Juicy J has been making music for over 20 years and shows absolutely no signs of stopping. The Oscar winner and Grammy nominated rapper recently shut it down at the 2014 Grammys when he performed alongside Katy Perry for their collaboration, "Dark Horse." 20 years in the game and now Juicy is on his biggest hit ever as "Dark Horse" hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 just this week.
Before Juicy sets sail on his Never Sober tour, we figured it was a good time to hop on the phone with the rap veteran. He opened up about the late, great Lord Infamous, who he worked with during his days with Three 6 Mafia, his decision behind picking scholarship contest winner Zaire Holmes, and he cleared up the misconceptions about being signed to Wiz Khalifa's Taylor Gang. Plus he let us know what he's got in the works as far as collaborations for 2014 and some the names might surprise you...
Interview by Elva Aguilar (@Cheverella_)
The song “Scholarship” created a lot of buzz, when did you decide that you wanted to make it a real scholarship?
It was around the time when my album and when my singles were being released. I'm an OG in the game, I've done a lot for the music business. I wanted to give back to the community and help somebody else out. I'm starting the Juicy J Scholarship Foundation. I'm going to start doing a lot of different things trying to help out and give back. It's going to be different contests. I'm thinking up of some ideas now.
What was it like working with Lord Infamous back in the beginning stages of Three 6 Mafia?
He was a genius. He was like a brother to me. We all came up together as youngin's. It's sad. He was always a loving, caring, and giving person. He wasn't all about the money. He was about the music and the group. It was insane. He loved coming up with ideas and being in the studio every day making records with us.
Was there something about him that stuck out the most to you?
He could sing, he had different kind of styles and different flows in his rap. That's what stuck out the most.
Do you plan on doing something in memory of Lord Infamous?
We haven't talked about it but I'm definitely down to do something. He's definitely one of the legends, one of the greats, he will definitely be missed. I love that group. I came up with that group and I'll do anything for that group.
I did a record with Enrique Iglesias, David Guetta, and Swedish House Mafia. It definitely has a hip-hop feel to it.
Is it a solo album he's working on or are you two doing a collaborative project?
It's Project Pat's solo album. I'm going to do some production on it. I've probably produced half the album. I've got Crazy Mike and some new cats that's working with me right now—up and coming producers—that I'm going to give a shot at making some beats on the album as well.
"Dark Horse" has been steadily climbing the charts week after week. Tell me what it's been like in the wake of that.
It's such a huge blessing. I didn't think any of this would happen. My life has changed for the better. It's just amazing. I have to catch myself sometimes. It's like a dream. It's a great thing. Katy Perry, she's a professional, she's a genius, she makes hit records and the chemistry was great making the record. Dr. Luke, I salute Dr. Luke for putting the project together as well. It's just a blessing—it's unreal—I look at the charts and it keeps going up. I'm just waiting to see what's about to happen.
Dr. Luke linked you two up for this track or did she approach you?
Dr. Luke gave me a phone call and told me Katy was interested in having me on the song and I was going crazy, I was like, "Wow!"
Would you consider doing a full album with her based on the success "Dark Horse" has had?
Yeah of course! Whatever she wants to do, I'm down for it. I'm a producer/rapper so I feel like I can do anything. I can do all kinds of music. I've done all kinds of music and I'm good at it.
Are there any other pop artists that have approached you since "Dark Horse" dropped?
Yeah. I did a record with Enrique Iglesias, David Guetta, and Swedish House Mafia.
Are those all songs within their genre or will it have more of a hip-hop sound?
Definitely has a hip-hop feel to it.
Tell me about "Talkin Bout," the single you've got coming up with Chris Brown and Wiz Khalifa.
That track is super hot. We shoot the video soon. It's going to be a movie. Me and Chris Brown had recorded that track last year, like early last year, around January 2013. It's a dope song. It's one of my favorite songs on Stay Trippy.
How did Wiz Khalifa get involved?
I've been working with Wiz for about three years now and we were just in the studio, putting together the record. Chris Brown came through, he did his verse, and it happened randomly. We were just chilling and came up with the record.
What's it been like working with Taylor Gang, you've been signed with them for two years now.
I'm a third owner of the company, but my label deal is with Columbia and Kemosabe Records.
Could you explain exactly how that works?
I've always been signed to Columbia, all my life. When "Bands A Make Her Dance" came out, I was working with Wiz at the time as well and he asked me to be a third owner of Taylor Gang Records, so I came on because he likes my expertise. He knows that I produce, I've been in the game for a while, I know how to find new artists. So he said "Hey man, I want you to be on my team," so we had a discussion and I joined his team.
I'm a third owner of Taylor Gang, but my label deal is with Columbia and Kemosabe Records.
When "Bands A Make Her Dance" got hot, Columbia Records gave me a call, they wanted to do a solo deal with me because my Three 6 Mafia deal was with Columbia Records. So I told them, "'I'll do the solo deal if you bring in one of my homies,' my brother Dr. Luke, 'and Kemosabe Records and let's make it a joint venture," because I wanted to do music with Luke.
Luke is a genius and I like his direction so they worked the deal out where it's a joint venture, Kemosabe/Columbia. We're just one happy family. We all work together—me, Wiz, Dr. Luke, the whole Taylor Gang—we all work together. We out here trying to make different moves and sign new artists and keep it moving.
How did you build you relationship with Dr. Luke?
I've been working with Dr. Luke for probably eight years now. I first met him when we was working on the new Three 6 Mafia album, he produced a lot of tracks on that album, so that's when I first met him. We became real good friends and ever since then we've stayed in touch. We always talk on the phone and I would come over by his house and we would make beats together.
I would write a couple of songs over some beats he did. I write some hooks and he just always believed in my vision and he's got my back 100 percent. He knows me to a T, he's very executive. I'm glad to be on his team and be working together. It's definitely helped the success of "Bands A Make Her Dance," "Bounce It," and "Show Out."
Since Dr. Luke is known more for his work outside of hip-hop, has he ever make you do something musically that you weren't initially comfortable with?
Nah. Everything runs smoothly. I'm never uncomfortable with anything I do. I never feel like I regret anything. I love music, you know? All kinds of music. I'm a producer first. I feel like I can do anything and still be myself. You hear a song and you're like, "Juicy J is on this song, Juicy J is on that song," but it's still me at the end of the day. So I have no problems or pressure at all.
Have you been to Memphis recently?
Yeah. I'm back and forth. I still got my place in Memphis. I still go there when I have the time. I'm on the road a lot too. I'm doing shows everywhere. I'm up in Canada, Florida, New York, Denver, I'm in Nebraska, I'm everywhere. I do a lot of work in L.A. but I prefer to be in Memphis, that's where my mom and all my family is, so I go down there and chill with my kinfolk.