JA The DragAn is an independent Artist/Producer/Engineer/Videographer/Editor/Director who has worked with the likes of 2Chainz, Rick Ross, Curtis Young, Lil Eazy, Juvenile, Kidd Kidd of G-Unit, Lord Infamous, Too Short, Jellyroll, Droop-E, Gucci Mane, and even the Funk legend himself Bootsy Collins.
JA took time out of his hectic schedule to sit down with us here at DubCNN to talk to us about his new music featuring DJ Unk, working with Gudda Gudda of Young Money, getting in the studio with Curtis Young and Lil Eazy, and so much more!
Interview conducted in May 2016.
Questions Asked By: Chad Kiser
DubCNN: Let’s hop right into your latest single, “Top Notch” featuring DJ Unk — Tell me about putting this particular track together, and collaborating with DJ Unk?
I had already previously performed and/or filmed at 2 DJ Unk shows in Kentucky before, so I just hit up my boy K-Yo the promoter of the shows, and he talked to DJ Unk to see if he wanted to collaborate with a fire flowing DragAn, and he was up for it!
I flew the platinum star to my hometown city “Cincinnati Ohio,” and picked him up from the airport. From the airport we went to my audio/video production studio.
I have schooling for Audio Video Production and own top of the line equipment for recording audio, video production, and editing, so it was nothing for me to record DJ Unk’s part and mine, as well as mix the entire song myself. I made sure I shopped and bought me a fresh beat from Young Ex who just recently produced hit song K-Camp – Blessings, and more. Ex and I sat in his studio and came up with the right hot sounds to create for the up-tempo “Top Notch” instrumental. We want everyone having fun and dancing to this song, all the girls’ twerking in the club, turning up in the bedroom, bathroom, in the car, wherever they might be, just moving and grooving to this hit. Small or tall, thick or skinny they all can shake it! (Laughing) While DJ Unk and I were in the recording studio writing and recording, I had 2 dancing female models shooting music video scenes for the music video in front of black screens with lights, cameras, and disco lights!
After I recorded DJ Unk’s parts of “Top Notch” I bounced the file and we started filming in front of the black screens with the bootylicious models.
After we wrote, recorded, and shot scenes for the music video, we also had a show that night at a venue where DJ Unk and I both performed songs and had the venue too turnt! We did all of that within about 14 hours, it was a lot in one day, but anything is possible through JA The DragAn! Now we have the jam JA The DragAn – Top Notch (feat. DJ Unk)
DubCNN: You also worked with Gudda Gudda of Young Money/YMCMB on “Impossible”. Describe the process behind putting that song together and working with Gudda Gudda.
I just reached out to my two favorite ladies over at LRT and they directed me to an agent who had connection to one of the Young Money superstar’s agents. From there I met Gudda Gudda in Houston Texas. I had bought a hot instrumental from the homie Young Ex and Gudda Gudda and I just vibed to the beat in the studio with Young Money member T-Streets who was in the house as well! Shouts out to bang bang!
I already had my part recorded for the Hook, and 2nd verse, so he just wrote his 1st verse and recorded it with his engineer. Being a jack of many trades, I shot some video footage of Gudda while he was writing his part, and a few scenes of us talking about our new song “Impossible!” It was the people who told me it was impossible to work with one of Lil Wayne’s artists from Young Money that made it POSSIBLE! There’s not much bullshit in me, mostly facts and truth.
DubCNN: I saw where you worked with Dr. Dre’s son Curtis Young and Eazy-E’s son Lil’ Eazy at Snoop Dogg’s studio. What did those sessions consist of?
It made me feel like the next Eminem while in the studio with (Dr. Dre’s son) Curtis Young and meeting both of Eazy E’s son’s, and being in the legend Snoop Dogg’s studio, felt motherfucking priceless if you ask me! (Laughing) They are all legit, we have a lot in common, plus they keep it real, I respect it.
I produced a studio session video at Snoop Dogg’s studio with Dr. Dre’s son Curtis Young and Lil Eazy, I did all the videography, directing, producing, and editing for the video, which is confidential. Besides sipping on some fine liquor, if told you what else the studio session consisted of I might have to kill you (laughing) just kidding, let’s just say there were some medical Christmas trees in the air that night, and I was a puffing magic DragAn enjoying life in Cali being from a small town in Cincinnati with Hip Hop legends sons. (Laughing) Good times you dig. Besides 7 confidential video’s, I do have 2 Curtis Young concert videos that I was solo videographer, director, producer, and editor of.
DubCNN: You’ve done a lion’s share of video work for the likes of Rick Ross, Too Short, Juvenile, Kidd Kidd of G-Unit, and even Funk legend Bootsy Collins! As a videographer what does this work entail and how have you managed to secure these endeavors with such high-profile clientele?
Besides being an artist I am also an entrepreneur and businessman owning 2 LLC’s, Cincinnati Audio Video Productions and my label DragAn Entertainment. I just keep an eye out on the street and social media to see what hip-hop celebs have shows coming up in my city. If I have time, and dig the music of the artists coming to my city, sometimes I’ll hit up the promoters of the show, or the owners of the venue, give them my portfolio of all of the hip-hop celebs I have worked around performing in front of, in a song with, or video produced by me. That’s pretty much how I get the Rick Ross, and 2 Chainz concert gigs.
