Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Westchester-bred, Queens-based rap artist J-Zone (née J. Mumford) began his musical quest when he picked up and mastered a variety of instruments before he even made it out of elementary school. Growing up in suburbia, he specifically dreamed of a career playing bass guitar in a raw urban funk band and would scour record stores for hours to dig up old funk LPs just to mimic the basslines. Surrounded by hip-hop culture and a now-significant vinyl collection, inspired by Yo! MTV Raps, and influenced by the likes of the Bomb Squad, Marley Marl, DJ Premier, and local beatsmith-made-good Pete Rock, J-Zone nevertheless put his funk fantasies on hold by the time he reached high school -- where he also earned his pseudonym due to the same zany, zoned-out personality that would eventually manifest itself on his recordings -- to concentrate on his emerging skills as a rap producer and DJ, while also occasionally dabbling as an MC on the side. It wasn't until a friend hooked him up with Vance Wright, Slick Rick's longtime DJ and producer, though, that his career officially began to take off. On the basis of J-Zone's home demos, Wright brought him into the neighborhood studio he owned as an intern, and the teenaged Zone eventually worked his way up to head engineer. By the time he had mastered the studio, the fledgling producer was also ready to attend SUNY Purchase in New York City, where he majored in Music. His senior project, in fact, also turned out to be J-Zone's unintentional debut album, the long EP Music for Tu Madre, pressed and released in 1999 on his own slapdash record label, Old Maid Entertainment on vinyl- and cassette-only. Always considering himself more of a producer than a rapper despite evidence to the contrary, the album also introduced the "Old Maid Billionaires," a group of MCs headed by Al-Shid and Huggy Bear, both of whom he would return to on all subsequent recording projects and countless future live performances. The EP earned significant buzz in underground circles, not least because of the integral early support of Bobbito Garcia, who played J-Zone's early singles on his popular radio program. The following year saw the release of a second EP, A Bottle of Whup Ass, and almost across-the-board acclaim. At the beginning of 2002, he signed a distribution deal with Fat Beats Records to release the third Old Maid Billionaires joint (though his first "official" full-length), Pimps Don't Pay Taxes, then subsequently took an indefinite sabbatical from rapping to concentrate on the technical side of the art, producing 12" releases for both Al-Shid and Huggy Bear, in addition to creating tracks for Biz Markie, Celph Titled, and Louis Logic of the Demigodz, Cage, and High & Mighty, among others. At the end of the year, J-Zone returned to his own music, putting out the "S.L.A.P."/"Ho Kung Fu" single and preparing his fourth proper album for the summer of 2003, as well as a supergroup project headed by him and Dick $tallion, Go-Rilla Pimp$. A Job Ain't Nuthin' But Work was released in 2004.