Interview: Gavin Godfrey
J. Scott AKA A$AP Snacks is the type of person who can hardly sit still, which can make interviewing a task easier said than done. Then again, You can’t be mad at the Atlanta-born, New York dwelling, DJ, A&R and Manager for being a man of many talents.
On the phone from NYC, J. Scott recounts the stories of how the kid from College Park made his way to the Big Apple and in the process created one of the funniest websites ever (Imnotatoy.com), joined the crew at Baller’s Eve on East Village Radio, linked with A$AP Mob and he made his way to becoming an A&R and manager to artist like Kilo Kish.
WHEN I FELL IN LOVE WITH MUSIC
My mom’s friend, Dre, he put me on to Tupac. I heard “Dear Mama,” and I didn’t know who Tupac was. [Dre] showed me his albums and all the CDs and stuff. After he put me on [Tupac], a couple weeks after, he ended up getting shot and passed away. I just remember he got me into music outside of Atlanta. At the time I bought like, The Puppies “Funky Y-2-C,” and it was like all Atlanta bounce at the time. When I heard “Dear Mama,” it was like the first time I actually related to something. That was that FreakNik era of Atlanta. I was just really like “opened-eyed.” Then after Dre passed, it made me even more curious because he wasn’t around to tell me about more things.
It all goes back to that, RIP to Dre; after he passed I was just always into music. At one point my mom’s worked at a pawnshop and she would always bring in mad CD’s. So I’d have [Big Punisher’s] “Capitol Punishment” to Method Man’s “Tical.” I was a real East-coast head, as far as music. My other side of the street world was straight hardcore punk music. A dude that was my big brother at the Big Brother program, he was white, really Christian dude from Alabama and his favorite band was U2 and I grew up with him. And he put me on to that.
GOING FROM ATL TO NYC
I mean it’s not really hard to see why somebody like where I was coming up would be attracted to New York and the diversity of it. It was just one of those things that I always knew I would end up living there on my own. It was an easy transition. I knew I had to get to New York, that’s where my mind state is right now, where my work ethic can be appreciated because I can keep things moving at a faster pace. I moved up there, but actually got sent back down due to some bullshit. But then I ended up in New Orleans, ended up back in Atlanta and then back to New York. It was just one of those things where I always saw myself being there, even though it was a bumpy road getting up here and it took a few times; I just knew I had to be around this energy.
New York is not an easy place to transition to or live in general. But for me, I’m just really stubborn and rebellious. I’m not going to take no for an answer, I’m not just going to settle for that shit. So once I made it up here, I didn’t want to leave for nothing. I remember the second time I made it up, I didn’t go back to Atlanta or nowhere for like a few years. I just wanted to get my feet under me. The first situation was just more of a thing where I was with some people, they were doing some things and I didn’t know if they wanted me around.
I ended up going home for Thanksgiving, but wasn’t able to come back up, on some fucked up living situations. I was bouncing around. It was just one of those things where you’ve got to keep going at things until you can make it work for you. I was really knowledgeable on a lot of New York things. I’ve pretty much always been in the middle of everyone. As far as living here, it was a little bit bumpy trying to get your feet under you. But that’s anywhere if you’re trying to support yourself, especially if you don’t have rich parents. I literally came up here with $40, like straight off the porch.
INCEPTION OF IMNOTATOY
IMNOTATOY started off as clothing line, and we did a blog topromote it beforewe did the line, but we never reallygot to make theclothes. It becamelike an underground cult blog.People just knewabout the blog.I brought all myfriends in. My boyA$AP Yams started A$AP Worldwide, me and himdid a lot togetheron IMNOTATOY.It was a real community of New Yorkand West Coast. Itwas like a thing forour friends, beforeTumblr was huge. Me and my friendswould dump shit on there and just laugh about it.
JOINING BALLER’S EVE
Me and Jordan aka J. Dirrt from Baller’s Eve, we have mutual friends, and he told me to come by at one point. I came by and I have been going there since. I became part of the family shortly after. Jordan’s older than me, but we are like so close in a sense like, we’re very similar. I showed up once and kept showing up. Baller’s Eve is when I started to “DJ,” because everybody would always want me to DJ for some reason and I never would consider myself a DJ – I still don’t. It was one of those things where people just liked my music selection. And at the time, Gucci Mane was starting to pop off in New York, so I had like a signature sound for that. So I was getting asked to DJ for things at like my homie’s barbecue. Baller’s Eve to me is like my DJ crew and seeing them doing it like every week made me feel like comfortable DJ’ing in a setting outside of my friends.
LINKING WITH A$AP MOB
So when the A$AP thing happened, me and Yams were already really good friends. I’ve known Rocky and them forever. I had already known them before, but things happened with Rocky pretty fast. I DJ’d for his Drake tour; it came so unexpectedly, the only person they knew to ask was me. Yams called me and he told me they wanted to bring me on tour and he wanted me to help do A&R stuff. Me and Yams we kind of like nerd out musically, so it was easy. It ended up being like a year and half to two years of just touring and that was Rocky’s first show and that was my first show. They trusted me being around, because honestly, I am a really responsible guy, and I can offer more than just DJ’ing.
