Justin Love Talks New Music and Gifts From God

Oscar nominated R&B singer shares stories of personal struggle and growth in new music video.

Singer-songwriter and producer Justin Love continues to combine the hard-hitting elements of trap and hip-hop with the smooth and vulnerable themes of R&B Soul.

Most recently, in his moody video for his single "Bad Mind." The Cliffside Park, New Jersey native has been praised by the likes of notable musicians and producers like Nicki Minaj, Alicia Keys, Jermaine Dupri and more. Along with Justin's quick rise to fame, he has excelled in co-writing for many of the world's top acts, including the 2016 smash hit "Focus" by H.E.R.

Love opened up to PopDust about his journey as a musician, his artistic vision, and how God had a hand in getting him together to work with H.E.R.:

What was the creative process like for the "Runaway" and "Bad Mind" music videos? Was there a specific story you wanted to tell with each of these visuals?

So as an artist, we like to really tap into our personal and emotional side. In "Runway," I really wanted to make a point that I was running away from all the negativity in my life and towards a better, happier place, whether that be getting away from toxic people or getting away from a toxic environment. I'm from New Jersey and about a year ago I moved to Los Angeles and "Runaway" pretty much sums that experience up. I really wanted to make a point in the visual that I was in a dark place and that I'm just moving on to bigger and better things.

What was it like to work with producer Shy Boogs on "Runaway?"

So Shy and I work together every so often and every time we work together we work very fast. We just kinda tap into whatever experience we're feeling. He just started making a beat, and as he was making the beat, it was kinda screaming the melody. It felt very true and I wanted to stay true to who I am personally and I wanted to give something to my fans that felt personal.

Was the creative process for "Bad Mind" different or similar to your experience with "Runaway?"

I feel like "Bad Mind" and "Runaway" were both pretty similar when it came to tapping into a more personal experience. As I made "Bad Mind" I was going through a very recent breakup and I truly felt that the girl was just in her "bad mind." She was doing things that she wouldn't normally do and it really inspired the whole song and the visual. In the video, you can see that she ends up talking to someone else and we get into a little fight and I feel like there was a lot more that I went through personally but I kept it simple and to the point as far as visuals go. I was just really excited to work with Ronald Reid! I had been dying to work with him and he was the one that directed the whole video. I was just so excited to see what he could add to the picture.

That's awesome! How did y'all meet each other?

He was actually working with a couple of people that I had worked with before, like Justina Valentine and IV.JAY. After looking at their visuals I was like, "Damn, we definitely have to work together." I did reach out to him via social media on Instagram and we just kept in touch ever since.

How does it feel to go from performing in malls in New Jersey and becoming a local celebrity, to making that big move to LA and taking on a much larger audience and scene?

So it was definitely a big change, but I love the challenge. The challenge of having to make it all over again is just a thrill. I get a thrill out of working. I work really hard. In the space where I was at, I didn't see much happening further than what I was already doing, so I felt like I had to make a name for myself elsewhere. That's where I'm at right now and where I've been at for a while. It's taking some time, but I'm getting a kick out of the ride itself.

What have been some of the struggles and successes that you've experienced while trying to make a name for yourself in a new environment?

Definitely meeting new people. When you move across the country, it's a new environment, so becoming accustomed to the new environment and the people and getting to know who your new circle is and what it can become and just getting comfortable. It's really hard to get comfortable when you just move somewhere else. But I work hard, I think my work ethic is undeniable. I do question some of the people I surround myself with sometimes. It's hard to trust people, especially since I've been in a bad deal before. I finally found a great team that I feel comfortable with. I love those guys. It's really just about finding your team and who you're gonna work with. Who's gonna help you keep your head on your shoulders. Us creatives, we go crazy if we don't feel like we're doing enough or we're working so hard but we don't see enough happening.

Could you shed some light on how your work ethic has paid off? I know you've been able to work with H.E.R on her single "Focus," can you tell me about the experience? How did that happen?

I'm gonna tell you this right now, it was God.

It was God??

