10 Questions: Amplify Edition - Sleepy J Barksdale
Amplify shines light on talented musicians from the UK and beyond. This started in 2016 with a monthly artist on the Wordplay Podcast, then a compilation CD for Issue 16 of the magazine. Since then Wordplay have continued to develop Amplify, with our first event in April 2018 alongside UWE in Bristol, offering an amazing line up of acts that we love and have been keen to support to spread their music far and wide.
With the return of our seasonal podcast comes the welcome return of our artist of the season / month, so for the month of May, and representing our Spring Season (check the podcast here) we have the seriously dope Memphis based MC Sleepy J Barksdale. Offering a introspective and beautifully produced view of his world, we shared a few words with one of the finest Tennessee exports....
What’s your name, chosen craft and where are you based?
Sleepy J Barksdale, Rapper from Memphis, TN
How would you describe your sound?
I've never known how to answer that question. The word comes up the most when other people talk to me is 'aggressive'. I would agree with that. I don't think I have any particular sound though. I'm versatile. I don't focus on trying to do what's hot for the fuck of it or going against the grain just so I can be "the rebel". If I like a beat I write to it. If I want to twist I do. If want to go Memphis as helI on a track I do. I know this a douchey thing to say, but fuck it. Like they say at Drive By Music #AntiHumble. My sound is Sleepy J Barksdale. Nothing more. Nothing less and nobody can do SJB better than me.
Who / what do you consider to be the biggest influence on your music?
I'm not really sure how to answer that. I would say that Tech N9ne is a big influence because of how he constructs his verses. I learned how to twist and breathe right from listening him. The first time I met him was the only time I've ever been star struck and my dumbass just said "Dude. I study you" lol. I learned how to work your dark sense of humor into your music from Eminem. Both those guys are the definition of no fucks given and that shows folks that you can do you and get over. How many people do you know say that say "It's not my kind of music, but dude is spitting."? They show that as long you're dope it doesn't matter how radio freindly you are. Tech and his FTI stuff got it in my head that I could DIY this shit. I was putting my own shows on for over and a year before any promoter even spoke to me. I didn't wait around. I got that from Him and folks like Rhymesayers and Def Jux. Outside of that I would say My attitude. I'm competitive and tote around a lot of anger. When I go on stage I'm getting a lot of aggression out and if I don't steal the show I go home trying to figure out where I failed.
What’s the proudest moment to date for you as an artist?
It's a tie. I did a show in Salt Lake City that I completely took over. How it happened doesn't paint me in the best light so I'll leave it out lol, but I went from being 'some dude on the show' to BEING the show. I hosted the entire night. Got to do my first encore ever. Got asked for autographs for the first time. I got to sign a titty in Salt Lake City, and that's just fun to say. It was the opening acts girl too and he took the damn picture. That was the first time I truly felt like I was the shit. I gestured to the audience and told them that it was my impression of them eating out of the palm of my hand and they popped for it. It was awesome! That's a tie with last year at a show here in Memphis that takes place annually, Dreamfest. I was a part of a Hip Hop v R&B show. It was a competition with 7 singers and 7 rappers. Each team had there own band and it was one rapper v one singer for 7 rounds. The winner of each round was decided by audience applause and the order was random, drawn from a bag. I wound up in the last round being the last guy up for the night with the score tied 3 to 3. I put all this pressure on myself to not be the reason our team lost and I was nervous as hell. I brought it home for Team Hip Hop though. One of my favorite pictures of myself is from that night of me holding up a championship belt with my "son" JDS. I really can't pick between those 2. They were both awesome nights.
Do you have any advice for our readers who maybe trying to play the mad game of music?
