If you're a hip hop fan, and you have Sirius XM radio, then you probably know who "Rude Jude" is. The host of the colorful midday program "The All Out Show," on Eminem's Shade 45 station, Jude is a man of many traits. One of them is writing.
The new book covers all types of topics from his childhood and growing up in Michigan, to his drug use, sex life and family life. So, why should you care? The real and raw stories Jude shares aren't for everyone (especially not your kids), but even if you can't relate with every detail of every story, the underlying plot of a man trying to make it through life is enough to keep you glued to the pages. I talked to Jude about his new book - what influenced him to write it, and how he hopes it impacts you.
KEN: What is the significance of the book title “Hyena”?
JUDE: I was on a plane flying to New York some years back, and this show came on, Predators at war or something like that. There was a drought around some watering hole, and it caused all the animals to fight. The cheetahs fought the panthers, the lions fought hyenas, the zebras got messed up. I'm watching it, learning all about hyenas. They're not dogs or cats, they're their own thing. They're not just scavengers, they hunt. They're intelligent. They fight lions. But they're misunderstood, no one likes em' and I start relating to this thing.
So, I got all these stories, and I'm making this book, and I can't figure out what I'm gonna call it. I'm laying in bed high on something, and it hits me. HYENA my book is HYENA. Cuz hyenas laugh, but it's not funny. Usually, something messed up is gonna happen. That's this book; it's laugh out loud funny. But, like a lot of comedy, it comes from a dark place. So, this book is Hyena, and I'm a hyena, and I want you feeling like a hyena when I'm done with you.
KEN: You talk a lot in the book about growing up in and around Pontiac/Detroit – how much of an impact did your hometown make on your life and in the stories you tell in the book?
JUDE: It shaped me. It raised me. It gave me my work ethic. The way I talk, the way I think is Michigan. You show up, you work hard, you keep your word, you do what you say. My pop worked at the plant, like a lot of our fathers. Compared to LA and New York, we're not slick. We're factory people. But we're real and we're sincere. And when it comes to art, paired with talent - real and sincere are two of my favorite things. I grew up on Seger, and Eminem, The Spinners, The White Stripes, Stevie Wonder, The Stooges.
Shoot, I'm from the same city as Jack Kevorkian. Like him or hate him, you gotta respect his backbone. Michigan raised me, and showed me how to do it.
KEN: Why did you write this book? What is your main reason and influence?
JUDE: It started as a blog. But I wanted to get more personal, so I took it down and really dove into writing things from my youth. It became this cathartic experience. You see what shapes you, you see how you lie to yourself - you discover you don't have to be a slave to your past. The rest I wrote as it was happening - the last 5 years of my life. Looking back the stuff I put myself through is nuts. It's crazy, I've grown since that book and that's all one can hope for is to continue evolving.
As for influences, it's weird, I don't read the style I write. I like medieval fantasy, westerns and Elmore Leonard. But Bukowski inspired me to write. Years ago I came across one of his books, "Notes of a Dirty Old Man." I was blown away cuz I related to this dude, he talked about his life and didn't get hung up on grammar. In high school, I was in special needs English, and I thought you had to go to Harvard to be a writer. Bukowski showed me that even the common man has a voice, and it matters. When I read his book, I started to write journals.
But as far as writing style goes, being raised on rap, being from a family of musicians, that comes out in my writing. Also, I own a book of shorts by Roald Dahl, the Willy Wonka dude, that guy can tell a whole story in one sentence. Anybody can make something simple complex, all you need is a thesaurus, but to be concise is a gift.
KEN: What do you want people to get out of the book?
JUDE: People are gonna read it on their own level. At the least, you're gonna get some laughs. At the worst, the sex and drug are gonna alienate you. But my goal is to get you to experience the world as I do. I wanna leave you laughing and gutted at the same time.
KEN: Throughout the book, there are strategically placed drawings of animals, what’s the significance of that?
JUDE: I wanted this book to have a timeless feel. The sketches are done by Frank Ryan, a classically trained artist, many are unfinished. They show you he has skill but doesn't have to prove it. I put them there to compliment my writing and juxtapose the subject matter.
KEN: In the book, you talk about how even after you started working for Sirius, and making good money, you still worked lower paying jobs because you liked connecting with people – what has that experience taught you? Seems like people work from the bottom, to get to the top, but in your case, you really don’t look at it that way.
JUDE: I grew up as the help. We were poor. My mother worked sh*t jobs. It's something I'm used to. Doing talk radio is a cerebral experience. It's all in the head. After work, you're a different kind of exhausted, I worked almost a year as a bus boy to remind me where I came from, and remind me what money's worth.
KEN: What has the reception been for the book so far? It’s obviously not for kids – has anyone been upset with the rawness?
JUDE: It rubbed some people the wrong way but, what do you want me to say? What I wrote was true. I'm not lying. I'm not bragging. It happened. Look past the debauchery read between the lines, and ask yourself, how did he get there? Could I have gotten there, too?
KEN: If you write a book in 30 years about the last 30 years in your life, do you think it’ll be as interesting – a different type of interesting – weird question, I know.
JUDE: Hopefully, I'll be writing about having a family.
You can buy the book here: Hyena: A Collection of Short Stories. You can also catch "Rude Jude" on Shade 45's "The All Out Show" weekdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.