In the world of music production, few names resonate as deeply as Jerome Harmon, known to many in his professional career as J-ROC THA GHOST. He’s infamous as a legendary music producer with 8 Grammy awards, named as Billboard Magazine’s Top R&B Song Producer, and has collaborated with the likes of Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Timbaland, L.A. Reid, and so many more. J-ROC has left an indelible mark on the industry, having worked with some of the biggest names in the business while making it his mission to celebrate and promote up-and-coming artists who nobody has heard of yet… but soon will. His innovative soundscapes, incredible talent, and dedication to the art of music production have solidified his place as a true maestro in the realm of popular music of all genres (in his own words, a true American boy). His remarkable journey has made him a household name among musicians and music enthusiasts alike.
I am lucky enough to know him as an incredibly humble and kind person, a friend, an excellent tipper who is gracious to wait staff, a generous and hilarious guy who happened to join the Cannabis Cactus team during the BellaFlora Celebrity Golf Tournament for a weekend in August. I had no idea that I was sharing my tacos with the legendary producer J-ROC at the time, because he does not brag about his accomplishments and prefers to fly under the radar. J-ROC joined us for a zoom “happy hour” from our respective homes for this interview, and we cheers-ed my wine to his Stella, while editor-in-chief Michael Cassini packed his bong at the Cannabis Cactus office in Phoenix. J-ROC hails from outside of Fort Worth, Texas, and still resides there after stints in New Mexico for college and Los Angeles for a good bit of his professional career. He proudly states that he grew up a “hood country boy” with deep roots in the church, a passion for country music (his dad was a truck driver, and everybody knows classic country is key for road trips), and an inclination for music since he was only 3 years old.
J-ROC’s journey into the world of music began at an early age, driven by a deep passion for rhythm and melody. There wasn’t an instrument he couldn’t play (piano, guitar, drums, strings), but he was also athletic and played basketball well into college until a knee injury crushed his dreams of being the next Michael Jordan. He was always a competitive person from the time he was small, and music was another thing he gave full dedication to. When asked about his transition from baller to musician, he said “I have no regrets, and everything I’ve been through is a learning experience in a much bigger picture. You don’t understand it when you’re young, but as you get older, these things just come to you, and you realize you’re in a position for opportunities to become anything in a professional field. Everything can always be a learning experience, and I’ve always given 1000% to anything I do”. Raised in an environment that was a melting pot of musical influences and a child prodigy of the church band since he could basically walk, Jerome was exposed to a wide array of genres, from jazz and R&B to hip-hop and funk. This early exposure laid the foundation for his diverse and innovative approach to music production, which he still continues to this day. Although he is a natural musician, he credits his mentors such as Paul Cougill from the time he was young, for pushing him in the right direction when it came to his musical career and eventually producing.
J-ROC's breakthrough in the music industry came through hard work and his usual dedication of 1000% to every single thing he does. He began his career as a session musician, playing keyboards and drums for local artists and church bands. This hands-on experience allowed him to hone his skills and develop an intimate understanding of music composition. As he progressed, J-ROC's prodigious talent and commitment to perfection began to catch the attention of established artists and producers, and he began playing and then touring with the infamous Kirk Franklin & Family (and yes, he was an integral part of the Family). His pivotal moment came when he joined forces with the renowned Timbaland’s “Mosley Music Group. Together, they crafted hits for artists like Chris Brown, Justin Timberlake, and Mary J. Blige. The trio's seamless collaboration and shared vision were the driving force behind a string of chart-topping hits… what he humbly calls “a few good tunes”. He was influenced heavily by his work with Tyler Perry over the years, saying “to see his dedication to his craft, he really motivated me. He never wavered from his dreams, and I really appreciated that”.
J-ROC's ability to fuse different musical styles and create unique sounds led to collaborations with some of the biggest names in the industry. His journey as a producer includes working with more iconic artists such as Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, and Kanye West. His distinctive touch on albums like Beyoncé's "4" and Jay-Z and Kanye West's "Watch the Throne" played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of contemporary pop and hip-hop music. My music playlist from the past few decades would likely look a lot different without his influence.
One of the defining characteristics of J-ROC's work is his relentless pursuit of innovation. He seamlessly blends elements from various genres, creating signature sounds that are both original and timeless. His creative process often involves experimenting with a wide range of instruments, effects, and techniques, resulting in music that pushes boundaries and captivates audiences. His current projects include working with little-known artists who he often seeks out, but sometimes come to him… diamonds in the rough who have the talent, the personality, but not the know-how to help them rise to notoriety. “I’m trying to find artists I connect with instead of someone who is already popular. The industry is tired of gimmicky artists, and people are looking for more substance. Due to the internet, now that we have access to finding artists from all over the world, we’re heavily influenced by different genres and sounds. Everyone is tired of the copycat industry. I’m looking for artists who are super talented but don’t have the right team around them yet to help them succeed.”
J-ROC's influence in the music industry is immeasurable. Beyond his impressive discography, he has played a significant role in mentoring and nurturing emerging talents, ensuring the perpetuation of excellence in music production. His visionary approach to music has opened doors for the next generation of producers, encouraging them to take risks, think outside the box, and embrace their unique artistic expressions. He is currently working with up-and-coming artists It’s Valley Girl (EDM/pop/hip-hop), Arlon Johnson (R&B), Raja Syn (pop/rap), and Thad and Cade (country) with many different projects coming out within the next year.
When asked about how cannabis has inspired his work, he said that he was introduced to weed in November 2017 by a relative who was visiting from Oregon. He was focused on being a professional in his field and previously worried about the stigma surrounding cannabis, because he was not only a respected musician, but a very dedicated athlete who spent hours in the gym each day. He then realized that cannabis is not only a source of inspiration, but a huge stress reliever, and in the right form and dosage can help encourage creativity instead of inhibit it. Now, just don’t ask him to take an edible… he stays far away from those after an experience where he took way too high of a dosage *right* before heading onto Jimmy Kimmel to headline. That story had us crying laughing, because doesn’t everyone have one of those horrible stories about taking too many edibles? I certainly do.
Jerome Harmon, known to the world as J-ROC, is more than just a music producer. He is a visionary artist whose innovative approach to music production has redefined the industry. Through years of dedication, collaboration with superstars, and an unwavering commitment to musical excellence, J-ROC has left an enduring mark on the world of music. His continued legacy serves as an inspiration to aspiring producers, musicians and music lovers, reminding us that the power of creativity, passion, and innovation can change the course of an industry and shape the soundscape of generations to come… and he isn’t anywhere close to finished yet. He’s also just a really fantastic guy, a father who loves Mexican food (any kind), mountains over beaches, and might run a little late at times… but he’s so nice, that you can’t judge him for it, even a little bit. Find out more about our beloved Jerome Harmon/J-ROC THA GHOST at JeromeHarmon.com, and follow him on Instagram at @J-ROCthaghost.
Would you rather/other questions:
Q: What is the professional achievement you’re most proud of?
A: I haven’t gotten there yet. Achievements and birthdays put limitations on you, and I don’t live with limitations.
Q: Would you rather have universal respect or unlimited power?
A: Unlimited power (he laughs)… it sounds cooler. If you have power, you already have respect.
Q: Would you rather be 30 minutes late or 30 minutes earlier to everything?
A: Oh god, 30 minutes late. I hate waiting around for things.
Q: What is your favorite way to consume cannabis?
A: My favorite way to consume is bong rips… it helps with inspiration especially when I need to be centered and get things done. It’s a stress reliever and a good indica or hybrid helps me focus as well as keep motivated.