Justin Rose does a little bit of everything. The 23 year old from New York City started off rapping before gravitating to what he calls the “addicting” process of crafting beats. I met him this past year at SXSW while hanging out at the Illmore after-party, wondering how I was still awake. Since then we have kept in touch as Rose has spread his forward-thinking production across his scene and city, linking up with the likes of NYC up and comer Kris Kasanova which garnered him a track on Peter Rosenberg’s curated mixtape earlier this Summer, as well as doing in-house production for Nakim. When I met him on the front end of 2013 there were still a lot of question marks around both of our futures. Nearly a year later, Rose has found himself bouncing around the vibrant and bubbling New York scene that have many bloggers across the country learning how to spell the word ‘Renaissance’. The growth and uprise of that scene in New York is due in large part to progressive, hungry and cross-platform artists like Rose who are eager to find a way to push the music and culture forward without apology. I was able to catch up with Rose over the phone recently as he was leaving the studio from working on his debut project, RoseWaVve Vol.1. to talk about what the year has been like, what he’s been up to and where things are headed for the young crafter. In exchange, he sent over this video for his track, “PARTY4ME”, which we are premiering here on Ruby Hornet. Give the video a watch below and get to know Justin Rose.
Jake: What’s your process when deciding who to work with?
Justin Rose: Right now, just being where I’m at, I don’t have a ton of choices as far as people hitting me up everyday and I still have to deal with real life, you know? How I do it is really just to work with who I have the best chemistry and who I can deal with on a regular level and who it comes naturally with. Right now I’m focused on Kris Kasanova and Nakim and I give beats to other artists and shop beats around to bigger artists but as far as who I work with the most right now its Nakim and Kris Kasanova. You met me in Texas, I was on tour with Nakim so before I was even producing for him regularly I knew Nakim on a whole other level now. We did SXSW and we did a Smoker’s Club tour so I was on the road with him for months and now when we get together its such a good chemistry that you just don’t want to give up. So, that’s kind of how I choose who I produce with right now, just who I’m growing with.
Jake: As far as the music, where does your production stem from?
Rose: Well, you know, at the end of the day I try to produce music similar to how I listen. I listen to a lot of music at one time, a lot of different types of music. So whatever catches me at a certain time period is what I kind of tend to produce. It’s a mixture, I don’t want to do just rap stuff, especially with my own artistry as far as me as a rapper/singer, I tend to go into other lanes whether it be indie rock or R&B or pop or hip-hop and all the sub-genres there. So whatever I’m listening to in this time period, I try to bring it all together and give these artists new ideas when I bring it to them.
Jake: I feel that but you have to have your go-to sound or feel, what’s that usually end up being?
Rose: There really isn’t one and that’s kind of my thing. For a minute I was on like my Kanye shit, being like “man, I’m not a music producer, I’m a music designer,” I definitely wouldn’t say that about myself now, but where it comes from is the practice of just pulling from different places. What I’m offering to the art isn’t necessarily a sound, but my creative thoughts put all together. So when you come to me you’re going to get something that’s Justin Rose. Maybe not necessarily in the sound, but it will definitely be something different that people aren’t really thinking of, you know? It’s just on some creative shit-that’s my background, that’s where I come from- my background musically is all kinds of music.
Jake: Tell me about being out in New York.
Rose: A lot of my younger life I was raised in Queens, New York and then I went to a boarding school in Pennsylvania around like fifth grade, so like fifth grade until I graduated from high school I was going back and forth between Pennsylvania and New York and then I came back out here for college. My New York story is that there has just been a lot of back and forth between here and Pennsylvania. In college I went to St. John’s University.
Jake: So what’s the music scene been like for you out there, New York being one of the harder markets to make it in?
Rose: For me, and I know it’s not like this for everybody because some of the artists I talk to who aren’t super hype on it, but for me it’s fucking amazing because, for one, there’s a lot of talent out here whether they’re getting the shine they deserve yet or not and as a producer its cool to meet all these people and learn from all these different kinds of people. As an artist and performer its been really cool, I’ve been doing a lot of shows and shit lately and people have just been showing me love. A lot of New York artists get hate from each other but I haven’t been getting anything but love for the most part and it makes the experience really cool when artists get together and show love. I think the scene is growing a lot, this new wave of artists we’ll see this year will be really cool, there’s a lot of new talent bubbling up.
