Not many teens have the courage to move to Los Angeles at 17, but up-coming popstar JUJ knew it was the only way she could pursue her music career. With her Gaga-strength voice and Khalid-like lyrics, her emotional songs embody the current youth perfectly. Fresh out of Philadelphia, she’s already on the rise with the release of her debut EP, JUJ, it’s U and collaboration with Chicago-native rapper Vic Mensa.
Her powerful song, “Mood” tells the story of a 17-year-old leaving home and overcoming numerous obstacles to chase her dream. Just a month after her EP dropped, the singer announced that Vic Mensa, a rapper who tackles political issues such as Trump’s detention of immigrant children, would be hopping on the re-release of the track. Mensa explains that he was inspired by her similar childhood and music journey and wanted to tell his story in his verse.
I spoke to JUJ about the significance of the track’s re-release and her move to Los Angeles. She lays it all out, from her struggle with sudden sickness to her Lady Gaga obsession.
Affinity Magazine: I was hoping you could discuss your journey to L.A. and how it related to Vic Mensa’s similar journey from Chicago. From what I’ve heard, your story is what made him a fan and inspired him to write his verse on “Mood.”
JUJ: “Mood” is about leaving everything behind and not listening to what others may think of you and your path but doing it anyway to pursue your passion. In my case that was dropping out of high school and moving across the country by myself at age 17 to pursue music. The re-release of “Mood,” featuring Vic Mensa, is similar with the addition of his story which also parallels mine. He moved out of the home to go pursue music at 17 as well, and a Chicago native like me he was raised in a city that allowed him to be a fighter and make those bold decisions. We both overcame struggles after taking that leap of faith and me coming from a Brazilian immigrant mother and him coming from a South African immigrant father moving home going to a different place not knowing anyone wasn’t that far-fetched being raised for both of us in tough cities.
In “Mood,” you describe your difficult journey to L.A. What were some major obstacles you faced?
I moved out here at 17 and was diagnosed with Lyme disease. I didn’t want it to get in the way of my move, so I didn’t get it treated fast enough and got very ill. I was originally being treated here for it but since I was a minor I was sent to the East coast for treatment to be surrounded by family. I never talked about this before releasing “Hollywood” because I didn’t want any attention to be brought to what I thought was a weakness. I didn’t even post on socials that I was home because I didn’t want the people who told me I couldn’t do it, see that I was back and prove them right. Being on the other side of it, I’m talking about how I feel strong, not weak because I overcame and it and it didn’t overcome me and I don’t care what those people think.
Many people travel to L.A. to pursue their career, especially music, as it gives them more opportunities. How has the move inspired and helped your music journey so far?
The opportunity L.A. offers is unbeatable. I see every day, no matter what I’m doing, as a day to create art. I grew up with not many friends that did music and now I find so much inspiration through some of the closest people in my life who I’ve met in L.A. who share the same passion as me.
It seems as though many Gen Z kids are chasing their dreams at a very young age. Do you feel the same pressure to succeed?
I don’t feel pressure to succeed. I have a fire within me to create and grow more and more but I do it for myself but not others. The pressure to succeed is self-inflicted, I don’t feel the need to succeed for others, only myself.
Who are some of your biggest music influences?
My mom, who I’ve talked about quite a lot, is an inspiration for how I live my life and that really reflects what I write about. Lady Gaga has inspired me since I was younger. I performed her songs in my first ever talent show and my mom and I made a Lady Gaga costume. Anyway, coming from the theatre, her transition to pop with keeping her theatre background has always stood out to me. Her style so Avante Garde and is something I wanna experiment with because I’ve always loved it. Her vocal delivery and her effortlessness on the piano are such an inspiration to me. And being an actress as well, her switch to the screen was seamless. I also love Jon Bellion production-wise. And Demi Lovato’s strong vocal delivery.
Everyone has their favorite song—what is your favorite to cover?
‘Edge of Glory’ by Lady Gaga!!!! I’ve always loved doing an acoustic version of this.
What is something that you wish you had known before your move?
I wish I would’ve known the value in alone time. I am constantly working on music, but mostly always with people, and when I’m not in the studio I’m always with someone. I’m never alone. I’m not really the personality type to be by myself. But moving here and not knowing anyone, as scary as it was, I wish I would’ve taken more time for self-exploration and learning more about myself and not being afraid to be alone more than I did with my own thoughts. I could’ve benefited and grown as a person from being less afraid of those times.
What would you tell a young artist chasing their dream?
As cliche as it is: don’t doubt yourself, don’t listen to others opinions, and create as much as you can and get all the rust out. Also, most importantly, you don’t know it all. I don’t know it all. I continue to learn and grow every day by seeking new knowledge of my craft every day. The biggest disservice you can do yourself is to stop seeking knowledge. You can learn so much from other people too.
Stream JUJ’s re-release of “Mood” ft. Vic Mensa here.
Featured image courtesy of JUJ