Known for his hit song, “Best Friend,” Get Introduced to St. Louis bred, J.R.
For most people when you think of a St. Louis rapper you immediately re-live the early 2000’s and start to bop to summer anthems like “Hot In Herre” from superstar, Nelly. In 2016, new comer J.R. is changing the game and stepping out of the shadows to prove that he’s here, he’s talented, and you’ll want to rock with him going forward. After releasing his single, “Best Friend” featuring Trey Songz, which to date has seen over 5.6 million views on YouTube, the Midwest sensation has followed up with his debut EP, Gang Season and it’s quickly becoming a fan favorite on the iTunes charts, holding 5 star ratings. Touching on a variety of topics the seven track EP is a must listen and the rapper himself spoke with us at Parlé to tell you why. Check out our J.R. interview
Parlé Mag: I hear that aside from being a talented rapper you’ve been performing for quite some time, when did it all start for you?
J.R.: Aww man, I was young. I was actually in a group when I first started performing too. I was probably like 13. Even before that I was in choir and we did our shows and all that but I didn’t start really rapping until I was like 15.
Parlé: That is young, you must have made a ton of memories over the years, any favorite ones?
J.R.: Yeah it’s kind of weird, but umm (laughs), we did some weird a** lil’ contest for this organization kind of like D.A.R.E, you know the drug organization for schools? It was like that and we ended up winning the contest for a song we made. So we ended up going around to elementary schools and performed it, man it was just crazy to see all those kids come out and listen to us.
Parlé: That’s crazy exciting! So between then and now why go solo after so many years performing in a group?
J.R.: Ummm, you know as far as that I think everybody, when they start music, they struggle tryna find their name. Just like a lot of people I started off doing the group thing and I love my dudes, but I like moving at my own pace you know what I mean? I really don’t like waiting when it comes to creating it’s a lot of ups and downs, live and learns. Good shows. Bad shows. But that was definitely the thing I understood wouldn’t work was that the group thing didn’t work for me. I just need to be able to move at my pace and put myself in my own creative space.
Parlé: I feel you. Given that you prefer to work alone, do you work with any other artist/rappers now?
J.R.: Yeah I most definitely write for others as well as myself. Everything is timing to me as well though. Sometimes my music might have a different direction or that project might take a different direction so we have no problem writing that record and collecting a check off of it because we can always write more.
Parlé: And in the spirit of creating more records let’s talk about Gang Season, what was the inspiration while creating this EP?
J.R.: Umm that’s basically my brand and “Gang” is everything about what I want to do. I wanted to shed light on (the concept of) never judge a book by it’s cover. My company is called Bad Business and when we step in the office with Ne-yo, with AG, or anybody I work with you gon’ see we handle our business top to bottom as a team. Gang (the term) didn’t start off with violence and thugs, you know what I’m saying, gangs started out with loyalty, family, and unity that’s really what it’s about and we want to get that cloud from over that word and bring a different light to it. Bring it back to where it’s really supposed to be. Also, the project was most definitely about being from St. Louis, know what I’m saying? We have definitely heard some things and seen some things, grew through things and learned some things and we tried to put all that into to the project so people can understand who I am as a person.
Parlé: It sounds like it’s borderline Hip-Hop activism, would I be right in saying that?
J.R.: You know, I think it’s just us. I think it’s not as much as activism ,but what we do. I just didn’t want anybody to confuse the effort so we stand by our brand, we stand by this Bad Business music business and we really believe in it. I have people from different places and different areas in the hood and they all believe in the same thing. We want to take that route to make the people aware that there’s more than violence. That’s a part of life and a part of where we from, but we just trying to bring us to the world instead of the world to us.
Parlé: So who are those people you are trying to reach out in the world? How would you describe your fans?
J.R.: I really, really feel that my music is for everybody. I mean we got crossover records, we got club records, we got street records and I don’t feel like we compromise ourselves in any genre of music. The message is usually solid, usually the same and we don’t get too gimmicky. We just do us and that’s why I think it’s for everybody.
Parlé: If you had to pick a few of your favorite records from the Ep what would they be?
J.R.: I definitely like the “Murder” record, the last record on there because I think it paints a good picture of where I’m from. And the “Never Say Never” one because it shows versatility. I love all the records of course but those two definitely stand out to me.
Parlé: And having had a mixtape prior and written many songs why just put out an EP instead of a full album?
J.R.: Well, my first two singles had big named artist on them and I didn’t want to hit anybody with too much right now. I wanted to give them something so that they could get used to me as an artist and a person and then we gon’ follow up with a mixtape right behind that.
Parlé: What can I expect from you as an artist? Who would you say J.R is?
J.R.: We Lit! We lit always. Maximum effort always. When I’m at the show I don’t care if its five people in there or 5,000 thousand people it’s gonna be the same show. If you give me a record whether it’s a feature or it’s my record or if it’s a cover record I’ma give you the same consistency.
Parlé: I know you amd Nelly have worked together before. Both being from St.Louis, has he helped you with this project or added in his two cents in any way?
J.R.: Most definitely! You know where we from people like to say that people who get a lot of attention have a crabs in a barrel affect. Nobody really likes to see anybody make it, but I feel like now with St. Louis and after him we are in a better space. There are more artists tryna make it and a lot of people trying to find themselves within this game and it came to a point where he told me “don’t worry about what’s going on, just focus on your name. Focus on getting yo’ check and provide for your family and make lanes for others” and that’s really all I could take from him.
Parlé: That sounds like dope advice! How did you even get the chance to connect with him?
J.R.: Yeah. I had a record, my record for “Best Friend” came out, that started getting some radio play in St. Louis. I was actually doing what I do like every other day in the studio working, next thing I know Nelly was walking through the door. So I can’t say anything was planned. Everything really was just really organic.
Parlé: As we know there aren’t many rappers that we know from St. Louis so the comparison is naturally there. How do you differ from him, what’s your lane?
J.R.: I mean, the difference with me and anybody is I like consistently think we need to make another huge record. I focus on that. I don’t focus on what we need to do for marketing. I just focus on making another good record. That’s what I want my lane to be, just making good records.
Parlé: After everything you’ve done it’s clear you have a passion for this, especially after doing this for so many years.
J.R.: Absolutely, I got mouths to feed so if i don’t put my best foot forward, I’m not doing my best at all.
Parlé: And in putting your best foot forward what would you say has been the biggest pay off so far?
J.R.: The relationships. The relationships that I’m gaining. Like if I go out of town and we go to Vegas and perform for three or four thousand people then the next time I’m in Vegas now I got 50 cent calling me up on stage because he heard about the show last time. Or now I’m in New York and I link with somebody who has connections you know what I mean. It’s the relationships.
Parlé: So now that you are at the height of your grind and all the work is starting to pay off, what’s next?
J.R.: Look boss, (laughs) I can’t even tell you. I got plans for the work we about to do and expectations for the albums coming out but everything else is left up to god. Outside of that I did SXSW the 17-20th and now we’re getting ready to start a mini tour for the Gang Season EP.
J.R.: Yeah we goin’ crazy man, we all over the country man with it trying to bring awareness to the EP and to the broadening of my career.
You can also download and stream Gang Season on iTunes here.