J-Mac on Being Drake’s Barber and the Breakdown of Each Album’s Signature Fade

The real views from the 6.

If you grew up in Toronto, you knew Toronto always had a good pocket of talent. But let’s face it, nobody outside of Toronto was aware what was happening up here. But make no mistake, if you were from Toronto, some answers were too easy. You already knew which graffiti artists would bless the streets, or who ran the retail game; you were well aware whose music was bumping, and you knew who threw the best parties. Most importantly, you already knew who to turn to for the best haircut. Jason Macaraig, or widely known in the city as J-Mac, has been one of the city’s talents that consistently pushed the needle. Dating back to his first start more than twenty years ago, he set up shop in Scarborough, under the tutelage of his older brother. But even then, it wasn’t enough for him. After a few years in the industry and earning his college degree, he decided to pursue a full-time career as a barber and moved his set up closer to the city. During this time, he caught the attention of Drake, a young artist who at that point, wasn’t the rapper the entire world knows today. Over the years, he saw the rise of Drake, who now sits atop of hip-hop’s throne. Since Drake’s accession to the top, J-Mac has been responsible for blessing the rapper with his signature haircuts, all the while eliminating any doubt who sports the best cut in the hip-hop game. Like I said if you’re from Toronto, some answers are too easy.

You attribute your start in the barber game because of your older brother. What drew you to the idea of cutting hair for a living?

I wanted to do something I loved, and something that allowed me to be creative and be my own boss. I enjoyed seeing my work come to life and having people feel a certain way after they sat in my chair.

Share with us what your Get Faded brand represents.

Get Faded represents the everyday gentleman and is kind of like a Members Only Club. You have to know someone to get in the chair, and if you do, you’re lucky. My brand represents dope fades, proper haircuts, and unique style. You know what you get when you sit in my chair. No bullshit around the haircut and service. It’s what I want people to expect when they get a cut from me.

How did you coin the name of the brand?

I remember cutting Drake’s hair, and Niko (@OVONIKO) was waiting for his turn. We were bouncing ideas of how to brand myself as a barber when the name came up. Those two people were very influential and helped a lot with the brand.

‘So Far Gone’ - fade with the waves and clean shave.

You cut arguably, one of the most famous musicians today, how did that connection happen?

Back in ‘06, Neeks had mentioned that Drake was coming in, I had no idea who he was at the time. I just figured it was someone worth cutting if Neeks referred him. He liked his first cut, and it was only a matter of time that my haircuts helped shape his image.

There is nobody in the music industry who has a signature cut as prolific as Drake. When giving the boy a cut, how do you approach it? Does he let you just run it?

I let Drake pick his cut, he knows I can bring it to life. He chooses his cut depending on how he’s feeling that day. We go with the seasons, and weather sometimes. If it’s for a shoot or magazine cover, we go with what he’s wearing or the how the set looks. It all depends, kind of like when he grew out a fro’ the first time since he was a kid. He grew it out because he was in recording for Take Care. He’s tried to change his cut with his album cycle. For example, Comeback Season – fade with the waves, and small part. So Far Gone – fade with the waves and clean shave. He was still young them times. Thank Me Later – short cut, bald fade, 5 o’clock shadow. Take Care – afro, tapered sides, medium beard. NWTS – dark caesar, low taper with the part. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – short cut, high fade, heavy beard. Every album had a different cut.

But for VIEWS, he pretty much has the same style. Guess if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

No, there was a small tweak. Drake wanted something between NWTS, and what we been doing for the last year. I just suggested to take the beard down and grow the top with an iconic part. You can’t miss it.

You’ve seen the rise of OVO, and you’ve been in the trenches since day one. Did you ever think you would find yourself in this position?

No, not at all. Being from Toronto, I never imagined I would be the personal barber for an iconic rapper. Where I’m from, that never happened before. I always wondered who cut the great rappers, like Nas? Whoever it was, I thought he must have been the man. I looked up to that cut and that barber. I always told myself, if I were a famous rapper’s barber, I would have to be as good as the greats that paved the way for barber culture before my time. Think about how influential that Nas cut was? It was one of the most highly referenced barbershop cuts throughout the 90s and early 2000s. Now for the longest time, people used to refer Drake’s cut as, “The Drake Fade.”

Some people say, “if you’re made for something, fate will lead you there.” Do you believe in that?

Yeah, of course. Greatness attracts those who have it in them.

The barber culture has evolved a lot over the last two decades. It’s not just a business, but it’s more of a brand, and it’s a game of keep up.

Hairstyles have changed, girls shaving their heads, more designs, and portraits with color. There are now TV show’s, seminars, trade shows, and competitions. The culture has grown so much in 20 years, and it continues to grow. Barbers are more like celebrities now and because of social media, they have huge followings. The trade is more like art, and barbers are now considered to be artists more than ever.

Longevity in any industry is tough. But when you’re talented and work hard, you give yourself a better chance to stick around.

I didn’t give up, and I was persistent in my career to becoming a better barber, and a pro of the trade. I felt like I had talent, and if I quit, I would be letting my brother down. He taught me how to cut, and he showed me a lot by the time I was 14 years old. I didn’t want to let him down because he believed in me. My closest family and friends also pushed me. They always supported me, gave me good advice, and rocked my cuts as if they were rappers and ballers on magazine covers, telling others what they were missing.

I want to be remembered and inducted into the Barber Hall of Fame type shit, nah mean?

The city of Toronto has come a long way, huh?

Toronto has come a long way, and I’m glad that I was able to be a part of the growth and culture. I’m proud to say I’m from Toronto and happy to see how it’s progressing as a city.

Picture this – it’s 2006, and I tell you your work will grace covers of major publications, and viewed across stadiums around the globe. Would you believe it?

I have been nice with the clippers. But for my work to grace major publications and viewed in stadiums, it would be hard to believe back then. Toronto never had someone like Drake who put the entire city in the international spotlight.

What’s next for your brand?

I hope to get a product line out and a private studio to build the brand and make it more exclusive. The barber culture has grown so much over the last five years, and the game is wide open. I got some dope ideas that I want to create, and help change the game a little bit. I want people to remember my cuts like classic muscle cars and go down in history as one of the greats. I want to be remembered and inducted into the Barber Hall of Fame type shit, nah mean?

Michael Bercasio/Hypebeast
Charles Graham/Hypebeast
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