Five Questions With Zac Jone$
Zac Jone$ is a man who wears many hats. On the surface, he’s the rap-singing, genre-fusing genius behind the $tony Official record label, but he’s also a creative force in brands like Bottega Wines & Spirits and, most recently, OHJA Herb House, where he was appointed creative director.
But before he became the ‘man a yard’ (which will be explained later), Jone$ was among a small collective who’d spend time at a Stony Hill, St Andrew abode immersed in the rap scene. He was soon off to the University of Southern California, where his parents thought he was studying medicine, but he was gracing stages with acts like rapper Felly in Los Angeles. Thanks to compromise and understanding, he switched to a psychology major and music minor, but his music pursuit was never smooth sailing.
Jone$ became ill in 2015, which resulted in him losing his voice, and doctors declared he would never be able to perform again. But there are doctors, and then there is God.
“This shaped me into the man and musician I am now; it pushed me to my limit of belief and connected me to God,” he said. “I had to believe I would be able to talk and sing again, and push through one of the darkest times in my life to get to where I am now by changing my lifestyle and mentality for the better.”
By 2016, he released his début, Ridin’ Thru King$ton. He is now gearing up to release his Man A Yard EP, which will feature tracks like The Weed Song, Miss Jamaica and Lonely. Jone$ delved into the project and other accompaniments that complement this title in this week’s Five Questions With.
1. ‘Man A Yard’ pays homage to your late grandfather and your own evolution. I know you want to keep some of the tracks a surprise, but if you were stuck in an elevator for an entire day and could only listen to one song from the EP, which would it be, and why?
First off, RIP to the GOAT, my grandpa, Alva Anderson, who gave me that name. This is a hard question, though. This may sound cliché because it just dropped, but I’d have to say The Weed Song, because I think it’s very fun, happy and energetic, very lifestyle, and I think it would either help me find a way out, or at least I’d be bouncing around having fun.
2. What are your hopes for the EP?
I want a Grammy for my troubles (laughs), true story. But more importantly, I want people to connect with it and enjoy the music, and for it to help people the way it helps me, whether to feel better, learn something new, relate to, have fun — that’s always my goal. I want it to bring welcomed change — sonically — to the industry, and to live forever as a timeless piece of art in the same way my favourite albums do.
3. A standout of your $tony Official label is to offer a hub for different styles of music emerging from Jamaica. Why is that important to you?
I think good music is good music, no matter how it differs from the norm … . I’m interested in this because for a long time coming up and having a style that was very rap-based, a lot of Jamaican people used to write me off as “that’s not going to work from Jamaica”, no matter how good it was. So, I want to offer a platform as I grow, for other kids like me to be able to showcase amazing talent without being boxed in … . I believe what you’re doing should still be in line with your identity; that is, you should still sound Jamaican, if that’s where you are. But in the end, that’s how the culture is pushed forward, by doing experiments with different things.
4. Have you always danced to the beat of your own drum?
I would say I have always danced to my drums, in particular, because of how my parents raised me. In school, doing a project or writing an essay, they would also push me to find a way to differentiate myself from everyone else to make it stand out. My mom, especially, would kind of hammer this home. They were also very anti-trend, so certain things I would want to do as a kid because everyone else was doing it, they would really make me assess why I wanted to and if it was really ‘me’, which helped me to find my own identity.
5. Your $tony brand has expanded beyond music and a record label to a cannabis strain alongside OHJA Herb House. Where do you see the $tony brand in five years?
I’ve always seen the brand as more than music; it’s a lifestyle in its truest sense holistically. I see us continuing to break barriers and bringing new perspectives and ideas in the way we do now, and continuing to push the needle on what we can achieve as young creatives with a vision out of Jamaica. I see us being not only the premier destination for young creatives musically, but just in general.