BRIDGING THE GAPS BETWEEN NORTH AND SOUTH MUSICALLY
I really pride myself because I can hold a conversation with so many different types of people. I’m really into science, architecture and a lot of different music. But when it comes to what Baller’s Eve stands for, they’ve been doing that for like 10 years. When OutKast came out it was pretty much just them, and they had to fight for their way to prove that we’re making something that people should hear too. Now it’s kind of like Baller’s Eve are pretty much the staple and have been involved with people that have all went on to different levels of success. Pill, Freddie Gibbs, Yelawolf, A$AP Rocky, Trinidad James – so many people that we consider friends and family have come through that infrastructure. I joke about it, but we’re going to look back years from now and it’s going to be one of those things that people are going to cherish as the years go by. People won’t fully appreciate it until it’s not around for them to be a part of it.
ART OF A&R
I was talking to Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua (Hip Hop Since 1978) about this and when he looks into artists now, and he’s been doing it forever, he looks for artists that bring something more than just a song to the table. With Kish, that was the first person I wanted to work with as far as an A&R. I never really had the chance to A&R with her. Rocky too, Rocky was someone I want to A&R on a lot more, like fully. I don’t even care about having so many accolades; I just want to know whoever I bring in that we can make that shit the most amazing thing possible. I’m so particular with that, the way I move as an A&R. Now I realize the things that I say, people are paying attention to it.
If I say something about an artist, being an A&R now, some other corny ass A&R can just come up and scoop them. I’m not trying to be in that world of one-upping another. I literally met with every label dealing with Kish. A lot of A&Rs are just corny as hell. They don’t really understand. I think these labels don’t really respect her, they just see, “Oh she’s a cute girl, we can just give her this song writer and we can make hits, and we can make money off this girl.” That’s not really them respecting the artist. For me, I don’t want to waste my time with people like that. Whoever I bring in on our team, I want them to feel fortunate enough that we can all build together. It’s not, “Ok, we are going to work with you because there’s a million dollars on the table or six figures on the table and we’re just going to take it.” It’s more of a thing of like I want to work with people that really want to be on some forward thinking innovation. That’s all I really worry about. At the end of the day, that’s all I care about, working with people who want to be innovators and not working through templates. It’s so lame because they use the same template for everybody and I have to deal with it every day. It’s kind of like on a rolling track. They can just pick them up and put them into this box and then that’s pretty much it. That’s why we should work with every artist in different methods, according to the artist. It’s just a lame ass game you have to work with.
WHY I DON’T DRINK OR SMOKE
For me, it goes back to me being rebellious. I don’t want anything that’s going to deter me, or mess up my plan in my head. I don’t like to be stagnant. All my closest friends smoke and drink. I’ve had friends pass away from overdosing other drugs. I’ve got a lot of friends that really went through it. Smoking and drinking can kind of like buckle you up. I have thoughts in my mind. I’m damn near crazy cause my thoughts move a lot faster than I can get out. My boy has this saying, “Never not working.” It’s more than always working a job, it’s kind of like we’re engulfed in this work. When we’re going to sleep, we’re thinking about it. In our sleep, we’re dreaming of it. When we wake up we are thinking of it. If you’re not physically working on it, your mind is still working. You can never cut it off. It’s a hard thing to deal with because it never stops. You can never slow down. You can never stop and get a breath of fresh air. I need to keep my mind active, or it’s just in a weird place. Like smoking is just going to make it worse for me; some say it will make it better, but I just know how I am. That’s why I don’t drink either because I’d probably be the most turnt up person ever. It’s this thing that will distract me from getting my goals at hand. I keep it away and let the work soak up my time. If it doesn’t actively help me, I don’t deal with it.
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ME
I have kind of like a sick humor. I laugh at some really weird shit, but then I have a really dry humor. If you read IMNOTATOY, you may think I’m some dude walking around with a fucking doo rag carrying a chopper around all day. But to me it’s weird, it’s a way we kind of like joking about it. It’s kind of like commentary, and that’s the way we deal with it. If you don’t really know me, you don’t get it. But, if you know me, you’d know exactly how J. Scott is as far as humor. People from the outside looking in always have a weird way of perceiving things. I don’t know what people think about me, but I try to make sure, at least, people think of me in a genuine light as far as anything. I don’t want to be perceived no way else and know I’m a good person.
JUSTIN, THE CREATOR
I really want to create things that are so forward thinking. I like science. I read so much about science, and watch so many documentaries on how things are created. To me it’s just amazing. It’s something that, as a human, you just kind of like look at and go, “It’s bigger than what we’re doing.” I want to be the person to innovate things. It’s so much bigger than money and anything like that. People talk about Steve Jobs and his partner, the other Steve [Wozniak]. I look at [Wozniak] more because he’s the one that actually made the product, Jobs was more of the business man. I look at people like him, people that create things that are going to last forever. You can create a sound, like Chuck Berry invented Rock N’ Roll. You can’t take that away from him. People have came and made sub genres of what Chuck Berry’s done, but he created something at the end of the day and that’s all I want to do. I want to leave even more than the person before me and I want to leave even more than anyone else in my generation. I just want to do a lot more than what were sup- posed to be doing.