When "Bandz A Make Her Dance" topped urban radio charts earlier this month, one thing became very clear: Juicy J's solo career is not a fluke.
He's spent the past three years building a buzz with mixtapes, frequent collaborations with Wiz Khalifa, a slew of additional guest appearances, and catchy vernacular that's permeated the culture beyond music. It's all culminated in a recent signing with pop hit-maker Dr. Luke's Kemosabe record label, a branch of Columbia.
Juicy stopped by Complex to talk about the new deal, how he avoids the stigma that keeps most rap veterans from prospering in later eras, and just how much he's really into drugs.
Interview by Ernest Baker (@newbornrodeo)
I’m always working, man. I want people to know that I’m fucked up, but working, too.
Seems like it. You release a lot of music.
I be dropping shit left and right.
And yet, your music promotes a—how to best describe this?—crazy party lifestyle.
I consider it everyday life, man. You never know what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen.
I’ve had some straight random times in Canada before—ended up in a hot tub with two chicks. Shit happens, you know? It’s a lifestyle. I go with the flow. It’s not like anything I set up.
You've been on tour with Wiz Khalifa. Does he throw crazy parties?
Wiz has stoner nights, man.
But are they parties?
Weed parties. We turned up out there. We make good music. We been in the studio a lot, most of the time just making music. Making jams.
You're working on your debut solo album. Is it still called Stay Trippy?
Right now, yeah. I thought about changing it, but then everybody was like, "Why not? That’s you, man." I was like, "Alright, well cool."
It was a big deal when news broke that you were working with The Weeknd. Who else are you working with that we might necessarily know about yet?
I can’t reveal all the secrets. I got something so big. I want to tell you about it and I want to tell the world, but I’m going to wait. But I got some shit coming up, man. It’s going to be serious. It’s going to shock the fuck out of people.
We had a hundred dollar microphone. That’s the same vocals I used when I was in the apartment. It was ratchet. We finished the song in like an hour and a half. Mike Will did the beat, and that was it.
You’re probably going to ride "Bandz A Make Her Dance" for a while, right?
I hope so. I’m enjoying the ride right now. I don’t know how long this record is going to be on the charts, or in the strip clubs, in people’s cars, in people’s ears, but it’s looking strong right now.
Did you expect it to take off this way?
I never expected none of this. I was just doing it myself, and I just threw it out on Twitter. Now I’m in New York, everything’s looking great. New deal, new money, new groupies. I can’t complain. Everything is still surprising and shocking to me. I recorded that song in a two-bedroom apartment in D.C. I was at this chick’s apartment, and me and my engineer recorded my vocals right there.
We had a hundred dollar microphone. That’s the same vocals I used when I was in the apartment. It was ratchet. We finished the song in like an hour and a half. Mike Will did the beat, and that was it. He sent me like a bunch of tracks I would listen to through email, and I heard that one beat, I laid the vocals to it and the rest is history. Wayne hopped on the remix—everybody call it a remix, but I consider Wayne and 2 Chainz the original version, as well.
Gin has gone from stuffy to trendy, partially because you and Wiz Khalifa are so fond of it. How did that happen?
When I met Wiz, he was drinking that Bombay. He put me on that Bombay, so I started drinking it. I was like, "This is a cool little turnt up drank." I love it. It makes you wild, man. You don’t know what happened the next day. [Laughs.] It knocks you the fuck out. The camera start rolling, Bombay, let’s put it in the video. We drinking that shit. Next thing you know, everybody, they on it, man.
You need an endorsement.
Hopefully. I’m gonna start blurring the bottle out until I get an endorsement or they pay me. [Laughs.]
Since the Three 6 Mafia days, you've been a pioneer of recreational drug use. Now everyone is like: "Let's pop some Molly." How do you feel about that?
It is what it is. Just keep it 100. However you want to do it. We been doing it, and I just want to speak my mind and do me. People love it, man. I noticed a lot of things have changed—people are more open about things now. I call it “trippy music” now. I consider it a person doing what they want to do, and expressing themselves. Whether they getting high or they not getting high, they just being themselves.
Right now, with so much going on in the economy, people now want to be more entertained with drugs and strip clubs.