I met video director and actor Larenz Tate, and “Too Short” through one of the industry’s biggest music video producers “Andrew Listerman” who owns Riveting Entertainment. This dude is the Michael Jordan of producing hot music videos for the biggest names in the music industry from Justin Bieber, to being one of Chris Brown’s right hand producers when it comes to making top-notch music videos. Andrew let me on the site for the Too Shorts music video “Makin Papers” by Chuckie feat. Lupe Fiasco and Snow Tha Product. I would like to collaborate on projects with him in the future for sure, he’s a beast in the production industry, plus he’s Cincinnati born as I am. No matter where I am I have to support the 513!
I not only got to be one of the opening performers for Juvenile, Crime Mob, Lord Infamous, Twista, Juicy J, DJ Unk, and G-Units Kidd Kidd, but I was also the solo videographer, editor director, and producer of their performances. While I perform, I have 1 person filming me perform, I told you I Hustle! I don’t care who says you can’t be an artist and be a videographer, director and producer, I will laugh at them and show them that I can do it! JA The DragAn is like a 1 stop shop, you can see the concert links that I performed at and produced, directed, edited, and filmed below…
DubCNN: How did you first discover your musical talent and your eye for video?
I’ve loved hip-hop and R&B music practically my whole life since I was 7 and I’m 27 now, so for the last 20 years I’ve been hip to bumping to the genre. At age 17 I decided writing rap lyrics in my mom’s basement, and then I bought me a microphone and Pro Tools to record myself. I began making Hip Hop and R&B Instrumentals and seemed to catch onto beat making without expecting to through my friend Mike who taught me a few keyboard skills. I then bought myself all the camera gear necessary, and audio/video editing programs. I then started an entertainment company/Label called DragAn Entertainment. After that I decided to go to Audio Video Production College since I was spending day and night every chance I had, writing, recording, mixing, or shooting, editing, directing, and producing music videos, I funded college for myself with no help.
The video producing came unexpectedly, but since I am very picky on how I like to perfect a project, I was getting sick of having dummies behind the camera even with an education, so I decided to put thing more into my hands, and from there I knew every angle and motion I wanted without having to tell someone what to do for every step of the video or editing. I literally triple if not quadruple check every single frame per second when it comes to perfecting a video and it can be very time consuming, but you feel good after finishing a top notch project for myself or a celeb who’s music I also enjoy listening to. Music and videos are like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to me, you can’t have 1 without the other you know.
DubCNN: Who have been some of your greatest inspirations and why?
Musically, Eminem was a white boy from the Midwest, divorced parents, single dad who had a lot of rhythmical talent, and he just so happened to make connections and become very successful from his talent and now is living like a King. I feel like all I need is 1 hit to get the world hip to JA The DragAn, I know JA The DragAn – Top Notch (feat. DJ Unk) thumps! If that song doesn’t do it, another one might. I have the balls to go for it & I’m a risk taker.
My grandparents were an inspiration also while both were still alive; they were happily married for over 60 years. That’s what I call a real man, and a real woman, someone who will fight till the end for one another out of peace and love. They instilled a lot of the good qualities in me lets just say! (Laughing)
DubCNN: How then would you describe and/or define the style of music that you create and perform, as well as your style behind the camera?
My style with music and performing is straight from the heart, what you see is what you get I guess, it varies from intense, up-tempo, club bangers, to positive, motivation, even some R&B songs. I cant only stick to one type of songs or mood or it would bore me, nobody is always excited, hype, and joyful, and nobody is always mad or sad so I just write how I feel at the moment. I try to stay positive for the most part, and don’t cuss much on my songs, but yet I do have a wild side, don’t let my clean cut white boy look fool you, I’ve seen a lot in my time, I’m very original, always myself, and unique.
My style of being behind the camera is creative, on beat, intense, sharp, electrifying, clean, and professional, I’m pretty much as bad ass behind the camera! Off the camera I’m pretty laid back and humble for the most part, and like to clown around especially if a jam that I love turns on, then I get hype just like most people do when one of their jam comes on. (Laughing)
DubCNN: Tell me about the history of your name, JA the DragAn. Is there a special meaning connected to it?
Yes indeed, JA The DragAn has special meaning connected to it. JA is my initials and The DragAn comes from my grandfather’s real name DragAn. He was from Macedonia, which is a neighboring country to Greece. We all come from somewhere, DragAn was a soldier, married to his wife for over 60 years, came to America after marrying my grandmother, and raised his 3 sons in Cincinnati Ohio. He was a true loyal husband, father, grandfather, and even great grandfather to my son. He boxed and enjoyed watching boxing; especially Mike Tyson knocking fools out! (Laughing) He was always there for me growing up and even taught me a 2nd language besides knowing English already since I was born in Ohio. I figured I would mix our names somehow because DragAn still lives in me, so I keep the fire going through my music and video’s. I feel like you should never give up in your dreams or what you like to do.
