Interview with J Moss
Highly sought after as producer (together with his partners at PAJAM Paul D. Allen and Walter Kearney), James Moss and PAJAM have put their touch to albums from artists that include Karen Clark Sheard, Kierra Sheard, Dorinda Clark Cole, Angelo and Veronica, Dawkins and Dawkins, Kelly Price, Boys II Men, Virtue, Hezekiah Walker, and many more.
After two low-profile independent releases in the mid-80's on the now defunct Aviday Records, J Moss is finally releasing that much-anticipated big-label solo album of his, on GospoCentric Records The J Moss Project.
Moss talks to Gospelflava.com about the new music, PAJAM, his cousin J Drew and a load of other stuff.
Gospelflava.com: You're a very talented singer and producer. You're also a very skilled rapper, something that came to light for many of us on hearing your work with Dawkins and Dawkins back in the late 1990's, especially on the song "Child Of God". How do you come up with those clever lyrics?
J Moss: I’ve been blessed to be around a great team of guys who’ve always kept me pumped up and kept me motivated. That’s the key, because many times when you're by yourself, you’ll second-guess a lot of stuff that you do. So when you around a crew of cats that will tell you the real deal, they understand that you go through these ups and downs. A lot of that helps just to keep that whole adrenaline thing going. Ultimately, it just comes from God. A lot of cats don’t understand and don’t realize that you gotta stay at that pen and paper. You gotta stay in the lab and try your best to master it as best as possible, and let Him take it from there. I’m just fortunate and blessed to be around a great crew and able to be used by God.
Gospelflava.com: You produced four hot songs ("Praise Festival", "Gotta Right", "Unconditional (Mad Love)" and "Can't Take It') on the Finally Karen CD. What did that do for your career?
J Moss: That was the landmark. That was the cornerstone. When we got together, myself, Walter [Kearney] and Paul [Allen], all we wanted to do was get me a deal and see what comes after that. I had a little name for myself from the family. If we can get that going, than maybe we can start some other stuff. Then God just took us into another thing. He allowed us to get on that Karen record and produce those four songs.
We had a lot of people that tried to come against that. They were saying that we were too new for a Karen Clark record. They were saying that weren’t ready and we weren’t groomed enough for a Karen Clark record. God opened the door and He made it happen. From that, everything just took
off. That was one of the biggest records of that day. From there, everything just snowballed. Everyone started calling. People started jumping on the wagon. That was basically the starting point of the PAJAM career.
Album: The J Moss Project
It's absolutely no surprise that the album's first single, and album crackerjack is a slammin', neck-fracturing, street ride. "I Wanna Be" is a massive jam wired with a pounding bass line and Moss' creatively stacked vocals....|
See full album review.
Gospelflava.com: What’s the inspiration behind “Don’t Pray and Worry” on your new solo album?
J Moss: Everyone is always talking about that song. It’s been a long time coming with this J Moss project. We’ve been shopping it since we started. We’ve been trying to do this since we started PAJAM over ten years ago. We couldn’t quite get the marriages right. We couldn’t the relationships right. But we finally got it right in the latter part of ’03. We hooked up with GospoCentric. God opened a lot of doors and we knew that it was time to go.
Throughout this whole period of recording the album, I was at a low point. I was at a low point financially, spiritually and morally. I was down. I was real discouraged about life and discouraged about family. Just discouraged about everything. The music industry took a turn. The music standards went way down. The clicks got even tighter. It was crazy. I called my boy Paul and I said, “ P, I am really struggling with some stuff.” He turned around and said, “Man, you know what? I feel your pain dog, but you can’t pray and worry. You can’t pray about something and as soon as you stop praying, you're worrying about it. We have to take our burdens to the Lord and leave them there.” So the inspiration really came from P. He gave me that title and I said that it will help a lot of people. He was so right, because when we pray, we are supposed to leave it there. If you start worrying, you cancel out your faith and your prayer.
Gospelflava.com: “Psalms 150” has the same feel as the music on “Holla” which PAJAM produced for Trin-I-tee 5:7. Was this a continuation?
J Moss: There you go. It’s like “Holla, Part 2”. If you listen to “Holla”, we talk about "Psalms 150". It’s basically a sequel. I’ve always loved the track. P did an awesome track on that compilation. We just said, “You know what. Let’s do it man.” That song is our track and we can do what we want to do with it anyway. It was easy because “Holla” was in the GospoCentric system. That’s my label, so great. No one had any gripes about it. It’s a feel-good song and it picks up where “Holla” left off.
Gospelflava.com: Can you explain the camaraderie of PAJAM?
