(photo cred Samantha Petersen)
On the Northside of St. Paul sits a restaurant on the corner of University and N Victoria. The Best Steak House is a staple of this community having existed for thirty years. Last week, we sat down with a soon-to-be staple of St. Paul, Juice Lord. At only twenty years old, Juice Lord has a poetic story to tell and over the course of a Texas Steak Sandwich I got to hear it.
UHH: So first off, tell the readers who you are and where you are from?
Juice Lord: My name is Juice Lord. I am from St. Paul, Minnestoa born and raised. This is home, St Paul is home and they have raised a lot of legends. I went to St. Paul Central which has birthed a lot of legends and I'm just happy to be from here, to be from Minnesota.
St. Paul is often slept on. Not just in the hip hop scene but because Minneapolis overshadows it. However, Juice is correct when he mentioned that it has birthed some legends including Micheal “Eyedea” Larsen and deM atlaS. Juice mentioned that Eyedea's mom Kathy, whom we've spoken to in the past, actually worked at his school making sure she caught “kids who were riding the elevators if they didn't need to.” While St. Paul boasts some big names, they also have a bright future with artists like Tek, Why Khaliq, Ashley DuBose, Lioness and, of course, Juice Lord.
Hip hop often tells the story of an artist's life, their upbringings, and their surroundings. This is why I let my interviewees choose the location of the interview. And this time, I was introduced to a place that I will soon be returning.
Speaking of St. Paul, tell me a little bit about this place and why you chose to do this piece here?
This is a landmark for St. Paul and a lot people from Minnesota come here. It has been around for like 30 years and it's run by Mike and his family, you know, they have had this spot for a long time. I have come here all my life.
While St Paul is home, expanding and advancing is vital in any career choice. And for Juice Lord his expansion recently took him outside the twin cities to another staple of music and culture.
Stepping out of the cities for a minute, I heard you just got back from SXSW, can you tell me what that experience was like?
It's really hard to explain, it is something you have to experience, but for the most part it's love. I got to see different people [and] different artist go for their dream, what they love. I realized how much harder you gotta work and how much more prepared you have to be. People down there had everything [including] cards, cds, and merch. And it was a little overwhelming at times, but life is overwhelming at times and you have know how to deal with it. For the most part SXSW was a great learning experience, I met a lot of dope people and got some love from artists that are on right now.
SXSW is an incredible learning experience but also a great place to network. Being somewhat isolated in the hip hop scene of the midwest, Juice Lord took full advantage networking with Heather B of Sway in the Morning as well as connecting with the son of legendary rapper Bizzy Bones. These connections can be a foot in the door and some can swing the door wide open, but ultimately it is your talent that carries you over the threshold. For Juice Lord, this talent is on a constant “Growth” and for being at a relatively young age, the limit is endless.
You have a couple of projects in the work right now and I wanted to thank you for sending us the demo, it sounded great.
Yeah I have one in the works right now and one comig later, for now I am focusing on working with my project with Tek. I have [the song I sent you guys] “It Ain't Hard to Tell” that I am pushing right now.
That song actually has a lyric that stood out to me; “I think things and they come true” which to me is vital in mindset of an up and coming artists and this movement you are doing. So what are these things you are picturing?
Yeah, I said “I think of things and they come true, I never settle”. [This came from the fact that] the majority of things I have done of the last [couple] years has been spoken into existence. In 2014 I said I will be rapping on Sway's Big 16 and I did. […] It is not just spoken into existence [though], I put in the work and somehow put myself in the right position to be around the right people.
As with any talent, whether it's an artist, an athlete, or businessman, luck plays a small role. Being around the right people and making the right decisions rely on probability and probability is based in luck. But as any lucky person will tell you it is just as easy to go on a cold streak. As we finished our food, Juice told me about how it wasn't just a matter of getting his talent in front of people, it was about staying away from negativity and letting it roll of him because the second you start firing back you will spiral into a pissing match instead of focusing on your work. As for him speaking things into existence, he spoke to me about what his goals for 2017 including recognition from major publications, putting out his first project, and expanding outside of the twin cities scene.
Music for me has always been two-sided. On the one hand, it is art and it speaks to everyone differently. I have songs that have very specific meaning to myself and the struggles and joys I have went through in life. However, as we learned from Kathy Averill about Eyedea's music, they may have an entirely different meaning to the artist themselves. Which meaning is correct? To me, every person's meaning to a song is correct, but I also like comparing how I felt about a song to how an artist viewed that song. I have spent many hours watching and listening to interviews of artists long before doing this myself. Having this opportunity with one of the best pure lyricists in the twin cities, I couldn't skip the opportunity to dive deeper into one of his lyrics that I related to heavily and get his perspective on writing it.
