You’ve been bubbling in the underground for awhile. What do you have to do in 2009 to make this a big year for yourself?
There’s a lot of different avenues I can take and steal formulas that people are doing but I want to do it my way and the amount of success I get for what I do, I only want to do it on my terms. That’s’ not to say I want to keep myself on a shelf but I don’t feel like I need to jump on a bunch of joints and put Autotune on it., I got a big mixtape about to drop real soon and a bunch of other things in the can. I got a big album I’m working on that’s like my magnum opus. I got a lot of big things set up and I’m trying to plan ahead and that’s what you have to do to have a career. You have to have a gameplan and stay on top of it. The game is viral now and you have to have something new all of the time.
What should we expect on your mixtape My Will?
It came together real beautifully. It came together in a short amount of time, which was real fun for me. Sometimes my projects take a lot of time but this took only two months. It’s a crazy project. It’s got Saigon, Donny Goines, B.o.B. and Emilio Rojas on it. It’s like a segue way to my next album. My next album will be more conceptual and this is my project before I jump into that zone. I want to lead people into that slowly so it’s not like a cold splash of water when people hear it. It’s going to be some real straight up hip-hop shit but it’s very unique. I’m not trying to sound like the next man and it’s not like a mixtape where dudes are just spitting bars over some industry beats. To me, that’s just tired. Every song here is thought out and well-written. It’s not just some shit I threw together.
How much has growing up in the West Indies affected your music?
It definitely has a big influence just on the way that I look at life in general and with my approach to things. That affects the way that I deal with it and with music too. A lot of my subject matter and the joints I like to do comes from my perception. I look at American and American society in a certain context. I’m able to remove myself from it and analyze it and be critical of certain things because I grew up in a different place. I’m very lucky to have that because it gives me that angle and I feel very cultured and I’ve seen different things and it gives me an edge. Reggae is a huge influence to me and I have a lot of reggae-infused beats and have reggae artists singing and shit like that.
How does Boston influence you as an artist?
I mean, there’s the lifestyles there. The funny thing with Boston is that there aren’t a bunch of big rappers that come out of there. There’s Term, Slaine, Smoke Bulga and Akrobatik. That’s really it with Edo G and myself and Shug and stuff. There’s a whole culture in the city that’s real unique. When a city like Houston blows up, the music’s hot and the people focus on the culture like sipping syrup.
Boston has a culture but it’s not represented in the music so people don’t understand it. We have a whole different set of slang and different styles of dress and different handshakes and all of that. I try to bring that put in my music and my crew tries to do that too. The lifestyle influences me but I strive to sound like none of the Boston artists, but the culture and the way that people are, that definitely influences me.
You’ve released two independent albums, Strategy of the Crown and When in Rome, in the past three years. How well did those two albums lay the foundation for what you’re doing today?
Oh, Strategy of the Crown has done really good for me. At the time I had some really big collabs on there like Ras Kass and Devin the Dude. Some of those singles did really well for me on college radio and online radio. That gave me a buzz and some certified joints that people would like to play and rock out to today. In cities people can sing along to some of my songs and those records did a lot for me.
When in Rome was a real fun project. I moved to New York last year and I was in a real different state of mind. I was in a lonely state of mind, really, because I left my city and I was alone out here mingling with some industry people. I felt kind of alone in the biggest city in the country. It was unique and I felt like I was in the belly of the beast. That’s why I called it When in Rome. The United States society is kind of crumbling beneath our eyes and I was rapping about social issues and stuff people needed to know.
Do you make better music in New York or Boston?
You know what? It doesn’t even really matter where I am. I do a lot of writing in California or wherever I’m in. In New York I’m around more industry people. I’m making bigger moves than I did when I was back home. I’m very motivated and pushed here. I’m very motivated. I’m making more music now. If someone needs me for a remix I pump it out the next day. I’m always in the lab and I’m always doing shows. I’m always going out to events.
How important is it for you to have a strong online presence today?
Online presence nowadays is real big. Even a couple of years ago a lot of artists weren’t even internet savvy with their marketing approach because the mixtapes were heavy and just having your mixtapes in barbershops and your single on college radio was enough. Now kids don’t even want to buy your single. They want to download it online. You have to adapt to that if you want to have a career.