DubCNN: What do you want people to get from your music?
I want people to enjoy and have fun with my music, get up and dance, get funky, get hype, turn up, and motivate peace and love throughout the world! Just always be your self yo! Just like I say in my song “Be Yourself.”
DubCNN: Do you have any other outside/additional aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?
Just always being there for my son and the rest on my family and friends, living life to the fullest in a positive direction. Always knowing my roots and where I came from.
DubCNN: If you could play any venue in the world, which venue would you choose to play in and why?
Madison Square Garden NYC would be cool to perform with someone like Jay-Z, since you know; he raps about selling out the Arena! (Laughing) I bet that energy would be so live!
DubCNN: Tell me of one track of yours that you think defines you and why?
JA The DragAn – Top Notch (feat. DJ Unk) because being “Top Notch” defines me. If I were not on my Top Notch game while producing music and videos, then I would be like the rest of the artists out there twiddling their thumbs expecting a handout and not expanding. You have to put in effort, time, and money to invest in yourself and your projects if you want them to look and sound right.
I’m not yet where I want to be in my career yet, but I feel like I’m on my way, I stay motivated, as Bootsy Collins once told me “just keep on banging on them doors!” Shouts out to the OG Funkadelic legend!
DubCNN: You write, produce, mix, direct, and edit most if not all of your audio or video, correct? How do you put all these concepts together?
Yes I do write, record, produce, and mix all of my songs. The only time i didn’t record someone for a song I’m in was for Young Money/YMCMB’s Gudda Gudda’s verse 1 in “Impossible,” he had his engineer in the Houston studio record him the way they were used to which I had no problem with. Gudda’s flow has that heat! That Shi** fresh!
Video wise I am always solo videographer, editor, director, and producer for all of the celeb concert videos. The only time I’m not behind the camera is if I am performing in the show, or music video. While I’m performing or in a music video, I have a camera operator use my top of the line cameras to catch my action! I direct and tell them which angles to focus on while shooting the video, sometimes I even set the camera in focus on the angle I’m looking for and just have them press play (laughing) I’m very specific and picky when shooting video’s but you have to be! That’s for shizzle.
DubCNN: JA the DragAn is currently signed with LRT/Ingrooves, how did that opportunity present itself?
I have my own label JA The DragAn and DragAn Entertainment LLC. I was referred to speak to the boss lady Lisa over at LRT in regards to music distribution through Ingrooves Fontana Universal Music Group. While I was out in Cali for 4 months working with Dr. Dre’s son Curtis Young. His people at the studio had told me about his distribution, so I figured I would look into it myself since I was also an upcoming hip hop artist. So far LRT has always been there for me, were just getting started and have a lot more future Radio and PR marketing and video placements coming up soon!
DubCNN: Besides, of course, putting this project together, what other endeavors are you pursuing, both personally and professionally?
I am living every day to the fullest while we are here on earth for this short time. I’m trying to always be there for the people that I love and everyone else out there trying to make a positive difference in the world.
As far as my work, I’m about to be finishing up my 2nd album late 2015/early 2016. I only have about 4 more songs to record until its finished. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done and I start every song from scratch head to toe.
I want to expand with some big time players in the hip-hop, R&B, and pop industry as an artist and audio video production wise, I feel like I still have a lot more people to meet and hands to shake!
DubCNN: To date, what has been your greatest career moment?
I don’t have just 1 greatest career moment; there have been many epic moments for me. I would say being on a song with DJ Unk “Top Notch” and collaborating with Young Money’s Gudda Gudda for “Impossible” song wise.
Video wise it was epic filming so close to Rick Ross, Twista, 2 Chainz, August Alsina, Pusha T, DJ Unk, Gudda Gudda, G-Units Kidd Kidd, Gucci Mane, Juvenile, Lord Infamous, Crime Mob, Dr. Dre’s son Curtis Young, Too Short, The real Rick Ross, and all of the rest.
I was even in a music video with Cris Cab Feat. Mike Posner “Colors” and was Behind the scenes videographer, editor, director, and producer for the video in Venice Beach California.
DubCNN: Looking ahead, say five or even ten years from now, where do you see yourself?
Hopefully still alive because every day is a blessing (Laughing) but if I’m still as blessed as I am now then in 5 to 10 years from now hopefully I will be successful enough to be able to fund my son through school and have the funds for his college so that he gets a good education and a chance to become successful at what he wants to be in life, whatever that might be. I would like to become a partner of some big time industry cats and expand into one of the top new hip-hop artists, or music and video producers internationally! All I can do for now is just continue to work hard and stay focused!
DubCNN: As for the immediate, what’s next for JA the DragAn?
I will be dropping more music and videos and will be dropping my second Album which is titled JA The DragAn “The DragAn II” sometime in 2016! Be out on the lookout! This 2nd album is very energetic, intense, fresh, and original featuring Young Money’s Gudda Gudda and DJ Unk! I will keep you all posted online with the dates though my website, YouTube, Facebook, & Twitter and all other social media!
DubCNN: Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity for this interview on JA The DragAn! Much love! Peace!