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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Jake Palumbo's Atypical Journeys
Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Last year, during an otherwise typical late night ride on the F train, emcee and SpaceLAB Recordings CEO Jake Palumbo saw a man he estimated to be in his late 20s to early 30s sleeping through numerous stops. Palumbo remembers, “at first I thought he was just passed out, and I went to shake him.” That was when things got a little atypical. “Rigor mortis had kicked in.”

Once he assessed what he had shaken was, in fact, a lifeless body, Palumbo says “people got off and alerted the police at every stop, and we rode probably ten to fifteen stops. I was almost home before somebody actually came and took the guy off.” It’s still fairly unbelievable to him. “It was maybe two or three in the morning, so (after a while) it was just me and this dead dude riding together.”

Had Palumbo not moved from his home state of Tennessee, to Brooklyn, NY, six years ago, that “dead dude” might have ended up a metaphor for his career. Palumbo describes pursuing underground hip-hop in Tennessee as “kinda like trying to grow corn in Afghanistan.” For Palumbo it certainly wasn’t from a lack of trying. “At first I very much wanted to put on where I was from,” he explains, “because you read all these ‘how to make it in the music business’ books and they’re like ‘you gotta lock down your home town first, you have to create a buzz where you live,’ and I was trying to do that, but eventually I came to a point where I was like if I don’t make a move now then I’m just gonna starve to death, or OD, or get discouraged and quit.”

Since Palumbo’s move to Brooklyn, his label, which he established in 2003, has expanded to a roster that includes himself, Ollie OX, Ciphurphace, C-Zar Van Gogh, and the group Gotham Heights. As a producer and studio engineer Palumbo has worked with the likes of Method Man, Styles P, and Fabolous. His most recent release as an artist, which embraces his love of crafting complex rhymes that are “fairly left field” over head nodding beats, is last year’s Jobber to the Stars. While Palumbo’s lyrics occasionally leave listeners wondering when he’s being serious and when he’s only kidding, the title of the album is an homage to where he feels his place is in the rap world.

“'Jobber to the stars' is kind of a backstage terminology in wrestling to describe someone who is talented at what they do, and the crowd likes them, but for whatever reason the office doesn’t consider them marketable, and they never get that push.” Palumbo continued the metaphor, saying “I’m looking at it from this perspective, if the Jay-Zs and the Nas’ are the Hulk Hogans and the Ric Flairs, and they go out every night and the crowd loves them, and they always win, and they make lots of money, and their faces are everywhere, if those guys represent the top tier talent, and then you have the Joe Blow internet rapper whose musical career starts and ends on Facebook, Twitter, and DatPiff, if you consider them the jobbers... I can’t consider myself to be a loser because I make a living totally off music, and I do have fans... basically it’s a self-deprecating way of saying I’m out there, and I’m doing it, but that’s why I say ‘I’ll never get past the mid-card if you’re in charge.’ I’m making a self-deprecating joke about what I see is my position in the rap game.”

Self-deprecating, and perhaps overly humble, because even though he’s six years removed from living in Tennessee, he still likes to embody the southern gentleman archetype. “Being raised with good southern manners,” he notes, “I think that has paid off for me, because people have to like you to want to do business with you, to some degree.”

Since Palumbo’s been in Brooklyn business has been booming for his label, his studio, and his solo career, and his plans for 2013 include new releases for all of his artists, including himself. Rather than the “dead dude” representing his career, the subway train has turned out to be a more accurate metaphor, continuously moving, and continually picking up people for the ride.


Interview originally ran on Arena.com.

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