Rap producers have long been behind-the-scenes. And that’s generally where they feel most comfortable—behind the soundproofed walls of their studios, unbothered and free to do what they do best: make music. Still, the names of the illest beatmakers in the game are sometimes hard to avoid.
A production tag on a hip-hop instrumental is akin to a painter’s signature on a work of art. Roc Nation’s Jahlil Beats created his chef-d’oeuvre in 2014 with Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot N****,” on which JB’s three-year-old niece marks the first vocal appearance on the song with the all-too-familiar “Jahlil Beats, holla at me” tag. Before the beat drops, before Shmurda lets us know he’s been selling crack since he was a pre-teen, and before a listener hits the mandatory Shmoney dance, Jahlil Beats’ name is on the record.
The 27-year-old Chester, Pennsylvania native got his start in 2008 after dropping out of college and linking with then-up-and-coming emcee Meek Mill. The two developed special chemistry in the studio, which led to the creation of hits such as 2011’s “Ima Boss” with Rick Ross and 2012’s “Burn” featuring Big Sean.
Since then, Jahlil and Meek’s partnership has only grown stronger. They’ve supplied the streets with narratives such as “Tony Story” (later turned into a book) and anthems such as “Amen” and “Monster.”
Chester is a working class town about 10 minutes outside of Philadelphia. But JB has a different description of the place that shaped him. “It’s a basketball town,” he says. “We ain’t really had nothing to do. You made music or you played basketball.”
NBA players Tyreke Evans, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Jameer Nelson all grew up in Chester. Though Jahlil pulls for his fellow PA guys, he explains his own game most closely resembles that of Reggie Miller. “I’m a shooter, I’m skinny,” he says. “I like to just spot up in the corner and shoot.”
When he’s not on the road performing and making beats in other cities, JB says he puts in work almost every day at his private home studio located atop an arcade on Delaware Ave in Philly. Recently, Jahlil has been cooking up material for The Game’s album Documentary 2, Meek’s mixtape Dreamchasers 4 (he also produced his Drake diss, “Wanna Know”) and Vic Mensa’s album Traffic. He’s also busy crafting his own album (he’s already released 16 mixtapes), a compilation joint set to feature a plethora of big names. On top of that, Jahlil says he’s prepping for a NYC concert with Skrillex on Halloween. Though he’s in the lab constantly, Jahlil still finds time for basketball, which he loves nearly as much as music. The die-hard Sixers fan says he tries to play at least once a month.
And like many (if not all) Sixers fans who grew up during the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Jahlil’s favorite player of all-time is Allen Iverson. JB’s got nothing but love for The Answer, which is why the producer/songwriter wholeheartedly agreed to partner with Reebok for the release of the blue/white Question Low, which you can cop exclusively at Finish Line.
In a phone interview, JB recalls his top AI moments: rookie year crossing Jordan, battling Vince Carter in the ’01 Eastern Conference Semis, and stepping over Tyronn Lue in the ’01 Finals. Jahlil describes in detail Game 2 of the Sixers-Pacers series during that same ’01 Playoff, in which Iverson and the aforementioned Miller went off for 45 and 41 points, respectively. In that game and in the series, the Answer got the best of Indiana.
However, AI did not get the best of his opponent one February night at a Dave and Buster’s. Thanks to a mutual connect, Jahlil got to face off with his childhood idol at the restaurant arcade’s pop-a-shot basketball game.
“I met him there and we were just kickin’ it,” JB says. “AI was like, ‘Wassup man, we’re going to the courts. Let’s shoot some hoops. I’ll torch all of y’all.’ I’m like, ‘Whatever, let’s get it!’”
Jahlil beat Iverson three games to one, at least according to his side of the story. And, of course, AI wanted to run it back.
“He was asking for a rematch,” Jahlil says. “I’m never, ever giving him a rematch ever again. And everybody there had their cameras out. AI’s my favorite player. He’s the greatest player in my eyes!”
Reebok Classic is re-releasing the Question Low in a three-color pack. The Reebok Classic Question Low black/white is available exclusively at Finish Line for $115, along with red/white and blue/white colorways.