Bringing "flame to the booth" with JB Smok3zz

FLINT, Michigan -- Inside the dimly light Palace Studios, host to a door with the signatures of Flint creatives big and small, the energy is smooth and inviting. As one of the few women rap/Hip Hop artists in the city, JB Smok3zz has burst onto the scene, in her words, “swinging” and bringing “flame to the booth.” With hard-hitting, explicit, and in-your-face lyrics, Smok3zz is taking no prisoners—male or female—and shining a light on what it means to be a woman in Hip Hop.

"Whatever door is open, we open doors for each other. It’s deeper than me."But that’s one part of the story. When Smok3zz isn’t in the studio, she spends her time with her children and her husband, artist and producer KrackedOutBeatz, dying her hair her favorite color, green, and working on her clothing line SMOK3ZZW3AR LLC. All these things, including her partnership with Palace Studios and #TapIn head honcho, DeMario Booth, bring together the incredible family atmosphere.

On the heels of her eight-track EP, Who Want Smok3, Flintside caught up with the quadruple threat to talk music, business, and motherhood.

Flintside: You are one of a handful of women in Hip Hop in Flint. It reminds me of my conversation with Jada Ali. What has been your experience navigating through all this?

Smok3zz: “Throughout my process, I got so much slack. [People] will criticize everything that you can or can’t do at the same time. They said I can’t go up against the guys. They said I can’t talk about certain things. So I talked about all of it. It was what motivated me. I didn’t want to be stuck in a girly box where all I could talk about is sexual things, love songs, and heartbreak. I live in Flint. We see guns every day, and we’re usually out there with the guys. My granddad taught me to shoot rifles, so you can’t tell me that I can’t talk about the things I see every day—I’m a storyteller.”

Flintside: Everything from your lyrics, outfits, beats, and videos are hardcore. What made you go in this direction?

Smok3zz: “I wanted to be somebody completely different. I wanted to be able to give a different voice. Everything probably won’t be so in your face, but to start, it was like, here I am, and I want to have fun. I want to make something great. When I grew up, the videos were crazy. I was super cold in the Zaza video. [We were] scouting locations, looking for props, and old ladies looking at me crazy going into the tractor store asking, “do you have a steel drum? Can I get one? I want to burn it.” My kids listen to [Flint music] too and helped me build the body for the Headshots video. It’s creative, and it’s a process.”
"I love her journey, and I’ve been with her since the beginning. We met through music and have been doing music since we’ve been together. I don’t want to stand in her way."Flintside: There’s a lot of eyes on Flint—specifically on the music. What are your thoughts on what’s taking place? 

Smok3zz: “We have to make people see us. That's why I love all the events that they're putting on around the city. We have to start preparing ourselves for what we want. We got to stop being so Hollywood to the point where it's like, I can't do a song with you unless you pay me X amount of time. If we sit here and promote well enough, we will cross fan bases if we're doing our job as artists. If we're great as a whole, we can be undeniable. That's what I want for our music industry here in the city.”

Flintside: How is it raising children, being an entrepreneur, and pursuing music? 

Smok3zz: “Being a mom is the hardest, most wonderful job I’ve ever had. I love them to the moon and back. I couldn’t tell you what I would be doing if I didn’t have my kids. I wasn’t as motivated as when I realized I had little people watching everything I was doing. The pandemic showed me something different. I was a frontline worker, lost my job, then boom back to work at the drop of a dime. I was gone seven days a week when I went back to work, and then I lost my job [again]. It taught me everything. I was like, I’m going to put myself into what I love to do. I’m trying to live my truth so that when they get older, they can too.”

Flintside: You have a husband who works side by side with you. What’s that journey been like working with him—especially on your latest release, Who Want Smok3?

Smok3zz: “I had no idea I wanted to do this. My husband took on the role of being my producer. As a business and an entrepreneur, you have to understand where you need to grow. Searching for a reliable producer that you’re going to click with is hard. So, he took on that role for me. I decided with this project this is what Smok3zz is gonna do. I wasn’t letting anybody deter me from those eight songs. It was everything—how I felt. You’re a woman in a studio full of men. What are you gonna say? I wanted to start swinging. I might switch up a few things, but it’s all going to be me, just maybe not so angry. I learned that I was better than I thought I was in a lot of ways.”

Flintside: Watching your wife navigate the industry and listening to what people told her, how does that make you feel? 

KrackedOutBeatz: “I love her journey, and I’ve been with her since the beginning. We met through music and have been doing music since we’ve been together. I don’t want to stand in her way. I don’t want to be those types of guys that say you can’t do this or need to sound like that. We have our ups and downs, but we keep our personal lives separate from the music. Once she figured out what she wanted to do, I got back to making beats. At first, it was a rough spot, but I took my time, and it started from there.”
"I couldn’t tell you what I would be doing if I didn’t have my kids. I wasn’t as motivated as when I realized I had little people watching everything I was doing."Flintside: I have to say, the atmosphere inside Palace Studios is wonderful. I feel the family atmosphere and the love present. How important is family to you?

Smok3zz: “I’ve never had a family that I didn’t make for myself. So if I’m having a rough day, if I want to quit, I call [KrackedOutBeatz or DeMario], and it’s the same for them. If I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t want to do this. It’s such a stressor on the brain to wake up every day and be like, you’re great. It’s having to reassure yourself that you are because some days you’re gonna look at social media and feel like you’re not doing enough or people don’t notice enough. You think you are not making a dent, but social media can’t calculate your reach. With my family, I want us to do what we want to do. I don’t want it to be one over the other. Whatever door is open, we open doors for each other. It’s deeper than me.”

You can find out more about JB Smok3zz and follow her social media endeavors on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Who Want Smok3 is streaming on all platforms. See Smok3zz performing live July 17 at the Against All Odds Cookout and Concrete Jungle. 

Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.