Inka Nisinbaum: Where is the “Mello” in J Mello coming from?
J Mello: Actually it came from a long, long time ago. My first name was J Melody, from melodic, when I sang rap and rock and that kind of thing. And then I just got rid of the “dy” and just ended up with Mello.
IN: Ah ok, that’s an easy explanation. And when was the first time you heard “Torture” on the radio?
J Mello: I heard it actually when a friend of mine, DJ Lil Cee from 92.3 now, played it first a couple of years back. And then when I started touring with Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction I was hearing it a lot out on the radio in LA.
IN: And how was it? How was the feeling?
J Mello: Oh man, the feeling was – I couldn’t believe it you know. It was kind of a numb feeling because I didn’t want to get too engulfed in it because I need to keep going and keep climbing the ladder. I didn’t want to get too excited, so when I heard it I kind of just embraced in it and said: Ok, cool but I need to work even harder.
IN: Is it difficult to be the rapper that didn’t grew up in the hood? I mean you have a completely different background than most of the rappers out now.
J Mello: Yeah, I have a different background. But it wasn’t what people think. My father was a celebrity and that was hard enough as it is. My father was the co founder of Kool and the Gang, some hits I remember were “Celebration”, “Joanna” stuff like that but my upbringing was very rough. My actual birth father was the one that was abusive, very abusive to me.
IN: Kool and the Gang is a major icon within the music community. Who was your father?
J Mello: Charles Smith. He was the lead guitarist of the group. He passed away almost 6 years ago.
IN: Do you still have any contact with the rest of them? And what kind of values do you think you have learned from being so close to the group?
J Mello: To be honest, I didn’t learn anything from them. As you can tell, my relationship with my father was rough. My lawyers keep in contact with them now because they owe me money and they better do what’s right by me.
IN: So do you feel that you are respected by the other rappers even so you grew up in the suburbs, with money in the background? Or is this not an issue?
J Mello: Well, you know what…let me make myself clear on this one. I’m not really a rapper but some people put me in that category because I sing rap but I’m not really focused on rap. But I will tell you the fact of me being in the suburbs back then it wasn’t cool. Now it’s cool because people are kind of straining away from certain facets of music and you have all these new generations of kids that are just like me, following and about to come out, and its making what I do even more accepted.
So I would say back then, yeah, they would look down on me. Even with Def Jam records and how they were trying me. I had a couple of run-in’s over there like “we don’t get this type of music”, but here we are 5 years later and everybody is leaning towards this type of music. So now it’s like wow, I finally get to see it and I finally gonna get an actual shot because all of my fans get it. So let’s just let the world get it.
IN: So in what category would you put yourself in, if you say you are not really a rapper? What are you?
J Mello: I would say I’m good music. I’m a voice for those that have witnessed something, those who have been abused or molested. I’m a voice for those and also a voice for all the skateboard kids. Just those kids who didn’t have any acceptance, the kids society doesn’t accept. Pretty much the black sheep and stuff like that. They got to stick with music. I mean that’s the category of categories. If you have good music why put it in a box?
IN: So because you mentioned already your abusive childhood, was it a difficult decision to sing about it, to make it an open topic?
J Mello: Not really because this is what would actually help me. You know a lot of people that are in my position don’t have an outlet. Some people resort to certain things and some people they can’t get it out. And I’m fortunate enough to get it out so it was kind of easy for me to do it because it was kind of like my therapy.
IN: So it does help to sing about it. Did it change anything in you already?
J Mello: I think it helps me coping with it and the more I think about it I can see how it all relates to me. When I go to a show and I’m doing this type of music and the kids are like “Yeah” it’s like “alright, cool everything is gonna be alright.” It’s one of those things, it’s a healing process.
IN: Did you get already feedback from some fans that got helped through your music because they might have similar problems?
J Mello: Yes, yes, yes. I got that confirmation from a bunch of people that went through what I went through. And these people are just like “Man!” You know they just feel like “wow” and ask “when is this coming out because this is what I need?” They need that therapy they need that kid that’s just like them. Instead of speaking about cars and all that stuff society pumps out they need to hear about that kid that went through all these troubles. That kid that still got by with a kick roller tattoo that’s not really perfect. The kid that the cool girls didn’t like. But who cares they are still cool. The coolness is in our self.