Interview and exclusive new track review
by Alex P80 Parks
Emcees everywhere try to get their music out to a larger audience. Some do it for artistic expression and others looking for fame and fortune. Standing out amongst fellow emcees and competitors is a challenge, not only due to the deluge of music released daily, but also because of derivative styles and an increasingly ubiquitous sound. For those reasons some emcees are too quickly dismissed like many of their contemporaries. Lord Juco has sought to stand out amongst the crowd. Whether it’s in his unique voice, his flow or his choice of beats in his work, it’s clear that Juco wants only to put out a high quality product that sets him apart from other emcees.
Hailing from Toronto, Lord Juco has been recording since 2016 showing some strength in his young catalog.
Produced entirely by Wowflower, this EP introduces Lord Juco to the world. On “Part Deux,” Juco plays off a muffled dusty piano loop, bouncing his rhymes:
“Ain’t it Cupid, stupid
Get laid down for the rubix Cuban,
Sippin blue label,
Who the fuck is you?”
With “Cruella Deville,”, Juco condemns an ex over a slightly murky and psychedelic vibe. On “Putas P*****as,” Juco magnifies the vanity and superficial nature of many modern women. This EP may not have the polish of his newer albums, but the well selected beats and rhymes show his aim and intentions in making his mark in the game.
Mark n Wayne (2017)
Produced entirely by Rayne Drop, this EP shows Juco evolving from telling us his intentions outright to allowing the beat and melodies to set the tone with Juco adding more complex rhymes to leave some thought with his listeners.
With “Frozen Henny,” Juco sets the tone well, spitting thoughtful bars over a loop of strings and piano. On “Kate Upton,” Juco warns of maintaining loyalty, making good decisions as adults, being responsible parents and cutting ties with those that hinder your progress. Here again he shows some maturity in his content and rhymes. “Accessories” has a quick paced hi hat with a fast repeated guitar loop for Juco to tiptoe over and lace well. The only features come on “Run ya Mouth” where Mer and Ransom come thru and drop off some heat. “Off White” is a more sinister track where Juco blasts his competitors with a fury of rhymes leaving the track bodied.
Tiffany Joints (2017)
With crisp production, and a more developed overall sound, Lord Juco again elevated his skills and content with this 8-track EP. His features are on-point and of only the highest caliber as Juco creates some bangers, showing his evolution as a legit emcee and displaying a sharper sword. Rayne Drop handles production on 4 joints while Dekos, Link, Noize Theivery, and Raw Minerals craft the others.
“New world order feat Conway and Westside Gunn” is a certified banger. On paper you’d think this would be an easy lay-up with the support of the Griselda brothers. In actuality it’s a thunderous tomahawk jam with all three emcees making big noise.
“Narcos with Roc Marciano and Benny the Butcher” adds even more top tier talent to Tiffany Joints. One can picture the three emcees, sweating in a single engine prop plane landing on a grass field runway in Colombia to snatch up the packages from the connection. Roc strolls through the track as with his usual quiet command, with Juco and Benny adding some heat on a spanish-influenced track, complete with authentic vocal samples.
While the star power of the guest features may reel in many listeners, it’s the solo joints that really put Juco’s abilities on display. “Don’t give a fuck” really stands out on this EP with its jazzy trumpet and spacey vibe, bringing memories of early 00’s Cormega.
The 96 Imperial (2018)
This album is an homage to the doo wop era with cinematic elements sprinkled in. Featuring production from JMB, Ali, Four Limbs, Marvwon, Rayne Drop, AK, Vic Grimes and even Lord Juco himself on 3 tracks. The samples and beats are varied enough to remain interesting, though the theme of nostalgia and reminiscence remains intact throughout as a coherent concept album. Juco consistently delivers some clever rhymes and interesting flows on this album. On “Fealty” JMB lays a perfectly simple doo wop sample as Juco spits:
“Wrong side of the tracks,
but the grass is greener,
Force-fed this false faith,
Till we actually believe it.
But we actually demons,
Deliver us from evil.”
MarvWon drops by for a verse, lending his production to “Goldie and Wendy.” The other features on 96 Imperial come from Fastlife on “Leatherface,” and from Benny the Butcher on “Extras.” Again it’s Juco who shines alone on “Taste,” where Four Limbs creates an echoing jazzy sax with some added bass for thump. Lord Juco really floats on these tracks, the vibe and atmosphere suiting his style and rhyme scheme well.
