Atlanta native, Jústin grew up in a house filled with R&B vibes and Aaliyah’s “Rock the Boat” playing on repeat. Surrounded by music he knew that it would become a career in the future. As an attendee of The Douglas Anderson School of Art, Jústin was provided with the “outlet and the opportunity to be unique and creative.” Jústin wrote his first single his freshman year of high school, which led to a crazy performance at his school, sparking a mini fan-base with the expectation of more! A future that Jústin thought included becoming a choir director, quickly changed when he realized making his own music would allow him to express his true creativity. This true creativity would lead to him to his recently released bar heavy, uplifting second album titled “Rookie 2 King”. This 8 track project is 24 minutes of heavy hitting lyrics that will definitely touch your soul. I had the opportunity of catching up with Jústin to talk about his project!
You just released a new project titled “Rookie 2 King,” what inspired the project and what does this project mean to you?
I will have to probably take it back to my middle school, elementary school days. I wasn’t really the biggest kid, I wasn’t popular at all, I was the smart kid that was in the corner singing, so I got bullied a lot and it kind of… brought down my self-esteem, and then later on I got diagnosed with anxiety disorder, so that hit me hard as well, so the stuff I was going through at home plus at school really took a toll on my self-confidence, but it wasn’t until high school that I had the opportunity to kinda showcase my talents and grow. And when I get that, I kinda became more confident not only in myself, but in my talents and this album is a representation of that, not even just the bullying at school, but just to be constantly trying to get people to notice my music for the past year and a half, hitting up A&Rs and hitting up radio stations and blogs and them turning it down constantly. It’s kind of a declaration to let them know who’s the king, who’s the best, that I could beat your best rapper, so that album is a representation of that.
So having anxiety and being an artist and constantly having to be in front of people and put yourself out there. What are some of the things that you do to stay motivated and not let that hurt you and your music career?
I lean a lot on my family, my mom and my brothers and even my girlfriend and her family, they’re really… They inspire me every single day, they just tell me to keep on going, they give me love, but sometimes it’s tough love too. The album is not as good as it needs to be, or I can do something better vocally on my song, they’re really quick to let me know, but they let me know that I have the ability to do it, and that makes… That’s the world for me, so that’s what kinda keeps me going through it.
You recorded your tape in Hollywood. How was that experience for you and who helped you with the making of the project?
I wasn’t even intending to record at LA at the time, one day my mom just out of the blue said, “Hey Justin, do you want to go to LA?” And I was like, “Yeah, what kind of question is that?” But the most important thing she let me know is this is not a vacation; this is a business trip. The whole time I prepared myself for a business trip, I’m going to record some music, the best music I have ever… I realized that I’m going to LA I need to step it up. This is not Jacksonville, Florida, this is LA, this is where the stars are born, stars are made, so I had to step up my game. So fast forward to going to LA, I found a really nice studio and I tried something different, and I tried doing a 12-hour session.
Wow, is this a one-take project?
This was a one-take project. I went to a studio at LA, Union Recording Studios, and my mom was there… I started at 11:00 PM, and I didn’t get out ’till 11 AM in the morning. I get there at 11:00, got my two Red Bulls with me because it’s going to be a long night. Long story short, the producer, he sees me, thinks that I’m a typical SoundCloud, mumble rapper or whatever, and I start with the singing songs because I know the rapping songs will probably make my voice hoarse. I get done with my first song, and he doesn’t even turn off the track, he’s just staring at me. And my mom was just thinking in her head like, “Yeah, he is what he is.” He told me, “You have perfect pitch.” After that I got all of my songs recorded in two hours. The rest of the time, was just him mixing. He spent five hours mixing, and we actually had time left over, so I wrote two more songs in there and they recorded the last two because I had so much extra time.The experience was amazing. It wasn’t as challenging as I really assumed it was going to be. Hardest part was really just staying awake, but I loved it.
So what were the two extra tracks they weren’t on there before?
