[INTERVIEW/PHOTOS] Jon James of Treated Crew talks Stussy Collab, #TreatedTribe & More

TreatedTribe

For years, the “Treated Crew” has been serving Chicago as tastemakers and cultural curators in the underground hip-hop community. Founded in the early 2000′s by Nigel “Hollywood” Holt, Emmanual “Mano” Nickerson, and Mic Terror, the guys banded together to collect and present the art, fashion, music and culture that they felt best represented their hometown. They were met with widespread success and recognition that reached far beyond the bounds of the city, and have established a name for the crew internationally, with a following in counties as foreign as Japan.

Treated Crew is much more than clothes and rap—its members are linked to various professional fields from barbers and tattoo artists to directors, engineers, and of course, fashion designers. The staple token of a Treated Crew member is the highly exclusive and coveted “Treated Crown”, which has been donned by Jay-Z and Kanye West (whom Mano DJs for). Treated Crew has done a commendable job of staying relevant and creating a demand, while maintaining a high level of exclusivity and mystery to the crew and the brand.

So, naturally, whenever Treated Crew has something going on, you can be sure that there are thousands of people thirsty to drink it up, and that’s exactly the response they got with the release of their latest project—the highly anticipated 2014 Treated x Stüssy collaboration.

Stüssy has risen to be a top international, exclusive street wear brand so the collaboration between the two teams and popular Chicago boutique Saint Alfred made perfect sense. The “Treated Tribe” clothing collection was designed by Treated Crew members and features tribal-themed black-and-white crewnecks, graphic tees, long-sleeve tees and beanies. Pusha T was snagged to model the collection for the official lookbook which was released on May 29th 2014 (photos via Aushim Nair).

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The “Treated Tribe” collection was released in Chicago at Saint Alfred and globally at Stüssy Chapter stores May 31st, and at Stussy.com on June 2nd. Stüssy Japan also hosted an event with Treated Crew on May 31st in Tokyo. If you weren’t in the building for at the time of the release you probably missed out because the collection sold out within 24 hours! We have no doubt that there will be more fashion to come from Treated Crew so if you didn’t snag any gear this time around, make sure you ready because it’s guaranteed to sell FAST.

Not only did Treated Crew release a “Treated Tribe” clothing collection as a part of their Stüssy collaboration, the group also released a compilation album of the same name on the same day. The 17-track project features new and established artists including Mic Terror, Mano, Hollywood Holt, Gzus Piece, Jon James, Saint Millie, He Say She Say, Sulaiman, Max Wonders, A.K., Nick Junior, HighLife, Lee Majorz & PST Saint. The album includes production from Mano, Mike Dean/MWA, Cardo & OGWebbie, and has a guest feature from GBE’s Fredo Santana.

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We had a chance to listen to the album in full and we must say we were really impressed with the overall quality of the project. The production instantly drew us in with catchy “Chicago-drill” style beats and the content was relatable in that you could feel the hunger and drive in their words and delivery. These guys sound like they had a point to prove–which was there was nothing to prove at all. They’ve been putting in the work and they show no signs of letting up anytime soon. Some of our favorite tracks are “Already Know”, “1000”, “Cornasto” and “How It Is” by Jon James, which has a special place in our hearts because it was dedicated to our late friend, De’Mott.

We met Jon James years ago through De’Mott and other mutual friends and have been stuck with him ever since [Just kidding Jon Jon ;-P]! Anyone who knows Jon knows he’s a major goofball, so we were not surprised to hear him on the snippets on the album cracking his usual hilarious jokes. We were very excited for him and proud that he was able to be apart of something so major, so we had to chop it up with him and get his perspective on the “Treated Tribe” Stussy collab, as well as his career and inspirations.

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Coco & Butter: When did you realize you wanted to rap?

Jon James: It’s funny. I’ve heard stories of me as a child saying “I want to be a rockstar and Pepsi drinker” at 3-4 years of age–around the time [Michael Jackson] had the hair burn accident on the Pepsi commercial [laughs]. I actually started perusing a music career at 16 [and began] actually recording and learning my voice.

C&B: How did you meet and become a member of Treated Crew?

Jon: Well, all my Milwaukee homies were B-Boys at the time and we used to feud with Chicago B-Boys. Mano and Hollywood were Chicago B-Boys and hosted and DJ’d parties like me and my friends did. I was hosting a lot of major hip-hop parties on the eastside of Milwaukee and they saw my work. I met both of them and rapped at a B-Boy battle and they started rocking with me since. “Treated” was just a word at that point. Phedz was our group at the time.

C&B: How did Treated Crew begin?

Jon: Treated began with Mano, Hollywood and Mic Terror. They came to me and was like ‘Be part of this’, and I was automatically down. It was just a crew of brothers who held each other down and we roasted lames at every chance we got. At the time, we had a hazing process to be down: getting “treated” or roasted to see if you was hater proof. Some made it, others couldnt hang. Treated now is a cult/collective of creative minds but we still roast MFs from time to time [laughs].

C&B: Who are currently members of Treated Crew?

Jon: So many now! We are a cult/collective of rappers, singers, music producers, DJs, artists and so on. We are still growing and our following is unbelievable. We own the world. Treated is everywhere. Sounds pompous but…Google us.

C&B: How did the merge of Treated x Stussy happen?

