by Kizzie Adams
Justin Thomas is a young cat from Detroit attending college in Chicago. He’s my homie so he had no problem coming to the crib to chop it up with me about his ideals on where music is headed today and how he plans to turn that all around.
Who are you? Are you still trying to figure that out? Do you separate yourself from being an artist? Are those two different Justins?
Nah, Justin Thomas is Justin Thomas. I think that’s why I don’t have a different stage name. I used to have a whole bunch of stage names back in the day. “JT”, “Lil Jay” when I was younger…the list goes on. Any corny ass name with ‘Jay’ on the end, I probably tried it. Then eventually, I was just like, “You know what? That’s wack.”
So you said you started when you were younger. Where did gain that love from?
Well, I didn’t start taking it seriously until high school, but I’ve been writing since elementary school. I started off doing poetry and I took that very seriously. It eventually transitioned into me wanting to do music. My older sister was a big Hip-Hop fan and I used to listen to rap with her. I liked listening to people like Michael Jackson and Al Green with my mom –because it helped me understand where those artists were coming from even though I was young, ya know?
What happened in high school to make you start taking your craft seriously?
I started writing raps before high school but I didn’t really start “rapping” them until high school because that’s when I started hanging with the music kids or the “dope crowd” or whatever. This was like 9th grade, but towards junior year was when I was like, “OK, I really wanna do this shit.”
What high school did you go to? Was there anything at the school that helped you with that?
Southfield High & no. Not at all. Only my circle.
What role does music play in your life?
It’s the same thing as waking up and knowing you have to eat every day. That’s how I am with music. It’s just a part of every day life, whether I’m writing it or listening to it. Not something that I sit and overthink about, but it’s just always there.
So when it comes to writing, are you the Migos type? You just get in there and do it? Does it come to you? Do you have to set time aside to write?
Yo. It’s like all of those. I try to have a writing schedule, but that never works. I try to stay away from thinking of things that stay cool. But if I watch something, get into an argument with someone or something like that, I’ll get inspired. If I hear a beat I like…I don’t know. I try not to control it because when I do it comes out terrible. I let the inspiration find me.
Is your music personal? Do you base most of your music on things that have happened to you? Or how you feel?
Yes, my experiences or things that I’ve seen happen to other people. I try to be more abstract. From watching movies or something I can draw inspiration from that. So I can take that abstract thought and turn it into something personal.
Where do you see your music going?
I‘ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I think it’s hard to control the music once the public gets a hold of it. I just want to be able to express myself as much as possible while allowing people to hear it and take something away from it. I mean, even if they don’t, I’ll still do it. I just want to give them something that they can build off of it.
Where do you want it to go?
I mean, of course I want to be able to take care of my family. But honestly, I just want to be able to learn as much as I can before I stop doing it. I want to try to new things and experience new things. 10 years from now, I want a young cat to come to me for advice. I want to be able to make a living off of it but not lose the core element of what I love about it and what I love most about it is the learning process.
Is it up to you to decide your sound or do you leave it up to the listener? Who is your audience?
Definitely the listener. I want people to be able to listen to it whether they work at the plant, whether they’re a drug addict or their father is the richest man in America. I just want to make music for the everyday human being. I don’t have a target market. I just make human music.
So who’s in the studio with you when you’re creating?
Right now I have a pretty steady team. Of course my managers.. I really only work with one producer: J. Vaughn. So pretty much him, Marlon 23rd and my homie St. Clair…I feel like I owe them a lot.
What artists inspire you? What inspires you, in general?
My friends, of course. Kizzie and my boy Stephon. I said my friends because I feel like I’m always trying to keep up with them. As far as big names go, I like Pharrell, Kanye, Lupe (‘The Cool’ Lupe), and James Fauntleroy. I get inspired by living in Chicago now and being in a new city. There are people who’ve never been past 8 mile, ya know? I’m inspired by just waking up every day and knowing that I’m making my mom proud. My girlfriend inspires me too.
Who Justin is listening to right now:
If you were stranded on an island with no CD player, what albums would you bring?
In My Mind
Jackson 5 Christmas
O by Omarion
A Kid Named Cudi
Follow Justin on Soundcloud to stay up on his latest music!