When he first told his mom that he wanted to rap, she didn’t mince words: “I don’t care what you do, you’re not cursing in my house.”
Since then, now 24-year-old rapper/producer, IMRJugo, has learned to use his limitations as fuel to a unique creative fire.
While attending Farmington High School, Jugo quickly evolved from the kid who could pen a curse-free verse to the man who made ‘Farmington Hip-Hop’ an actual phrase.
When we first met for our interview, I read Jugo as sharp, mild-mannered, and in the moment, a bit tense…
Maybe bringing him down a dark fraternity basement into an old study room for an interview wasn’t the ‘career next-step‘ he had in mind?
But looks can be deceiving, as all it took was a shameless request from me to hit his vape before he realized we were simply there for a conversation; and from there, the energy was buzzing.
With the stage properly set, let’s see how this Shakespeare-loving lyricist aced his audition for the lead role in WaterWaveTV’s ‘Of Hymns and Hi-Hats’…
Was the decision to start music spontaneous, or were you mulling it over before?
Spontaneous for sure; it all started when my boy who made music was looking for features on a new project called ‘Roast Session EP’. Keep in mind, I didn’t rap or anything, but he knew I was always into pen tapping, so he was like “Hey, you wanna hop on this verse real quick?”. I said ‘F**k it‘, I hopped on, had no idea what I was doing, but everyone who heard it after was like “Damn, you really did that!”, so in my head, I’m like, ‘Oh, you like this?’. I figured if I can capture people’s ears, why not go all-in? So yeah, I’ve been rapping for half a decade all because my homie saw that I could tap a pen.
Was there a particular project that inspired you to create?
Drake was huge for me. In terms of specific projects, I’d say ‘Views’ or ‘More Life’ made the biggest impact on me. That whole album all the way through, no skips. Blimp is the most underrated track: He’s literally talking about his life problems over a tropical, chill-type beat; it’s those types of vibes that I’m always trying to replicate with my own sound.
Was there a subject that you gravitated towards in school?
English for sure. Ever since I could read, I’ve always loved poetry and words, hell I even loved Romeo and Juliet; I’ve just always been fascinated by how many different ways and forms you can tell a story using nothing but words. That was it for me in school, but the thing about school is that you could be an average student but still push yourself to a 4.0. Personally, I was a lazy student; I had a high IQ, but a lazy student. What’s important to realize though is that my environment at the time(school) wasn’t giving me energy; that was every class except for English; a class where I could apply all of my abstract ideas and express myself authentically with words was one that I’ve always gravitated to; English is more abstract and there’s always freedom for interpretation and your own perspective.
What did your family think about your music?
The first thing my Mom told me is “I don’t care if you make music, but you’re not cursing in my house”. I’d be recording but everything was totally clean to the point where even now, I’ll write a whole song and look back at it like, “Damn, not one cuss word?”. It’s funny now because even after I moved out, I was still hesitant to curse in my raps. The thing is I have a wide vocabulary; I used to read the dictionary all the time as a kid. What’s crazy too is that those limitations my mom put on me taught me to find different words which really stretched my creative muscles as a songwriter. For instance, instead of just saying ‘ah shit’, I’d just create a whole song about that feeling; it’s about making vague statements loaded with your own unique meaning.
Between producing and rapping, is there one that comes more naturally to you?
I’d say rapping just because the writing was always an easy skill; it just came naturally to me. The rhythm and flow were always there. For producing, though it’s also very intuitive, there’s much more technical knowledge involved if you’re looking to really master the craft. Fortunately, I’ve always worked with computers a lot growing up, so that shorthand with technology definitely accelerated my learning curve; making my own beats also made it easier because if I have a flow or a bar, instead of scrounging on youtube for beats, I can just whip one up on the spot.
Most obscure influence?
Tough one...but I’m actually gonna say Doja Cat! She can spazz on a verse and she can sing. Female Drake kinda vibes, very versatile.
In terms of songwriting, how do you go from instrumental to finished product?
It could literally be anything that sparks my creativity: A noise in the room, a random word or phrase. Definitely an ‘in-the-notes’ type guy. As far as beats, it just has to hit me.
What’s an overlooked detail that separates an amateur beat from a professional one?
If the bass overrides the kick, if the bass overpowers the vocals like “you had the right idea, but you have gotta get the frequencies right!“ Also, too many high-hats is a newer mistake. What it all comes down to though is that bounce of a great track; if there’s no natural bounce to it, your listener can always tell.
How big of a role do instincts play in producing?
A lot of the time you just have to read the room; if I’m producing for other artists, I need to play to their ear as much as mine. Whereas when I’m just making a beat for myself, I’ll be able to spit on it because I made it. Without the artist there, it’s tough so I don’t like to do beat packs because I wanna be there and connect in person; It’s all about the vibe.
How has your creative setup evolved over time?
I started making music on a tablet and a broken phone. I would get sent the beat, write, then record with the tablet far away so it wouldn’t pick up the music; humble beginnings to say the least(laughs). Even my boy who produced had the trial version of the software so he had to make it right away and send it. Like I said, humble beginnings. Nowadays, I always keep the laptop on me no matter what. Cause I’m very picky with who engineers my voice because I know how I want my voice to sound. Also, it can’t be too loud in the room, it’s gotta be music over everything. No talking, too; If I can hear you, the mic can hear you!
