It’s been 10 years since Complex debuted with Nas and Dominic “Uncle Junior” Chianese on our cover and since then it’s been a constant progression. And progression is something our current Complex cover star, Justin Bieber, knows a little something about. Our epic cover story followed Bieber from an awards show in France to Miami where he was recording with Timbaland as he prepped his sophomore album, Believe.
Along the way we spoke with Bieber’s manager/mentor Scooter Braun about the past, present, and future of JayBee’s career. And the future is looking bright: Bieber released his new hip-hop-flavored single “Boyfriend” earlier this week, and currently it’s the No. 1 record in 32 countries.
We spent ample time with Bieber, and not everything we spoke about made it into the pages of the magazine, so now we’re giving you the full uncut interview with the chart-topping pop star. In this Q&A he speaks on the pressures of growing in the spotlight, his high-profile relationship with Selena Gomez, and ranks his top 5 (or 6) favorite rappers. Get used to JayBee, cause the hits just keep coming…
Interview by Joe La Puma (@JLaPuma)
Scooter, what do you fear most as Justin enters the next stage?
Scooter Braun: You want me to say this in front of him?
Well, not really... It doesn’t matter.
SB: [To Justin Bieber] Do you want to hear what my biggest fear is?
I’ve got such great people around me. They don’t really care if they make me angry. A lot of teams, they’re afraid to make the artist angry, because they don’t want to get fired.
Justin Bieber: I don’t want to hear this.
SB: You don’t want to hear what my biggest fear is?
SB: He already knows what my biggest fear is, by the way.
What is it?
SB: My biggest fear is that he surrounds himself with the wrong people.
Is there any reason for that? Is it something that he’s done or something that’s happened in the past maybe in your career?
SB: No. I’ve just seen it. I think anybody who’s been a part of a kid’s life, you hope that when they go out into the world, that they surround themselves with the right people and don’t find themselves in trouble. My fear is that we’ve protected him from a lot of the vultures of the world, and I don’t believe in overprotecting. I believe that if you do that, people make the wrong mistakes. I have to trust in him that he’s going to make the right decisions and make the right mistakes, and that he’s going to react to his mistakes as well as he reacts to his victories. My biggest fear is that he allows people in his life that are more concerned about the access than they are about him.
Totally. You’re going to be there to step in if that happens. Is that fair to say?
SB: Yeah, but I can’t step in too often. Like, for the first time he’s going to be away from me more often. He’s becoming an adult. I’m not going to be with him every single day.
JB: What’s up, bro?
I have assorted questions, but I just want to ask this while Scooter’s here. A lot of people who start young kind of get into stuff that’s not cool—like drugs and stuff. Why do you feel that you won’t go down that path?
JB: I just have no real drive to, first of all. That’s one thing. A lot of teenagers, when they’re in the business, they want to rebel, because they’ve been so tied up and stuff. I’m not too tied up. I still like to have fun. I just don’t see myself getting out of control.
Do you feel like, if you did that, someone in your camp might slap you around a little bit?
JB: Yeah. I’ve got such great people around me. They don’t really care if they make me angry. A lot of teams, they’re afraid to make the artist angry, because they don’t want to get fired and all that stuff. My team’s pretty good about letting me know when to get in line.
SB: [To JB] I told him. That’s why he’s asking you that. I told him about that night you called me and said, “You know why I won’t do that stuff?” and I said, “Why?” and you said, “Because you’d beat the shit out of me.”
That’s what a good older brother would do.
SB: Honestly, he’s the same way. If his younger brother ever did any of that shit, he would cancel the concert, fly home, and beat the shit out of his little brother.
[Scooter Braun exits]
JB: [To SB] Peace out.
SB: Don’t fuck up [All laugh].
You clearly don’t need any more fans, but is it important for you to be accepted by all types of people at any age?
JB: Not everyone’s going to like my music. People might not like my music, because I’m just not their style of music that they like to listen to. I’m not into screamo music, but I respect it. It’s hard to do, to keep your voice and stuff like that. It’s hard to do, so I respect the music. It’s just not my favorite to listen to. That’s all I want. I just want people to respect me as an artist.
Some people live by the motto, “My music ain’t for everyone.” Do you think about your music reaching a specific audience?
JB: No. I mean, I would consider my music like, pop-R&B. So it can reach a lot of people. Pop is popular music. That’s what it stands for. So I’m just making music that I know that I like, I know other people will like, and my fans will like. Also, the dressing type of thing. I want to go out there and do some different things that people are like, “Wow. That’s crazy. Why didn’t I think of that?” P
You spoke at the Michael Jackson tribute, and you got to meet his family.