Although he keeps an extremely low profile and keeps his face out of photos, I was fortunate enough to be able to talk with Lord Juco about his music, influences and more.
DRHH: Coming from Toronto there’s been lots of noise from hip hop artists especially these past few years, including that one guy and some other talented artists. What’s the scene like there and how does being in Toronto impact your sound, your hustle or influence your approach?
LJ: Toronto is a huge melting pot of cultures and I think that helps everyone in this city with their own style. We are exposed to so many different cultures and I don’t think you can narrow down a Toronto sound, that’s what makes the city so special. We may all talk the same Toronto talk but we all have something unique to bring to the table.
DRHH: How did you get started in hip hop?
LJ: I been writing as long as I can remember, writing to other peoples beats and shit. But only started recording in 2016.
DRHH: I heard your few EP’s that you had dropped over the last few months. Those came very quickly in succession. Was there a flood of creativity or were you pushing to get your music out there?
LJ: I actually had most of Tiffany Joints done BEFORE I even started recording PEEP. And while I was finishing up Tiffany I went to Saskatchewan to link up with the homie Rayne to do Mark N Wayne. So all my projects kind of overlap one another. I’m always thinking of something new and sometimes that backfires but mostly pushes my content forward. But to answer your question, the creativity doesn’t stop flowing.
DRHH: Are you always writing/creating or does it come in waves?
LJ: I’m always creating, at all times of every day. Always writing one liners down or little 4 bar schemes. Never stops man, my mind runs a mile a minute.
DRHH: That 96 imperial album is basically all doo-wop samples and influences. How did that come about?
LJ: I’ve always loved the Doo-Wop bubble gum era of music. Makes me feel good, so I usually listen to it whenever I have some free time. So that being said I heard a few records that I thought I could flip and rhyme over and I did. It’s as simple as that. Added the movie influence and just put together a theme.
DRHH: Your guests spots on your albums are always used sparingly but have been high caliber emcees- did you seek them out?
LJ: Yeah I just wanted to work with all the people I listen to. I say it a lot and I’ll keep saying it. I’m a fan first, and I only reach out to people I actually listen to.
DRHH: How did the Griselda connection begin? What’s it like working with them?
LJ: The Griselda connection started with Conway, we just got in touch via social media. We did a record together and I sat on it for a hot minute and got sick of my verse so I scrapped it. One day I hit West with that same record and he agreed to jump on it so it all worked out. Benny came from the same shit, social media. It was all emails back n forth, nothing intimate, I’ve only been in studio with Benny and he was a savage. Real humble solid dude.
DRHH: What was it like working with/ having Roc Marciano on one of your albums?
LJ: Having Roc on my album was a milestone for me. He killed his verse and between him and Benny I don’t know who’s I liked more. Roc actually gave me his number after that shit but I don’t have the balls to call him for a follow up, not until I got that Narcos 2.
DRHH: You’ve mentioned that you don’t want to show your face to the world till you’re ready? What’s the reason behind this?
LJ: The reason I don’t show my face is simple, I’d rather have a voice than an image. I make music, I don’t act and I’m not a model. I make music, you listen to music. Things have gotten so visual that the content doesn’t even matter to people anymore and all I care about is my content.
DRHH: Most recording, production and mixing is done through email and rarely in-person anymore- How do you feel about that? Does it take away from the energy or does it matter?
LJ: Depends who you’re working with. The email thing is a blessing and a curse. Some people feel the vibe and the record comes out sounding like you’re in the studio together creating. Sometimes it doesn’t work like that and it can be noticeable. I’d prefer to be in the studio to work with an artist but that’s not always possible these days.
DRHH: Are you a selective beat chooser?Are you conscious of it or will you spit on anything? And how do your individual preferences in music influence that?
LJ: Yeah I need to feel something, sometimes the strangest beats will bring something out of me. I act off emotion when choosing beats, if it don’t touch me on a personal level I won’t be able to create properly. I try not to be biased to a particular sound but let’s be honest, we all like what we like and I’m sure that shows in all my projects
DRHH: I hear a highly polished product with your work. Are you meticulous in how you want your sound? Are you especially selective and particular about the mixing process or do you prefer to focus more on your rhymes and flow and choosing beats and let the producer and engineer do their work?
LJ: I’m very hands on for a guy who doesn’t understand the mixing and mastering process. I don’t know how to do it but I know how I want to sound and I’ll always give Rayne a hard time about it and I’m sure he hates me for it. Rayne does most if not all of my mixing and mastering. I mainly focus on my rhymes but if they don’t hit the way I hear it in my head, we got to do something different.
