HipHopGods - Where Classic Hip Hop Lives

MC J.B. from J.J. Fad - The HipHopGods Interview

MC J.B. from J.J. Fad - The HipHopGods Interview

When producer/keyboardist Andre “L.A. Dre” Bolton passed away earlier this month, it happened without so much as a whisper. Behind the scenes, however, Dre was integral in shaping the early sound of Ruthless Records. He contributed keys to N.W.A’s seminal album, 1988’s Straight Outta Compton, as well as Eazy-E’s Eazy-Duz-It and helped craft Michel’le’s entire debut album. Most recently, the 43-year-old was building a Los Angeles studio with Too Short and working on getting it up to par. Sadly, L.A. Dre was pronounced dead six weeks after suffering a stroke, and died seconds after kissing his wife one last time. Juana Sperling, one third of J.J. Fad, was there at the beginning of Ruthless Records’ ascent to legendary status, and graciously took some time to talk about what L.A. Dre meant to her and the rest of the Ruthless Records family. 



HHG (Kyle Eustice): What did L.A. Dre mean to you? 


Juana Sperling: He was a very good friend and we admired his musicality. He loved music and he loved people. His heart was huge and we really loved him. He always had a smile on his face and never was angry. I think his love for music and creating songs made him very happy.


You said he was crucial to the Ruthless Records sound. Can you explain that a little? 


He was the musician that we used in everybody's early work on Ruthless. His keyboard magic was amazing. Most of his production and keyboard playing was on Michel'le's album. He also played and did production for D.O.C and Above The Law. 


Why do you suppose he didn’t get the shine he really deserved? 


I think because he never really wanted the publicity. He was a guy that was behind the scenes and did it for the love of music — not the shine. He loved traveling and making appearances with Eazy-E and N.W.A, and was frequently seen with them wherever they were.


What was the climate like back then when J.J. Fad was getting off the ground, Eazy was around and the label was starting to take off? 


We were a true family. Everyone supported each other's work and we were extremely close. We always joked around in the studio and bagged on each other, but if anyone outside of our Ruthless family talked crap on anybody…it was on [laughs]! That's why there were so many diss records made at Ruthless. L.A. Dre was a part of that family and his laugh was contagious. You could tell that there was no other place he’d rather be than in the studio with his Ruthless family.


What was it like being some of the only females in that environment back then, especially when you were so young? 


It wasn't hard being the only female group on the label. As a matter of fact, we loved it. We were so protected by everyone. They were like our big brothers and when we were on the road together, they sometimes acted like our fathers. We loved every minute of it though because we felt very loved and protected. They loved to go on the road when we were performing because they knew there would be a lot of female fans, and the Ruthless boys loved the ladies!


Were you ever intimidated at all?


We never felt intimidated. They babied us, except when we in the booth, then they weren't so nice. They wanted perfection, mainly Dr. Dre. Sometimes we would say, ‘Do we have to do it again?’ and Dre would say, ‘Yes if you want a gold or platinum album!’ That would be all the motivation we needed to keep on going.


What are you currently working on now? 


We are currently doing old school shows which we love and don't really have time to record  music. We are thinking about heading back into the studio as soon as our schedules free up a bit. We are currently working with our DJ Arabian Prince on the road, and we mess around with new beats and hooks while we are on the road, so who knows what we may come up with.


How do you like performing as J.J. Fad now as opposed to back in the day? 


I think we appreciate performing now more than we did back in the day because now we see all generations of fans loving our music, and it's so surreal to see teenagers who weren't even born when our album came out and they know every word. To still be relevant and still be able to sell out shows after 25+ years is a true testament to the impact we had on music. That means everything to us.  The crowds show us so much love and we give them the most high energy, amazing show. We are always praised on how good our show is and how they didn’t expect us to be that energetic and lively. Hey, we may be older, but we still got it. Believe that!


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