Well, we spoke with Jason Mecler earlier this week, and he helped book the artists for this Saturday’s JoAnn Garrett Classic; now it’s time to talk to one of the artists performing at it. Check out J Berd, whose been a huge influence on the local hip-hop scene for what seems like approximately 40,000 years at this point (and that’s a good thing). We caught up with him to talk about how he got involved with this year’s installment of the JGC, what it means to open for The Pharcyde, and the current state of Frederick’s music scene. Tickets are still available, friends. It’s all for a great cause. You don’t want to miss out, right?
First, how did you get involved with this year’s JoAnn Garrett Classic? Who approached you and how long did it take you to say yes?
I’ve known Jason Mecler since I was a teenager. Asking was merely a formality. We have been friends since even before the original Pharcyde album dropped and I’m sure he knew I wouldn’t say no. It’s a great cause, so I didn’t hesitate. I’m grateful to be a part of it.
Along those same lines, did you know that you’d be opening for the Pharcyde when they initially asked you to do it? And once you found out, how excited were you?
I wasn’t initially told who the headliner was. I was told to stand by for the big announcement. The Classic has always brought a national act to the event, so I was excited for sure. When I found out it was Pharcyde, I was psyched for sure! That’s the era that inspires what I do to this day.
What’s your favorite Pharcyde song and why?
“Passin’ Me By” is my favorite. It’s a classic and it has withstood the test of time. We’ve all experienced a crush that was oblivious to us, I’m sure. I worked at a record store when it came out and I have some promo items from that release as well as the 12-inch vinyl single. “Ya Mama,” “Pack The Pipe,” “Wildflower,” and “Drop” are dope as well. Marvel Comics released a series of variant hip-hop covers this year and I have the Pharcyde’s issue, so you could call me a fan for sure!
What’s your impression of the current local hip-hop scene here in Frederick? We talked a couple years ago about it and you noted how it was improving – do you believe it is still improving? Why or why not?
The scene is growing. The younger cats are running with it and it’s good to see. I like to see guys getting opportunities to carry on the tradition of hip-hop. Now that venue owners and people in positions of influence are of an age that grew up on hip-hop, it’s not as villianized as it was for us coming up. I was a little upset that I didn’t get to see a lot of the newer guys’ sets at The Thing because we had three shows that day and had to leave right after our set (I hate when people do that). But everyone I met was positive and I love seeing people live out their dreams. If you show love, then you get love. I did get to catch Brian Cassette and he was dope. We have to continue to support each other to keep growing.
What’s your opinion on The Blue Side as a live music venue? Will this be the first time you’ll be performing there?
I played there when it was the Bentz Stree Raw Bar and it was dope. I’m looking forward to seeing what Mike has done with the place. I’ve know him since the Bushwaller’s days, so it will be cool, I know it!
And finally, what can we expect from your set this weekend at the JGC?
We usually play a 20 minute set and this time we get 40! So this will be a culmination of about six different projects of mine. Sort of a best-of all my work so far. My sets with DJ Blaze Daily are planned out to a certain extent, but there’s always room left to interact with the crowd and connect with people. That’s what an emcee does – directs the crowd’s energy and feeds it. Hopefully, I’ll make some new friends and have some fun, and a few drinks won’t hurt either. Good times, Makeshift Deluxe style!