Artiste Justin knows all about reinvention. He's established his own identity, separate from those of his famous parents. And after one stage persona stopped fitting him, he found another that did. Justin recently released "Beautiful Art," the first single off his forthcoming EP, and BFTV checked in with him to discuss his career so far and what he calls "pop-hopp."
"I'm a storyteller," he told us, describing his artistic intent. "I tell a lot of stories within my music. You've just got to listen. I'm very passionate about my music and getting the message out."
On the EP, which is "still on track for next year," listeners will hear a sound that isn't beholden to anything in Justin's family history. Instead, it's a unique fusion he describes as "pop-hopp," combining all sorts of things: the feel of funk, more singing than your usual hip-hop, and even a little bit of techno. It's clear from sampling Justin's music that he has an appreciation for many different genres across the musical landscape, as he strives to incorporate quite a few.
His renamed brand is the culmination of a long personal journey, which began with being the son of two members of Kool and the Gang. His father co-founded the band while his mother was one of their back-up singers, and Justin discovered that his parentage could cast a long shadow on his own aspirations. "It's hard on celebrity kids nowadays trying to break into the industry, because you're always scrutinized," he reflected.
Then known as JMello, he was determined to earn his own success, which he did. "When I went and got my record deal with Def Jam, I went in there on my own and I did it," he told us. "That's one of the things that stuck with me."
He also met Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction fame, who co-produced two of his songs and with whom he's shared the stage numerous times. "Being on the road with Dave Navarro was great," Justin enthused, still counting Navarro as a friend.
But as time went on, things changed and so did Justin, who dropped the JMello moniker in favor of his current stage name, which he feels more accurately reflects who he is now. "I'm more than just a rocker, rapper, skateboarder. And I'm such an artist," he said, explaining where the new moniker came from.
He stands out from the pack in a number of ways. Aside from his music being a true melting pot of sounds, Justin himself is not the stereotypical young hip-hop artist. Asked about the people he's most thankful for in his life, he doesn't name-drop collaborators, but mentions his fans and the best friend who's been a part of his life before the fame.
"He's been with me for the good and the bad," he said, "[when] all the cameras stopped flashing and the phones stopped ringing." That sentence tells you what matters most to him. He might be aiming high, but ego-wise, he's firmly down to earth.
Now he's just hoping to reach others with what he's put his heart and soul into. Justin has a clear idea of what will define success for him: "When I get back on the road and tour around and I get the response from the people that don't know me," he told us. "That have never heard of me." That number is likely to get significantly smaller now, as he releases a new EP and takes a new artistic direction.
Justin's single, "Beautiful Art" (featuring Taryn Manning), is out now on his website. You can also find out more about him by visiting his website (artistejustin.com) and following him on Twitter (@officialjmello).