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An Interview with J-Tone

J-Tone performing at Gee Watts' April show
Jacob Walton is an 18 year old known a bit better as J-Tone. The young Kansas Citian has lived in several different areas around the metropolitan area and has numerous talents and hobbies. So far, he has shown his prowess in rapping and producing instrumentals, as well as dabbling in graphic design. He helped create an EP called "[Explicit Content]" back in April with fellow locals Izzy and WontoN and is preparing his first solo project for release later this year.

With an interesting backstory, a deep set of skills, and a massive amount of ambition, J-Tone is ready to start catching ears, turning up parties, and captivating the imaginations of the city's youth right away. Read our conversation with the teen behind some of Kansas City's most unique sounds below.

How long have you been making beats and rapping? How did you get your start?
I've been writing raps since I was nine. First beat I wrote to was Jay Z and Faith Evans' "All a Dream." I've been recording since I was 13 and it started in the most corny way possible. So at my apartment complex we had a few kids who would always play basketball and we often played on the same teams each time. So before summer started, me and my team had the amazing idea of making a song to rap for an entrance. We would rap the song while we walked up to the court at the park. It was to some DJ Khaled song and I finished my verse in a day. I wrote somebody else's verse, then we just forgot about it I guess. I never let go of the fact that my verse was so cold though, so I pursued it.
And I just produced because YouTube producers were mostly trash and I was too broke to be buying beats.

What artists do you look to for inspiration for both of those things?
Artists: Childish Gambino, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Michael Jackson, and Linkin Park (don't judge until you've heard "Hybrid Theory"). Producers: Just Blaze, Rick Rubin, Mike Will Made-It, Michael Lantz, and Kanye West are the only ones that I can think of (don't get mad at me, because I'm sure that I forgot a lot).

Do you feel any kind of disconnect from the scene coming from Blue Valley or does that not matter to anyone?
I was born and raised in Kansas City, then my parents got a divorce and my dad stayed in KCMO, North KC, and KCK. So I've spent a lot of time in Kansas City through my visits and summers over there. I've always been an out-of-place weirdo though, even when I lived in Kansas City. I said in one of my (unreleased) songs, "I've always been too 'white' for the black people, too 'black' for the white people, then I thought about it ... I never really liked people," so as a teenager I realized that I didn't have to waste my time trying to please or fit in with these people that I don't even like. This is when I started seeing myself as the villain. I've seem both sides of it. I've been to one of the worst school districts in the city (Hickman Mills) and one of the best in the country (Blue Valley). The fact that I got to experience both is a blessing.

Who or what kind of people is your song "No Advice" aimed at?
Actually, when I wrote that song, I was at a show that 1Bounce put together. Before the show started, I went out to my car and was just chilling. I go through Twitter and I see somebody (who shall remain nameless) giving musical advice to people who are more knowledgeable on the subject. This person has tried to give me advice many times before, and still does today. So I got upset and decided I wanted to write a song rather than be on Twitter. So I go to a beat that Kye sent a couple days prior and started writing. I wrote half of the hook, then showed Izzy, we agreed that it was gonna be a dope song. And it turned out to be pretty cool. So to make the answer long, it's aimed at people who are trying to fake their way into your corner and give you advice that you don't want to hear.

You've noticed on your Twitter that you're mixing in lots of other genres on some songs you're producing. What type of music does it end up like? Will you be rapping over it?
I don't even know what genres I would call the songs that I've been making lately, but some of it resembles alternative, pop, neo-soul, EDM and even film scores (if that's a genre). It's too early to say if I will be rapping over everything, I have toyed with the idea of having an instrumental-type song on there. But you will be hearing a lot of singing from me, that's all that I know so far.

What makes the tracks that you produce stand out from others?
Firstly I produce in a program from Sweden called Reason, while most producers use Fruity Loops or Logic. So by default, I have access to different synths and sounds. I have also studied (on YouTube) sound design, so a lot of the sounds that I use are created from scratch or basic templates.
Also I try to take influence from every genre, because there is something to learn from each one. Rap really excels in lyricism and the art of songwriting and storytelling, but I take a ton of influence from EDM and even alternative music (you'll hear that influence in my next project.)