J Moss: Aww man. We're just a great group of guys. We really have a passion about what we are doing. Walter was doing his own thing in Detroit. He was a high level executive at marketing firm. He got us hooked up and brought us in to do a lot of jingles and commercials. We did K-Mart and Chrysler. It was huge. Paul was with Michael J. Powell, who produced many of Anita Baker’s hits. Paul was the head engineer. He worked his way up from being the intern and the gofer. Of course, I was doing my thing with The [Clark] Sisters, and of course, with my mom and dad [Bill and Nessie Moss]. I was doing my thing as an artist. We said, “we have chemistry and a vibe going. Let’s just bump all of this independent stuff and put our resources together. We’ll put it all on the table and see what we can come up with.” It was ordained by God because He just blessed us.
There was never an incident where one cat wanted to back out of the family. Man, we’ve just been good tight brothers from the beginning all the way up ‘til now. It’s been a blessing. People can’t believe that three black young brothers have been together for ten years and have done all of this stuff and have not broke up yet. All we can attribute it to is God.
Gospelflava.com: You have a high tenor range and you've sometimes been referred to as a male “Clark”.
J Moss: I have a predominately high voice anyway. It comes with everything else. Michael Jordan was gifted to play basketball, but he had to master it to get that jump shot tight or to get those dunks tight. That’s the same thing with anything else, whether it’s doctors, accountants, engineers and vocalists. You have to practice. You have to work at what you are doing. I found out where my niche was in my voice and I just try to stay within the limitations. I just try to master everything that I do within them. It takes practice and prayer, and I just make sure that I continue to use my gift to give God glory.
Gospelflava.com: PAJAM has produced some stuff in the secular industry. Some people want to know why you would choose to go that route.
J Moss: When we started, we did that Finally Karen project. What happened was that we had pretty much maxed out in the Gospel arena. We had pretty much produced all the “heavy” acts. If we hadn’t produced them, we were slated to produce them. Not all the relationships work out, and you can’t do every record. For the most part, we had pretty much tapped into every label and situation that we could.
We started getting so much notoriety that people started calling from the other side. We, said, “Let’s try it. Let’s try to send some of our inspirational song to the other side and see what comes up.” We did that Kelly Price song, “You Should Have Told Me.” It’s just the grace of God that we got on there. The album was closed and she was already mixing. We just sent some songs anyway. Kelly heard “You Should Have Told Me”, and she flipped out over it. She went into her pocket and paid for the songs, paid for the flights and paid for the studios. It was great. God just blessed us to be able to go to the other side. We understood that it was just a job. We wanted to go over there and let our light shine.
Gospelflava.com: J Drew, Karen Clark Sheard’s 14 year-old son and your cousin, produced a few songs on Kierra "Kiki" Sheard’s album. Tell us about this young sensation.
J Moss: J. Drew is one of those special kids. It’s funny to know him. You really have to see some stuff it will trip you out because he has so much talent. He called me the other day and said that he wasn’t going to produce anymore. He is just going to hoop, as in play basketball, not a preacher hoop. He was like, “I just want to play ball. I’m just going to try to make it to the NBA.” Of course I gave him a little pep talk, and got him back on track.
I’ve been to his basketball games. I’ve been to his football games. He can play the keys and drums. He sings. He can write. He can do everything. So what me, Paul and Walt have done is try to latch on to him every time we see him. We try to let him know that way that he needs to be going. He’s a brother that could get caught up in the wrong thing and just be turned out. So we just try to keep him rooted and grounded into what he should be thinking with respect to where he wants to pattern his life. He’s just a phenom waiting to happen. Once he really comes into himself and really locks down, he’s going to take us all by storm.
Gospelflava.com: What do you want people to get out of the “J. Moss Project”?
J Moss: One of the things that I want people to hear is me. A lot of people have been waiting. People have been begging me to do a record. They were saying, “It’s hot what you do with these other artists, but when are you going to do your own thing?” So I want those well-wishers and everyone that have been supporting us through the years to hear “us”. I want them to hear me, the J Moss vibe and the whole PAJAM expression. I want them to hear what we really wanted to express in an album.
Ultimately, the goal of this album is believability. God took me to a very intimate place where I could really hear his voice, and where I could know exactly what He was trying to say, and what He was trying to portray through me. I want people to be blessed from the experiences that I went through. I ultimately believe that I went through what I went through to help someone else. It’s already happening. People are already calling. They hooked up to the fan club site. They are saying how blessed they are just from the two singles. I believe that the whole album is going to take the whole world by storm in its own right. If it sells 15 million then great. If it sells 150,000 then that’s cool too. Whoever it was designated to help, I just need it to get to those people. Then 'mission accomplished'.
I’ll always write music. I’ll always perform. I’ll always be an artist until it’s really time to stop. Right now, it’s about the commission and the objective to get the word out to those who are in need to hear something new and something fresh that can change their lives.
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— interview by Dwayne Lacy —
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