, and working with engineers and/or producers?
Preparation. Prepare as much as possible and think about every aspect of the recording process in advance. Always have your own vision in mind but be willing to adjust it if you get better advice from the engineer/producer.
What was the inspiration for your upcoming release? Is there a theme? And how long did you work to develop the tracks?
My upcoming release, Strictly 4 My Ninjaz, is a ninja warrior album. It’s made especially for the community of people involved in the ninja warrior scene. It’s workout music, also motivational music. So aside from ninjas & gym rats it’s meant to motivate anyone who listens.
What audio format(s) will you be concentrating on for Strictly 4 My Ninjaz? How about for online distribution channels - what channels/sites/apps do you prefer as a listener and for your own releases?
I primarily listen to music on Spotify or the purchased music library on my iPhone. I release my own music on basically every popular distribution channel online. As long as people are listening, it’s cool with me.
What influenced you/motivated you to become a ninja warrior in the first place and train to compete on America Ninja Warrior?
I’ve always wanted to be a ninja since a kid. I’ve even studied Ninjutsu; and I even have an apprentice black belt in Tang Soo Do. Even my persona as a rapper has long been somewhat that of a ninja.
Do you have a favorite ninja warrior(s)? Which ninja warrior(s) do you look up to?
I’m not sure if I have one favorite ninja warrior, because there are so many stellar ones. If I had to choose I’d probably say Drew Drechsel. I don’t think I actually look up to any ninja warriors but there are many ninjas who motivate me by their own greatness—too many to name, honestly.
How many days a week do you train as a ninja warrior? How about as a rap/hip-hop artist?
I train 6 days a week, twice a day for about 3 or 4 of those days. I’ve been training as a rap artist for over 20 years so that’s something that kind of never stops. My mind’s always brewing up new ideas for music.
How has being an artist influenced your accomplishments as a ninja warrior and vice versa?
Being on ANW will be a huge conduit for my exposure to the world as a rapper. My years of training enabled me to succeed enough, against extreme physical disadvantage and difficulty, to the point that I’ve earned this opportunity to be seen by millions. Likewise, making music through many many challenges caused me to be appealing to the producers of the show, and hopefully the viewers.
Final question: Who do you believe is the best rapper of all time? They don’t have to be your favorite… but who do you think is/was the best skilled at their craft?
...Enough said! Thank you Black Jewelz for your time - We all can’t wait to hear everything you lay down at Sage Sound Studios and see you compete on AMN on August 20th. -SSS Spotlights