Having good mentors is an important part of any musicians development. For 21-year-old Seattle rapper J Pinder, he's got perhaps three of the most influential figures in Seattle's hip-hop scene guiding him along every step of the way. If you're not familiar with Pinder, he's essentially the protégé/understudy of local producers Jake One and Vitamin D and is also managed by radio DJ/tastemaker Jonathan Moore.
With those three figures behind him, it's really just a matter of time before Pinder
finds the right balance of maturity, talent, and marketing that can eventually make him far more well-known than he is now.
The former Sportn' Life Records affiliate just released a new EP this morning called Code Red that's available as a free download right now. Although Pinder is unsigned, he released Code Red in conjunction with GOODS clothing store as a creative cross-marketing attempt to get his music out to a wider audience. For a lot of people, it's just good news that Pinder is releasing anything. He's notoriously reclusive, rarely performs, and has been "coming out with an album" for about a year now without much really hitting the streets. But rather than sit on good music and wait for an ever elusive record deal to materialize, Pinder and crew decided to release eight songs today.
He's hosting an EP release party tonight at GOODS (1112 Pike St. on Capitol Hill) from 7-10 p.m. with free food and drinks, and then he's performing this Sunday at the Crocodile opening up for Jake One and Freeway. I chatted with Pinder earlier this week about his most recent developments, why he doesn't perform very often, and why he's constantly talking smack with Jake One on twitter.
What part of Seattle did you grow up in?
I grew up, well, my younger years were mostly in Skyway and the Renton area. I was born in New Hampshire, my dad worked there, and we came here when I was 3. I was basically raised in South Seattle. I've got family in the Central District too. I went to Renton High School for a year and a half. Then I finished at Sartori, which is an alternative school.
Who else went to Renton High that's making moves in the current music scene? It seems like I keep hearing about Renton High.
DJ Sosa went to Renton. 10.4 Rog went to Renton. SK [from Sportn' Life Records] went to Renton, Dyme Def went there for a couple of years, and Stasia [from THEESatisfaction] went to Renton as well.
You're an artist on the rise, but yet you rarely perform. Why is that?
I hear that all the time. Pretty much everyone asks me that. And that's a good thing. I don’t want to be that guy that folks say, 'I’m not going to this show, because I’m going to the one next week.' If I’m not really pushing a record at the time, I’d rather spend my time in the studio. I’m a studio rat.
I have a problem with people standing stiff in the crowd at my shows. Don’t come to my show if you’re not open to becoming a fan. A lot of cats are doing a lot of shows 'cause they want to make a name for themselves. I do shows cause I want to perform for my friends and fans. It’s not about I need 10 more followers on Facebook. The scene here is real insider. 90 percent of the rappers in the crowd think they’re better than you. At this level, I don’t think I need to deal with that.
Would you say you've done about three shows over the past eight to nine months?
Yeah, that sounds right. One at Hidmo last summer, I did a private gig at GEMS before it closed, and I performed at Coolout 19 last weekend. My most important goal is to be a great musician. I love making music. I love creating music. I don’t love the music industry or selling a thousand copies of my music though.
What’s it like working with Jake One?
That’s my big brother. My mentor, my biggest critic, my worst fan, and my homie. I met Jake in probably '06. He recorded at the Pharmacy [Vitamin D's famed studio] back when it was at D. Black’s house. We had a lot of traffic coming through the studio. I was like 15 and 16. I’d see Jake come to the studio once or twice. He was always in and out. Then Vita invited me to play basketball with Jake and that's how we really connected.
Can Jake ball or what?
We'll he’s got a white boy's game, he’s got that stroke. I’m sure when he was younger he got down. Jake can definitely hold his own on the court with a lot of people. He’s not athletic or whatever (laughs), but he’s got a jumper like no other.
Who would win in a game of one on one?
Jake Does not want to play one on one with me. Let's leave it at that.
You guys are always clowning each other on Twitter. Where does that come from?
That’s just our nature. Jake’s a natural shit talker. That’s what Jake does best. He’s really good at it. Especially with me being the youngster. They always give me a hard time. Most of the time I’m the butt of the jokes. 99 percent of the time it gets on my nerves but that’s the L you gotta take being a youngster.
What are you learning being around Jake and Vitamin and J. Moore?
I'm learning a whole lot. They never stop teaching. From engineering to making beats to how to write notes. I'm always sort of rubbing off from their energy and seeing their passion and natural gravitation toward music. It’s admiral to say the least. I enjoy being around them. Who knows what my music would sound like if I wasn't around them.
What was the reason that made you switch from a full album to a free mixtape?
Well, financially, we had some different situations where we had some opportunities to work with some distributors and labels, but it didn't turn out. So financially, we had to pull back. An album is a tough thing to work without a budget on the level that we were trying to release this music. When it comes to trying to create a career out of the music, that takes a lot more manpower and energy and money, really. To make something small turn into something big.
Why the decision to put this out in collaboration with GOODS clothing line?
It’s more natural to do it with GOODS. I’ve been working with them for awhile. They’ve been low-key sponsoring me for the past three years. We've wanted to do something official for along time. We’re printing up t-shirts and it’s basically a lot of resource sharing versus paper sharing. We’re sharing fan bases too. My fans are going to be their fans and vice versa. In the world we live in, you have to learn how to barter.