And right now, with so much going on in the economy, people now want to be more entertained with drugs and strip clubs. The strip clubs are selling out everywhere. Strip clubs have always been popular, but now they seem like they're more of a place to relieve your stress. There’s so much stress going on out here, and stupid shit going on in the world. Fuck being stressed out. Let’s just go to the club and turn up.
Yeah, I see more strip clubs that are almost billed as regular nightclubs these days.
It’s a club now. It’s not like, "Oh, we’re going to strip club." It’s "Oh, we going to the club." It’s a strip club, girls dancing naked in there, we hope. We going to have fun, as well. We’re going to kick it, pop bottles, enjoy ourselves. That’s what life is all about. It’s so short, and so many people are stressed out about stupid shit. I know there’s a lot of ups and downs in people’s lives going on right now, but have some fun.
What’s it like having multiple songs that are strip club staples right now?
It’s a great feeling, man. I love when they play "Bandz" like a hundred times and people turn up the same way as when they first heard it. I can’t complain, man. For me, being in this game for over 20 years and still can put out a record and it’s climbing charts, and people coming to shows, and singing word-for-word—it’s amazing. So we going to keep turning it up. We going to turn it up 'til 2050. We going to party. Never stop partying, man.
You've been in the game for so long, yet you don't have the stigma that comes with being an older rap veteran. Why is that? What is it about you that prevents you from coming across as someone who's aged?
I don’t live in the past. I don’t talk about the past as much. Lots of people live in the past. They be like, "Man, you know, I used to do this back in the day." Fuck back in the day, dog. It’s 2012. What are you doing now? I move forward. I love to hang out with people. I hang out with more young'ns. Everybody’s moving forward. Nobody’s talking about '92, or '96, or 2005, or even 2011. Everybody’s like, "What’s going on in 2012?" I move forward with the music. I move forward with the mind state. If it’s a new club popping, I’m going to that new club. I don’t try and be worried about what happened yesterday. I keep up with the times.
A lot of people out there, you talk to them, motherfuckers still be talking about it’s 2002. Niggas talking about the same shit. Like, what the fuck? I don’t do that. We can sit down and have a conversation, and I’m talking about shit that’s coming out next year and keeping up to date. Talking about that iPhone 5, niggas still talking about the iPhone 4.
The iPhone 4 is like a fucking Nokia flip phone at this point.
That’s what I’m saying. I’m more like, "What’s new?" I’m not worried about that old shit. When I come around people, I’m up to date on everything. I know all the new music that’s coming out, all the stuff that ain’t came out yet. I know artists right now you never heard of that’s about to blow the fuck up. I can name them, like, by hand. And when I tell you they going to blow up, I promise you they going to blow. I’m on my game. I listen to all kinds of music. I love underground, new music that’s popping. The new shit.
If a person’s around me talking about '92, or 2005, I get away from them quickly. I don’t want to be around anybody talking about the past.
Yeah, recently you've become known for reaching out to new artists.
'Cause back in the day that’s what I did. I used to listen to what was underground, even though Three 6 Mafia was maybe here, wherever we was at. I would reach down and go to somebody that wasn’t popping, and listen to they music instead of listening to that other shit.
To me, that’s the music that’s going to be the next thing popping. And that’s how I always been. That’s why I keep my ear to the streets, and I stay so relevant. I’m on the new shit. I’m always on some new shit. Fuck the old shit. If a person’s around me talking about '92, or 2005, I get away from them quickly. I don’t want to be around anybody talking about the past.
Even as one of two rap artists to ever win an Oscar, you're like: That’s over.
I mean, I’m blessed. It’s a blessing, and I still think about it here and there, but I did that then. What am I doing now? So now maybe I’m trying to get another Oscar—get two on the shelf. I’m all about moving forward. It’s just about moving forward with me.
How is today's grind different from when you first started?
Everything now is on the Internet. It wasn’t like that back in the late '90s through the mid-2000s. It was like, streets. A street team. It’s still important to do street team work, but you gotta be present online. These young kids don’t know too much about street teams. They on their computer every day. If you look at everybody on the iPhone—they on Facebook, they on Twitter—you got to be in that Internet world, for real.