Jon: Treated x Stussy x Saint Alfred is the merger. Like minds do fly shit. Mano had the connections…Connected them and the rest was history. Album and product—boom! Shoutout to Mano, thats the connect.

C&B: Where can people find Treated clothing?

Jon: May 31, 2014 we dropped at the Stussy store in Japan and at St. Alfred in Chicago. We sold out the first day in Chicago so now the Treated x Stussy collab is only available at stussy.com and Stussy stores worldwide while supplies last.

C&B: What is your favorite Treated x Stussy piece?

Jon: It has to be our 3m reflective bandana tee (seen on Pusha T) that comes in black and white for $90 via stussy.com.

C&B: Describe the upcoming album and your contributions to it.

Jon: [Along with the Stussy clothing line collaboration, the “Treated Tribe” compilation album was also released on the same day]. Number 7 on the Treated Tribe album is “How It Is”, produced by Mano. De’Mott used to hear me on the phone with celebs talking about work and etc., and truly was excited about me being a part of something relevant worldwide. After he passed, I went through a very tough time with my family and friends. To medicate the situations I was going through, I started working on my upcoming solo album “Juanito”. I always wanted to immortalize [De’Mott] and I thought this major release would be a great way to add on to what others like High Rollers Club did. It’s a trap anthem–a “get up and get to it” song. I made it to let people know you have to live for the people who aren’t around anymore and for the people that are too afraid to live, and that’s just “how it is”.

Number 17 on the Treated Tribe album is “Cornasto” and it features myself, Herron da Don, and Fredo Santana [of Chief Keef’s camp]. Mott would definitely love this song! RIP.

C&B: What producers did you work with?

Jon: For the album I worked with Mano and OG Webbie, one of our new cult brothers working with that heat! But solo, I’ve worked with a few Milwaukee producers and some people in and out of country who believed in my talent.

C&B: What inspired you to work with these people on this album?

Jon: It really wasn’t by choice–whoever had heat I was ready to work with. This game is about who you know, not what you know. This album was a group effort and I appreciate all my brothers that helped, 20/3.

C&B: Will there be video releases?

Jon: Yes! Stay tuned! Itstreatedcrew.com

C&B: What’s your favorite track on the album?

Jon: I love the whole album but my favorite song is by “He Say She Say”, Mano and sister Drea Smith [of Pyyramids], who is also Treated Crew. Listen to track 10 “Can’t Wait” and thank me later.

C&B: What is your favorite track to perform?

Jon: I live to perform. I love to perform any song people tell me they’re feeling most of all. It’s not about me at the end of the day it’s about the people.

C&B: What type of results are you looking to get from this piece of work you’re putting out?

Jon: To become more relevant until the world is mine and what everyone wants to do–leave behind a legacy.

C&B: How would you describe the current state of the game right now?

Jon: Very druggy and creative. Love it.

C&B: What type of music are you into? Favorite artist?

Jon: I love any music that motivates me to do better in life–may it be trap or some old shit we can learn some game from.

C&B: How do you separate yourself from other artists?

Jon: I keep reinventing myself and improving my craft daily. I know that the only thing constant in life is change so to be relevant I must [change]. It takes a lot self-awareness, patience and humbling until its time to stunt and most artists don’t have that understanding yet.

C&B: How would you describe your own personal style?

Jon: One of a kind. Flashy yet grunge. Designer yet thrifty.

C&B: Who/what influenced your creative style?

Life’s struggles–although that’s not a person–my niggas that trap to live, the lifestyle that it brings–the glory and downfall of the game. The people who live raw like me and share the lifestyle with the listener. The shit I see around me daily, those things influence my music.

C&B: Describe a highlight of your career; downfall?

Going on a United States tour with Hollywood and Mano. The downside was I ain’t make no money [laughs]. Great experience though.

C&B: What are some other accomplishments you’ve had as an artist?

Jon: Hmm…*Kay-Kay voice* [inside joke ;)]. Other than being featured on multiple major websites and blogs like yours, it had to be when I was on MTV spotlighting Chicago music with me being from Milwaukee. That was so major to me.

C&B: What keeps you motivated?

Jon: Failure–it’s the best motivation to do better!

C&B: What is something people don’t know about you?

Jon: I’m a kid at heart.

C&B: Who would you like to work with in the future?

Jon: So many people hot right now local and not. I’d like to work with people I actually have a relationship with because nothings worse than working with a fraud or paying a fraud for a verse. I’ve never paid for a verse. Everyone I make songs with I know on a personal level.

C&B: What advice would you give to upcoming artists?

Jon: Invest in yourself, set goals, never give up on your dreams, stay true to yourself and know when to be humble and when to not.

C&B: What’s next for you?

Jon: My upcoming album “Juanito”!

C&B: Where can people find your music?

Jon: itstreatedcrew.com for all things Treated.

C&B: Any shoutouts?

Jon: To god! He makes it all possible. My family, C&B included, my 20/3 cult, my plug, the people who stayed down and people who left me. The brand is international now. How you luv dat!? 20/3

Treated Tribe is currently available on iTunes.

Treated Crew -@TreatedCrew

http://www.itstreatedcrew.com

Stussy -@Stussy

http://www.stussy.com

Saint Alfred – @SaintAlfred

1531 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL 60622

http://www.saintalfred.com

 

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