Kanye West’s late mother praises fresh rap ‘Noize’

By HermineBloom

Up-and-coming rappers are rarely undaunted by the idea of living up to the catalogs of the most talented rap moguls. Take Nas’ Illmatic for example. “N.Y. State of Mind” can conjure images of the dark and grimy streets of New York City with a sense of urgency that’s palpable. Then there’s Kanye West, whose looping chipmunk-inspired choruses and continual odes to the Midwest are dripping in Chicago flavor. J. Noize, however, is a fearless 24-year-old Chicago Heights native. He happily draws inspiration for his music from a wealth of phenomenal artists, both new and old, to craft beats and a lyrical flow that evoke the city’s vibrancy with a “gritty yet positive” outlook.

Originally, West’s late mother, Donda West, was Noize’s teacher at Chicago State University. She herself praised Noize’s four-track demo and encouraged him to pursue his music, which motivated him to enter and subsequently win the Dynamic Producers 2005 beat battle. Noize, formally known as Jason Davis, released his rap album titled Young, Gifted and Black last month, which is peppered with R&B and hip-hop artists from both coasts.

The Chronicle talked to J. Noize to dig up some of his Chicago-based influences, his take on the unique culture of the city and his opinion on West’s recent stunt at the VMAs.

The Chronicle: Which rappers have influenced your music the most?

J. Noize: As far as musically, I grew up listening to all artists from Twista to the early ’90s to Psycho Drama to Triple Darkness to Shady Walker. Pretty much everybody—All from Chicago. Do or Die, Twista, of course, and Da Brat. I grew up in the early ’90s listening to all those artists … Later on, there’s Kanye. Well of course [there’s] Common back in that same time frame, too. Now you have certain artists that are coming up: Lupe [Fiasco]. I listen to Lupe. I pretty much listen to the whole Chicago [scene]. That music influenced me because most of the music that’s coming from Chicago describes Chicago. Chicago is a multicultural city and even the hip-hop itself is diverse.

The Chronicle: Do you listen to other genres besides rap and hip-hop? And do they influence you in the same way?

JN: Oh yes, of course. I listen to, of course my brother, Roy Davis Jr., who did his solo thing. Most definitely I was influenced by the other side of Chicago—the house music side. Being the younger brother of someone that many call a legend and a pioneer, I still go to the house scene events that are in Chicago. But I listen to soul music. You know, Chicago is what I would like to call the best city. Honestly. Period. You know, I don’t want to discredit a lot of people that aren’t from here and disrespect them, but realistically if you look at the stats—Quincy Jones, Curtis Mayfield, Buddy Guy—the list goes on and on. I was mostly raised on hip-hop and house.

The Chronicle: How is Chicago’s culture different than, say, New York City or Los Angeles?

JN: We [are] the heart and soul. That’s why I feel like our sound is very soulful. Kanye, Common, even the Midwest in general and Slum Village. I think what sets Chicago apart from the rest of us is that … we’re very diverse and still very positive. I don’t like to glorify the gritty side or anything, but we’re still gritty too. Meaning that we have all sides of music. There are so many sides to [the] Chicago [rap scene]. I speak from an area that many don’t speak from. I come from Chicago Heights and Sauk Village. There [isn’t] a voice from that area of Chicago and that’s what I really wanted to bring.

The Chronicle: What do you think about Kanye’s recent VMAs fiasco?

JN: Oh, I think that he said what he felt at the time. I don’t know. A lot of people say that you can’t say that, but I’m going to be honest and keep it real. A lot of people need to get off his back because that’s Kanye. If anybody could say that, it’d be Kanye. As far as the music industry itself, it needed that. I was saddened that the president actually said something bogus about him.

To hear music by J. Noize, visit MySpace.com/JHeatFam