Dub J talks Blame Me LP, new app, working with JD Era, Bishop Brigante & more
Back in 2006, 39-year-old Kitchener-Waterloo based producer Dub J released the Love 2 Hate… Series Volume One compilation. It was hosted by Toronto heavyweight Bishop Brigante and featured skillful blends and cuts by DJ Flash.
The 66-track project – which came out as a double CD back when manufacturing hard copies was still a no-brainer in the release process – featured dozens of Canadian artists as well as a handful of notable international acts peppered across various well-conceived records. Dub J brought forth a bunch of collaborations people wanted to see, and even more that they likely didn’t know they wanted but were happy to receive. Bishop and Tara Chase on the remix to Sumeet’s single “Checkmate,” D-Sisive, JD Era and Nifty on “Only One,” Era with Mystic & Miranda on the title track “Love 2 Hate,” Sumeet’s “Agony (Remix)” featuring Broadway and Elephant Man, and more.
After making an impressive promotional push to spread awareness of the album’s release, he dabbled with the idea of releasing a follow-up before ultimately making a decision to step back from music.
“I got tired of the struggle of life. I wanted bigger things. I wanted the family, the nice house, the pool. As you know I was always good at web development, so I got in to making apps.”
Keep in mind, this was a few years before Drake rose to stardom and things were fairly bleak when it came to the idea of getting well paid within the Canadian hip-hop market.
The Toronto Star recently published a story focusing on the “strange duality behind Waterloo Region’s most successful hip-hop producer.”
The coverage is part of Dub J’s promotional campaign for his new 22-track producer album, Blame Me, which officially drops today along with the a companion app that Dub J created himself.
The album has the same collaborative format as Love 2 Hate, but is not the follow-up in the series – Love 2 Hate 2 could still see the light of day.
We started our coverage of the album a few weeks ago with the lead off single, “Dynamite” (featuring Témi), and followed that up with the album’s first visual release, “No Sleep,” featuring Toronto singer Sielle. Both of the songs were written by Mississauga rapper JD Era, who also appears a few times on the project as well. And just a couple of days ago, we posted the “Trust Nobody” video in featuring Bishop Brigante. It’s actually the first Bishop single to drop in a decade.
Other artists include Maestro Fresh Wes (on the intro), Haviah Mighty of The Sorority, BET Toronto Freestyle Friday winner Stitch, Peter Jackson, Raz Fresco, Choclair, Mystic & Miranda, Golden G, Kirk Diamond, Sean “Nuttso” Cole, Dave Vocalz, Chris Wilde, and Casper Marcus.
Dub J can sincerely point to hard work and determination as a big reason for the success he continues to see; both within music and the software world, respectively. His come-up is peppered with inspiring anecdotes of setting ambitious goals and going above and beyond to achieve them.
“Armed with braggadocio and unbridled ambition, this software designer’s alter-ego is determined to shake up the music scene.” – The Record
Joel Rubinoff of the Waterloo Regional Record recently published a great story looking at Dub J’s growth as a producer and the unique balance he maintains between designing software for Fortune 500 companies, and producing records for an array of celebrated musicians. It touches on the early days when he held a high school co-op position at Kitchener’s Dr. Disc, and the hip hop radio show he hosted while attending Cameron Heights Collegiate in the ’90s, among other things.
“Maestro Fresh Wes called it ‘a staple in the maple,'” reports Dub J. “A classic record.”
Dub J also states that this is the first time a Canadian producer has “released a single album where he produces every song and gathers together all the top talent in the country.”
Also, make sure to check out our exclusive Q&A with Dub J discussing the new album, working with artists like JD Era and Bishop Brigante, the album’s newly released companion mobile app, getting co-signed by Maestro Fresh Wes and more.
Q&A: Dub J
HipHopCanada: Welcome back to the HipHopCanada hot seat! It’s been more than 12 years since the release of your last project. What inspired you to put out another album?
Dub J: When you listen to the outro my son does on this album you’ll hear him talk about how I set difficult goals every year and try to achieve them. 2018’s goal was set partly out of frustration of the music I was hearing my kids listening to and my 40th birthday approaching. I set the goal to put out another album before my birthday (August 13th). Album dropped today (August 10).
HipHopCanada: What lead to your hiatus from music – or at least releasing music publicly? What else has been keeping you busy?
Dub J: I got tired of the struggle of life. I wanted bigger things. I wanted the family, the nice house, the pool. As you know I was always good at web development, so I got in to making apps. One project after another I built my skillset and was able to take that career very far. I’ve been running UX teams for billion dollar companies and also working directly with companies like Mattel, Activision, Lego and more.
HipHopCanada: When did you decide to switch the theme from Love 2 Hate 2, to the concept you settled on, Blame Me. What does Blame Me represent?
Dub J: I was back and forth on what to name this project. I have an old record with JD Era called Blame Me that came on while I was driving one day and Era says “Blame Dub for the music,” it resonated with me. Blame Me for all of this music you’re gonna hear this summer. Blame Me that my name is gonna be plastered everywhere, Blame Me that all these directors are booked shooting my videos, Blame Me that you can’t get studio time cuz we’ve got them booked up, Blame Me that we took over HipHopCanada today.
HipHopCanada: The track listing is full of unique collaborations and interesting pairings but you also got Bishop Brigante to drop a single for the first time in a decade. You’ve obviously got a long history with Bish – for people that are unfamiliar, how did that relationship originally come to be, and how did “Trust Nobody” come to fruition?
Dub J: Bishop actually tells that story on the intro of the Love 2 Hate album. Back then I lived in Kitchener. I didn’t have it as easy to be in the mix of things in Toronto. So one day I showed up at a club I heard Bishop would be at in Toronto… I approached him, introduced myself, told him I respected his work and I had my business set up proper. Convinced him to come down to Kitchener and the rest is history. We’ve been friends for about 15 years now. “Trust Nobody” wasn’t an easy record to pull off. I called up Bishop and told him there was no way I was releasing my album without him. He played a huge role on the last album and I needed him on this one. He agreed to do it but more so out of being a friend and not wanted to say no to me. I sent him beats for a few months and he just didn’t fall in love with anything. When I sent him the Trust Nobody beat he got excited. If you know Bishop and he is excited about something… You have to embrace that cause Bishop is going to do something amazing. So I literally hounded him to record the record… Messaging him 20 times a day, calling his phone non-stop. We got the record done… it’s a special record to me. I’m really happy to see Bishop releasing music again. #BlameMe
HipHopCanada: Another artist you’ve worked quite closely over the years, and who is featured prominently on Blame Me – both as a writer and artist – is Missisauga’s own JD Era. The singles we’ve posted so far have really showcased his versatility as a writer, as well as your sound as a producer. Can you touch on the process you guys undertook to put those tracks together?
JD Era and me have always had magic together. I’ve got easily over 200 sessions with him and albums worth of material we haven’t even released. We’ve just done so much work together over the years… it just clicks. “Dynamite” and “No Sleep” were simple. I just sent him the beats and he wrote the records. Era and me have the best chemistry when we get in the studio together with the artist and coach through the sound we’re trying to achieve. Témi and Sielle made it easy. They’re so talented.
HipHopCanada: Are you guys working on any other projects together?
Dub J: We have crazy ideas and random things we’re working on. He’s doing his own thing as well. Anything I’m working on will always include JD Era. He’s just a guy I know I can count on, he’s never let me down and we always create good music when we work together. This album wouldn’t exist if Era wasn’t involved in this with me. He’s the guy I vent to every day, I get advice from.
HipHopCanada: What was the most memorable part or moment of putting Blame Me together?
Dub J: When Maestro sent over the intro… I was in the studio alone. It played, and it hit me that this project is very real. The Godfather of Hip-Hop in Canada just endorsed it. It was special to me. Other than that… The studio sessions with Era. We just have so much fun in the studio… and my 9-year-old son playing some snares on the album and his general interest in hearing all the records as they’d get done.
HipHopCanada: Aside from not being a double CD – what is the biggest difference between Blame Me and Love 2 Hate? How about biggest similarity?
Dub J: The biggest difference would be the growth musically. I was a lot younger when I did Love 2 Hate. I also featured a lot of local artists on that project that I stayed away from this time. This project just sounds right to me. The similarity is that I did this record on my terms and my vision and I wasn’t afraid to put a pop song on the same album as a classic boom bap record. This album is a collection of music that I like. I didn’t follow any rules and really didn’t do it to impress anyone other than myself.
HipHopCanada: If you had to pick one song on the album to convince someone to check out the rest of the project, which would it be? Why?
Dub J: That’s a tough one… but you put on the first track and hear Maestro Fresh Wes giving his stamp of approval and then JD Era goes in on that first record there is no denying that this album is gonna be something you want to pay attention to.
HipHopCanada: Will be the project be receiving any more video support? If so, which tracks can we look forward to seeing visualized?
Dub J: Absolutely. We’re shooting the “Drop Top” video this month… “Dynamite” is not only getting a video, it’s getting a mini movie. “Dynamite” video has been in production for a month. Peter Jackson’s (“Make Believe”) will get a video, “One More Chance” is getting a video… I was talking to Stitch today about Big Things and GOLDEN G wants to do one as well.
HipHopCanada: There’s obviously a ton of collaboration on your album which is always great to see. Can you speak on any other tracks in the works or completed that aren’t on the album?
Dub J: I’ve just been focused on getting this album done. There’s a few records I did that didn’t make the cut but those will likely get released in the companion app.
HipHopCanada: Speaking of the companion app can you tell us about it?
Dub J: I learned a lot from building apps and how easy it is in the app market to build a massive user base quickly. I’ve build user bases of 2 million + users. I knew when I decided to do this album that I wanted to release an app with it. The app gives you all the music in the app for offline consumption and has the platform behind it for me to push videos, behind the scenes content and more… but more importantly gives me the user base to send a push notification to let them know to check out a new song or attend an artists show, etc. No one has ever done it. I believe it’s something all artists should do.
You can get it on the App Store right now.
Google Play is launching later today.
HipHopCanada: What’s your thoughts on the state of Canadian hip-hop?
Dub J: It’s a different world today. These kids have it so much easier now to create and distribute their music at ease. There’s a lot of new stuff I’m hearing that I like a lot… but also a lot I hear that I can’t listen to at all. Classified is still doing his thing and releasing great music. I really like Merkules and wish I would have got him on this project.
HipHopCanada: Which Canadian artists or producers are inspiring you the most these days?
Dub J: I’m always amazed when I see another record produced by Boi-1da. It wasn’t many years ago that he was a peer on HHC. He’s never stopped replying to messages etc. He’s a humble guy. I don’t really get my inspiration from artists and producers. My inspiration comes from my kids, family and my own desire to create.
HipHopCanada: Do you have any other projects in the works that you’d like to touch on?
Dub J: I’ve got a few projects I want to do this year. I want to do more with Stitch… the kid is incredible. I’d like to do more with Golden G and Haviah too. JD Era and me have a special project we did called TBG (Tokin Black Guy). I wont rest until the world gets to hear what we were cooking.
HipHopCanada: Let’s wrap it up with a very HipHopCanada specific question. Some of our newer viewers might not be aware that we used to run a message board, or that you were largely responsible for helping us maintain it. Aside from your contributions on the technical side of things, you were also a member on the board and had no problem sharing your opinion on things. It’s always interesting to ask people what their fondest memory of the board was or if any of those relationships that were formed are lasting today. So, that being said, if someone brings up the old board, what comes to mind?
My fondest memories of the board was how crazy it would get whenever I would get on there. It was one big dysfunctional family on the forum. If it wasn’t for the forum I wouldn’t have had the outlet to build working relationships with the top artists in the country at that time… but still to this day I remember it like yesterday when the board was getting hacked by Turkish hackers and I was on the phone with you as we were racing against them to stop them from destroying all the databases, etc.
HipHopCanada: I lost track of the amount of people asking me how long it would take to get the board back to normal. Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us and best of luck with Blame Me!
Written by Jesse Plunkett for HipHopCanada
Photography by Rocco Romélo