Artist Spotlight: Joyner Lucas

Kodi Vonn

The “I’m Not Racist” rapper hit a nerve with the music video release. He’s got the music- and political-minded talking. We sit down with him for more on the man.

“I’m Not Racist” showcases two opposing PoVs on the topic-of-the-moment. The video has received critical acclaim as well as backlash.

On his first album on a major label (508–507–2280), Joyner Lucas tells stories. It’s a niche he’s carved out for himself since his 2015 hit “Ross Capicchioni” (about the attempted murder of a Detroit teen by a gang inductee posing as a friend). Lucas, 29, is one of the truly gifted, lyrical MCs making music in today’s pop-rap scene.

His music tells the stories of individuals battling depression, suicide, violence, broken hearts, crappy jobs, hard lives, faith, and religion.

Being a storyteller by nature, it’s no wonder then that his music videos have been described by Billboard as “cinematic short films”. Lucas’s music videos impeccably showcase the stories in his songs, shadowing one character and then flipping the script and following the opposing point of view.

“I actually write the video treatment before I write the record.” Lucas said in his Billboard interview. “I do the editing and directing. I’m 100% involved with the direction of the videos.”

2017 has been a great year for the Worcester-native. His most recent release via Atlantic Records was produced in part by Boi-1da and features international acts like Snoh Aalegra and Stefflon Don. His track “F.Y.M.” is featured on the soundtrack of Madden 18 and he’s received a cosign by Kevin Durant on Twitter.

In a recent sit-down with Bandbasher, we had the opportunity to ask Lucas about his year, his point-of-view, and his successes.

Artist: Joyner Lucas

Label: Atlantic Records

Genre: conscious hip-hop

Most recent album: 508–507–2280, released June 16, 2017 (credits)

Joyner Lucas on Everyday Struggle. Image via YouTube/Complex

 

Bandbasher: You had a pretty big year. What’s it been like?

Joyner Lucas: It has been amazing. Especially the hometown show sold out and then Kevin Durant tweeted me. It’s just been a dream come true so I am excited about it. It feels good.

Bb: You have a heavy hand in all of your music videos. How do you juggle so many tasks?

JL: It doesn’t really seem like a job [but] second nature. It seems like I’m supposed to be doing it. Nobody is really going to bring my vision to life like the way that I am. Before I was doing my own music videos, it was not really my vision.

Bb: Do you think there’s anything about your city that’s reflected in your music?

JL: Yeah, though the way that I grew up, I was not really around a whole bunch of violence — unless I put myself in that situation. It’s what I did personally or the type of people that I was around. But it was not a war zone, you know what I mean?

Bb: What were some of your experiences?

JL: Just hanging out with people that were doing stupid s**t. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, witnessing things that I should not have even been there in the first place, being in cars with people that have loaded guns. Putting myself in stupid predicaments that I should not have been in.

Lucas’s cover of 21 Savage’s “Bank Account”. Image via YouTube/Joyner Lucas

Bb: You do song remixes as a form of lyrical exercise. Has that always been your style or way to practice?

JL: No. I’ve always tried to stay away from doing remixes to songs that were popular because too many people do that. But that’s something the fans want to hear, me over those type of beats. So I do it for them.

Bb: How did you cultivate your skill to become this powerhouse, lyrical rapper?

JL: Just practicing, you know, making music. I have been making music since I was a kid. I have written music since I was like seven or eight. I was in the studio at 9, 10. So I’ve had a lot of practice over a lot of years. Again, it’s like second nature in my blood.

Bb: Tracks like “Forever” have very strong emotions in them. Are songs like these inspired by others’ stories or yours?

JL: It’s other people’s stories that I’m inspired by mixed with my own and people that I know personally.

Bb: Do people come up and tell you their story?

JL: Fans and people I meet. I have seen people go through it and talk to me about it. Then it turns into a really nice song and it ends up helping them.

Taking down mumble rapper Lil Pump on his own beat?

Bb: You’ve said before that lyrical rap is a more competitive sub-genre versus the “buddy community” of mumble rap. Do the number of features on your album reflect that competitiveness?

JL: Yeah, I would say that. Although I’m not against mumble rap. There’s a lot of people that I think are pretty cool. I think Lil Uzi is dope, Future is dope. I love Young Thug, I’m a huge Young Thug fan.

Bb: You said that if you weren’t Joyner Lucas you would just get rid of social media. How do you deal with having a public persona?

JL: I just deal with it like it’s a job. There’s going to be things about your job that you don’t like but you’re going to do it anyway. But things like interacting with fans, even if nobody was telling me to I would do that anyway because I love to stay connected to people. There’s good and bad with that. With social media I hate seeing people that post a bunch of negative energy. It rubs off on me and p****s me off.

Bb: What advice would you give aspiring artists?

JL: F.A.D. I would say f**k all distractions. Get rid of all your distractions. No matter what I would say focus on what you’re trying to do, that specific task. Because if you’re distracted by too many things, it’s eventually going to be more difficult for you to get there.

Bb: What are you excited for in the upcoming year?

JL: Just accomplishing more goals, getting more placements, making more records, building more fans, and one-upping myself. Doing it better next year.

[Edited for length and clarity.]