DRHH: With so much music pouring out daily, hip hop has shifted into 2 lanes: labels, and large distribution with promotions and marketing. And then you have independent hip hop artists releasing either on their own site or bandcamp. As an independent artist how do you feel about the current state of independent hip hop?
LJ: Independent hip hop is a Beautiful thing. A lot of dope talent out there and we have total control of everything. It’s a beautiful thing to see so many people being successful on their own, selling their own shit. It’s more personal when you get something directly from the source. Feels like you’re apart of something. Wish nothing but success to all independent artists!
DRHH: You work a full time job and record and hustle in your spare time. Is it hard to make a living in hip hop or are you just creating and not worrying about any of that?
LJ: Honestly, it’s hard to be creative on a schedule, like between these hours I need to create. That being said I wouldn’t have it any other way, I love making music and I do it for myself. If people like me, that’s a bonus but this is really just me dealing with everyday life thru music. I like the challenge of being forced to get shit done, because at the end of the day you need some form of pressure to get the best out of you, for me at least.
DRHH: Are there any emcees you really want to work with?
LJ: Emcees I really want to work with… Royce, Styles, Vinnie & RA.
DRHH: Producers you’d like to collaborate with?
LJ: I really want to do a project produced by Roc. I think his production has a special something. But other than him, Nicholas Craven, Buck Dudley, The Historian, Vinyl Villain, Bozack Morris, Alchemist, Buckwild, Preemo, Party Supplies. To name a few.
DRHH: any hints on upcoming work you got in the near future?
LJ: I got an EP in the works entirely produced by Won87. He’s dope, check him out, the loop killer! Moving forward from that I got some stuff in works, nothing set in stone yet. Me and Four Limbs talked about a possible JADE2, we got good chemistry. Spoke to Rayne about Mark n Wayne 2. Who knows, only time will tell.
DRHH: Shows and touring?
LJ: No shows or touring as of yet, I’m just trying to build my brand. As most know I don’t show my face so, in a world so driven by image, it’ll take a while. But it’s all planned out, just a matter of time.
DRHH: Favorite hip hop artists?
LJ: Too Many to name. But off Top; BIG, Styles P, Royce da 5’9, Vinnie Paz, Young Zee, Roc Marciano, RA the Rugged Man.
DRHH: Favorite hip hop album?
LJ: Favorite hip hop album…damn that’s hard! I can’t narrow it down to 1. So … Ready to die, Gangster and a Gentlemen & Visions of Gandhi.
DRHH: 3 non hip hop artists or albums that are important to you
LJ: 3 non hip hop albums. Frank – Amy Winehouse, Mechanical Animals – Marilyn Manson, Til Shiloh- Buju Banton
DRHH: Emcees you emulated or looked up to growing up
LJ: Biggie, Styles P, Eminem, Big L.
Juco sent over his latest work, Jade, prior to its release this Friday so I could catch the wave he’s been on.
Produced by Four Limbs, the album displays a relatively wide range of sounds on the tracks for Juco to do his thing. His unique flow can vary from sharp and cold to just being chill and calm. Even when Lord Juco is slower in his delivery, he never sounds lazy or uninspired.
“More Bordens” Juco starts off his album with a regal sounding vocal sample where he spits:
“Less assistance and more scoring,
More expensive floorboards,
And flights boarded
Spilling life’s stories,
It’s like glory.”
“Shinin” A simple guitar loop and tinkling effects over a dusty popping vinyl sound. It’s more of a relaxed feel where he just sits back in armchair and breaks it all down.
“Memoirs of a Lord” Reminiscent of early Stoupe’s Jedi Mind Trick beats, complete with vocal sample, strings and bouncy bass line to accompany Juco’s sharp delivery.
Only one track with features and it’s a banger. “Paid in Full” features CodeNine and Daniel Son. All three emcees wreak havoc on this one, each displaying their own individual vocals and styles. Code comes correct to start, Daniel Son fires with his distinct vocal tone, and Juco cleans up nicely with this track showcasing three emcees doing damage
“Furthermore” is a bouncy piano-driven track with skittered rimshots where Juco has matters to tie up, leaving no loose ends.
It’s evident that Lord Juco is making his presence known. Even though he wishes to remain music-centered and opposed to exploiting himself as a visual representation, he is gaining momentum and shouldn’t be slept on. Lord Juco is making moves, so keep your ears open
Check out Lord Juco’s latest EP, Jade out Friday here: