Growing Up Hip-Hop in Queens, NY: Inspecta Jones [Artist Interview]

Inspecta Jones, a talented Hip-Hop artist out of Queens, NY, submitted his music to Traklife and was noticed by our team during a music review session. “Yo, this dude can spit” and “you can tell this guy grew up around Hip-Hop” were a few statements that popped up during the review session. So we connected with the artist in Los Angeles, filmed a live session, and talked about his story. Check out the conversation below:

Briefly tell the audience who you are and where you’re from

Inspecta Jones: My name is Inspecta Jones and I represent Queens, NY. I spent a few years of my teenage years in Nassau County but Queens is undoubtedly where my roots are. 

How would you describe your musical style?

I’m always working on my sound and it’s constantly evolving. I think, so far, what I’ve released is kind of pop-rap but I want to eventually get to the neo-boombap space in a few years.

At the moment, I’m currently working on a Lo-fi tape with redhand, a dope Boston-based producer.

Has your hometown of Queens influenced your music at all? If so, how?

Growing up in Queens was definitely a huge influence – you can hear the NY in me when I rap. Growing up in Queens, I was exposed to Hip-Hop / R&B at an early age because that’s what all the older kids were listening to in the handball courts.

That said, my parents are your typical church-going Korean-immigrants, so there is no way I would have been able to find this type of music through them. Even when I moved to Nassau County, I was only 2 towns outside of the borough of Queens and the amount of people I knew that listened to Hip-Hop / R&B decreased from about 95% of my peers to only 10%. It was nuts.

How did the name Inspecta Jones come about?

When I was 18 years old, I wanted to have a rap moniker with my graffiti tag in it. My tag was ‘SPEC’ and I thought of ‘Inspecta’ immediately because I was in the process of memorizing Inspectah Deck’s verse from the song “Triumph” at that time.

The ‘Jones’ came after because…well… everyone is tryna “keep up with the Joneses”. ?

You’ve told us about JENTCO and expressed how important it is to your movement.  Let the people know what it is and why they should be looking out for it.

I appreciate you asking this. JENTCO is a platform that I created to showcase Asian-American talent through music, video production, and events.

I don’t believe in the conventional label mentality of having ownership in people. I’d rather support the artist by investing into their art. So rather than contracting artists to have some sort of ownership stake in whatever they create during a specified time period, I’d rather invest into a specific piece of art that they already have a plan for but need help executing. JENTCO helps artists at any step of the process – whether it be recording, mixing, mastering, video production, event planning, or developing roll-out strategies ; we will connect you to the right people to put together a cohesive roll-out plan.

For the sake of generic artist questions, who are your musical influences?  

Haha – this is surprisingly my favorite question thus far.

My foundational influences are all hardcore NY rappers like Lloyd Banks, Chinx Drugz, Styles P, Dave East, and Juelz Santana but as of recent, I’ve been getting extremely inspired by Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y, & an upcoming Houston-based rapper Jay Millz.

Any dream collabs?

Inspecta Jones, Junoflo, & Htet all on the same record. Let’s make it happen.

Tell us a little about your musical journey.  How’d you get into music?

I’ve been rapping since 2008 but didn’t take it seriously till 2020 during the pandemic. I was pretty set on furthering myself in corporate America and even got a masters degree from NYU, but after I graduated, music and entertainment kept coming to the forefront of my mind and I was unable to stop thinking about it so here I am. I’m just making absolutely absurd decisions because I keep prioritizing music.

Most musicians and artists know what I’m talking about. It’s like a disease – once you care about it, you can’t not care about it. As bleak as it sounds, you become a slave to your art. Its dark but that’s what makes it beautiful.

Has being Korean American had any effect on your journey to be an artist in Hip-Hop in New York.  Made it easy? Difficult? Did you struggle with any stereotypes of any sort?

Being Korean American has only positively affected my journey. The Asian American creative community in NYC is extremely strong, present, and supportive.

The whole Asian stereotype thing is not something I’ve encountered yet in person but I’m from NY which is extremely diverse so people are generally used to seeing an Asian like me.

Ive actually noticed the negative stereotypes are coming from people online. Its crazy lol. I recently did some video for Buzzfeed’s new Asian Youtube channel “A*POP” and a bunch of comments were accusing me of putting on act because of the way I speak and the lingo that I use. They for some reason didn’t think I spoke like how an Asian should.

NYC culture is real and I sometimes forget that people who grew up in a rural or suburban bubble are not familiar with someone that speaks or acts the way I do. I can easily say that I speak similarly to a vast majority of 1st generation Asian-Americans that grew up in New York.

As fans of you’re music, we’d love to know what’s next?

I’m working on releasing a new tape in 2023 with my guy redhand. I’ve wrote half the project already and the single off the tape “Happy” is out right now with a music video. I’m also looking to do more shows in 2023 so any R&B singer or hip-hop artist stopping by NYC for their tour, hit me up baby!

Not only is Inspecta Jones a true artist and performer, but he carries a charisma that’ll definitely take him places. With a big vision and goal in mind, we should be seeing and hearing more from Inspecta Jones real soon! Keep it locked here on Traklife to see what’s next with the artist but for now, check out his Live Session of his 2 original tracks, “Come Over” and “BB2 Intro.”

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