ABOVE: JIM-E STACK. PHOTO COURTESY OF YSA PEREZ
Jim-E Stack is too talented to keep quiet about—the still-teenaged Southern producer’s buzz is building with every new track, each an amalgamation of syrupy hip-hop, tripped-up tribal rhythms, an R&B coo, and a bunch of surprises (we suggest his Chris Brown-sampling “Lemme” as a solid representation of the still-growing Stack catalogue). The young musician welcomes a broad spectrum of sounds with open arms, and has a natural ability to bend and break down obscure and familiar cuts into something altogether brand-new. It’s likely this exciting aptitude that’s caught the admiration of big-timers like Diplo (the two performed together at Diplo’s book release party), and A$AP Rocky, for whom Stack created a celebrated remix of hip-hop hit “Purple Swag.” Interview briefly spoke to the boy wonder about the birth of his career, his recording process, and what sounds he’s serving up in the near future.
HOMETOWN: New Orleans, LA
STACK’S START: I started playing drums when I was 11 or 12 years old. I never took playing music that seriously until later on—I guess most 12-year-olds don’t, except for Kidz Bop singers. When I went to high school, I got pretty heavy into playing jazz and joined the school jazz band. Being around a bunch of music kids definitely drew me further into music—not just into jazz, but also some weirder hip-hop and noise rock, too. That was probably when I started taking music seriously as a calling and not just a hobby. Once I got introduced to rappers like The Pharcyde, Souls of Mischief, and RBL Posse, and producers like J-Swift and J Dilla, making hip-hop beats really started to appeal to me. I thought I could do more than only play drums, but I didn’t want to embarrass myself by trying to write songs and shit in front of other kids that were better at music than me. I started making beats and blends on my friend’s computer after school because he had Ableton. After a month or two of that, I pirated Ableton and Logic and all that and kept making bad hip-hop beats. When I was 16 or 17, I got into house music—Switch’s records especially—and my focus shifted to making dance tracks. I’ve been at it since.
INFLUENCES: I can’t really credit any specific artist, location, or period of my life as being my primary influence. I think pieces of my surroundings, what I’m listening to, and what I’m feeling, come together to influence my creativity. While I was living in San Francisco, the city and its culture didn’t really influence my sound, but the records I was listening to at the time did. Songs I discovered then, like “This Is Sick” by Solid Groove/Switch and “Archangel” by Burial, sparked my urge to make dance music early on. Living in New Orleans has definitely affected my sound, though. I’ve said that before moving there my tracks were just generically weird dance tracks, but always hearing bounce music in the club and on the radio made me more aware of hip-hop as being dance music, and as a result, I think more hip-hop elements have made their way into my sound. Hip-hop has such major presence in New Orleans—it’s hard not to be influenced by it. Everywhere else in the world, everyone is a DJ or plays acoustic guitar, but in New Orleans everyone is a rapper and has something to say, whether it’s Lil Boosie on a homicidal tip, or sissy bounce rappers talking about turning tricks for change at age 14.
PRODUCTION PROCESS: My laptop is where I make all my music. I have a workspace in my bedroom that’s just monitors and a MIDI keyboard. That’s where I write and finish all my tracks, for the most part. I start writing new ideas all over though, like in the kitchen at my mom’s house or in that somebody’s bed before she wakes up, or on a plane at dusk. That’s heavy. I don’t think I’ve made any track, start to finish, all in one place.
THE DIPLO CONNECTION: I’ve known some of the Mad Decent guys for a minute now. I forget how we first met, but they definitely showed me a lot of love early on, just on their blog and shit. Paul Devro got me a gig once way back in San Francisco. That was pretty cool of him. Shouts out to Michael Woodward, too—that’s my dude. I think “Lemme” made its way to Diplo either through Paul or Michael, or maybe through our manager, and he hit me up on Twitter over the summer. We linked up later in San Francisco a few times, as well as New Orleans, and got verbally abused by a transvestite one time. For real though, I’m really grateful to have Diplo as a co-sign. When I first started listening to dance music, his sounds stood out to me as different and weirder than what everyone else was doing, and that definitely inspired me to strive to do the same, and it still does.
THE MADNESS OF TOURING: I only started touring recently—maybe in April of last year or something. After I put out “Lemme” for free on the Internet in May or June, people started to book me around the US and Canada. It’s been a trip since then. I feel so lucky to be able to travel doing what I love, and to see new places along the way, as well as hang out with people who are as excited about music as I am. I had a good time out in Los Angeles a few months ago. I was playing at Drai’s at The W in Hollywood, and my best friend from New Orleans came out too. He and this porn star got into it in my room while I was DJ’ing in the club upstairs. After that and after I DJ’d, we took some Xanax, drank the minibar, ordered some $30 room-service hamburgers, and watched TV. I guess that’s not that crazy, though. It was just a dope sleepover.
UP NEXT: I just finished a single for Body High that will hopefully be out in mid-June, and I have a remix or two that should be surfacing in the next few weeks or months. I’m really stoked to be part of the whole Body High wave. They’ve been putting out some of the hottest club records since their first release back in October—get involved if you don’t know the label. Aside from all that, I’m really just grinding on my own sound and trying to develop it further. I don’t know if that will result in some more EPs and singles, or maybe a full-length. We’ll see.
FOR MORE ON JIM-E STACK, VISIT HIS SOUNDCLOUD.