You can go on the Internet right now and find out what a motherfucker doing right now if you want to. It’s a virtual world. It’s a totally different world on the Internet. We could sit here and drink a beer, but you can get on that iPhone and find out what this next motherfucker doing in another country. The vlogs, the computers, they done took over. If you not in the Internet world, you out the loop completely. That’s the truth.
Was that ever hard for you to adjust to?
I was interested. I wanted to do it. It wasn’t like, "Oh, I got to do this." This is me. This is what I do. When I was doing music, the laptops came out and got so popular. I bought me a laptop, and everybody was like, "What the fuck is that? Why’d you get that?" I’m like, "Dude, this is what I do." I was the only person who had a laptop in the group. I used to keep the scheduling and everything on a laptop. And this is like late '90s and shit.
When I was doing music, the laptops came out and got so popular. I bought me a laptop, and everybody was like, "What is that? Why’d you get that?"
I was always online. I always took care of my business. The YouTubes, the Facebooks, the Twitters. Any vlogs. I listen to online radio stations. If you even think about it, who listens to the radio these days? Who watches TV? I don’t really watch TV that much. I might catch a basketball game, but that’s it. I’m always online.
Do you still keep up with DJ Paul?
Me and Paul still cool. I haven’t talked to anybody else in the group. It is what it is. It’s no problems. It’s good. I wish everybody the best. Life is too short. I don’t hold no grudges with anybody. There was never really no grudges. Everything is cool, man. I’m a happy person. I don’t dwell on stress and bullshit.
How did you wind up signing with Dr. Luke? That surprised a lot of people.
One thing about me, man: I think to do something that the next person ain’t going to do. I like to shock the shit out of you. I like people to be like, "Holy shit! This nigga just did a song with who? He just did a deal with what?"
Just think about that. Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J, and Dr. Luke. Powerhouse three. Think about that. It smells like money. Think about that, you be like, "God damn. Them niggas finna make a lot of God damn money." I mean, real talk, three geniuses in one room working on music, man. Who would’ve thought that? You probably thought that maybe I’d be with another label or this label, or whatever. Look at that. Like, damn. You never would’ve expect that.
Which has way more impact.
Way more impact. It’s like when Three 6 Mafia got nominated for an Oscar. Who would’ve thought that Three 6 Mafia would get nominated, perform, and win? We didn’t know it was going to happen, but at the end of the day, it shocked the shit out of people. Like, "These niggas?"
The performance seemed like it was going to be a consolation prize. Like, "Let the rappers perform before we give this award to Dolly Parton."
Our career has always been a shocker. It just happened that Dr. Luke was over at Sony, and I still had my deal with Three 6 Mafia, and I joined Taylor Gang, and we just came in as one. It made everything greater. We even stronger now. We couldn’t be stopped at the beginning, now we really can’t be stopped. Like, fuck. I mean, Dr. Luke’s a genius. Wiz a genius. Your boy Juicy J over here grinding. C’mon man! [Sniffs.] Smell that money? That smells like a hundred million or more. Think about that. Serious bread. Who wouldn’t do that? I love it.
I be in the studio all night, turning up, smoking weed, getting high, but making records. We get f**ked up and make music. These days, you might find an artist in the studio sleep, clock ticking.
It's cool when artists work outside of their comfort zone, defy expectations.
Try something different, but in the same lane. Keep everything in the same lane, just try something new that the next person wouldn't try. That’s what I’m always about. I heard Isaac Hayes say that, rest in peace. I saw this interview he did. He was like, "I’m the type of dude who always would try something different." I’m the same way.
I always do the straight to the left shit. This person going to do that, Juicy J going to do something like, "Aw, fuck." I might one day do a show on the moon. You probably wouldn't believe it, like, "Hold up, Juicy J finna perform live, on UStream. They going to put him on the moon rapping." I know it sounds kind of crazy, but who knows, man? I like making moves like that. Crazy fucking stupid moves. Then they'd paid so many amounts of dollars to go up there and do that shit, 'cause no nigga would go up there and hang out on the moon, 'cause they probably fear for they life. [Laughs.]
