The young musician moved out of the house at 17 to start her career, echoing the move her Brazilian mother made to the United States at age 18.
The story of JUJ's career might be best set to "Eye of the Tiger," perhaps because she's from Philadelphia.
The scrappy, youthful singer just released her debut EP, JUJ It's You. After working with producers like Julian Nixon (Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky), the singer sat down with Popdust to discuss the project's creative process and where she plans to go from here.
So what have you been doing lately? On tour?
I'm pressing for a tour right now, yes. Also, I'll be writing in London and New York for the next two months. And I'm going into rehearsals with my band for a North American tour in the fall and a European tour in the winter. I also have a song coming out in two weeks. So we're building up a promo of that.
Is that song part of your new EP?
It's "Mood" with Vic Mensa.
So he's putting his own flow over the track?
Yeah, so he's taking verse two. He's from Chicago, where I used to live. He moved out of his home at the same age as I did: 17.
You were born and raised in Philly, correct? Do you see any parallels between Philly and Chicago?
Yeah. The people are super tough in both places. Thick-skinned. More so than on the west coast. I feel like the work ethic out there, too, is stronger than here in LA.
That's ironic, considering LA is all about "making it."
Well, I think people are better off in LA if they come from somewhere else. People here become friends with somebody who is doing big things, and that makes them feel like they're doing big things: doing well by association. I have a lot of friends who have come to LA and then leave for New York, because they want to be surrounded by people who are hustling.
What does "JUJ" mean?
I was originally named Julia. My mom is Brazilian, and we went back there for a bit when I was young. "JUJ" is what they used to call me, and it stuck! Growing up in school, going to the doctors, I always introduced myself as "JUJ."
Apart from the abbreviation, does it have a specific meaning?
No, it's just what stuck. Also, I'm not really a "Julia." [laughs] Also, it fits into "jujitsu," the Brazilian martial art that I practice.
So I listened to the track "Hollywood." It's funny, because in the last few interviews I've done for Popdust, LA has been an important subject. So why do you think it fascinates people so much?
I felt like with a lot of songs written about LA or Hollywood paint it as a glamorous land of opportunity. But I knew that no one city was going to make it happen for me. When I first moved here, I was working full time as a nanny, and I was auditioning, performing my music, and finally met my first producer. Then I got Lyme disease. I spent a lot of time at a hospital in Beverly Hills and got very depressed. And then they told me the best option was for me to go back home. I felt like it would have [proven] all the [haters] right. Everyone has a time where something happens in the city that makes them feel like they don't belong. They don't write about that, because it makes them look weak, but I felt like there was something strong about being vulnerable about how I felt. The song "Hollywood" starts with doubts, and over the course of the song those doubts are turned into affirmations.
So it sounds like Lyme Disease had as much a disillusioning effect on you as the city!
It was more [about] all the people back home having told me I wasn't going to succeed. I was this little girl sick by herself in the big city. It was the whole circumstance.
How early did you start playing music?
I've been playing music my entire life. [laughs] I know that's super cliche, but it's true.
Were your parents musical?
Neither of my parents can sing to save their lives, but my mom, she moved from Brazil to America when she was 18 not knowing anybody. She wanted to move to New York and be a dancer, but she didn't have the means to make it; she just had to survive. That's in part what inspired me: do what she couldn't. And she met my dad while working at Chili's. She was a waitress, and he was a bartender.
That's oddly romantic.
[laughs]. Yeah. So, my mom was always playing Brazilian music around the house, while both of us were learning how to speak English. That's why I don't know how to speak Portuguese.
So she was more of an assimilationist?
Essentially, yeah. She also played a lot of English-language music around the house. Oh, also I should mention I've been doing musical theater since I was very young! I was aping the music to "Annie" before I could talk.
What's your favorite musical?
"Les Miserable." To be Eponine in "Les Miserable!"
How did you get into music, then?
Well, I'm very religious, and when I was young I asked my parents if I could join a choir. We found a Presbyterian choir (neither my family or I am Presbyterian).
So your parents were religious?
No, I found it by myself. I used to make my parents drop me off at churches by myself.
That's the complete opposite of what usually occurs.
I know! The friends of mine who were raised religious, now they're kind of disillusioned with it. When I first moved to LA, the first thing I did was join a church, for that sense of community.
So that led to the music, singing in choirs?
Then I joined the school choir. After that, I became obsessed with singing. I entered myself into competitions and all that. I got my first job was I was 12, with The Music Man at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia. I was getting paid to do shows, eight shows a week.
Fast forward, then, to LA. How did that work? Did you have a plan?
