Revisiting The J Dot Era

Over the years, I've gone back through my older tracks, circa my time at the University of Maryland. These so-called "J Dot Era" tracks were, in some ways, ahead of their time. They set up the basis of some of the mentalities I've revisited as Speed on the Beat and things I've seen pop up in music today. For instance, the use of Auto-Tune, filtered instrumentals, mumble rap choruses, and so on. Now, I'm not saying I pioneered anything. That'd be an illusion of grandeur and I'm on my meds right now so...that's not really gonna be a thing.

My mental health aside, I thought I'd take some time to revisit a few of these tracks and give some insight on why they're randomly popping up on Bandcamp. So, if you're feeling these, go ahead and pass it on.

"iWitness (2010 to Infinity Version)"

Back in 2010, I played around with a motif I called "Couch Potato Flow," where I'd incorporate random TV references and themes into my music. I was this close to sampling the Roseanne theme for a smoky, boombap track. But, within that motif, I whipped up the proto-version of 2015's "iWitness." Featuring a fellow UMD rapper, Southern Child, I, instead of getting political and revolutionary, just delivered a fun, meta track about how, when you look at Speed, you're looking at the future of the game in some ways. I mean, it's a song which says my competition/hater brigade is"like a g(ee), plus an L...Rachel Berry."

It's a lot less restrained than some of the songs I've put out as Speed on the Beat, in that it's less about sadness and whatnot and more about just having fun. Plus, the bars are present AF. Now, Southern Child's verse, it's one that sticks with me...mainly because it was one of my first collaborations. I loved the "and if Anita (I-need-a) baker, then I got Gucci cake" punchlines he throws out throughout the 16.

Southern Child, for me, was one of a handful of UMD-related rappers during my tenure at the university that was versatile as hell. He could go grimy, then punny, then deep all within one verse. The others include Ikey, Eyedeal Bayano, and DK aka Wayne Watts. If you're looking for some dope, albeit possibly dated, bars, check out those three names I've mentioned. If you can find their ish, stream it...NOW.

"F Outta Here" (Recently added as a bonus track to The Sorest Loser)

Another old-school "J Dot Speed" era track. I think I recorded this in 2008, so I definitely had my work to try and remix/remaster it so it feels somewhat cleaner. I've always had a soft spot for this one. So, I'm releasing it to you. Hopefully, you enjoy. I added it to The Sorest Loser because it fits the motif of "we're going back to everything that made SOTB into who he is today." Plus, it features a bit of the "J Dot Double Time" flow that creeps back in every now and then. Bizzy does it better, I know.

The key of this track is the Baltimore Club Remix of the song that pops up after the third verse. It's a reprise of the first verse, but done as a tribute to K-Swift with influences from Blaqstarr and other prominent B'more Club pros of the time. So, if you want a track that you can rock off, Spongebob and say "fuck a hater" to, this is it.

"A Dollar and a Dream"

Now, this track is pretty no-fi. But, it features "Se Roquel"-esque sing-song elements and some poignant bars about the plight of the real. Even though there's a Barack Obama reference, dating the song, the fact remains. It's a song about not falling to the wayside over BS and not being kept down by craziness. That's timeless.

Cover art from one of the J Dot Era mixtapes, The Return

"Promised Land (2010 Version)" 

This track is the original version of Unhinged's lynchpin of a track. Because my mother hadn't passed, it was a bit more optimistic--even though my voice gets a bit Beans-like (in other words, a bit raspy). On this version, DK's verse comes in last after a typically-unheard second verse from your's truly. I'm more of a fan of the Unhinged version, simply because it's a lot less head-in-the-clouds. But, this version is still worth a listen or two.

"Remember the Name"

While technically not a new/newly unearthed song, it still fits the motif of revisiting the "J Dot Era" of my music. People who've followed me for years will know a bit about this track. The second verse is a rework of a song that I gained some fame for at UMD, "Feel Me." I used to hate that track, mainly because people wanted more and more tracks like it. I didn't really understand that the track was actually pretty dope, and was confused. So, by putting this verse back into play, I'm acknowledging that the past made me who I am and I accept that...even if I gained some of my first buzz as a rapper through bars like "I'm not a merry man like [Shawn] Merriman, though I am a Terrapin."

"I'm A King - 2008 Version"

Erroneously labeled the "2008 Version," especially since it references Michael Jackson's death (unless I'm a psychic or something), this track is another "Speed Sings" song. There was no Auto-Tuned used, so what you hear is actually me singing the chorus. So, yeah...I have some chops when it comes to that sort of thing. Ego-stroking aside, this track is in the vein of "Dollar and a Dream," as it's about inspiration and empowering folks to be greater than they are.

"Successful (To My Kid[s] Version)"

This track originally featured on the The Sh*t I Shoulda Dropped mixtape, but I remixed it a bit and added it as a new bonus track to 2015's Unhinged. It fits in the way that "Promised Land" and other tracks fit; it's optimistic, but still grounded in reality. It asks the question "how can I be successful without compromising my goals and my integrity?" I'm sure that a lot of rappers, when they're working, go through that question. I figured it out in some ways. But, I know that, even if I'm not rapping, there's still room to grow. That's the overall feel for this one: even if you're getting it, there's still room to become more successful--as long as you don't compromise yourself.

"Detective Stabler"

If you ever wanted to hear me just straight freestyle a song, here you go. Named after Christopher Meloni's iconic SVU character, "Stabler" is a song that touches on some pretty personal stuff. It's somewhat no-fi, but I feel it encapsulates who I was when I recorded this song (2011). It's, technically, not a "J Dot" era song, since in 2011, I was going by Speed on the Beat already. But, the "unhinged" flow is borrowed from that era along with punchlines galore. It also stands out as it's one of the first tracks that deals with the losses I've suffered over the years, familial and otherwise. It's unapologetic, brash, and angry as hell...but still comforting and emotionally invested in those around him--just like Detective Stabler.

Overall, the J Dot Era of my music was diverse. For every inspirational track, you got something that was crazy as hell. In other words, it was essentially a less-refined, youthful version of what you get now during the Speed on the Beat era. If you like the songs, feel free to listen to them, buy them (wink wink), and pass them along. I'm glad that I've had the chance to share these SOTB/J Dot gems with you all and hope you rock with them in some way. 

Until next time. PBWYA.

-Speed on the Beat

No comments