Sampling beats: J. Isaac tries his hand at rapping

by Amanda Pacitti

Following his August release of "Welcome to the Planet," rising hip-hop and R&B artist J. Isaac sounded off on the advantage of hip-hop as an outlet for musical expression in an interview preceding his performance at the much-anticipated Howard University homecoming last Saturday.

Jason Isaac Moore - or J. Isaac - explained the science of choosing a rapping pseudonym, citing that the ideal achieves an identity that's unique but not so different that a fan base can't get ahold of it. That being said, J. Isaac wants fans to understand who he actually is.

"Jason means 'healer' and Isaac means 'laughter,'" said J. Isaac - explaining that this was true to form for both sides of his personality.

"One side's serious, and the other side is a clown," said the balance-seeking artist, laughing.

For J. Isaac, rapping isn't a new development - but something that started in his early teens.

"I was a preacher's son, so up until I was 12 or 13, all I heard was gospel, but after that it was all hip-hop. When we moved from the suburbs to the city, I had my own room and I had a radio. I turned on a radio station and said, 'What is this?'" he said in a press release.

Though initially invested in rapping over singing, J. Isaac became the front man in a friend's a cappella group only by default when his rapping wasn't bringing success. Apparently, the group covered the Hi Five song "Just Can't Handle It" effortlessly - so well that listeners didn't know it was an older cover.

His talents prompted a deal with A&M Records, affording J. Isaac with the opportunity to lay tracks with Ali from A Tribe Called Quest, Raphael Saadiq, Slum Village and Kurupt. Mass consolidation within the label, however, left J. Isaac's work unreleased.

"I made a vow I would never sign another recording contract," he said of his reaction. Taking a break from performing for a year and a half, J. Isaac worked in production - and is credited with writing and producing hits for Christina Aguilera, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Jill Scott and Q-Tip.

While working in production, J. Isaac began releasing music independently in the Minnesota area and was picked up by indie label 306 Entertainment, spawning "Welcome to the Planet," an effort written and produced largely by J. Isaac himself and featuring collaborations with Slum Village, BR Gunna, Kurupt, Juelz Santana and Beat Brokers.

"The title track of the CD is a human experience, what life is about. I wanted to talk about God, from the cradle to the grave. It's like I'm welcoming my new son to the planet," he said about the album.

J. Isaac's favorite track off the album is "Hail the Hood," which is "a story of Moses of 2006." In the song, he got a chance to tell a story - something that draws him to rap.

"I'm responsible for more than I tell myself everyday," he said, reflecting on his attachment to what he considers the album's most emotional track.

The single, "The Promotion," outlines a man ready for marriage and waiting to be "promoted" to the next level, its soulful, almost bluesy construction evidence of the balance J. Isaac aims for.

According to J. Isaac, hip-hop is a musical form that allows the overlay of any other genre - gospel, jazz, R&B, anything - over drum beats, making it expressive as an outlet, and, yes, balanced.

He noted a parallel between his genre and himself: "I'm all of that. I'm music."

Welcome to the Planet is now available in stores. For information on J. Isaac and potential tours visit www.306ent.com or www.myspace.com/jisaacmusic. J. Isaac is scheduled to perform in Baltimore this Thursday at Morgan State University.

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