Our J Holiday Interview As He Preps His Guilty Conscience Release
When he emerged onto the scene back in 2007, many predicted that J Holiday would one day lead the male R&B scene. A singer/songwriter with undeniable talent and hit songs to back it up, the success seemed to be a given for the unique R&B package that was this D.C. native. Then “Bed” was released! Though it was written by The Dream, going number one on the Hip-Hop/R&B Charts and number 5 on the Billboard 100 was confirmation for the buzz. The follow-up, “Suffocate” impressed as well helping lead to a number 1 debut album on the Hip-Hop/R&B charts and eventually certified gold status as well as a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary album.
However, as the business of music often does, success wasn’t enough to solidify J. Holiday the respect of a top artist and by the time his sophomore album was to be released his buzz was beginning to fade. Label politics didn’t help the cause, and marketing was nearly none existent for his second project, Round 2. That was 2009. It’s been up and down ever since for the R&B crooner, finding himself engulfed in the drama that was Capitol/EMI Records running through executives and slowly but surely realizing that urban music was no longer a priority. It’s been 5 years since his sophomore album and now 2 labels later he is an independent artist hoping to recreate the magic that never really faded if you were a fan. He’s released several singles along the way but it’s taken him this long to finally release his 12 track album, Guilty Conscience, out January 28th.
We caught up with him recently to discuss the time away from the mainstream, the new album, and what his musical journey has been like thus far?
Parlé Magazine: So I know your fans have been keeping up with your moves over the last few years, but you’ve seemingly been out of sight and out of mind for at least the last couple of years. How does an artist who had so much success on their debut album take that type of step back?
J Holiday: Capitol had a bunch of internal issues going on. My time at Capitol I think I went through 4 [label] presidents. And every time a new president came in, they brought in a new staff. Every time a new staff came in, of course they thinking they know what they doing so they’d switch up the whole thing. So I ran into a few issues with the staff. Eventually we got the second album out, but the staff that they brought out just didn’t know what they were doing. They put out the second album premature, I didn’t really agree with the date but they put it out anyway. As an artist I told them, this ain’t the date ya’ll wanna go with, you want to wait another month to set it up with. But I’m still here. I say F it.
Parlé: When did you decide that enough was enough with that label situation?
J Holiday: It came down to our third album, so I pretty much had to force Capitol’s hand. Contractually it came time for them to put it out, but of course we were going through a new system, but I didn’t even stay for that one. I said, ‘Look man if ya’ll not ready to put out the album ya’ll gotta release me off the label.’ So they released me off the label, L.A. wanted to sign me a few years ago, we’ll actually he wanted to sign the group I was in, back when he was with Arista. He ended up not signing us, but he always remembered me. So when he found out I was off Capitol he was like, ‘oh I need you over here at Def Jam.’ But then he left, and I was his pet project, so I sat on the shelf for about two years from 2010 to about 2012. I was ready to rock out with the album but they just had me sitting. Any time I would try to release some music or a video, UMG, the parent label would block me. They were blocking me from giving out free music!!! I’m not even trying to get paid for this, I just want to keep the fans happy. So I told them to let me go. From there I just started revamping my team, I changed my management team. I got Holiday Music Group, we partnered up with the cat who I used to make music with, he actually signed my group, that’s the guy who owns Music Line and they helped put out my first two albums. I partnered with them for this album.
Parlé: You mentioned L.A. Reid, just wondering why you didn’t try to link up with him over at Epic since he has a nice situation over there now?
J Holiday: Well at that point it was kind’ve like, he looked out for me signing me to Def Jam, but there’s no way he could’ve made that decision—it’s something he had to know that he was going to leave. So it’s like, you could’ve let me know brah, or introduce me to the folks I need to know at Def Jam. So at that point I just felt this isn’t the place I need to be. Plus I was kinda over the label. It don’t take me three times to figure it out.
Parlé: I was having this conversation the other day about being on the label versus being independent. It seems like in terms of R&B right now though, it really doesn’t matter. The label’s not helping either way…
J Holiday: Not at all. Because the people at the labels right now are pretty much waiting to take whatever you did off your hard work, to make money off of it. One, you want to sign me to a 360, I’m not doing that! I’ve never signed a 360 deal, when I was with Capitol or Def Jam. Independently you got more creative control, you make more money and with all the social media, social networks, you can really do it yourself.
Parlé: You got a bit of a new look, you cut the braids. When did you get the cut and why?
J Holiday: Right after I left Def Jam. I knew I had to do something new and I had to reinvent myself.
Parlé: Okay, so we got the business of music out the way, let’s talk about music. One of the first records you released leading up to this new project is “Sign My Name.” That track is dope, will it be on the album?
J Holiday: Nope. I just feel like it came out so long ago.
Parlé: Understood. What’s been the response from fans so far with the comeback?
J Holiday: They love it. They just wanted to hear music from me. They love it. I tried to keep something in the ear of the fans just to let them know, ‘I’m still here, ain’t went nowhere, just going through these politics. “Sign My Name,” the only reason that’s not on the album is because it came out so far before we came up with the album and “Sign My Name” just doesn’t fit the story that we’re telling.
Parlé: Talk to me about the album. I hear it’s a concept album. What’s the plot for Guilty Conscience?