What was that like?
JB: It was crazy. It was just an honor, because I was the only artist they asked to come. So to be there and have his mother and his daughter introduce me, that was great. His daughter saying, “I think my dad would have loved to mentor you” was just really nice to hear.
Scooter said that the only person you look to is Michael Jackson. Is that fair to say that you don’t feel competition from other people?
JB: No. I don’t feel competition at all. I just feel like I want to be the best. In everything that Michael did, he was the best. When he was dancing, when he was singing, he always wanted to be the best, and that’s me... He’s the guideline.
That’s fair to say.
JB: I just want to be the biggest artist that I can be, and I want to make a difference. I feel like Michael made a difference with everything that he did. He was so charitable and just always on-point. I just want to be where he is, as an artist.
I just want to be the biggest artist that I can be, and I want to make a difference. I feel like Michael [Jackson] made a difference with everything that he did. He was so charitable and always on-point. I just want to be where he is as an artist.
I know you’re an athlete, and you’re a competitive person. You want to sell out the most arenas and stuff like that. Where do you get your competitive drive from?
JB: I just feel like there’s no point doing this if I’m not going to be the best.
Right. That’s how everybody should feel, but not a lot of people feel that way.
JB: Everybody just tries to be successful. Like, sure, it’s good to be successful, but if you’re working that hard? This is how I feel, I work so many hours a day, and I’m always working, I’m always traveling. I give up so much to do what I do. Like, I give up a personal life. I give up my friends, my family. I give up a lot of stuff to pursue what I love and to make my fans happy. I give up so much. So, I’m going to be the best. Why would I give up so much to just be another singer or another person doing what he loves? I’m out here doing everything to the best of my capability to be the best. When I release something, I’m like, “OK, I want it to be the best.” When I release my fragrance, I want it to be the number one fragrance. I don’t want it to be like, “Oh yeah, you got ninth on the rankings.” Nah. I’m like, “What are we not doing?” My Christmas album went double-platinum worldwide. Christmas albums don’t really do that. I was like, “That’s not good enough. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be selling more.” I just want to be the best I can be.
Your dad was a former fighter. How psyched is he going to be when he sees this photo shoot?
JB: He loves that stuff. He and Mayweather have been talking. My dad loves fighting. He loves UFC and everything. So he’s going to be excited to see that.
My good friend’s son is obsessed with you. He’s four years old. It’s like, “Oh, Joe’s going to interview him,” and he doesn’t really get like, “Well, why can’t I go?” You know what I mean?
But now the photo shoot is going to come out, and it’s going to be you all bloody. Do you ever fear how it’s going to be received by young kids like that? Or do you think they’ll get it?
JB: I’m pretty sure young kids aren’t going to be reading this magazine. My things are targeted to the people who are going to get it. This is not for toddlers. I don’t think they’re going to go up to the shelf and pull it off [Laughs].
It’s a big departure from the V magazine cover. Scooter was talking about how you like to read comments online, and people were like, “Wow. That’s really feminine.” Did you think, like, “I did this. So now I have to do that”?
JB: Not really. I mean, every guy has feminine qualities. You’re raised by your mother and father, and so you get qualities from your mother and father. I was mostly with my mother, but I think the pictures turned out good. Whatever.
The comment that pisses me off so much is, 'Oh, get over it, Justin. You’re famous. People are going to take your picture. Just suck it up. You’re rich. You’re making a lot of money. Suck it up.'
But this cover is going to be dope.
JB: Yeah. This is going to be dope. It’s some different type of stuff. It’s boxing, bloody, manly stuff.
Obviously, you and Selena are fodder for the gossip blogs everyday. How hard is it to keep your relationship private?
JB: It’s so hard, because everyone’s got a camera-phone, and now everyone wants to get their picture on the blogs. So they’ll send anything that they have to the blogs. So you don’t really get any privacy. If I want to go out to eat, if I’m in L.A., I just have to expect that there’s going to be someone there. That’s the only thing that I don’t like.
Is it tough for you guys? A lot of people like, hate it. Do you guys hate it, or is it like, “This comes with the territory, we’ve got to deal with it, it sucks?”