I have been watching interviews for years to gain perspective on artists. Fans of the music often times, especially with the Rhymesayers faithful in the Twin Cities and beyond, give their own meanings and sometimes it's not what you intended, sometimes it was just some bull you wrote down one day.
It makes you feel. And music isn't always necessarily gonna make you feel this way. Coming from an artist's perspective you aren't always gonna make someone feel exactly how you feel. The beat might take them to a different state of mind [or] a different memory. Something completely different from your initial thought when creating a track.
I like to compare and contrast because I know my life was different than yours and the words you spoke might have the same emotion but for a different reason. I had that feeling with “Growth.” The line I wanted to ask you about is “I've been helpin' everybody but haven't helped myself.”
Man...so with that, when I was creatin' "Growth" I was at a studio for a long time and it was inspired by [Grow by] Cozz from Dreamville [Records]. That song, his original song, just really spoke to me. That beat really spoke to me and M&A brought that video to life, I want to give a shout out to Matt and Anthony for that. On my life, I have always though of other people before myself a [because] I love people and want to see people do great things. And especially around this time I found myself helping out a lot of people who wasn't really people that were [also] helpin me. I was seekin' acceptance from people who could care less about what you are doing, [but] not always on purpose its just the way life is, people change. I just always found myself trying to help out people instead of thinking about myself sometimes, just once.
Juice went a little more in-depth about how changing his perspective to look out for himself here and there, while not straying away from his fundamental personality as a person who looks out for others has lead him down a path of success. At a young age, just 20 years old, he is in his second year of college while promoting himself conservatively. By that, he has learned a lot about who to surround himself with and when to exert himself. From being around the right artists in the Cities who will promote 'growth' amongst themselves and the community to understanding that he can do more from a higher position, Juice knows that while he will take his time to push himself further and master his craft he will also use his opportunities to be “helpin' everybody.”
This mentality isn't new to the city but it is rare. Slug could sit on his high horse and reign king of Minnesota hip hop until (if) he retires but I know that he reaches out to a lot of young guys in the city not just to hear their music, but to tell them about tour life to prepare them for some of the rough patches they may hit and to honestly and humbly wish them respect. There is another local talent that has been making waves that we got to discussing as well.
Not to say that you were inspired by this, but Lyric Marid has a very similar mentality when it comes to helping others and I know you just recently performed “It Ain't Hard to Tell” at his Sota Seoul Experience that we covered.
Lyric is exactly like that, he just loves people. And all he asks back is for the love and respect [he is giving], but at the of the day some people take that kindness for weakness. That is exactly what a lot of people have done to [big bro] and what a lot of people have done to me and still do, but I brush it off and he brushes it off. It is about showing love and only the real will show love back, a lot of cats only in it for the benefit.
Hip hop is a writer's dream genre. From diving into your personal relationships and feelings to making up the extremes, hip hop tells a story. The interview process for me is one of hearing why that story exists, whether is from personal experience or to help a friend or just because the beat made you laugh and smile. This was my perspective on the story telling of hip hop, but Juice Lord offered another.
I will spend hours on lyric genius just looking up how these songs come together and the story is told and I don't see it as much in other genres. The ability to tell that story is one of the biggest draws for me into hip hop and understanding a culture that is so much different than the farm town I came from.
Hip hop came from nothing, and that's something a lot of people don't know. A lot of people take that 'came from nothing' story for granted because they came from something they just want to have came from nothing. They think that [coming from nothing] gives them extra points or something. I definitely came from something. A lot of my family member really struggled more than me, but I still felt bad and felt everything around me. It was a situation that really wasn't good, but I have always had a strong family around me so I have always been good.
Before we finish up, I just wanted to thank you for sitting down and for bringing me to The Best Steak House.
I want to say thank you to Upcoming Hip Hop, it's a phenomenal blog and great things coming from there. Great things coming from Minnesota and everywhere that has yet to be heard on the highest level. And the “It Aint Hard to Tell” song and video is coming soon so be on the lookout for that.
At 20 years old, Juice Lord is far surpassed his maturity. Understanding not just the nature of the industry he is in, but remaining true to himself while doing it. This rare combination of intelligence and personality is a mix for success. It ain't hard to tell that by staying true to this mentality, Juice will soon be at the top of his game and the industry itself. You can catch him live with another outstanding talent and all around person Dwynell Roland, live at the historic First Avenue and 7th Street Entry on April 27th.