Where do you find the most joy in the creative process?
Me doubting what I made and then somebody else is like, “Aye, that’s raw!”. Like ‘okay, maybe I’m onto something...’. When people appreciate your work when you were on the fence about it, It’s like a pat on the back that energizes you to lean in further on your instincts.
What’s your experience with live performances? Do you remember your first time on stage?
I can say I’ve done at least 40 shows. As much of a rush as it is, it’s always nerve-racking right before. The first time I ever performed was actually in my friend’s basement. I’ll never forget there were about 40-50 of my friends from school there, just packed in this basement, so the energy was really condensed. I was dead nervous before I hopped on, but once my track started, everyone immediately went crazy; the energy was insane. I was hooked within seconds.
Is there a trend in today’s Hip-Hop that frustrates you?
People flex too quickly. Just from the outside looking in, of course; but in order to invest and grow, you have to invest in the people around you. As for me, a lot of my family members have their own businesses, so if I blow up, I’m gonna put them on the same way they would me. A lot of people miss out on the community aspect of it, also the fans too. You have to keep your audience in mind, the fans, the consumers. Providing that value, never forgetting that you used to go to Walmart just because now you’re walking into the Gucci store. No matter where you got it, wear it like it’s real.
Build your perfect fit from the ground up:
Definitely, a hoodie with the cover art on the front ripped jeans for sure. The shoes though… that’s what makes the whole fit: Purple Retro 1s. Definitely a cold bracelet, a spade chain, a spade belt, and of course some diamond earrings to top it off.
Whose your most underrated artist?
I’m saying Travis Scott and let me explain why: Because he has so much behind-the-scenes hustle that people don’t realize. I think he’s a genius marketer and entertainer. Yes, I love his music: But in terms of putting on a show, he’s incredible at creating a spectacle for his viewer. I maxed out my card to get to his show, it was a dream to be a part of. In terms of on-stage presence, if you had a scale of 1 to 10, he’s an 80. Add the effects, he’s at 105. He’s in a different mode; That’s where I'm tryna be. Also, G Herbo: I didn’t listen to G-herbs till I moved to the midwest, but everyone here was bumping him. I love the way he bounces on beats. He’s been in the game for a while, he’s blown up multiple times, he’s a huge influence in terms of still being unsigned too!
If you were to give your 16-year-old self just one piece of advice to level your game up the quickest, what would that be?
Just stay consistent! People tend to lack off and give breathing room for others because they feel like maybe they’re doing too much; you're not doing too much, you’re doing something while other people aren’t! Never compare your work ethic to someone doing less than you.
Were there any internal battles that you had to overcome to get where you’re at?
There’s no such thing as being over-confident when it comes to your music: You have to be your number one fan, but if you don’t believe in yourself and stand behind it, how do you expect anyone else to do the same? Keep in mind, that has nothing to do with humility, just self-awareness in that if I know I’m not ready for something, I’m not letting my ego get in the way. Above no one, below no one.
Dream collaboration? If you only get one track with them, what vibe are you are y'all making?
Southside and Travis Scott are on production for sure, with a feature from Travis as well. The vibe of the track is definitely the showstopper at the function. Like when you hear it, everyone looks to each other like “Ahh, sh*t!”. if you’re about to go the bathroom it’s like “Dang, I was about to piss, but ain’t no way I’m missing this!”.
What does WaterWave’s mission mean to you as a local artist?
Y’all are doing great. I didn’t even know you or Stan were with WaterWave, y’all are like sleeper agents on the scene! You guys have a high standard for who you put on too, which I respect. It‘s a shame to see talent go to waste, but WaterWave’s eye for who’s popping and who’s not is impressive; and given the growth y’all have felt in just this past year, I’d say those standards have continued to pay off.
What's your unfiltered take on the state of Minnesota Hip-Hop?
So many artists here are popping, but I think part of the problem is that the fans aren’t as tuned in their local creators as much as they are popular artists; though some artists may look at that as an excuse, I see it as a sign, especially with the growing buzz behind local Hip-Hop, that MN rap is right around the corner in terms of professional quality, like an Atlanta, New York, etc. which means that we’re on the precipice of a massive explosion. I think a lot of the struggle just comes down to capturing people’s ears. I think TikTok has definitely affected our attention spans, but on that same token, a 10-second clip of your song could blow you up! Regardles, I’m stoked by all of the raw creative energy we have cooking here in Minnesota.
Lastly, what quality do you feel separates you as an artist here in Minnesota?
Being from the south and coming from a gospel background, I have a different ear for music; I have some harmonic tendencies and I love orchestrated beats. So aesthetically, my roots and cadence are what separates me. In terms of my creative philosophy, I like to be shocking with my music; It’s all about tripling down on who you are, and creating what you want to hear.
With an-all new mystery project dropping in the very near future, be sure to tap into Farmington‘s Fresh Prince of flows before he takes off for good…
*This interview is sponsored by IMRJugo and his Banana-Berry Loon; a duo like no other...
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