One week ago rapper Julian Marcus "JDott Trife" Torres passed away after a long battle with colon cancer at the age of 31. A 2Pac disciple, JDott Trife's rap style was direct and passionate. A member of Chicago's Treated Crew, he'd recently completed his album TRIFE, which included beats from his longtime collaborator O-Zone, beatmaker Nascent, and "The Hills" producer Million $ Mano. Yesterday, TRIFE was unveiled on Audiomack; earlier in the week his camp released single "OD," the final video the rapper shot before his passing. With a strolling guitar and a sample from Baby Bash's "Suga Suga," O-Zone's beat is sugar in the raw, a gritty, catchy record that manages the neat trick of seeming at once a match for JDott's uncompromising style, yet giving it an almost sensual backbone. It's an indelible song.
Across the city's hip-hop scene, JDott Trife was a respected figure. Andrew Barber of Fake Shore Drive wrote a moving testimonial—actually two of them—and the reactions across the board tell stories of a humble artist of great character. In song, he was unafraid to take a stand, a bold artist who never seemed as if he were condescending to the listener. I spoke with both Mano and O-Zone about JDott's passing, the video for "OD," featured below, and TRIFE, which can be streamed or downloaded here.
NOISEY: How did you two first meet?
O-Zone: I had already been hearing his name around, among a lot of the latino rappers here in the city. At the time I had done this mixtape [in 2007]. It was real mix-driven, a lot of the latino rappers from [Chicago], called Trunk Music. I did the release party and he actually came out and introduced himself. Just off that first impression—It wasn't one of those things like, "Yo, I'm so-and-so, I wish I was on your tape" or something like that. He was familiar with some of the things I was doing at the time and wanted to connect and build from that.
I thought his energy was very genuine. I had already been familiar with his music so I already knew that this dude was cold. To now actually meet him in person, to get the right energy even then, to me that's what kept my ears open to him, because now it's like I can tie his personality to the actual person I keep hearing about. I hosted his second mixtape and from there we developed a relationship. He knew that I made beats and played him some of my joints and he was really really feeling them.
Mano: I knew JDot through O-Zone as well. It was so funny to me because I've known them for so long just from us throwing parties and us being entertainers and shit and doing shows and shit. I didn't know that JDott knew so many people that I knew as well. He was friends with Blanco Caine [of White Gzus], and they were super fucking tight. He was really cool with Moonie from LEP [Bogus Boys] as well. JDott, he came up to me one day, super random, and he was like, "Man, I'm just gonna keep it 100 with you. I'm the only nigga that ain't even down [with Treated Crew] yet." I'm like, "You right G, you right. I need to bless you." And literally this was right before him and O-Zone went to LA to shoot this "OD" video. I was supposed to give him this hat. I didn't get the chance to get in contact with him at the time. It just fucked me up so bad too because when I saw some of the pictures and shit I thought it was so fresh because he had a black hat on anyway.
O-Zone: He was really into it about the idea of filming [the video for "OD"] in LA. Growing up, he was influenced a lot by that early 90s LA sound. He was like real big on Pac—that was his favorite rapper. It was almost like him doing pilgrimage, kind of thing. That's how it was to him. Paying respect to the people that paved the way. We flew out there, he filmed the video. We had already been working with Sense [Hernandez, the video's director] before on videos, that we shot one in Vegas ["In the Air"].
Mano: The one that they did in Vegas was the one that made me like. "Aite, yeah. OK that shit hot." Everything about it, the song, the video, everything. It was super fucking dope. The vibe of it was like, the shit that I see for the cinematics, shit that I want to do as well...that's what I always incorporate and want people to be down, like, you see we share the same vision. So it makes sense to share together. People's visions already be amped up, and sometimes I can possibly amp it up a little more and make the shit explode.
O-Zone: To me what I enjoyed about working with J was to me it was like Pac and like 50. All these rappers that definitely got this charisma to them. But I used that blend because it's an aggressiveness, but an aggressiveness with some kind of substance to it. He was always trying to get something across or paint a certain picture. Whether it was painting that picture of our upbringing or painting that picture of hope. Or whatever the record was trying to get across.
Mano: I feel like people have bars that are like food-for-thought, or bars that are just like, "Damn, that shit was hot." I like when people say real ass shit that you can think back to that record to where you have to play that record because you need to hear that song to go through what the fuck you going through for that day. That's why when I listen to "Mind Playing Tricks On Me," when I'm feeling fucked up, I need to hear that record. It puts me in that fucked up place, because I need to be in that fucked up place. It's funny, like if John Cusack had a movie, and he just got fucking dumped or some shit, he'll be at the bar, and he'll be like, "I'm in a four cornered room staring at candles," and like that song will come on and it's cuing him at the bar throwing back the Jack [Daniels] and shit.
O-Zone: It's crazy that Mano even brings up that record because to me it's like "Fuck Em All" is a modern day version of—when I heard "Fuck Em All," I heard "Mind Playing Tricks On Me."
Tell me about TRIFE.
O-Zone: Man, I will say that intro in particular, that intro sets the tone for the whole project. It's one of those things where—don't go on iTunes and buy only the records that you like, because it's an art piece. The whole project. It's a lot of records that touch on a whole lot of different universal issues. That was the thing with JDott—he was a rapper, but he was not just gonna rap about rapper stuff. This was like—his mom was listening to it, like he can touch her through his art, about issues that either she dealt with or had been through and experienced. I use his mom as a very big symbolism because a lot of JDott's music was inspired by things he saw his mom do at a young age. His mom was very involved in a lot of different social justice movements. You can hear that in the music and how that impacted him growing up and why that's so important for him, to really understand people and how to reach people.
Mano: I favorited one of his tweets—he said it in the documentary—what was his quote, O-Zone?
O-Zone: The tweet about how he's ok with people who are probably gonna catch on to a lot of the things that he wrote about after he passes, and that he's OK with that.
Mano: People need to know about dude. He had cancer and shit but he could have actually did something if he was still alive, and this shit wasn't happening. The sky was the limit. There's no telling what could have happened for him.
O-Zone: He was really invested in his craft. In terms of time, and financially. He was one of those dudes who never expected any handouts. Early on, when he was buying beats from me, there was time where I'd send him the beats or track files and I wouldn't go see him for a month or two, to actually pick up the money for the beat. And this guy would stalk me every day just to pay me. He was that kind of guy. He was to the point. Usually you gotta chase people around, this guy would chase me around just to pay. He was that kind of dude.
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