His love of making beats and rap songs began in 6th grade and hasn’t stopped since then.
It all started back in 1987 when Big Jess used his Dad’s Fostex reel-to-reel to record a rap song for him and a friend to perform at a talent show under the moniker “Screw Up Crew”. His love of making beats and rap songs began in 6th grade and hasn’t stopped since then.
Jess used a master midi keyboard, stand alone sequencer, and a Roland sound module to make his first beats. Mad SoN (the other half of the Minneapolis Hip Hop duo Unknown Prophets) and Jess purchased a Roland MC-303 sound module in 1996 and with that, made the beats for Unknown Prophets’ first album “The Prophecy” in 1997-1998. They recorded “The Prophecy” on that same Fostex reel-to-reel and Jess mixed and engineered it by trial and error-having to move faders and EQs in real time-and using a sequencer that was time coded. After a lot of starting over there were only 8 tracks available. When one song took almost 5 hours to mix down to a dat tape, Jess realized patience was key-and that this was what he was meant to do.
In late 1999, Big Jess and MaD SoN (Mike) (along with their homie Gamble) purchased an MPC 2000. Up until that point all Jess had ever known was creating beats via midi, so sampling was extremely intimidating. The first beat Jess successfully made and saved was “Ready” off of Unknown Prophets’ “World Premier”.
Vinyl has always been an instrumental part of Hip Hop music, and growing up, Jess and Mike had plenty of vinyl at their disposal. Most of it was classical, rock, and folk music, and those influences proved to be the backdrop for “World Premier”. After the release of “World Premier”, Jess was able to access a wider variety of vinyl. He started banging out more rock sampled beats, and really sampling whatever was dope. The MPC 2000 he used was just basic and it had no internal effects or upgraded memory. Jess always sampled in stereo, so his 20 (+/-) seconds of sample time went quickly if he wasn’t careful, but he got it done with what he had to work with.
In 2001, Mike had connected with Musab of Rhymesayers and he wanted to hear some of Jess’s beats, so he went to the meeting with the MPC 2000 and some beats on floppy discs. After taking an hour to play 3-4 beats, Jess landed a beat on Musab’s song “No Peace” off of his “Respect The Life” album. Jess was ecstatic, and his confidence began getting stronger.
When it came to local beat-makers, Ant (Atmosphere), Mesh One (Kanser/Interlock), and Detek (Raw Villa/Supreme Beats) were some of his favorites. As time went on, new people like Fam Feud (Med Zach, Brandon Allday, King Karnov, Benzilla), Rahki, Chickenbone, Last Word, came on the scene and Jess really dug what they were doing. At that time, there was a beat-maker competition once a month at the local joint Dinkytowner. The competition-called “Run Ya Jewelz” (est. September 2005) offered a $100 prize and it mostly paired beat-makers in a tournament, head to head, playing 2 beats a round, until there was a winner. There were some sample challenges, including a remix to Brother Ali’s “Original King”, and Chickenbone absolutely smashed everyone. (That beat ended up being on Unknown Prophets’ “World Premier 2” for the song “Higher Ground”). Jess won the monthly prize twice, and he trumped the competition by winning the finale against other previous winners in late 2006. He took home $400 but that wasn’t enough to pay for his bills or the necessary studio time to really get his career off the ground.
Jess and Mike recorded “World Premier” at A440 studios while still living with their parents. After moving out they couldn’t really afford the $40 an hour rate, so Jess’s Dad built him a computer with two hard drives containing 4gb and 9gb of storage. He used his mic, a free recording program called Samplitude (which he still uses to this day) and he taught himself how to record and mix. Jess made up his mind that he needed to learn how to do it all, and despite no formal training/schooling he has been able to produce some of the sickest beats/songs the music industry has ever heard. Everything since Unknown Prophets’ “Now You Know” has been recorded and mixed in Jess’s home studio.
For years Jess made almost all of the beats on the MPC 2000, and saved all the files on floppy discs. Then in 2007 he bought an MPC 1000 that had a 30gb internal hard drive. Not only was the overall process upgraded-no more floppy discs-no more “Disk Read Errors”, it had an abundance of memory and killer effects. Jess still uses the 2000’s sequencer to midi his Trition keyboard, and he’s also started using some VST plugins through that same master midi keyboard from years ago. Jess’s beat-making landscape is extremely vibrant. Countless beats have landed on projects or songs that he’s recorded, mixed and mastered. His resume speaks volumes and he has accomplished so much musically. Fortunately for the music industry, Jess has no plans on stopping what he does so well.