As seen on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” as well as in some of the best received rap battle on the planet, Jus Daze has been making waves throughout the rap game. We had the chance to sit down with Jus Daze and discuss his new mixtape, life as a battle MC, and much more!
Let’s start with the name ‘Jus Daze,’ what does it mean to you and how did you get it?
Daze is a play off my actual name, which I made for myself in the 3rd grade and it just carried through my entire life. The “Jus” part was added accidentally because of my screen name and email address at the time “JusDaze”. I couldn’t have “Daze” as my screen name and I didn’t want numbers at the end of my email address (I always hated that) so I wrote Jus, as in “just” Daze!
You were born in Brooklyn, but currently reside in Queens. Do you feel your music has more in common with Queens-born MCs?
To limit myself to one area musically OR demographically would be foolish. I think my style is born more from the sounds of music genres that have meshed with not only hip hop, but world sounds. I grew up with my mother playing a lot of soft-rock based artists like Rod Stewart, Phil Collins, some soul like Luther Vandross, The Isleys, and my aunt playing lots of Doo-wop, Sinatra, and oldies. To say whether or not I relate more to the sounds of a “Queens-born MC” is tough. Some might categorize my music as “lyrical” or “music with meaning”, which pinpoints a lot of “Queens-born” authentic MC styles, but I like to think of myself as artist who doesn’t necessarily fit the category of any particular TYPE of characteristic. I could kill an MC lyrically, make love to a woman, thank my mother for her blessings, and express inner emotions all through my music, so if that’s what being a “Queen-born MC” does, then sure, I’m a “Queens-born MC”, otherwise I’m whatever that category of rapper is!
What was your first exposure to hip-hop?
My first exposure to hip-hop was probably being born in New York! Whenever this question is asked I usually don’t know how to answer because I feel like I was born with hip-hop in my heart. I don’t know how I started, why I started, but I ALWAYS remember rapping. I guess I’d say my first exposure to Hip Hop was seeing so much of the lifestyle surrounding where I lived. I grew up in East New York near Highland Park where there were a lot of gang activities going on at the time, but also a lot of Boombox Boom Bap radio playing, live MC’ing at block parties, and of course “Video Music Box” on TV. The first performer to ever make me go WOW was Michael Jackson. His stage charisma was amazing. He sang and danced almost effortlessly, or at least made it seem like it was and that impressed me. I also seen LL Cool J’s “Momma Said Knock You Out” video and was very impressed as well. I guess being exposed to Hip Hop around my neighborhood, among my friends, at school, and through the media made me take my initial interest, which nowadays has become my lifestyle.
A good amount of your listeners likely discovered you through your rap battles. How did you first get involved with Grind Time and the NYC battle circuit?
I actually stumbled upon Grind Time battles at work (it’s ok I don’t work at that spot anymore!) I remember watching Smack DVDs from back in the day ,watching the classic Mook vs Serius Jones battles and others, plus over the years I partook in a lot of on-the-spot random freestyle battles myself. When I first saw Grind Time I thought wow these dudes are incredible (initially, I thought it was all freestyling). But as everything does with time, it was a written format which evolved from the on the spot random battles most New Yorkers/hip-hoppers are accustomed to. I watched, I saw an opportunity to get involved and seized it! I battled Upstate for my first Grindtime battle, the footage never saw the light of the day, but I won by a landslide and that resulted in me making the league that day. I battled two weeks afterwards against Paranormal, which was my first on-cam battle and since then, my resume speaks for itself. I’ve won EOW MC Challenges, Rhyme Calisthenics, Anthony Anderson’s Mixtape Comedy Freestyle battle, and other MC based challenges, most of which there is no prior preparation, but as an “MC” you should be able to Master any Ceremony you’re placed in. MC’s and rappers are two different things in my opinion, but that’s a whole other topic.
Last year you released your debut album Common Law. Did it present a challenge to get in the album-crafting mindset while you were still active on the battle circuit?
The album was being worked on before I started battling, which is why I really got into the whole battle circuit to begin with. Making music has always been the main focus for me, personally, but little did I know what challenges would face me trying to do both congruently. Did it present a challenge? Oh yeah, definitely. Working on music and battling (in the written format) are like speaking two different languages simultaneously in the same sentence at the same time! Battling helped the success of my album to receive the amount of downloads, media exposure, celebrity and worldwide recognition it’s gotten, but it was A LOT of hard work. Finding time to write, memorize, record, perform, & battle…ALL WHILE WORKING a regular 9 to 5 is no easy task. I’ve always said that when there’s a passion for something you love, you don’t find the time, you MAKE the time for it. This was no different in juggling what it takes to get an album recorded, mixed, mastered, distributed (which I myself did) and seen by the masses. But, as any challenge does once you overcome it, it makes you have an even stronger mindset and smarter outlook going into the next endeavor, if you choose to. Since then, major opportunities have come up and even bigger and better things have happened because I know how to move a little bit smarter and the “do and do not’s” of what it takes.
What made you decide on the album title Common Law?
My marriage to hip-hop. I’ve won numerous talent competitions, rap battles, gained and lost for the love this culture and music. No matter what, I’m unofficially married to it. My dedication and devotion goes into my work and from the responses I get, I think the fans see. I appreciate their comments and feedback more than I can even express!
You recently battled on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” what was the experience making the leap into network TV like?
Crazy! The amount of exposure and recognition I got after winning the “Ready Set Flow” challenge was incredible. Network television is the market to go into if you’re trying to be seen and heard! Obviously it’s opened opportunities, it’s gotten me seen by people who regularly might have not seen me. It’s also had a nice amount of people who never payed any attention to you jump on the bandwagon, which is to be expected with any gaining of popularity or fame, but I’ll tell you this…the inner workings of what goes on behind a television show is not that much different than what goes into planning, hosting, and executing a major battle/hip hop event. I’ll leave it at that, but the underground and mainstream are not that far apart structurally.
Most recently, you put out the King of Queens mixtape, which includes a lot of your best freestyles from the past year. With all that you’ve done in the past 12 months, do you feel your approach to MCing in the booth or on-stage has changed much?
Hell yeah. I feel like I’m being more of myself now because the impression of “Who the hell is Daze?” doesn’t have to be met. People now know my personality, my thoughts, my life and who I am a little bit better so it allows me to be more comfortable and express more of what I want to in the booth. Like I said before, I’m blessed with the feedback and response I get from the fans. When fans come out to shows they show me nothing but love and support what it is I’m doing. If I keep moving the way I’m moving, I think I might be alright with this hip-hop stuff for a while!
If you had to pick a favorite battle that you were in, and a favorite battle you enjoyed as a fan, which would they be?
My favorite battle is probably me vs C4. The audio & visual are really good in it. Either that, or me vs D’Meitz. But the mainstream culture may not get what is and isn’t “battle etiquette”. I’d say to Google anything I’ve done. I’m pretty much satisfied with all my work. I wouldn’t put my efforts into anything if I wasn’t giving it my all or my best. As far as a battle I’ve enjoyed, one of my favorite battles of all time is Serius Jones vs Jin, it’s the true definition of what a “bodybag” (a term the battle community uses for a clear victory) is.
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