800 the Jewell on founding a label and what inspires him
Phillip Embry with his family.
800 the Jewell (aka Phillip Embry) is a man of many words and even more substance. In addition to his work as a producer, musician and rapper, he is the founder of Jewell Tyme Music, the label that houses such artists as Haven the Great, King FOE, Karma, and others. We sat down with 800 the Jewell to go behind the music and talk about the history of Jewell Tyme and his strength as a producer.
Jewell Tyme began in the late '90s as he built his image and credibility as a producer, working with artists like Rie Rie and Gangsta O. 800 met F.O.E. in 2001, and they decided to work together and expand the roster. Today, Jewell Tyme Music is home to eleven solid musicians, both novice to veteran in the game.
800 has produced for artists like Sista Soul and is working on a collaborative album with Julox called Jewell-Lox. His production style is inspired by The Love Unlimited Orchestra, the band that backed the Barry White, Isaac Hayes, James Mtume, Curtis Mayfield, Ice Cube and others. 800's style and taste in music is even more versatile than it is reverent.
Westword: How has your work as a producer and rapper manifested into the whole Jewell Tyme family?
800 the Jewell: Rap was the thing in the early '90s and I was hugely influenced by the times and the music. My mother bought me a Casio when I was thirteen for Christmas because she knew I was captivated by music. Around that time deejays were the producers of most rap records because it was a combination of samples finely tuned that made the beat. Artists like Public Enemy, EPMD, NWA, The Flavor Unit were killing it and I was taking it all in.
A year later I entered high school and lyrics were the lunch hour past time. We started looping little pieces of songs together and rapping over them using a dictator tape recorder my mom had. Later that year my life changed forever... I heard Ice Cubes "Lethal Injection". This is where the Casio kicks in. I use to come home after school and spend hours trying to figure out the synthesizer part of "Ghetto Bird" and "You Know How We Do It".
At the time, it was only F.O.E. and I doing shows and attracting some curious attention due to the fact that we were from 2 different sides of the Boulevard (Colorado Blvd.), but we both decided that this needed to be done.
In 2005, I had the opportunity to release an international project with a Sony subsidiary called Sonic Wave International for my album, Only N'Colorado. One of my songs from that album ("Who Said the Funk Would Die" Feat. Street) was referred to The Grammy Foundation and the next thing I knew it was being considered for a Grammy nomination (Best Alternative/Urban Performance 06'). I remember it like it was yesterday... We were both shocked and decided from that moment on that we could become a driving force in Colorado urban music.
You often say that you are a fan of music so your production style will usually take from diverse influences. What are your most immediately inspired by?
A lot of people probably are not going to like my answer, but I am not into the music of today. However, I do respect the industry and the artists. Being a musician, my musical hunger is always tamed by chord progression, melodies, and harmonious riffs. I have something called a "self trained ear" meaning that my ear has become used to what I am into. Now, what makes 800 The Jewell tap his toe? I like Funk!!! Plain and simple.
How does it work together to not only be a producer and a rapper, but the head of an entire crew of folks who do those same things?
Funny you ask that. As of last year around this time, I was ready to put 800 the Jewell on the shelf for good. I was beginning to feel like my time had come and gone but, then I had an epiphany. I decided to record one last project and give it away for free. This is where my most recent album, Life At 31, comes into play. I was not happy with my second album, 8thooven, because it was recorded while I was facing a few trials and tribulations in my own life.
After recording Life at 31 in the summer of 2010 I realized I was still relevant when the first month resulted in 10,000 downloads. Even though it was a free project, it was evident that 800 the Jewell still had a fan base.
As far as being the head of the J.T.M. crew, I would share that credit equally with my brotha's and sista's affiliated with Jewell Tyme. Every artist(s) knows what he/she wants their record to sound like and usually can already hear it mentally. My job is to take those thoughts and make them reality. We, J.T.M. all work collectively on every project or record. Once a project has been completed, we all review it and give our inside feedback until we all agree a project is worth releasing.