Academy Award-winning MC and producer Juicy J has been in the hip-hop game since 1991, when he co-founded the Memphis crew Three 6 Mafia. Juicy J struck out on his own, building his personal music business, producing his own records, touring aggressively, rapping about weed, booze and blow jobs, and eventually securing his own cannabis strain and becoming the spokesperson for Colt 45.
While Juicy J is known for rapping about his decadent lifestyle, he prides himself on being a smart businessman who gets a good night's sleep, enjoys watching movies with his family, and makes sure to keep a close eye on his bank account. We could all use a little life advice, and who better to get it from than J? In advance of his Friday, February 10, show at the Fillmore Auditorium, we gave the inimitable Juicy J a ring.
Westword: How's the tour?
Juicy J: The tour's going good, man.
Where are you right now?
What kinds of adventures have you been having out on the road?
Man, you know, I've been doing this for so long. To me, everything's an adventure. Meeting the fans — the meet-and-greets are the best thing. When I do a meet-and-greet, I get the chance to meet one-on-one with the fans, and they get the chance to tell me they like the songs I did back in the ’90s with Three 6 Mafia and the favorite songs they like. That's how I vibe off of that. I get to hear a lot of different things. Some people tell me I saved their lives when they listened to my music. I saved their lives. That's good that I saved some lives. I feel good about that.
That's what's good about the tour. It's the meet-and-greets.
Are there particular songs people talk about?
Man, they talk about every song. I can't remember everything they say, but they talk about everything in my career from when I first started until now. They go from years back in the day. They talk about everything.
You've had such a long and such a storied career. I'm curious how you keep it up, how you keep moving, how you keep producing fresh content.
I just keep my ears to the street, man. I like doing music. I've been doing this for so long, I just like making music. I like making beats, making songs. I probably got up to two million songs — brand-new songs — probably not that many, but I've got a lot of songs on my hard drive that I've never released. I just like making music. It's not about the money anymore. It's not about none of that. It's just about me just making music. I'm always going to make some money. I'm not worried about that, but when it comes to being an artist, being creative is what I like to do. Collabs, working with different producers — it's great.
You're either the most decadent person I've ever heard or the most traumatized, in terms of how much you're talking about drugs and booze and blow jobs and everything else under the sun. Can you talk about your relationship to that stuff — if it's pure joy, if it comes from a place of pure pleasure, if it comes from a place of trauma, perhaps? What's your relationship to all that when you're not rapping about it, when you're in your own life?
When I'm relaxing, I'm smoking some weed, man. You know what I mean? I'm chilling and watching Netflix. I don't really do much. I go to the movies. I've been in this game for over thirty years. I've done pretty much everything. I went all over the world, just about. I haven't been to Australia yet, but I've been to a lot of different places. I just be relaxing. I just smoke some weed and be relaxing. That's what it is. It's just enjoying the fruits of the labor, you know?
It's amazing to hear that you relax at all with the amount of output that you have and your incredible work ethic, both as a businessperson and also an artist.
It's not easy, man, but somebody's got to do it.
Are you still doing the Colt 45 stuff?
Is it fun?
It works every time. It's super-fun. I love it. You can see Billy Dee Williams doing it back in the day, and now I'm doing it. It's great.
Talk about the weed industry right now. You're going to be coming out to Colorado. Do you have business relationships out here? Are you doing any of that while you're on tour out here?
Yep. I've got a strain of weed called Green Suicide. I'm just pushing that right now. Hopefully, when I tour and come to Colorado, I'm going to bring some to the show if it don't get smoked all up. I'm going to bring some to the show, smoke with the fans.
Do you sell in any of the dispensaries out here?
It should be out there. I don't know for sure. You'd have to talk to the managers. I let them handle everything. I just sit back and smoke. I used to do stuff like that. I try to let the management handle that. Back in my Three 6 Mafia days I used to do the management, book the shows and all of that shit. I try to free myself from that and let other people handle it. I just like to look at the account and make sure the checks go through.
Talk about your production process. What's your creative process like? How do you make a song from beginning to end?
I'm listening to something, I can get a sample rolling, put a drumbeat behind it, add the bass and anything else the song needs, write the hook and then write the verse. That's how I usually do it. Sometimes I get an idea of a verse or a flow. I might write down scratch vocals or something, and then I may take it home and live with it for a day or two, come back in the studio and then put words in, turn it into a whole song. Sometimes it happens right there on the spot. Sometimes it takes a couple days. Sometimes a week. It depends on what kind of song you've got. If you've got a regular song, I do it real quick, sometimes knock it out. I put more concentration in it if I've got a feature or something on it. I might structure the beat a little bit or whatever. I can make a song in a day and I can make a song in a week.
Has there ever been a song that was a hard nut to crack? What was the hardest song you've ever written?
I don't know, man, it comes natural, but sometimes you can come up with a hook and I might write a verse and I might come back in a couple days and re-change the whole verse up. It comes natural, man. I feel like if the vibe is not there on the song, I just walk away from it. I won't even try to pursue the record. There's songs that I have that may have one verse or may not have a hook on it, and if I feel like I ain't just really feeling it, I go on to the next record. I don't really try to brainstorm an idea. I like things that come natural.