I strive to have an internet presence and I got mad love for my manager who’s helping me get on all the websites. It’s much appreciated and I try to make a lot of music so I have a lot of music to leak. I also feel like people over-saturate themselves on the internet by having too much material and I feel like they kind of water down their talent by releasing a mixtape a month. I’m not knocking any artist but it’s a lot of music. I would rather spend a lot of time making a good product than making a bunch of subpar products. Some dudes just went too hard and I think it’s ruined some dude’s careers but for the most part, if you use it right then it’s going to help you.
You have your own crew Greater Good. What’s going on with them?
The Greater Good is a lot of cats from Boston. Some of them I grew up with and some of them I met later. We formed this super-group of cats that are all real nice. We just respect each other’s styles. We’re not just friends; everyone is really nice. Everyone is from the Bean too except for Karas, who’s from L.A. Everyone just has so many different, unique styles. Some did years in jail and one’s a public school teacher. Nobody has the same style and everybody sounds unique. I actually got the Greater Good mixtape coming up and my man Amadeus in The Greater Good has a big album coming out with a bunch of big guests so he’s about to start doing his thing too.
How far along are you on your new album Last Days?
I’d say I’m aiming to record a little more than 20 songs for it and then trim it down to 13 or 14. It’s like a concept album in a sense, which is something that I really want to do for awhile. I’m taking my time with it and we’re bringing in a lot of different vocalists. I’m producing on it too and I got an executive producer I hired. We’re crafting it and we started working on it right when we started working on the My Will mixtape. I got about 13 tracks into it and you’ll see it in the spring or summer. And I have another mixtape dropping before that too.
You’ve worked with a lot of MCs from Ras Kass to Joell Ortiz to Skyzoo. Who’s been your favorite collaboration so far?
I liked working with Devin the Dude the most. I mean, I like working with everybody but Devin was real cool because he’s a real laid back dude and we’ve played mad shows together. He’s hilarious and he just tells funny stories. It’s a funny crew of dudes who just happen to be nice on the mic and singing. That was real fun and the concept was cool. And Ras Kass was real cool because we did the song on Super Bowl Sunday and he was in Boston and I was dying with the flu. That was kind of ill. That was pretty fun. Everybody’s been fun but those are the ones that stick out.
Are artists in Boston pretty cool about working with each other?
It’s funny, man. Boston has all these politics in the hip-hop game. There are all these street cliques in Boston. If you grew up with them, it's cool. But then some people it’s like if you don’t show somebody else love they’re not going to show you love. So you got a lot of little cliques that roll together. It’s nice though because more people are reaching out and if people see somebody buzzing they’re going to want to work more with you.
It’s funny how it works and for them most part, the people I want to work with in Boston I work with and if there are some younger cats I’m digging in Boston we work together but there is a lot of fronting and cliques and a lot of fake love. There’s not as much unity as I would like but it’s nice to see cats get shine outside of the community. And a lot of cats get jealous when they see someone from the Bean doing well and that’s the crab in the barrel mentality and there’s a lot of egos in the room but I like seeing dudes shine from the Bean. I’m happy because that means it will open more for everyone else. I hope I can open some doors too.
Has it been getting better or worse?
I definitely see it getting better. When I was coming up it was a lot worse. And there are definitely a lot of people in the machine that are helping that. Promoters are having shows with artists from different realms of the game. They’re bringing people together, which is good. I think once artists from Boston start getting more successful, that’s going to bring more attention to the city and artists will have more unity and we can work together to strive to have more unity.
What do you have to do in 2009 to have a successful year?
I got a gameplan. Me and my manager, we set shit up. The next four months are planned out and then we’re going to plan the next four. We play this shit like chess, not checkers. It’s all about having your shit ready. I love making music and I’m going to make music and still step into the business realm. Money’s important and you have to keep that coming in. I just don’t want to over-saturate myself and play myself out. People have gotten tired of a lot of artists and I want to put enough out so people know who I am and don’t get sick of it. I don’t want to feed them too much. That’s where I’m at now.
What’s the next move for Jake the Snake?
The My Will mixtape. I’m going to be shooting some videos. Those are the next moves and just smashing the internet and just smashing everywhere. We’re going hard on radio and just letting the music be heard. When you hear it you can’t deny a good thing. There are so many people who don’t get heard. I’m trying to make the best moves and grind hard with the best music possible.