What does the white t-shirt represent to you? Do you really wear one every day?
It's just a white t really. And I used to only wear white t's and merch, but I cut the merch out. The last time that I didn't wear a white t was December 23rd at a show that 1Bounce did and I wore merchandise from Jazz Cartier's mixtape "Marauding In Paradise." It's one of the most influential mixtapes that I've ever experienced.

Explain the White-T Chronicles.
Well, I've always been a fan of white t's ever since Dem Franchize Boyz. But really, I just didn't want to have to keep up with trends and styles and all that garbage and I knew white t's would never go out of style, so I've been wearing them for a few years now. White-T Chronicles (a series of pictures posted every day for 100 days) gave me something creative to put out, no matter how many people saw it. In 2015 I released about 80 songs (only ten were good) so I became used to putting out a lot of content. The pictures were all shot by me and edited by me until people started wanting to shoot for it. Actually, that's a lie, the very first pic was a gif of me freestyling at Gee Watts' Caviart listening party. I saw it on Twitter the next day and posted it with the caption "[white t chronicles...]" but I had no idea who to give the photo cred to on Instagram (@lkb2010), so I felt guilty, quickly deleted it, and started the "official" White-T Chronicles a couple days later.

What has been the most exciting show you've been a part of so far?
Me and my brothers, Izzy and WontoN were put on a show in Wichita by Paris Mason and we debuted "Want More." It was kinda crazy. Then there was the time we debuted "Fatal Attraction" at the Gee Watts and Maxo Kream show; that was wild. And the time I debuted "No Advice" (produced by Kye Colors) at Gee Watts' Caviart show was bonkers. 
I wish that I could give a solid answer, but they are all moments that I won't forget. Just know, if I'm debuting a song, it might be very lit.

Why did you choose to differentiate your rapping name from your producing name?
My producer name (the villain) resonates with me more. I've always identified with being the villain. White T's and "the villain" are motifs that appear in almost every song. Plus, "the villain" is a huge part of my next project, I'll get more into it, and explain it more in the music.

Do you plan on doing another release with WontoN and Izzy?
We currently don't have any plans for another project, though we've tossed the idea around a few times. But they are a part of everything that I do. Anything that the people hear, see, or experience goes through them first. They are some of the only ones who know how special my next project is. Whenever I try to tell somebody else, they just look at me like I'm crazy, even though I've already proven that I'm kinda crazy, redundancy is a cancer in our society.

What's the next project you plan on releasing?
I've been working on a free album for the past couple months. It's going to be a solo album, and so far, the only other producer who might make the album is Alexander Preston because, well, you've heard his work.

Whenever I talk about the project I can't help but to just smile like an evil villain, because I know that it's going to surprise a lot of people. It's not rap, and calling it an album is even a stretch, it's more of an experience. It's the most ambitious project from anybody on my level easily. If I don't pull it off, I'll be out of a lot of money and very discouraged about continuing my career, but if i am able to pull this off, I'll cry tears of joy, then wipe my tears with old Jacksons and new blue-faced Benjamins.

What do you think the Kansas City hip-hop scene will look like at the end of 2016? Is anybody's big break imminent?
Anybody paying attention to the music scene knows that we have something special here. Gee Watts is a top five rapper out of anybody so he should be a multi-millionare and not even rapping right now. Kye Colors is a young, innovative soul with a lot of potential and support, and he better be on the radio soon or Tone is gonna be at people's heads. Zarin Micheal has a crazy unique sound and should be getting large-scale recognition soon. Think about it, he still hasn't even dropped "Sinner of Attention." Rory Fresco has music that's very hard not to like and on top of him having an amazing sound, he can really rap like crazy. WontoN should be writing for your favorite rappers and singers soon. Nobody knows how special he really is. Izzy is probably gonna be somewhere writing scripts in Cali or whatever nonsense he keeps talking about. And if my project goes well, I'll be living good with a plethera of bacon, Kool-Aid, and white t's always on deck.

Listen to J-Tone on SoundCloud and follow him on Twitter

See him perform with Izzy and WontoN for free at the next Shuttlecock Music Showcase on July 9th at Mills Record Company

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