Music » Jax Lives!

Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, and DJ Rasta Roots remember touring Japan with Jax


Around 2000, DJ Rasta Roots met Jax at WRFG-FM (89.3) while he was doing an interview for the "Beatz & Lyrics" show. They began recording and eventually Rasta Roots indirectly introduced Jax to A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg, whom Rasta was partnered with through their Smokin' Needlez label. Through their relationship, Jax appeared on 2004's NBA Ballers video game with a song called "We Can Do This."

In 2003, they took Jax on tour with them to Japan.

Phife: The biggest thing for him was the whole Japan trip.... It was like a new experience for him, for the simple fact that he had Atlanta on lock, but for him to get out of Atlanta and see the rest of the country and then the rest of the world, it was a big deal for him.

Rasta Roots: I remember we were in Japan and we were getting into a cab going from interview to interview. It was crazy. And it was a stressful trip 'cause it was us three on the trip. It was so far from home. It was probably like the 10th day into a trip of 13 days, I think it was, and I had this piece of equipment called Instant Replay and it was in a bag 'cause we were going from station to station.

So Jax had it in his hand and he kinda just threw it in the back of the cab. And I just lost it, I was like, "Yo, what are you doing!"

And it was like two minutes of me ranting and raving about what he had done to the machine even though nothing had happened to it. He just gave me a look and a smile and it was like it all went away.

You couldn't stay mad at dude. It was just like, he was full of jokes constantly. If you weren't laughing, he'd be laughing. He'd laugh at himself. He'd laugh at other people. And in all that laughter, in all those jokes, there was a very serious, introspective side of him that was very calculated. You know, his work ethic was crazy. All he did was work, whether it was working a regular job or writing raps. So it was a good balance between him being able to laugh at his hardships in his life as well as being able to laugh at things around him. He kind of embodied how you should live your life. Just have fun with it, you know.

Phife: All I can say is he was about to eat. Because you take one step towards God, he takes two steps towards you, so to speak. And the reason why I say that is because his passion was hip-hop, he loved it so much that it was about to reward him. Or, God was about to reward him because he wasn't asking for fame, he wasn't sweating the money. He just always had ideas. He just had a love and a passion for it. It's like Q-Tip in "Vivrant Thing" when he says: "You would find me in a cipher if I didn't cop a deal."

That's Jax.

Rasta Roots: Initially when he passed, I said I felt like his passing signified the closing of an era – which would've been the late '90s-early 2000s for myself in Atlanta because everywhere I turned it was either Jax or Binkis or Jax cracking jokes or something to do with him.

As time went on in the last few weeks, I went to their house – which is where they have their studio – and they showed me Jax's iTunes. And he had like 250 songs that like probably no one ever heard. So initially, I felt like it was the closing of an era. But I feel like now, if anything, his group, his crew, himself, his catalogue -- he'd always called himself Jax the Catalogue 'cause he had mad songs recorded -- I think now if people didn't know about him, whether it was locally or out of [Atlanta], they're going to know about him now.

Phife: He was a combination of Ghostface and Busta Rhymes. Period. And I'm not just talking from a hip-hop perspective. I'm just talking in general. You mighta had a bad day, but as soon as he came in the room, it was nothing but positive energy and jokes and laughs. That was him 24/7.

Rasta Roots: I was talking to his wife the other day and ... she's got a heavy load on her shoulders because he does have such a large catalog. There's gonna be a lot of people coming out of the woodwork that may have recorded something with him and want to release stuff.

There's songs that he's done with me that I'm definitely going to get mixed and do them justice. But at the same time, once they're done, I'm going to turn them over to her so whatever she sees fit to do with them she can do that. Because I think there's a responsibility that goes along with that; not just letting people run crazy with the Jax ID and just releasing stuff because you might've gone to the studio one time. So it's a careful process.

Phife: Yeah, that kinda makes me mad because while he was here, he was waiting for his opportunity. And now that he's gone, everybody wants to be all, "Yeah, that was that dude. Yeah, let's get our hands on that." I'm not cool with that at all.

Rasta Roots: I've been hearing in this city there's people who are saying stuff like, "Ah, people didn't know him, so why are they giving props now" and stuff like that. And I would just say for all those people, just let it go, man. Jax was a happy dude, he was a good dude. And whatever happened and how he passed away didn't just happen by chance. It was for a reason. And I think one of the reasons was to unite the local hip-hop community here.

Let's just make him proud more than anything. Let's not be petty with stuff and let's not be nitpicky. Just enjoy the music for what it is. He did it because he loved to do it, so just leave him alone and let him be. Let his music speak, you know.

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