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Exclusive: Hip-Hop Digital Interviews Jus Mic (Including Bonus Track)

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There’s a raw beauty in Cleveland’s dirty inner-city, one encapsulated in the music of Jus Mic. Though he is often criticized for not following the beaten path of releasing garbage lyrics laid over up-tempo beats, the half-black, half-Italian Cleveland native speaks candidly about personal and world issues, giving a voice to issues and emotions otherwise neglected. He touches on everything from issues such as the 2007 SuccessTech school shooting, with his track “Last Day of School,” to the turbulentent ending of an intense love, with the track “You’ll Never Know.”

 

Despite a childhood influenced by music and artistic expression, Jus Mic entered adulthood aspiring to be an actor. Only accidentally did he stumble across the gift that became the foundation of the artist he would evolve into: his voice. Using music as a therapeutic release, he began singing and eventually honed his skills as an emcee, while lighting a fire under Cleveland’s underground music scene. His music has been received with positive feedback internationally by fans, fellow artists, and established industry professionals such as Terry Urban and Grammy winning producer Tony Nichols.

 

On a never ending path of bettering himself, his art, and his career, Jus Mic continues to put his all into creating quality music – from the heart. I was blessed with the opportunity to sit down with Jus Mic and not only pick his brain, but get a glimpse at what he has brewing and where he’s going. Busy performing, finishing two collaborative projects with other native Cleveland artists, and completing a solo project, Jus Mic has been busy but the payoff should plentiful. To see what Jus has been up to, what he has in store, and where he’s going…

What’s up? What are you up to tonight?

Nothing, after this interview I’m going to the studio and I’ll be there until like six in the morning.

That’s cool, what’s happening in the studio? What are you cooking up?

There was a lot that happened, that didn’t go well with the last deal. So basically, instead of me attempting to get that music back or find out what they’re doing with it, I’m just remaking a lot of it. It’s been so long since I signed the deal with them and I’m not the same person I was two years ago. You grow, you don’t feel the same as you felt the year before…you’re not facing the same issues you might have been the year before. I’m just trying to find material that fits me right now, so it’s not me talking about some things I was going through three years ago. Just trying to make quality music, or at least attempting to.

JusMic02Change is always refreshing. What major changes do you feel have taken place in the last two years? What differences are you putting into your music now, versus where you were two years ago?

Definitely being more conscious of what I’m saying which is a good thing and a bad thing! I’m just maturing as a whole…how I deal with relationships and with people, learning to forgive and let go. I guess if you change your life, your music changes. I just turned thirty, and at twenty-two when I really started rapping, I didn’t plan to live until thirty; not with the life I was living. Everything was real random to me, like Forest Gump, I just kind of floated around and tried shit. I just had a bunch of emotions held in and it was like I was vomiting it all out in my music. So, I thought instead of me just screaming about a problem, how about I approach it and the song can be about my answer to the problem. Instead of, “Ahhh f*** the world,” use that anger and passion and just be conscious of how I deliver things to people.

So, do you feel like you censor yourself now?

I try to find more creative ways to say it. It’s easy to say, “F*** you, you broke up with me.” It’s more difficult to say, “Alright I’m just saying that because I love you and I miss you a lot.” Two different ways to say the same thing, so when I feel like I’m censoring myself I pull back, and I don’t do it. If you censor your work, it’s not you anymore, it’s not real. I find myself questioning, “Can I say that better? Am I better than f*** 22 times in a verse?” I’m not censoring myself, that’s my final answer.

Some of my favorite songs, of yours, are completely uncensored and you’re just going at it. Like “You’ll Never Know” and “Last Day of School.” I appreciate uncensored music and having that raw emotion be delivered right to you. It gives you that understanding that someone else has been there and they obviously made it through.” You know? Versus if you had censored it, then there’s no raw energy to vibe on…

Haha! Even with that though, when I did “You’ll Never Know” in 2009, there was an article written and at the end it says, You’ll Never Know proves Jus Mic would be huge if he could only carry a tune.” The thing is, I try to do stuff when I’m feeling it. I was going though that right then. I had gotten drunk, just went in and let it all out. I didn’t go back and say “that’s off key, let’s change it a little bit” or “I dropped a word right there…” That’s another thing I’ve been doing, not censoring myself but being more conscious of that habit. I can sing and I need to let somebody know that. Don’t sing drunk all the time in the studio, after you’ve smoked twelve packs of cigarettes and you’re drinking whiskey. With songs like that though, once you do them it’s hard to go back in and redo them because you can’t feel that again. When someone screws you over or you’ve been hurt, whatever it is your feeling, when you put that into the music people are going to feel it.

Do you feel that there are times where you can’t properly portray the song you have in your head? Do you ever feel like you lose the emotion – mid-project – and can’t finish?