J Holiday: Guilty Conscience is a story, it’s basically a movie, if you could put a movie on a CD it would be this. It’s telling a story, I won’t say it’s necessarily solely about me, but my motivation of course comes from things I’ve experienced. I’ts telling a story from end to end of how I got a main chick, but I’m out here all in the streets and I got all the pretty lovelies after me and now I see one and I start messing with her even though I got a main chick at home. I’m in to her, but I’m getting caught up. It’s basically looking at the ups and downs of a relationship and trying to decide do I really wanna keep cheating on this girl or am I gonna get back? Or you know what, this girl I’m cheating with know everybody, she’s a J.O. (Jump off) so it’s showing that men can still take responsibility. Talking about mistakes I made. I got a song on the album called, “Miss Get Around,” that’s pretty much the point in the story where I’m like aww man, I done got caught up in this joint right here?! There’s another song called “Home Wrecker,” where now she don’t want to let me go.
Parlé: Oh it gets real then… Speaking of which though, I had a recent discussion about Akon and his comments about men and infidelity, where he was basically saying that men really aren’t meant to be with one woman and the sooner that women realize that the better it will be for both sexes.
J Holiday: We was talking about that yesterday, that’s crazy. I think it kinda depends on where you are in your life honestly and what you trying to get done. Usually, the main girl, that’s the one we love, we’d do anything for her. I’m not going to say we can’t be monogamous, but sometimes we stupid man. It’s the love of the chase. We men! ‘Why must I be like that, why must I chase the cat… Ain’t nothing but the dog in me.’ It also depends on what culture you from, he comes from a different culture too, in their culture that’s kinda what they do.
Parlé: First time independent, what are your expectations? Or do you even have any expectations at this point?
J. Holiday: I don’t really. Hard work always breeds some type of success. It may not be what people think it should be but independently I can sell 70 thousand records and I’m good. Cause I’m getting the majority of the profit. And I still got publishing. So, yeah I’m good. I rather listen to the opinions of my team then listen to the opinions of people that don’t even know who I am. I think that’s one of the biggest problems with labels because nobody knows the artist.
Parlé: So the single on the project, the explosive, “After We Fck,” how does that compare to the other music on the album?
J Holiday: It doesn’t compare because every song has its own life. For instance, “After We Fck,” that’s the point where I’m just meeting this girl. But if you listen to the lyrics, its like okay, we can make love after we f*ck, of course I’m lying but somebody else who play this for their girl or something might really mean it, but in this story, we just gonna get it in real quick. That’s the point where I’m getting into shorty cause she got that good good. It’s just another scene from the story!
Parlé: Just wondering, do you talk on the album at all to help things flow?
J. Holiday: Naw, we just telling this story. Like once you hear it, you’ll hear the story starting to take shape. No features, no none of that.
Parlé: What do you want fans and even the industry folk to know about you with this new project and where you are with your career now?
J Holiday: That I’m still here man. It may sound a little arrogant, but I feel like I’m one of the best vocalists to come in this generation. Carl Thomas is one of my mentors, he told me, ‘yo, you have an incredible voice and a great personality. A lot of people in this industry that you meet may have a great voice but they have terrible personalities. Your voice and your personality is going to always sell you. I just want them to know that I’m still here and I love this, no matter what I go through. I couldn’t see myself doing nothing else. I just want to make sure they support good music. Not saying that there’s not other good music out there, but people like me, I’ll put my blood, sweat and tears out there and go through the most, just to make sure they get good music instead of just putting out that fad music. I don’t want to put out fad music, if anything I want to make music that starts trends. I just want them to know I’m real about it.
As far as the album, I want them to know that love is what it is. In relationships you go through ups and downs, sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t, but the first step is that sometimes you have to admit your mistakes. Male and female cause I think that’s one of the big things like the main girl in this story, she didn’t do anything wrong, that was all me, but you got the side girl, she was trying to take me from my girl and she was trying to get me caught up. So just knowing that life is what it is, sometimes you just gotta be careful.
Parlé: Looking back at your career up to this point, do you have any regrets?
J Holiday: To say no, I would be lying. I don’t necessarily have any regrets, but I wish I didn’t have to learn on my own. I wish I had that mentor that told me, ‘you know this ain’t gonna be easy right?’ Cause you know, we always see it like, you sitting at home and you see it on tv and you’re like, I wanna be there, I wanna do that then you get some shit like “Bed” and “Suffocate” to pop off and you go number 1 on your first album, life gets out of control. But then you start to learn that the people that own these labels, they only there with you when you on top. They don’t take that ride down with you. I just wish I would’ve had somebody before I got in the game to tell me that. You know any time I got an issue I call Carl or I holla at Ginuwine like, ‘yo why ya’ll didn’t warn me?!’ Cause they both been through their situations. So I wouldn’t call it a regret, just something that I wish was different.
Parlé: Any final words you want to put out there for the people sir?
J Holiday: I’m here, I’m not going no where. It don’t matter how hard it’s going to be. I done had people wish bad stuff on me talking about he died, I’m probably smoked out somewhere and can’t sing no more, but this album is probably my best vocal album, I’ve only gotten better. I just want to thank the fans that fought for me and be on social networks like, ‘f*ck you, we love J Holiday.’ I love fans like that. They know I been working hard and they know I been going through it so I appreciate it. Keep in touch. www.kingjholiday.com, I got an instagram and a twitter, @kingjholiday
It’s funny people like, ‘oh, why he call himself King.’ People don’t understand, my moms is a preacher and the J stands for James. So I say, King James Holiday as in, whenever you hear my music it’s going to be the gospel. It’s gonna be the truth, dude singing and he’s saying some shit. I don’t want people to ever think I’m saying I’m the King of R&B. Being on tour with R. Kelly, he’s reigning king and nobody in this industry is going to take his spot until he retire.