2 Skinnee J's bring a band to the rap party

July 01, 1999|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

We all know how the music business is supposed to work. A bunch of friends get together, come up with a few songs, and something magic happens. From the first, crowds like what they hear, and the band becomes massively successful almost overnight as listeners everywhere are instantly smitten.

Or so goes the myth. Real life, as the members of the rap-oriented septet 2 Skinnee J's will tell you, works a bit differently.

"I think the reality is that most people are hostile to music when they first hear it, especially if it's something they don't know," says vocalist Special J. "It takes repetition -- bludgeoning it into your head. Very few people, I find, are so open-minded that they can hear something the first time and think, 'Wow, that's great.' "

Funny thing is, the J's themselves were successful pretty much from the beginning. "We got really lucky," says Special J of the band's first show, way back in 1992. "We played one show, and a whole bunch of people liked us, although I'm not sure why. We just had a lot of success playing live shows. That's really what's kept us going."

It helped that 2 Skinnee J's had a distinctive approach to hip-hop. Where most rap crews worked mostly with drum loops, samples and turntables, the J's are an actual band, with guitar, bass, keyboards and drums, and that goes a long way toward winning over rock audiences.

"Alternative audiences need a visual stimulus of some sort," says Special J. "They put value in the actual performance part of it. Like believing that the guitar you're hearing is actually the guitar you're seeing."

"On the other hand, if we had a DJ, that would be three people instead of seven," muses co-vocalist J. Guevara. "That way, it'd be a lot more lucrative."

"Yeah. There was a time when we were only making $20 a week," says Special J.

"We'd have made $60!" says J. Guevara.

"Or at least, like, $40 a week," laughs Special J.

These days, things aren't quite so lean on the road. Although the band has a major-label record deal -- its debut album, "Super Mercado," was released last year -- and even had a video on MTV (albeit briefly), the J's make all their money off live shows. Consequently, they work the concert circuit as hard as they can.

"When we finished recording the last album, which we finished about a year and a half ago, we basically walked out of the studio, got in the van and got on the road," says J. Guevara. "We've been touring the East Coast, from about Connecticut all the way down to Louisiana."

"It's our fertile crescent," laughs Special J.

This summer, however, the group will take a break from touring to write material for its next album. And as much as they like touring, the J's are looking forward to spending some time at home in New York City.

"We went out with somebody who just moved to New York, and they wanted us to show them around," Special J says, then laughs. "We didn't know where to go."

"We hadn't been there for a year," explains J. Guevara. "So it was like, 'Uhhhh . . .' "

2 Skinnee J's

When: Tomorrow, 9 p.m.

Where: Recher Theatre, 512 York Road

Tickets: $15

Call: 410-481-7328 for tickets, 410-337-7210 for information

Pub Date: 07/01/99

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