The first was, “Wade in the Water: Prelude. And then the last one was The Special Thank You at the end and I had them kind of check where I wanted it to go and then I did a whole bunch of takes because I kept forgetting people to thank. [chuckle] Those were the last two tracks. It’s so interesting, because the “Wade in the Water”… The second part of that where I’m singing is acapella. I was wearing a chain in the studio, I used my chain and I kind of shook it into the mic on one of the tracks. And that acted as the chains of slaves. And then another one, another take, I was actually stomping in the studio, that represented the slaves marching, and then the breathing hard, I did another take on that… I just wanted to re-enact what it really felt like to be in a situation like this, I just used the environment around.
You’re not really a gospel rapper but you are spiritual and it’s evident in your tracks, what inspires you to share that part of your world through your music?
At a young age, I kind of learned that church is not always where you will find God. I grew up… The first couple of years of my life I was homeless, so there was no Church for us. The Church was the homeless shelter, the Church was the streets, my car. But I learned so much about God through individual testimonies that you can’t really find at Church. Church sometimes they want to set up this perception that it’s perfect in there, can’t make no mistakes. When that’s not reality, so it doesn’t really teach people how to go along, and apply what they learned in Church to actual life. That’s why I said a lot of Jesus finding is done more in the streets than it is in Church. I always tell people, “You personally might be the only Church somebody ever gets to go to.” So that’s the one inspiration. Another one is concerning the industry. I know how wicked or cruel it can be. What I want to do is, I don’t wanna settle for being in the industry, being successful. I want to be the best, I want to be the greatest to ever do it, but I want to do it in a way that I can show people that I did it on God’s terms. I did it God’s way and I still came up on the top, so that’s the biggest inspiration I would say.
At the end of your track “Atlanta Bull” you say that Atlanta has a long way to go with the community, so from someone whose grown up there what in your eyes are the biggest changes you would like to see in Atlanta?
I would like to see one, the Mayor, the Government inside of Atlanta just take more accountability for what’s going on in their streets. I think that’s very important. As many celebrities, and rich folks as there is in Atlanta… Personally, I don’t think there should be a single homeless person on the street unless that’s their choice and that’s their will to do so. It’s literally like you could go to one part of Atlanta, and you see rich folks and you see mansions and all this, but you cross the street and you see people living on the street and single mothers with their children on the street, living in boxes asking for food. I just personally, I don’t understand that. So if people are not going to want to do it out of their heart, I would like for people to take accountability, and if you have to force them to do it, so be it. But there should not be any homeless in the street, considering how much opportunity there is in Atlanta alone. Atlanta is like a New York City or LA. It’s basically just like, if we have all these resources, why are we not utilizing those for the people that can’t?
The last time we spoke I don’t even think you were at 10K yet n Instagram, your exposure is really growing. What have you been doing to keep getting your name out there especially during the pandemic when there isn’t really any shows?
One of the interesting things I like to do is, it started when I was in college in Southeastern my freshman year, I remember my album “I Not Sorry” came out and I was trying to figure out any type of way to get it out there. I’d be at Lakewood, Florida with people who don’t even know what rap is, literally. So I’m trying to just figure it out, and I came up with this idea to go into the bookstore and I got a giant poster, and then I went to Walmart and got a speaker, and I printed out my album cover and I pasted it onto the poster. And I got a table and I got flyers of my poster, and I basically set it out in front of the cafeteria and I played my music from the album on the speaker, and as people were walking in and they kind of inquired about what I was doing, I gave them the flyer and I saw my numbers kind of go up from there. It was then that I realized I have to step out of my comfort zone. So nowadays, you know, I’m at work… I work at Publix. I’m at Publix and my co-workers are jamming to my music, because I stepped out and let them know what I was doing… It was basically just reaching out, getting out of your comfort zone and actually approaching people, you know? And people are not really going to care unless you make them.
“Rookie 2 King” features several tracks with some of the hardest hitting ones being “King Peanut” and “Atlanta Bull.” The project is available on all platforms and definitely worth an add to your playlist. The future is bright for Jústin as he is working to build his exposure and fan base!