JB: I’m kind of both. I don’t like it, but I understand it. I’ll be covering my face or something, and the comment that pisses me off so much is, “Oh, get over it, Justin. You’re famous. People are going to take your picture. Just suck it up. You’re rich. You’re making a lot of money. Suck it up. This is one of the things that you have to do.” I’m like, “Yo I just got off an eight-hour flight. I’m tired. My eyes have bags under them. I’m not trying to take pictures.” I’m not going to come to your house, wake you up out of a deep sleep and start snapping your picture, no matter how you look right now. It doesn’t matter. When I get off a flight, I’m not trying to sit there and let them take pictures of me. I’m tired. I’m scratching my eyes. I just don’t like taking pictures in general.
There’s been high profile couples in history: Justin and Britney, Jay and Beyoncé. Jay and Beyoncé kind of kept it private. Everyone knew they were together, but they kept it quiet. Even with the kid, they kept it so under wraps. Do you learn anything from those relationships? And do you guys talk about that?
There’s no way to hide it completely, because then it would be unfair for us. Then, we’re not even able to have a relationship.
JB: Yeah. I mean, for me, it’s like, there’s no way to hide it completely, because then it would be unfair for us. Then, we’re not even able to have a relationship. It’s like, “You take this car, and I’ll take this car, and then we’ll meet up at the spot. Then, you go in this door, I’ll go in this door. We’ll end up crossing ways. You get back in this car. We’ll cross over, do a James Bond. You go through the kitchen. I’ll go through the back area. Then we’ll meet in the dressing room and see each other.” At that point, it’s like, it’s not even a relationship. You’re just hiding from everyone. That’s unfair and unhealthy, man.
OK. There’s a picture of you giving the finger with Selena.
When we see that, we’re like, “Good for him.” But it’s tough, because younger people might be like, “What is that?” Is that push and pull kind of tough?
JB: It is tough.
Especially at this age, because you’re growing up. You’re doing things where someone like me is going to say, “Good for him. That’s dope.” Other people are going to be like, “What is that?” You know what I mean?
JB: Yeah. In that scenario, I was just tired. It was my birthday, and they were snapping pictures. They wouldn’t even let me drive the car. So, yeah. But I mean, I know I probably shouldn’t have done that. At the end of the day, it was what it was. I’m not hiding from anyone. I am who I am, and I’m not perfect. I don’t want to give these kids the wrong impression. If they learn that from me, that’s not good.
There were a lot of teen stars that were very cookie-cutter... I’m just being me.
But at the same time people my age...
JB: Respect it?
Yeah, we respect it.
JB: There were a lot of teen stars that were very cookie-cutter. You didn’t see them really do that. I get that. I’m just being me.
Rebellion is something that’s going to open you up to older fans. As you get older, do you feel like rebelling even more?
JB: No. Everybody grows up and they have to make decisions, and they try and make the best decisions that they know how to. It’s taken them their whole lives to finally step out and start making their own decisions. I was taught very well. My mom raised me very well, and so did my dad. I’ve been very blessed to have great parents that cared about me... But also, I’m still rough around the edges. I grew up with not a lot of money, and just played sports my whole life. So you develop the sports-mouth with all of your friends. So that’s also another thing, just growing up like that, but also having good morals. That’s something that I was always glad that I had, because if I grew up with a lot of money, where everything was just handed to me, I feel like those are the people that, a lot of time, grow up to do worse things. Or they’ll start in a business really young, like eight or something, through all their schooling. I went to school my whole life. I got to experience that. All they experience is their home school, and when they hit 18, they just want to lose control.
People think it’s cool living a sheltered life, but the minute they get out...
JB: They start going crazy, drinking every day. That’s what happens. If you get exposure to other stuff, that’s where the difference is.
My parents were very young when they had me. They were still growing up and learning themselves. They did the best they could, but my mom and dad split up when I was little... So that kind of made me stronger.
How did your parents’ relationship shape you? What did you learn from it?
JB: My parents were very young when they had me. They were still growing up and learning themselves. They did the best they could, but my mom and dad split up when I was little. So it was tough for them, because they had to work on their relationship. Then, trying to raise a kid through that was hard. So that kind of made me stronger. Everything happens for a reason. There’s a lot of people that I know wouldn’t be able to handle the position that I’m in right now. They wouldn’t be able to handle it, because it’s just too much pressure.
Dude, flying to France in a day and back to New York, and then coming to Miami, I was like, “What am I doing?” That’s every day for you.
JB: Yeah it’s really hard, because you’ve got to travel every day. But I’m made for this, I feel like.