Jake: What hurdles, if any, do you see coming out of such a highly competitive network?
Rose: Well, you know what, a lot of New York rappers are trying to find a New York sound and there’s artists who want to go towards the trap side of things and I wouldn’t say trap is dying but it’s like damn, you really want another trap song? But a lot of New York artists are just trying to find balance, from what I’m seeing as a producer. They’re trying to find balance, they’re trying to find a new sound and as a producer I don’t ever want to do anything that’s been done before so I’ve been trying to be able to find that new sound-whether that’s for all of New York, that’d be cool, but it’s really just about finding a new sound for that artist because I don’t want to give the artist something they’ve heard because I feel like they’ll think its some vintage shit, and I don’t want to be vintage, that’s not my role. Another boom bap beat? Who wants to hear that? Or another trap beat? People are getting tired of that. So it’s just finding something new for the artist.
Jake: How do you try to stand out in such a cluttered market?
Rose: I’ll tell you like this, my personal music as far as me as an artist is way different than a lot of shit that’s going on and people fuck with it, you know what I’m sayin’? As long as you’re doing you, the universe will accept you for the most part and that’s that.
Jake: How do you characterize the two different sides of your career, rapping, producing, etc.?
Rose: Most rappers around this age started out as rappers. When people hear about a producer turned rapper they’re always like ‘ah, how’d you become a rapper all of a sudden?’ and it’s like, they started out rapping first. That is a very normal thing, you have to think-we were all coming up around the time Fruity Loops came out-I started on Fruity Loops-and on there it made it super easy to make beats and making beats is a very addicting process-to the point you’ll just be like ‘fuck rap, I’m just gonna make these beats’ (laughs). We came up around the time of the super producers too- Timabaland, Pharrell, I think there was a rumor that Pharrell commanded $1 million a track. And it was like ‘what? You can make 1$ million off of a beat? Fuck this!’ So I always paid attention to rap and started making beats and whatnot so I say that to say I’ve spent so much time on the beats that it has really become my craft, but at the same time when you become more of a producer and less of a beat maker you start writing songs. So you start learning how to make great songs. I wasn’t really making hip-hop music, I moved to L.A. to make pop music, R&B music, all different types of music. So after awhile of writing these songs and stuff like that I started thinking I’m a songwriter and a producer and I started writing songs and keeping them for myself and after awhile started thinking they could be hits and then I just said ‘fuck it, might as well get back on the artist shit.’
Jake: So it was around the time you came back from producing in L.A. that you got back into rapping?
Rose: When I came back from L.A., I had been in a car accident and shit like that and I didn’t have no car in L.A. so everything was just moving slow as shit so I said ‘fuck it, I’m going to come back to New York as an artist’. It was a serious idea, but it wasn’t super serious. And then I did my first show at this weird CMJ thing right after I came off tour with Nakim. I had come home from L.A., then three days later I went on tour with Nakim and right off the show I did my first show at CMJs. It was me and two other dudes I produce for Shawn Morris and Damani and I did like three songs I had recorded real quick for the show and I did the show and it was the greatest fucking performance ever. So at that point it became something I didn’t just want to keep for myself, I saw that people were reacting, it wasn’t a show were people were standing, staring at you like most New York shows are. Producing is my craft but I’m making music for people, I enjoy interacting with people. I guess that’s kind of a cliche artist answer, but that’s really why I do this shit.
Jake: Word. So what can we expect moving forward from Justin Rose?
Rose: Moving forward: music with Kris Kasanova, music with Nakim. Hopefully some music with Smoke Dza, hopefully some music with Fat Trel, just production, you know what I’m sayin’, just production for a lot of people. I’m putting out videos like this one, for PARTY4ME, a fun little party track, and I’ll probably put out more videos before I drop the EP or album or whatever, but it’ll be called RoseWaVve Vol.1. Justin rose is just trying to be great, just trying to be great, Jake (laughs).