Yes! There’s thousands of unfinished projects. You know, you’re walking to the store and you get an idea. The idea is great and you can’t wait to get home and get the idea out….take it to the studio and you’re like,“ Man, this shit sucks!” I try to keep all of my work, like I’ve got 120 notebooks just stashed around. I’ll go back and read some stuff that I just didn’t feel like I could convey properly on the day I may have written it. Maybe the whole thing wasn’t great, but there was a line or something in there that I can use to branch off of. It happens all the time, everything with me is off of emotion; almost too much. People say I cry too much in my music and shit, like I don’t have too many happy songs…maybe funny or sarcastic, but not like “Hey, it’s a fucking party!” That’s not me and there’s artist who do that all the time, and no one complains about that s***.

Do you feel that you have more negative, emotionally fueled songs because that’s the way that your life has gone or because those are the highlights, or points, that have emotionally inspired you to make music.

As I got older my anger started closing in on me and by the time I got old enough to be on my own, I had held so much stuff in, that it just started pouring out. It turned into my therapy, so when I’m sitting there writing, I’m kind of writing to get stuff out;  in a sense it just kind of happens to rhyme and people are going through the same things so  they can relate to it, and they just like to listen to it. It’s not something I purposefully sit down and do. It’s not like my life is horrible and I’m miserable, you know what I’m saying? I’ve gone through some horrible stuff, but it’s like, some people can make a song about it and some people go out and f*** somebody up and go to jail. I write songs about these situations and people listen to them, and are like “Awe man, that’s f***** up,” but they can vibe with it and relate. That really inspires me.

 When did you realize that you wanted to use music as a medium to express what you felt and experienced? Was music always a major part of your life?

When I was twenty and at that point it was just singing. Music was constantly being played in the house and my parents listened to different music. My dad was always drumming on the tables and chairs, he’s an unbelievable drummer, though he didn’t drum professionally or in a band. He’s a political cartoonist actually; he’s an artist that talks about things that are going on in the world. I picked up on his artistic vibe. One lesson he did teach me, is that there are no mistakes in art…if art is just an expression of yourself and that’s how you feel or what you let out, then that’s just you. So f*** what others think about it.  From that, I’ve been able to do what I’m doing now: say I’m not going to go make this bulls*** music  so I can drive whatever the Boss’s are driving or do whatever they’re doing. It’s really tough to stay the course through, this is a tough business even when you are doing everything the industry asks you to do. Memorable artists are the ones who weren’t doing what everybody else was doing. The reason you look at them is because they came in from an opposite angle. You wouldn’t have  artists  like Pharrell, Kanye, Lauryn Hill, Mos Def, or The Roots if it were all about makingthe same bulls***. They wouldn’t be here because obviously they aren’t, or weren’t, doing the same things as other artists to get where they are.

So, since music is in your family and just kind of comes naturally, do you think that you were fully supported when you were younger? Did you start doing music young or did it come later?

Oh no, I never did music as a kid. I listened to a lot of different music, like my uncle was actually a professional dancer who taught modern dance and did ballet. I went to live with my grandparents as a kid and my uncle was a kid, he had all these records and s*** like that and that’s where I found LL Cool J and flipped out cause I heard someone cuss on a record. I ran next door and grabbed somebody like, “OMG, somebody just said motherf***er on a song!” I had heard nothing but Stevie Wonder and James Taylor and Michael Jackson.

I didn’t do music as a kid though, I played basketball. My grandfather was an amazing basketball coach and I basically grew up living in the gym and playing basketball. When I got out of school I quit playing and I didn’t know what I wanted to do.  I wanted to be an actor so I went and had my own T.V. show, for two years on channel 19, here in Cleveland. A friend of mine, Andre Jones, walked past me in the mall and told me he was doing this music thing and I was like, alright man I’m gonna try it…he said it wasn’t bad.

After that I had a couple rough years, went crazy out of my mind, writing a bunch of angry shit, and I just couldn’t cuss through all these angry love songs I was writing. So I decided I was gonna try rapping. When I started rapping I met Twisted Mindz and X-factor, they were at 220 Records then, and I just kind of stayed in the studio with Twist and X-factor for like a summer; just studying how to count bars and how to put stuff together. I write my raps the same way I wrote R&B songs: I sing my hooks and I incorporate R&B into my rapping.

So then, you really didn’t have any plans? If you weren’t doing music now, what would you be doing?

I would have taken one of the opportunities to play basketball at one of the colleges that wanted me to play for them, maybe would have graduated, maybe would have…I don’t have a clue. I honestly don’t have a clue, but I might have still been acting.

Do you think music is just your passion, the only place you want to put all your energy?

It happened in such an organic way, it wasn’t something I planned on doing. I mean we did Poetry For Misfits with Mick Boogie and Terry Urban, it got a million downloads worldwide, and I started rapping on accident! We got an incredible heartfelt response across  the country…that’s like alright, you kind of have to follow that, that’s a light that you have to walk towards. It’s my calling, no matter what I know, now I know I’m supposed to do music. That’s for sure.

