J-Money talks

Local rapper wants to put Reno on the map

J-Money, aka John Harris, poses in his home studio.

J-Money, aka John Harris, poses in his home studio.

Photo by David Robert

Local rapper/producer J-Money’s personal philosophy on the music industry is simple: Get involved in as many different aspects as you can, and do so with passion.

J-Money, whose real name is John Harris, has spread his talent to almost every conceivable area of the hip-hop scene in Reno, from rapping to running his own label (Unlisted Studios) to making downloadable music for other rappers to use in demos.

“You’ve got to have that spark, fire and passion,” J-Money says of trying to make a career in music. “The phone’s not going to ring and have someone say, ‘Hey, do you make music?'”

A major project for J-Money right now is The Pedigreez, a rap group he is a member of with local rappers Blacc Mike and Cyn. Their first album, Risky Business, is due out in mid-August. He is looking for a way to get regional promotion for The Pedigreez album and is hoping they become the first rap group out of Reno to make it big. But even if The Pedigreez fall short, J-Money has high expectations for Reno’s hip-hop scene.

“Oh, it’s going to blow up,” he says with a big smile. “Somebody is going gold [500,000 albums sold] out of Reno. I definitely see, within five years, someone going gold. Hopefully it’s The Pedigreez.”

If anyone would have his finger on the pulse of Reno’s hip-hop scene, it would be J-Money. He has been producing music here since 1994, and in 1999 was part of Major Weight Muzic’s record, East on 80, which is still available in local record stores and has sold about 10,000 copies.

“You hear a lot of rappers talk about Reno, but [there’s] not a lot of rap coming out of Reno,” J-Money says. He’s hoping to change that.

“I want to put Reno on the map,” he says. “It’s about putting out albums.”

He says the talent to go national is already in Reno. It’s just a matter of timing and the right people hearing Reno’s lyricists. J-Money says he thinks Reno’s image may have something to do with the fact that no local hip-hop artists have made it big.

“There are people out here doing shit,” he says. “It ain’t all cowboys, and it ain’t all skateboarders.”

One way J-Money plans to be noticed is the Internet. He has over 200 songs on mp3.com (www.mp3.com/freebeatz), some of which are getting a lot of play. His song “Big Banger” is in the top 50 on mp3.com’s hip-hop charts.

Along with the many songs on his mp3.com site, J-Money also has a program set up to help the children stricken with leukemia in the Fallon area. Through July 15, 50 percent of all money he earns off of the Web site will go to the Fallon Families First program.

Despite being part of the community, J-Money says he knows that rap music still has a long way to go before it is accepted by a large percentage of the population. He says the slang rappers use varies so much that people who don’t know all the slang can’t understand the message.

“That’s what makes rap so unique,” J-Money says. “There are so many different ways to say anything.

“All music is beautiful, all music touches someone differently."