I don't know that I'm qualified to answer this. I'm still geeked that I got a DJ from across a damn ocean to say "Memphis, TN" on his podcast. The only thing I know is that damn near every fan I have I got from shows. I think that a lot of people overlook the performance aspect of their repertoire. Rehearse your shit. Rehearse in the mirror. Rehearse to your phone and watch it back. Take your new song to some open mics to practice it front of people before putting into your set. Get your performance up to the point where you're undeniable and you will go from being 'some dude on the show' to BEING the show. Also, don't be a dick to people. When someone comes to your table after your set and wants to talk. Talk. That person has decided that they liked your stuff so much they are going to ignore whats happening on stage in that moment just to let you know. Do not take that for granted. Shake a hand. Kiss a baby. Be Polite.
Name 3 people you would love to work with and why?
Tech N9ne and Eminem come to mindimmediately. Those 2 were big influences on me and if I'm making my GOAT list they would be my top 2 easy. Those are 2 guys that put new stuff out and all I think is "OH MY GOD dude, we get it. you can spit. Can you calm down a bit? You're making it hard out here for everybody else." They would both scare the shit out of me. The good kind of scared. These are the main 2 guys I learned to rap from. So working with those guys would be the test. I'd be sitting there with the beat thinking to myself "OK. This is what you trained for. Don't fuck up". I learned to think about cadence and where you put your syllables and how to breathe from Tech. I know this is off topic, but if you want to learn breath control listen to Tech N9ne. I don't know what to say about Eminem that hasn't been said. He sits around making things rhyme that shouldn't rhyme and putting those rhymes in spots that shouldn't work but do. I'm going with MJG for my third. Memphis royalty as far as I'm concerned. I wrote the hook for 'Majicalpimpinbudderlips 2' hearing his voice in my head and threw a little homage to 'Hip Hop Voodoo' in the second verse. That guy could show up and make it known he was phoning it in and I'd still walk around for the rest of my days making people listen to the song just to prove it happened.
What have you got planned for the not so distant future?
Perform, perform, perform. Then after that perform some more. As mush as I like my record and as proud of it as I am, it's like Brother Ali said "I'm rhyme better outside of the booth". The best Sleepy J Barksdale is a live Sleepy J Barksdale. as far as new music goes, I'm always writing and I'm pondering what to do with the stuff I have written since I've finished "86 Percent" (which is currently available at sleepyjbarksdale.bandcamp.com wink wink). Other than that.... Shit. What's happening in England? I have a passport.
What’s the album you’ve played more than any other?
In my life? It's probably either 'Significant other' or 'Marshall Mathers LP'. You have to consider the time in which I grew up. Those were both really big records. That's a really tough question because a flood of names come to mind, but if we're talking about full album, entire life probably those 2. They were both big as hell when I was a kid and I wore those discs out. I still love them. I have nostalgia for days with 'Significant Other'. It's still great for just blasting and getting some shit out of your system. Play 'Break Stuff' and tell me you don't feel calmer after screaming " If my day keeps going this way I just might / BREAK YOUR FUCKING FACE TONIGHT". "Marshall Mathers LP' is an undeniable classic. 'Kim' is the world's greatest break up song hands down. I don't think I've ever been dumped and not played that shit. I also don't get whySticky Fingaz verse on 'Remember Me' doesn't get brought up more when that album is talked about. I'm going with those 2 because I've had them my whole life.
What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to? And where?
Tech N9ne when I saw him in Nashville on 08/02/2011. That man is a performing S.O.B. He's got showmanship for days and I love it. In '07 I was in San Diego and they have a theatre with 2 stages and Rock The Bells was on the big stage at the same time Paid Dues was on the samll stage. that was awesome as. But if we're talking a concert with a sigle main act. I'm going Tech.
Name 3 things you can’t live without?
My black hat, my beer and an audience. I love to perform and those are three things I need. That was easiest question on here.
Any last words/shoutouts?
I want to shout out Memphis TN first and foremost. My Memphop dad, Jason Da Hater. Anybody who ever comes to a show and tells people about my music. Especially whoever is responsible for somebody in England hearing my shit lol. The only last words I know are "Ladies and gentlemen I am Sleepy J Barksdale and you are welcome. The end."