Johnny J was a multi-platinum songwriter, music producer and rapper who worked with some of the biggest names in hip hop, most notably 2Pac. He was responsible for producing many of 2Pac’s hit songs, such as “How Do U Want It”, “Hit ‘Em Up” and “Until the End of Time”. He also co-owned and ran Klock Work Entertainment, a record label and production company. However, his life and career came to a sudden and shocking end on October 3, 2008, when he died from an apparent suicide in a Los Angeles jail. What led to Johnny J’s cause of death and what legacy did he leave behind?
Early Life and Career
Johnny J was born Johnny Lee Jackson on August 28, 1969, in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. He was adopted by John and Lidia Jackson, who raised him in South Central Los Angeles. He developed a passion for music at an early age, playing drums in his garage and taking music theory classes in high school. He also met and befriended fellow aspiring rapper Candell “Candyman” Manson, who would later become his first major client.
Johnny J got his big break in 1990, when he produced “Knockin’ Boots” for Candyman, a platinum-selling single that reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. He also produced Candyman’s debut album, Ain’t No Shame In My Game, which went gold. Johnny J toured the world with Candyman until 1992, when he met 2Pac through Big Syke, a member of 2Pac’s group Thug Life.
Working with 2Pac
Johnny J and 2Pac hit it off immediately, recording several songs together, such as “Pour Out a Little Liquor” for the Above the Rim soundtrack and “Death Around the Corner” for Me Against the World. However, their collaboration was interrupted when 2Pac was sent to prison in February 1995 on sexual assault charges. After 2Pac was released in October 1995, thanks to a bail posted by Suge Knight, the CEO of Death Row Records, Johnny J joined him at the label and became his lead producer.
Johnny J and 2Pac shared a similar work ethic, recording more than a hundred songs in less than a year. Eleven of them, including “How Do U Want It” and “All About U”, ended up on 2Pac’s double album, All Eyez on Me, which sold over 10 million copies and is widely regarded as one of the best hip hop albums of all time. Johnny J also produced some of 2Pac’s most controversial and influential songs, such as “Hit ‘Em Up”, a diss track aimed at 2Pac’s rivals, especially The Notorious B.I.G. and Bad Boy Records, and “Until the End of Time”, a posthumous hit that sampled Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings”.
After 2Pac’s Death
2Pac’s death in September 1996, following a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, devastated Johnny J and the hip hop community. Johnny J remained loyal to 2Pac’s legacy, overseeing and remixing his unreleased material for Interscope and Death Row. He also maintained a close relationship with 2Pac’s associates, such as The Outlawz and Thug Life, producing for them on various projects. He also worked with other artists, such as Bizzy Bone, Mack 10 and CJ Mac.
Johnny J married Capucine Cantrell in 1992, and they had two children together, Zhani and Niamyja, as well as another child from a previous relationship, Malaysia. The couple also founded Klock Work Entertainment in 1995, a label and production company that signed and developed new talent. Johnny J was known for his generosity and humility, often giving away beats and royalties to struggling artists and helping out his community.
Johnny J Cause of Death
Despite his success and reputation, Johnny J faced some personal and legal troubles in his later years. He was arrested several times for driving under the influence, and was sentenced to three years in prison in 2008. He was also involved in a lawsuit with 2Pac’s estate, claiming that he was owed millions of dollars in unpaid royalties for his work on 2Pac’s albums.
On October 3, 2008, Johnny J died from injuries sustained after he fell at least 14 feet at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, where he was incarcerated. The state’s coroner’s report ruled Johnny J’s death a suicide, listing the official cause of death as “multiple blunt head and chest trauma”. However, some of his family and friends disputed this verdict, suggesting that he may have been pushed or murdered by someone else. They also claimed that he was not suicidal, but rather hopeful and optimistic about his future.
Johnny J’s funeral was held on October 18, 2008, at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills. He was buried next to 2Pac, his friend and partner in music. He was 39 years old.
Johnny J’s Legacy
Johnny J’s cause of death may have been tragic and mysterious, but his legacy lives on through his music and his influence. He is widely regarded as one of the best and most prolific producers in hip hop history, having contributed to over 100 million records sold worldwide. He is also credited with shaping 2Pac’s sound and style, and helping him achieve his legendary status. He has been honored and sampled by many artists, such as Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Drake and J. Cole.
Johnny J was more than just a producer, though. He was also a rapper, a songwriter, a businessman, a philanthropist, a husband, a father and a friend. He was a man who loved music and life, and who gave his all to his craft and his community. He was a man who left a mark on the world, and who will never be forgotten.