Johnny "J" was born in Juarez, Mexico, and raised in South Central Los Angeles by his adopted parents under the name Johnny Jackson, which later became Johnny "J." He attributes his distinctive sound to his heritage and listening to The Sounds of Philadelphia, Motown, and Stax records brought home by his father. At the age of three, his father bought him a drum set, and later in life, Johnny "J" bought a drum machine and keyboards to produce records.
This self-taught musician started creating tracks while in the Washington Preparatory High School drum line. Though he received a full scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, he chose not to attend. Immediately after high school, he produced his first platinum single Knockin Boots for fellow classmate and artist Candyman, with a platinum album, Ain't No Shame in My Game, to follow. Johnny "J"'s hit with Candyman made him the first platinum-selling rap artist on Epic Records in 1990. It also garnered him Grammy and American Music Award nominations.
This hit garnered Johnny "J" major-label success and later paved the way for what was to follow. After meeting 2Pac in 1992, he heard an underground record from Big Syke and recorded nine songs with 2Pac in three days. Following those recordings in 1993, Johnny "J" produced 2Pac's hit single Pour Out A Little Liquor and the movie score of the Above the Rim movie. The song also appeared on the Thug Life: Volume 1 album that went platinum. Johnny "J" also produced a song on 2Pac's third solo album, Me Against the World, titled, Death Around the Corner. These two songs were from the original nine songs that Johnny "J" recorded with 2Pac in 1992.
The rest was music history in the making. In 1996, Johnny "J" produced and co-wrote eleven songs on 2Pac's double CD All Eyez on Me, which sold more than 15 million records in the United States alone. 2Pac's first single How Do U Want It off the album sold more than 3 million copies and was 2Pac's first number-one song all across Billboard Magazine, which made this the first rap album to enter the Billboard's number-one spot upon its initial release. The album and single were later nominated for Grammy and American Music Awards, and it won a Soul Train Award for Best Rap Song.
Prior to 2Pac's untimely death, Johnny "J" produced and co-wrote over a hundred songs with him. Those recordings are now available as posthumous releases. Johnny "J" produced many songs for 2Pac, but after losing his music partner, he ventured into producing other artists and movie soundtracks.
The first of which was Jon B., who was introduced to Johnny "J" through 2Pac. While filming the video for How Do U Want It, Johnny "J" later produced the 2Pac and Jon B. collaboration Are You Still Down, off of Jon's Cool Relax CD. This was an original 2Pac song titled Tongue Kissin. The album and single each sold over a million copies. The collaboration spawned a gold album, Heavenz Movie, from the two singles that Johnny "J" produced: Thugz Cry and Nobody Can Stop Me.
It wasn't until his wife Capucine Jackson, suggested that he sign the artist Napoleon from the rap group the Outlawz in 2002 that he was officially going to put out a rap CD from his own label. A double CD was recorded titled Have Mercy. KLOCK WORK Entertainment had executive produced a video from that album titled Never Forget by Napoleon and featuring Val Young and Johnny "J."
Some good things came to an end during the recording of that album. Napoleon was going through a process of finding himself and eventually became a Muslim and decided to stop rapping. This devastated Johnny "J", and he decided not to put the record out. After that, Johnny "J" later purchased a recording studio in Glendale, California, and kept recording tracks and looking for other artists like Tatyana Ali who he recorded an entire album with, and also working with Gospel Hip-Hop until his untimely death.