After the Walnut Theater, I started looking for other theater jobs. Then I performed at the Apollo Theater and won the "Child Stars of Tomorrow" competition. Then after that, I was doing a lot of cabarets in New York, taking the Megabus from Philly. And then I got involved in a short film that made me fall in love with TV and film. So I figured I'd move to LA. But how to convince my parents?
It turned out, though, not to be a problem: My mom's parents had let her go to move to America. So I knew she'd be supportive. So I moved out, got a voice coach, and started doing open mics. One night, a producer attended an open mic and asked to set up a session. I had never done a real session with a producer. I ended up helping out a singer-songwriter with her song, and the songwriter for the session's manager liked my voice and got my info, etc, etc. Eventually, I signed with my current manager, Nathan, and we started really doing writing sessions, honing the craft. And then for the first EP, I didn't just want to write relationship songs. It would have been too predictable for a 17-year-old to come out with that. Instead, I wrote about my journey.
Who's your main producer now?
Sean Cook. He produced the first EP, and now we're working on singles together. He became one of the top two best friends of my entire life. We're like sisters. Well, not sisters, because he's a boy…It's just so easy to create with him because of the bond we have.
In the press material I read before this interview, phrases like "progressive outlook" and "be the change you want to see" jumped out. Are those themes you see reflected in the EP?
Yeah! Especially the "change" idea. We can complain all we want about what's going on in the world, but nothing's gonna change unless we are the change. Living in LA, there's a ton of people that complain, but let's do something about it! For instance, the song "Black Mirror" is about getting off our phones and experiencing the world around us.
The track I liked the most was "Barricade."
That's my favorite one, too! Everyone on my team, when we were putting the music out, they did not like it, and I was like, "Damn, that's my favorite one!"
I think it's cool because there are so many different textures and dynamics. There's a glitchy dub-step thing combined with a gospel vibe, for instance.
Yes!! That's like my thing! When I started the EP, I wanted to incorporate the gospel choir sound.
Can you give me some insight into how that track came together?
So with "Barricade," I wanted to write about obstacles, overcoming them in an empowering way.
And the music itself? There are so many different elements. It sounds like quite a labor.
Yeah! It kind of took a village. Sean, the producer, made a beat; we wrote to that beat, then he added a few different production elements and the guitar. And then after my vocals were recorded, a good friend of ours, Taylor, played keys. And that choir is real. I took a bunch of musician friends from around LA. They're the background vocals.
Is the EP paving the way for a full-length album?
We're pushing the EP hard, and I'm in the process of writing a lot of singles to follow it.
And is there a tour in the works?
Um, yes. Right now we're in rehearsals, but we're looking to do some support tours as an opener, around August and September.
Last question: Do kids still try and fix the crack in the Liberty Bell as a high school prank?
I mean, we've thought about it, but none of us have gotten away with it. That'd be badass.
To Donald Trump: 5 Ways You're Actually a Flawless Being Doing a Beautiful, Unbelievable Job Right Now
You could resign if you want to, but then who will keep America so GD great?
With Donald Trump making a visit to Bangor, Maine today, the editorial board of the Portland Press Herald issued an op-ed calling for President Trump to resign.
The harshly critical piece entitled "To President Trump: You Should Resign Now" was framed as an open letter to the president and got straight to the point with this opening plea, "We're sorry that you decided to come to Maine, but since you are here, could you do us a favor? Resign."
