On The Record: J-Wizdom
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Since Jose “J-Wizdom” Molestina dropped his first mixtape, “Back on My Grindz,” in 2008, military responsibilities, lack of inspiration and frustrations with the industry have led to him leaving the scene on more than one occasion. Yet the need to finish what he started and the tried-and-true belief that his music has something to offer always brings him back.
“It’s like you are having a child with someone, you can never run away completely. It’s in my blood,” he said. “You know you take your music serious the second you realize you could have saved a retirement fund with the amount of time and money you dedicate to your craft.”
J-Wizdom knows the game too well to claim he is the next great Hawaii MC. Such outlandish statements will get you nowhere fast. He isn’t about that life.
“Music is like liquid to me, it has no actual shape or form it just goes with the flow,” he said. “One day I may want to write a R&B song, the next I’m writing a country song. I like to make music based on what I hear or feel.”
Two years removed from the scene and stage, J-Wizdom’s return performance was opening for Bay Area legend E-40 in July, adding to a performance profile that already includes opening duties for Lupe Fiasco, Drake and Lil Wayne.
While the Independence Day weekend gig helped shake off some rust, it also reminded him of the Blaisdell Arena stage and winning over the crowd.
“It was great to see the support from strangers,” he said. “There’s no better feeling than to see people who you have never met singing along to your music. That feeling for any artist is indescribable.”
A soldier for the Department of Defense by day, J-Wizdom will get a taste of what it feels like to be the main attraction this week when he headlines the Intra-Island Music Tour, kicking off Thursday at Nextdoor before making stops on Maui and Hawaii island.
“I honestly don’t know what to expect. My goal is to reach out to a broader audience and bring more quality hip hop from Hawaii notoriety as some of the other artists already have but on a consistent basis,” said the Ewa Beach resident. “I’ve been in and out of the studio consistently for something like this to happen and surprisingly it’s happening.”
In his latest return, J-Wizdom is fully focused. The time away has helped him put things in a better, clearer perspective with a focus on quality. Going forward, J-Wizdom said he is taking his time before putting out an album. While the tour would be the perfect time to release new music, he will focus his creative energy in putting out well-crafted singles fans can relate to and enjoy instead.
Raised in Brooklyn, he grew up in a household filled with the sounds of cumbia, merengue, bachata and salsa. After moving to Oahu at 13, his music influences expanded to include jams from Kapena and raps by Sudden Rush.
“Hawaii is so diverse culturally, what doesn’t influence you is the question,” he said.
Local hip-hop artists, from the established veteran to the new artist in search of a big break, quickly become accustomed to frustrations that stunt opportunity and slow growth. Such aspects used to drain away J-Wizdom’s passion to rhyme. Not anymore — or at least not as much as before.
“I consider the business aspect for hip-hop backwards for upcoming artists,” he said. “I’m not sure if any other genres deal with this but most of the time you hear, ‘Oh, you’re not credible enough as an artist,’ ‘You don’t have a following or resume’ or they want you as the artist to pay so you can perform.
“DJs, security, door personnel, venues and promoters all get paid, but why not the artists? Why should I pay you to perform my talent? If you’re going to call it giving an artist the ‘opportunity,’ well as a business (person) you should invest your time to listen to their music and book them because you respect and believe in them, not because they will bring you fans, friends and family on their own dime.”
Despite his gripes with the imperfections of the current hip-hop business model, experience has told him to take it all in stride and hone in on doing what he can to help resurrect and rebuild a movement that has seen a bit of a resurgence as of late, with a host of showcases in both the performance and battle rap sectors. The resurgence has been J-Wizdom’s primary motivation and helps the bitter taste dissolve quickly.
“This dream as a recording artist is possible to accomplish but not promised to any of us,” he said. “I would love to be part of a momentum that we all can capitalize from respectively.
“We all take part in keeping the lifestyle and culture we love alive, so we all have to support each other in some way or another.”
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.