When talking to Dennis Pitts, aka Jawz, one thing becomes immediately evident. He is passionate about his music. But he’s not a typical artist. A biracial performer, who grew up on the north side of Chicago, Jawz has spent the last few years honing a unique blend of rock ‘n’ roll and hip hop that elevates both genres to a whole new level.
In a recent exclusive interview Jawz admitted that his all-time favorite band — Megadeath, heavily influenced him. Of his hard rock roots he remarked, “I know every note, every lyric, everything about that band… I admire their patriotism more than anything. Megadeath, Metallica and Slayer are among my top three favorite bands.”
But he had diverse musical taste from an early age, as he explained, “I was also interested in hip hop. I grew up on hip hop. My older sister, she listened to a lot of Grand Master Flash, Melly Mel… some of the earliest rappers. My generation of rappers were more like Snoop Doggy Dogg’s generation, the tail end of NWA. Big L would be my favorite.”
Still, when it came time to make music of his own, Jawz gravitated toward his rock roots. He started as a guitarist and a lead vocalist of his own metal band, MOM (aka Menace Over Mankind) in the ‘90s. Yet he also gravitated toward hip hop and between 1999 and 2001 performed under the name Rawdad.
Later that year, he decided it was time to take on a new persona. While at a bar one night, he recounted, “I was watching ‘Jaws Part II' and I thought, ‘I’ll take the s off and put a z on the end.’
Because I grew up on rock ‘n’ roll and hip hop, I wanted something that fit my background more, my upbringing. Jawz just had a certain twist to it. It had a certain ring to it. It had a strongness to it and I just took to it.”
With the new name came a new creative identity. Jawz recalled, “When I moved to New York I had these ideas that were going through my head for some new kind of character because I’m a biracial person.”
He reflected on that inner dichotomy while moving in a new direction in his career. “I’m half white and I’m half black. You don’t really fit in when you’re like that with black people or white people too much. But you understand both of them. It’s hard to explain sometimes.
I wanted to do something that would fit who I am.”
As a result, Jawz has a developed a style rarely found in modern music. He conceded, “I’m not just your average, every-day rapper. At the time that I started rapping, rap was predominantly still a black music. It’s similar today but I’m saying it was really a black music back then.”
Although he wasn’t sure his new brand of music would be accepted, he pushed on. “I had doubts as to whether I could be all the way gangster or show other sides of my persona because a lot of the times my friends didn’t understand why I listened to heavy metal. It was something I couldn’t explain so I needed a character that would represent both aspects of me.”
Even though his first album, “Audio Dope,” was predominantly hip hop, Jawz decided to make a shift. He made the choice to reveal more of whom he truly is. “I started realizing that I had to become more myself with it… I became more of a rock ‘n’ roll rapper.”
He’s taking that ever further on his upcoming E.P., “White or Black, Rock or Rap,” which is due out on iTunes [please delete and at CD Baby] on September 20, 2013. On my newest project… I want to express my background more.
I want to express that I am a half white and half black individual.”
It’s an issue that is near and dear to his heart. Jawz acknowledged, “I’m very passionate about racial politics in America. I’m very passionate about my patriotism.”
He added, “There’s a Cheerios commercial that came on recently and it had a lot of controversy so it got cut off. It was a commercial showing an interracial couple with a biracial child and it got a lot of flack… Basically what I’m working towards is to make a commercial like that become the norm — just as normal as we change our underwear.
I just don’t think our cultures should be as separated as they are.”
Check out “White or Black, Rock or Rap” when it debuts on iTunes on September 20, 2013. And read more about Jawz at jawzmuzik.com.