In recent days even George W. Bush has been critical of President Trump's response to protests, so this new piece quickly became a trending topic on Twitter. Obviously this is another baseless attack from the lying news media—AKA lügenpresse. Considering how delicate our president's ego is—he's our special little guy—we can only hope that Donald Trump didn't see the letter; but just in case he did, it's worth writing another one to lift his spirits. So here's our best attempt—with lots of pictures and flattery to keep him reading:
You Know How to Look Tough<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3NTYyNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTE5Nzc3M30.9B4CSWzpZGjBq7APFv_KJKf-QV8n2kEIYcBIOTUt02k/img.jpg?width=980" id="0a07e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="980538d3ccf27d180ce2f7e147f1259f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="trump eagle scared" /><p>Joe Biden is always trying to challenge you to push up contests or saying he would "<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/21/politics/joe-biden-donald-trump/index.html" target="_blank">beat the hell</a>" out of you, but you don't engage with that nonsense. You know that it's not important for a leader to actually be tough as long as you look tough. That's why you avoid protesters like the plague. In 2018 you <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/12/donald-trump-visit-to-london-called-off-amid-fears-of-mass-protests" target="_blank">canceled your London trip</a> amid protests there, and more recently, you authorized the use of violent force to disperse peaceful demonstrators <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-calls-tear-gas-reports-fake-news-protesters/story?id=71052769" target="_blank">so you could have a photo-op in front of a church</a>.</p><p>Whether it's because you don't want to be seen as having less than absolute control over the unruly crowds, or just because you pee a little bit whenever you're around political activism (probably that), we all owe you a debt of gratitude for avoiding any confrontation or engagement with <a href="https://www.popdust.com/jimmy-fallon-blackface-2646105674.html" target="_blank">the mass protests against police brutality</a> that are taking place throughout our country right now—why engage when you can just use more police brutality to avoid them altogether?! It's the only way for you to maintain that all-important facade of toughness that makes you undeniably the most respected current president of the United States. And now that you've <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/white-house-fence-protests-washington-1508703" target="_blank">surrounded the White House with two miles of barricade—</a>#BuildThatWall—we never have to worry about press cameras catching sight of a faint stain spreading out from the crotch of your pants.</p>
You Know Who the Real Enemy Is<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3NTYyMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNzg3NjY1M30.J6PsxmoxCL_8jSPRBcTHkFrHNRm7bgVmYzBcXmfDNHQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="c7b59" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f8a213c28f6c8ba27cef403b76ff012c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="trump after you tweet" /><p>Earlier this year FBI director Christopher Wray announced that racist domestic violence was <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/02/10/804616715/fbi-announces-that-racist-violence-is-now-equal-priority-to-foreign-terrorism" target="_blank">being prioritized just as much as foreign terror threats</a>. On one level that could be seen as a sign that white supremacy is a major problem in the US, and that perpetrators of deadly hate crimes should be labeled terrorists, but you know better—obviously, since you're both very stable and a genius. If we start labeling white people as terrorists, then it will just make it harder to keep stoking fears about Islam, bad hombres, and other brown people problems.</p><p>Besides, if white men can be bad guys too, then that could include you! And as we all know, an attack against you is <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7808431/Trump-channels-Uncle-Sam-tweet-saying-Democrats-just-way.html" target="_blank">actually an attack against all good, patriotic Americans</a>. Therefore the real enemy is anyone trying to aggressively call out and push back against white supremacy and white nationalism. That's why <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/antifa-group-trump-designate-terrorist-organization/story?id=71045287" target="_blank">you want to designate Antifa a terrorist organization</a>. Who cares that they <a href="https://www.factcheck.org/2020/06/trump-cant-designate-antifa-or-any-movement-domestic-terrorist-organization/" target="_blank">aren't even an organization at all—</a>it's just an ethos of publicly and aggressively confronting fascism and related ideologies. And who cares if there's no way to single out anti-fascist activism from wider, constitutionally protected protests like the Black Lives Matter movement?</p><p>Treating people who oppose you as terrorists will free you up to <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52932611" target="_blank">unleash state violence</a>, <a href="https://www.aclu.org/issues/national-security/privacy-and-surveillance/watchlists" target="_blank">surveillance, and travel restrictions</a>. Besides, we already have <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52932611" target="_blank">a hyper-militarized police force</a>, which has worked out great—apart from a few "<a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/500328-national-security-adviser-blames-a-few-bad-apples-says-theres-not" target="_blank">bad apples</a>" (who seem to operate with impunity for some reason, right up until there's a mass uprising). So put "<a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-my-generals-my-military-2017-10" target="_blank">your military</a>" to work and crack down on all of them with the full force of martial law! Or, as you put it, "<a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/2020-daily-trail-markers-trump-declares-we-will-dominate-the-streets/" target="_blank">Dominate the streets.</a>" Keep <a href="https://theintercept.com/2020/06/04/fbi-nypd-political-spying-antifa-protests/" target="_blank">interrogating protesters about their political beliefs</a>, and if enough of them end up too scared or too imprisoned or too dead to keep opposing you, you won't even have to take away their voting rights (although, we should look into that) to be a shoe-in for reelection!</p>