You’re built for it. Most people your age have their first cigarette or whatever. Do you have friends around your age who are doing that?
JB: None of my friends smoke. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life.
In France you said at 25 you want to be bulkier and tatted up.
JB: I mean, I think I’m going to get more tattoos.
Do you have any ideas for your next one?
JB: Right now, I have a couple tattoos, but I’m going to wait until I’m a little bit older to start thinking about more.
What other ones do you have?
JB: This one says, “Jesus” in Hebrew.
I feel like, If I would have lived in my hometown, I probably would have gotten in a lot more trouble. I was just in places where I could have gotten in trouble. I skateboarded a lot, just getting into the wrong stuff. I could’ve just hung out with the wrong friends.
Do people know about that one?
JB: I think so. Then this is the one I got when I was 16.
Oh, wow. What is that?
JB: That is the Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It’s a book about this seagull. Basically, the seagull wanted to be more than just a seagull.
And you want to be more than...
JB: I want to be more than just a regular person, extravagant. That’s what it’s about.
JB: My whole family has it, though. My grandma, my aunts, uncles, everybody. They all have it on their wrist, but I didn’t want to get it on my wrist. I wanted it in a different spot.
Do you give advice to your friends that you grew up with?
JB: Yeah, for sure. I feel like, If I would have lived in my hometown, I probably would have gotten in a lot more trouble. I was just in places where I could have gotten in trouble. I skateboarded a lot, just getting into the wrong stuff. I could’ve just hung out with the wrong friends. But here, I’m around great people, and I can still have my friends out. I’m not too... I’m held in, but I can still do some stuff.
Let’s talk about hip-hop. Every rapper fucks with you, from Tyler to Kanye to Wayne to Drake. What has the experience been like with, say, Tyler?
JB: He’s a really nice guy. I don’t know what he talks about and stuff, but man-to-man he’s a nice guy to talk to. I remember him saying, “Merry Christmas” to my family and stuff. He’s just a nice guy. I don’t know about his whole message. I don’t know if I believe in that completely, but...
Who have you learned the most from, besides Usher? You’ve worked with Kanye. I saw a picture with you and Wayne.
Who have you learned the most from? It doesn’t have to be music. It could be like, the coolness factor.
JB: Besides Usher?
Lil Twist is one of my best friends... He’s the one who introduced me to Wayne. And Wayne’s at the studio that I’m working at... We went skating at Wayne’s house the other day. He’s got the dopest skate ramps on the roof of his house
Yeah, because as part of your team you’re kind of supposed to learn from him. But who else have you learned the most from?
JB: Probably Drake. He’s given me good advice.
You guys talk a lot?
JB: Yeah. He hit me up yesterday. We just text and stuff, but he’s a great guy. We’ll start working together some more next week.
With 40 and stuff?
That’s going to be sick. With Wayne, I saw you guys were skateboarding. Are you guys working together?
JB: Lil Twist is one of my best friends. He’s out here in Miami. I’m about to go see him in like 15 minutes. He’s really dope, and he’s the one who introduced me to Wayne. And Wayne’s at the studio that I’m working at. So I’ve just been going over there and saying what’s up. We went skating at Wayne’s house the other day. He’s got the dopest skate ramps on the roof of his house.
Did he get injured when he was with you or no?
How’s he doing?
JB: He’s good. He tore his rotator cuff and still hopped back on the board the next day. He’s dope. He takes lessons every day. He’s got a guy who’s been teaching him.
Who are your five favorite rappers of all time?
JB: 2Pac, Andre 3000, Eminem, Nas and Lil Wayne.
Are you a fan of Jay at all?
JB: I’m a fan, but he’s not in my top five.
When we were backstage you were rapping and emulating everyone and stuff like that. How in tune are you with hip-hop? Do you get excited whenever someone drops a new record?
I would say Jay-Z and then Nas. So Jay-Z is in my top five.
So it’s a top six, kind of?
You’re younger than us, but you didn’t look 17. You dress like I would dress at 28. Are you excited for people to embrace that—not new you, because this is who you are—but to open it up for the world?
JB: They’re going to see. I just haven’t been out there in a while. I’ve been kind of low-key. I’ve been out a little bit. Once I start releasing my album and stuff, it’s going to be crazy, because I’m going to be out there on everything, like I was a year ago. I was on everything. I was going to every interview, every radio station, everything. So that’s what I’m going to do again. Now I’m just recording my album and getting ready.