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Rapper J-Mill values content over shock value

March 22, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

FREDERICK, Md. - A taste of Frederick hip-hop might be a video game cartridge away.

Frederick-based rapper Jamaal "J-Mill" Wells' song "Like Dat" is one of the tracks featured on Rockstar Games' "Midnight Club: Los Angeles." Rockstar is the same developer behind the popular "Grand Theft Auto" series.

Wells is no Kanye West, but he seems to know the value of self-promotion. Being on this video game puts the 33-year-old emcee on the same roster as G-Unit, Nas, Snoop Dogg and Murs - big-time rappers who've already made names for themselves.

Ever since the game came out last year, Wells has been trying to capitalize on the buzz. Wells said his page views on Myspace jumped from 40,000 a month to 300,000. He's now hovering closer to 450,000 views a month.

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His single "Run Myself," off his debut EP "Certified Hustle," got a nod on Ozone Magazine's Web site. The single featured Roccett, who's also getting attention, though it's mostly due to his affiliation with well-known rapper Young Jeezy.

Wells sells "Certified Hustle" at his Web site, http://j-mill.com. He's also got his own label, though so far he's the only artist signed on it.

"I know a lot of producers; they get paid first," Wells said. "The artist is actually the last person to get paid. I'm trying to make it so the artist gets paid first."

Wells considers himself as a gangster rapper. As a youngster, he grew up on a healthy diet of Tupac Shakur and Notorious BIG. Right now, he's a fan of 50 Cent and Lil Wayne - whom Wells said is the best rapper out right now. NWA, he said, were the torchbearers for gangster rap.

Because its content can get explicit, gangster rap hasn't always fared so well in the court of public opinion. Still, Wells said he thinks some of the negative perception is undeserved.

"A lot of times people say you have kids looking up to you," he said. "I wouldn't want nobody to say they killed somebody because they listened to a J-Mill album. Rappers get a bad rap, but it's on the parents to educate their kids."

But at the end of the day, he said he values content over shock value.

"I don't just rap about gangster stuff," Wells said. "It's hard to put it into one category. I might rap about teen pregnancy, I might rap about alcoholism and that type of thing. When I write a song, I try to make it so that somebody can relate to it. Not just 'Shoot you up, bang, bang, kill, kill.' It has to have some type of meaning. I really want to connect with the listener."

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