By Amy Nicole Tangel
From the day Long Island rapper Edward “JJ” Jones began his career he said it has been a mission to make music his life, while always staying true to himself and trying to help others. Even with all the challenges faced in 2020, he has continued to be an evolving artist with new projects on the way.
In the past two decades, JJ has worked non-stop releasing more than a dozen records and his list of artist collaborations is countless. His first release came in October 2009 with the title, “Welcome to Lindenhurst,” which pays tribute to his roots. His CD was first sold at Looney Tunes in West Babylon, N.Y. where you can still pick up copies of his work today. His most recent release, “The Untitled” came along in October 2020, and he is not stopping there as he is already in the studio working on his next album. JJ said even after all these years, he will never forget the most amazing feeling walking into Looney Tunes and seeing his CD’s right there.
“That kind of catapulted everything that I created for myself, which was to have that CD in that store,” he said.
Not only has JJ’s life been led to higher ground through his music career and his solo success along with his group LethillWeapon, he has also become an entrepreneur creating his own clothing line which he meaningfully named, Stay Vintage. JJ describes Stay Vintage as a clothing line inspired to be who you are that started with just a thought to make a shirt and hopes that people would like it. Six years later, Stay Vintage, has become a collection of t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, mouse pads, masks, stickers and even hand sanitizers. JJ said he is always working with different colors and styles to keep coming up with new designs, all the while he admits being in disbelief it has turned into something bigger than his music.
“It’s more than a name. It’s a way of life,” he said.
Through it all JJ said from the very beginning he always knew he wanted to use his gift of music for good and to pay forward through work with charity. In the span of his career, JJ said he has hosted many events, some big and some small, but they are all equally important to him. Supporting him for many years and giving him a stage to call home to perform on, and an outlet for his charitable work was the now former, Revolution Bar and Music Hall in Amityville, N.Y.
“I truly believe in giving back when you can. I was a foster kid, I barely had stuff. People gave to me when in need,” he said.
At an early age in JJ’s life he was dealt with the unthinkable when he was taken away from everything he knew and placed into foster care. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1978, JJ lived with his mom and dad until he was eight years old, when he said one day, he watched helplessly as his parents became entangled in a violent domestic dispute. From that moment, JJ’s life was altered forever, and he went to live with his grandmother. His mother could no longer care for him and JJ said after the day his parents became estranged, he never saw his father ever again.
During his time with his grandma, JJ said he was a good kid who just played his video games and never caused her any trouble, but he said she developed cancer and could no longer care for him, so she told him she had to place him in foster care. JJ’s life was flipped upside down once again and he said, although he was lucky enough to have eventually found a great foster dad and loving family, his grandmother lost her battle with cancer and JJ suffered yet again, another great loss.
“The only one that ever really took care of me was my grandmother, but she was sick with cancer. She was a food prep lady in Brooklyn. She was always working, and she was sick,” he said.
Today at 42-years-old, JJ thrives and said he has been blessed with an entire community of people who gave him a little bit here and there along the way to help him rise above. JJ proclaims he lives his life with his heart on his sleeve and while he said it is a blessing and a curse, it fuels his music. He said when people say that his lyrics are a type of therapy, he tells them it’s not therapy; it’s just his life.
“I have ideas in my head, but a lot of times the music brings it out or something happens to where I write about it,” he said.
While JJ continues to wait for things to open back up, he is currently in the beginning stages of writing a book about his journey as a rapper with detailed accounts of his writing process, break downs of songs, how he got to where he is today, and how he is passionate about helping other up and coming artists as a mentor. In the yet untitled book, JJ sheds depth to his creative process and describes how he just lets the music flow constantly, even in his sleep.
He wrote, “This would happen through the years with most of my albums even way back in the day. I would fall asleep and wake up with a verse done in my head; ending up on a song when I thought it wouldn’t.”
In the meantime, JJ is busy working on yet another album release and preparing for his spring line for Stay Vintage. To keep up with JJ Jones find him on Facebook and Instagram @iamjjjones. For more information on the Stay Vintage clothing line you can find Stay Vintage Collection by Edward JJ Jones on Facebook and on Instagram @stayvintageofficial.
Photos courtesy Edward “JJ” Jones