You Know that Free Speech Is Not as Important as Guns<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="528bc162ed6e6a07fe1e0245016bffff"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-K7XJGk8lyQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>In your recent announcement that you were "mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting," you said you were doing so "to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your second amendment rights." It was the only amendment you mentioned, and you even gave it some extra emphasis <a href="https://www.indy100.com/article/trump-second-amendment-speech-george-floyd-protests-9544011" target="_blank">as though encouraging "law-abiding Americans" to exercise their gun rights</a> in the face of rioting—because gun-toting Trump supporters to mass demonstrations of institutional racism and white supremacy will...calm things down?</p><p>We don't have to fully understand you to appreciate the fact that you skipped over that pesky first amendment—with the free speech and right to assemble that could get in the way of your military dominating the streets—and got to the important one. Maybe the "innocent" man you touted in your speech—<a href="https://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/2020/05/31/unfounded-trump-tweet-echoes-heavy-metal-guitarist-claim-that-antifa-beat-machete-wielding-dallas-man/" target="_blank">who chased after people in Dallas while wielding a machete—</a>wouldn't have been "savagely beaten," if he'd been wielding a gun instead. Besides, everyone knows that the only real enemies of free speech are <a href="https://www.popdust.com/mark-zuckerberg-trump-2646117777.html" target="_blank">private companies who call you out for "glorifying violence."</a> As long as the American people retain the right to retweet you with impunity, they have all the free speech they need, and they should stay inside and protest in ways that don't disrupt established order or do anything to upset the status quo (because no one has the right to make you pee a little bit).</p>
You Value the Economy<iframe width="100%" height="150" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode twitter-embed-1268968348278292484" id="twitter-embed-1268968348278292484" lazy-loadable="true" src="/res/community/twitter_embed/?iframe_id=twitter-embed-1268968348278292484&created_ts=1591380605.0&screen_name=CNN&text=The+President+went+from+talking+about+jobs+to+praising+police.+Then+he+claimed+it%27s+a+%22great+day%22+for+the+man+whose%E2%80%A6+https%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2FP3mMAREHMc&id=1268968348278292484&name=CNN" frameborder="0" data-rm-shortcode-id="51cee049686210db564d6bbf94f563e3"></iframe><p>Every president knows that the maintaining the economy is important, but as a business man—with that eagle-eyed focus on short term growth that has <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/donald-trumps-business-failures-were-very-real" target="_blank">led several of your businesses into bankruptcy</a>—you've made it clear that you value the economy more than anything else. Whether it's <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/05/politics/donald-trump-coronavirus-economy-models/index.html" target="_blank">the thousands of lives that will be lost</a> to the COVID-19 pandemic as we "reopen the economy" or t<a href="rgy-infrastructure-environmental-review-coronavirus" target="_blank">he dismantling of environmental regulations</a> that were getting in the way of cost-saving pollution, you don't let anything get in the way of a quick economic boost. You know that what's good for major industries today will be good for the American economy...also today.</p><p><span></span>Who cares about tomorrow?! We're having a hard time right now, and people want to <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/05/politics/trump-unemployment-numbers-protests/index.html" target="_blank">hear about how you've reduced unemployment</a>, not about 110,000 dead Americans or the necessity of police reform in the wake of <a href="https://www.popdust.com/derek-chauvin-hat-2646109506.html" target="_blank">George Floyd's murder at the hands of a police officer</a>. You can commemorate <a href="https://www.worldenvironmentday.global/" target="_blank">World Environment Day</a> by <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-environment-oceans/trump-plans-to-open-atlantic-sanctuary-to-commercial-fishing-sources-idUSKBN23C26N" target="_blank">opening up ocean conservation areas to commercial fishing</a>. Have ocean fish populations been cut in half over the last 50 years? Sure, but that means we have at least another decade or two before <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/report-million-extinctions-and-ecological-collapse-are-way" target="_blank">the total collapse of marine ecosystems</a>, and by then it will be some other jerk's problem!</p>
You Could Probably Cure COVID-19 if You Really Wanted<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3NTY4MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTQ4Njg1OX0.UrYXJOB4Wut0GXnPkWhdOIOzYHq4pAS3JSSKg2qvSlA/img.jpg?width=980" id="cad7c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4d96bd6d9c28bdbcb31a1d0c32f23083" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="trump covid tester" /><p>Thanks to the fact that you have your priorities in order, and are purely focused on the economy, you haven't worried too much about all this pandemic nonsense—by, for example, providing adequate testing or not stealing vital PPE and ventilators from the states. You did <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/germany-confirms-that-donald-trump-tried-to-buy-firm-working-on-coronavirus-vaccine/" target="_blank">try to get Americans exclusive access to a potential vaccine—</a>which would really stick it to all those jerks dying in other countries—but that didn't really pan out, so you'll probably just have to until the economy's sorted out so you can come up with a cure yourself.</p><p>After all, you have "<a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2019/05/30/donald-trump-iq-intelligence-1347149" target="_blank">one of the highest</a>" IQs, "<a href="https://www.politico.com/blogs/2016-gop-primary-live-updates-and-results/2016/03/trump-foreign-policy-adviser-220853" target="_blank">a very good brain</a>", and "<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-healthcare-us-medicine-coronavirus-centers-for-disease-control-a9384441.html" target="_blank">natural ability</a>" for medical science. It only took you a matter of moments and the most superficial level of thought to come up with a brilliant new avenue for research—injecting disinfectant into people's bodies—so you can probably have this whole thing sorted out in a day or two once you get around to it.</p>
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