Well, Virgin says they're going to start sending people up there in the next few years.
And he’s out there. He’s building a big spaceship or some shit?
I think a commercial flight to space is like $30 million. A performance up there would bring in some good money.
That would fuck a person's head up! Right now, there’s some shit in the works. Some songs I’m jumping on, you going be like, "Hell naw. That nigga?"
What are some of these songs?
I want to say some, but I can’t. I don’t want to spoil the surprise. The element of surprise.
It’s very important, and that’s who I am. I like to surprise niggas. We going to keep getting this bread. We out here working, working hard. And that money is coming in fast.
Wiz Khalifa spent much of his recent cover story with us talking about what he's learned from you. What have you learned from him?
He gets that money, man. He's got energy. He’s young. Wiz is like, what, 25? He Just turned 25? That reminds me of myself when I was 24, 25. I was walking around with a laptop, when niggas were like, "I’m a straight hood nigga." At the end of the day, I’m smart. A lot of people don’t be understanding that niggas from the hood is smart. They know how to count that money. They know how to hustle. Niggas ain’t stupid. I mean there’s a couple dummies here and there that do stupid shit, but we all do stupid shit.
But I know how to get that money. I know the hustle. It’s one thing being 24, 25, being a young person knowing how to talk to major labels, and ask questions that normally a person that age wouldn’t ask. Wiz has a manager, but he oversees his own stuff. His projects, his videos, everything. So I saw that in him. He’s super smart, he’s talented. He’s smart about it. He’s from the hood as well. He knows what he wants.
And I got the same kind of vibe with me. I be in the studio all night, turning up, smoking weed, getting high, but making records. We get fucked up and make music. These days, you might find an artist in the studio sleep, clock ticking. And I ain’t going to lie, back in my days, there was a lot of artists [doing that], man. Studio time—I would go to the studio, and in the late '90s, studios used to be very expensive. You would spend like $300,000 on studio time, so I would walk into people’s sessions and see niggas sleep and I’m like, "What the fuck?" The clock is ticking.
With Wiz, he’s working. He’s not asleep, he’s working. High as hell, but knocking out five or six songs a day. So, we got the same energy, same vibe. That’s what made us click so hard. Everything went smooth, and everything's going smooth right now, as well. That’s where the energy comes from, man. Everybody’s on the same page.
"Oh, Juicy’s crazy. He’s going to OD." Nah, I’m gonna OD on cash. I’m a businessman. I will be running Sony. I’m going to have everybody’s job up there.
What do you say to concerns that you're addicted to drugs or might overdose?
I mean, you got to know your limits, man. That’s real talk. I don’t go over my limits. Some people may, and if that’s what you prefer, then do it. I just do me. I know what I want to take, want I want to do, and at the end of the day, it’s not all about drugs, man. It’s about how you want to do it. Sometimes I walk in the studio sober, and still make a good song. I may take just a small, smidgen shot of gin—smidgen. Sometimes I might smoke a bunch of weed and get so damn high I can’t damn near work, but maybe knock out a hook or make a beat or something. It’s still considered work.
Niggas be like, "Juicy’s high." Yeah, I might drink a little here and there, but nigga I’m working. I’m working. I’m getting that money. I’m going to the bank. My taxes is paid. It’s no stupid nigga out here, man. I ain’t the average dumb nigga out here like, "Oh, Juicy’s crazy. He’s going to OD." Nah, I’m gonna OD on cash.
I’m a businessman. I will be running Sony. I’m going to have everybody’s job up there. [Laughs.] I will have a big position in Sony, man. I promise you. You’ll see. I always wanted to run a huge company. Not so much run it, but run it with somebody. I want to run it with the people that’s there. A part where they’re like, "Yo man, what do you think about this?" I want to be a big decision maker like that. Because I know that I know music.
I know over 20 artists right now that’s up-and-coming that nobody knows. Nobody’s signed them. I can discover talent like that. I got this dude right now, I ain’t going to say his name, but I promise you that when I bring him out, it’s going to be stupid. His flow is ignorant, and as long as he got Uncle Juicy behind him, it’s going to be crazy. Everything I touch turns to gold.