Is this what you see yourself doing for years to come, are you comfortable here?

Yes, yes, and if I keep making music that’s about something, than there’s no age limit on that. As long as you’re living and there’s something going on in your life, if you talk to people on that level, than you’re still relevant because you’re talking to them about life. As opposed to when someone’s 60 years old, you can’t still talk to them about fighting in the club, you know? You can talk about what it’s like to raise a kid or what it’s like to get old. You can talk about what it’s like to fall in love or have death in your family, stuff like that. If I get too old to rap, I’ll just start singing blues songs or act in a movie.

Right now, after all of the collaborating and projects that you’ve done with well-known names, do you consider yourself a part of the “underground” music scene?

Oh yeah. Definitely.

Do you want to go completely main stream? Do you want to be with a label; and if so, are you trying to link up with a major or independent label? What is that fantasy goal for you?

Whatever, and I’m not saying this to dodge the question, but whatever will allow me to still do what I’m doing. If I lose the music part of me and just being able to release what I’m doing, I’ll lose me. If I put myself in a position where I lose that freedom, and I’m writing for some old guy, sitting next to a number chart like, “This is where you need to be, this is what you need to do and write about.” I’ll be horrible! You know what I’m saying? Yet If I stay underground, there’s no insurance plan. As long as I can find a good balance between the two. I signed a deal two years ago, and I can’t speak on it much, but it was cool to work with Grammy award winning artists. It was cool to sit down with someone and say I’ve got an idea, then have them say, “Oh s***, I’m a genius. I’m just gonna make your idea happen right now.” It was just so convenient, it was a beautiful thing and I learned a lot from it.

Since then I’ve branched out. A good friend of mine, Jason “J Mann” Popson of Mushroomhead, and I brought back “The 10,000 Cadillacs,” a band that he started back in the 90’s, with his friend – Mushroomhead drummer- Steve “Skinny” Felton.  We got in the booth and over a couple months recorded a whole album. This was all different levels of rap, R&B, singing, and live guitars…it was a unique experience, and also my first time writing music with another person. It was like we had worked together for years, it was a beautiful process. We’ve been doing shows for that, and it should be out late 2013.

So you’re working on a personal project as well?

Oh yeah. Like I was saying earlier, I’m taking my  music from that label I was previously with, redoing some of it and leaving some it there. Just getting that new feeling, and my new me out. “No Church” is gonna be the main single , we’ve redone “Problems on a Plane” cause it’s never really been properly released, and we redid Cassandra. There should be a video shot for “Your Time to Burn,” “No Church,” and of course “Travelin’ Man.”  You know, some other really good stuff I’m working on, like I said, we’re headed to the studio tonight.

What’s the main inspiration behind this album? What are your favorite tracks and what inspired them? Any collaborations on the upcoming album?

Same as everything with me, “No Church” came to me literally walking through the rain to the corner store. I ran out of beer, it was raining, and it was just like dude there’s so much that I need to fix in my life. Talking to people didn’t help, church didn’t help. Just like that.  I wrote “Problems on a Plane” sitting in a hotel in Euclid. I saw a plane fly by and I was like, “It would be cool to put my problems on a plane. It just life inspired, that’s really it. Not too many collaborations on this one, you’ll hear J Mann, Skinny, Twizted Mind, and Proph. I’d also like to give a big shout out to my homies: Cool Matt, Faet Beat, Dr. Harry Von Bosia, and Josh Krzd Wyatt.

Can we get a release date? Any other projects?

The project is mainly done, but we’re still figuring out the release. It’s so easy to make good music and have it fall into the abyss. Aside from that, I’m also working on an EP with Proph The Problem and Twizted Mind.

Are there ways people can keep up with all of this, see what’s going on, and get ahold of you?

Jusmic.com should be up around mid-April with everything I’ve ever done that is on the internet right now and whatever I have coming out. You can either purchase it or download it, right there on JusMic.com. Outside of that, the best way to get in touch with me is Facebook or Hip-HopDigital.com

Do you have a twitter…are you big on social media?

I hate social media, I hate it to death! You know, I was blessed when we did the first Mick Boogie album. I had the whole Good Shyt team and Kristy ran like 4 Facebook pages and a twitter page for me. If you hit me up on Facebook, I will hit back. Not being on their for so long, the only thing I do regret, is that  I’ve gotten so many unbelievable  letters from fans who supported me after I did disappear for 2 years. People who were like whatever’s going on, we still love you, we still rock with you. Or telling me, “That song you made helped me get through my divorce,” or made me want to whoop my Boss’s this morning. Reading that stuff really motivated me, which is why I ended up making the song “Just Make It,” which is a sample of Tamia’s song “Poetry.”

Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me, I wish you nothing but success and look forward to the release of the aforementioned projects!

Interview by Tatiana

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Exclusive: Hip-Hop Digital Interviews Jus Mic (Including Bonus Track)