It's always interesting. Different musicians have such different processes. You have someone like Leonard Cohen, who will work for months and months and months on one verse of a song. For a lot of people, it's quick.
It's cool the differences in that, for sure.
I can't wait a month. That's too long.
You do a lot of work with younger rappers and a lot of mentorship. Can you talk about that process, how you identify who you want to work with and how that works for you?
When I hear a producer with dope beats — like when I heard Mike WiLL (Made-It) — I reached out to him. If I hear a dope beat, it can be some underground guy from my neighborhood, from Memphis or whatever. If I hear a dope beat, shit, I just reach out. Let's do business. I know a lot of unsigned talented people. I know a lot of signed talented people. But I know a lot of unsigned talented people that's on the up-and-coming. I just like to make music. It don't matter the person. It don't matter the name. If I feel like we've got a good vibe, we go into the studio, smoke some weed, vibe, make a song with no problems.
I take it you'll never retire?
I know this is not going to be my last tour, but I'm going to take some time off, as far as the road. But I'll always be in the studio working with new artists and throwing records out here and there, and make some videos. But the road is not easy when you're an artist, and you've got to get up in the morning. You've got to make sure you're on time. The road is hard work on the body. It's fun, but it's a business at the end of the day. I'd rather go on tour, take a good five or six months off, relax and then maybe go on another tour and not just rush out there. I'm definitely going to slow down on doing the shows a little bit and spend more time with my family and stuff like that because that's really more important. My wife is more important. This music, you know, I pay the bills. It's something I love. But there is a real world out there that I've got to live. So I'm definitely going to take a break for a few months and just spend time with family and go visit people I haven't seen in a long time.
What do you do when you're with your family? How do you have fun with them?
Chilling at the crib, cooking. You know, down South, it's how we do it. We cook and sit around and talk and watch TV and stuff like that. I think that's good things. You don't always have to be doing everything. You can just be sitting around with your family watching a good movie and cooking some good food. We might go to the beach or whatever, but it's cool for me to just have the family around the house.
What do you like to cook?
Man, I don't cook nothing, man. I can burn some water. I can definitely burn up some water. But I can't cook nothing, man.
You're not sitting around julienning onions or whatever?
Yeah, man. I'd set the kitchen on fire.
On the road, how do you take care of yourself? What do you do to stay sane, keep it together, stay fit?
Man, you know what? Sleep. Believe it or not, resting the body, resting. Sleep is good, man. A lot of people don't know that I like to get sleep. In my younger days, I'm not going to lie, I used to be up for three days in a row. But sleep is good, so you can be energetic and give a great show without stressing yourself. Just relaxing — it's all about relaxing, man. I've been through all the trials and tribulations in the music business and the ups and downs. Now this tour is more about relaxation. I've been relaxing, meeting people, smoking good weed and just watching movies. Chilling, man. Enjoying life. It's about the sleep.
What do you recommend for young folks coming up? If they want to pursue their vision or pursue their dream, what do they need to do? What should they be up to?
I think they need to never give up, keep going, read. Nowdays you can go on to the computer and read about the music business. Back in my day, I had to check out books at the library. Read about the music business. Understand it before you get in it. Know about publishing. Know about producer royalties. Know about artist royalties. Understand the math.
The most important part of the music business is the business. The music will come, but a lot of these artists don't know the business, and it's not good, because you're signing a contract and you don't get a lawyer to read the contract. I don't think that's smart. I know we've all been through certain things and sometimes people can't afford lawyers, but at least try to read up on it, so when somebody puts a contract in your face, you'll know some of the shit in that contract if you want to hire a lawyer or not. And then, when you start getting some money, it's taxes. You've got to pay those taxes, man. I see a lot of artists who buy those watches, they buy those big old houses. You've got to pay Uncle Sam first. Take care of him first and then do what you do. You don't want to be in a situation once you've got a couple million dollars in the bank, you in the club, you kicking it, and the next day, shit's wiped out. You lose your car. You don't want to be in those situations, man. I've never been in that situation, but I've seen a lot of people come up to the top, they didn't pay Uncle Sam, and they fall flat on their face.
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That's good advice. Anything you want people to know about you that they don't already?
Man, I don't know. A lot of people think I get high all day, but I'm a businessman. My business is handled. The business part is solid, on my behalf. I know where my money is. You've got to know how to read out here. You've got to know how to add. I've got some real estate. Invest that shit. Invest your money. A lot of people probably don't even know that about me. They probably think I just be sitting at home smoking weed — which I do a lot, because I got my business handled. So I can do that. But the business is definitely intact. I don't owe nobody shit, you know what I'm saying?
Has it always been that way? Did you learn that lesson the hard way? Did you always have that business sense?
I read a lot of music books. I've made some mistakes in my life and had some fucked-up deals here and there. It ain't been too many. I've always been on top of my business from the jump. I didn't know how to pay taxes, but I know how to pay taxes. When I got my first check, my daddy was asking me, "Yo, did you pay taxes on that money?" I was like, "No. What the hell is taxes?" He was like, "You know you got to pay the government whatever you get." He put me up on that game, and I hired a CPA. My mama was my CPA at first. Then I hired a real CPA and took it from there.
Juicy J plays at the Fillmore Auditorium, Friday, February 10, at 8 p.m. For more information, go to the Fillmore website.