I blame God for that. I wasn't in the right mental headspace at the time. I was so mentally stressed and I went to New York City for the day. I was talking to a homeless man and I continued walking and what not, and then I hear my name being called in the distance and someone was yelling, "Justin! Justin! Justin!" It was someone from H.E.R.'s management team that actually stopped me and told me that she was upstairs and recording. At that time she wasn't H.E.R., she was going by another name and the woman from her management told me "Oh she's upstairs. You should come up and check out some of her stuff." As I said, I wasn't even doing anything that day. I was just stressed as hell. I went upstairs and listened to her and she was just amazing so the next day we scheduled a session and we went into the session and wrote two or three records that day. I actually found a photo today as I was looking through my photos, I actually wrote the song on a piece of paper and I found the paper that I took a photo of. It was so amazing. We wrote two or three songs that day, "Focus" being one of the three and before I knew it the song was on the radio and—man. I had a good feeling about the song, but I never knew it would become what it became. Just working with H.E.R was amazing. She's definitely god-gifted.

Is there anybody else that you'd like to work with in the future?

Chris Brown, Justin Beiber, Miguel, Usher. I have a few more people just off the top of my head. Ty Dolla $ign, Jeremiah. Female artist wise I'd love to work with Ella Mai and Beyonce for sure! Cardi B would really cool too. I feel like we'd have really good chemistry.

Are there any last words you want to share about what you hope fans take away from the music videos? Is there anything you'd like to say about where you hope your career goes from here?

My final words. Here is some inspiration. Don't focus on any of the hate. If you're focused on your career path, then you need to focus on what you need to do next. You need to focus on your work and what you're doing. Don't change what you're doing for anyone. That's one. As far as where my career is heading, my career is heading to a more truthful place.

What do you mean by that?

I used to create just to create and I would say anything and create anything. Now I'm starting to understand my brand and understand where I want my career to go. It's going to go to a more genuine place within the next three to four months and I want to create with more intention.

Check out Justin Love's latest music video for "Bad Mind" below!

Justin Love - Bad Mind

Beyoncé in "Black Is King"

Beyoncé has released Black Is King, and as usual, her work is subtly shifting the world and inspiring millions.

The musical film dropped today on Disney+. It's a visual companion to 2019's The Lion King: The Gift, an album inspired by last year's remake of The Lion King, in which Beyoncé starred as Nala. The moment it released at 12AM PT, fans lost it with excitement.

Black Is King is rooted in Black history. "History is your future," Beyoncé says prophetically toward the beginning. "One day you will meet yourself back where you started, but stronger." The film is studded with references to African history, portraying the lives of African royalty.

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Popdust Exclusive: Young & Sick Talks New EP "Size of Relief"

The Dutch artist and musician's newest release is buoyant dance music inspired by nighttime bike rides.

You might recognize some of the art created by Nick van Hofwegen, aka Young & Sick. It's adorned the covers of Foster the People's Torches and Mikky Ekko's Kids, among many other albums.

You might also recognize his music—and if you don't, you very well may be hearing him everywhere soon. His newest EP, out May 3, is a collection of dance music that's as atmospheric and complex. With its crystalline production, pumped-up rhythms, and dreamy loops of synths and keys, it's tailor-made for clubs, bike rides, or for any time you need a pick-me-up or an excuse to take off and drive. Ultimately, it's the product of a mind that's clearly enamored with its own ability to distill color and sound into shapes and tunes.

The music has a buoyancy to it, a clarity that belies meticulous attention to detail but still meshes well with its sense of electric intensity and free-spirited energy. Standout tracks include "JET BLACK HEART," a track that—despite its brooding lyrics—feels like the sonic equivalent of making it to the top of a mountain after a long trek; the thrilling, bittersweet "IT'S A STORM," and "SIZE OF RELIEF," which layers van Hofwegen's angelic, slightly overdriven vocals over an arrangement of reverb-drenched horns, cool synths, delicate strings, and tense rhythms.

Popdust talked to Young & Sick about the relationship between visual art and music, inspirations for his upcoming EP, and the importance of listening to albums all the way through.

Can you tell me a little bit about your upcoming EP, and the inspiration behind it?

YOUNG & SICK: This collection of work was made right before I went on tour with the Knox. In the back of my mind, while knowing I was gonna be on tour with them, I got really in the mood to make something more uptempo and uplifting, so that drove me to be faster in BPMs than I usually am. I'd also been making a lot of remixes for people, so it tied in with that, too. I took European dance roots and made something more sample-heavy and dancey.

At the time, I was also living in the valley in Los Angeles, and when I was making all the songs I was going on long bike rides in the evening. The songs I'd listen to while riding also shaped what I was creating—it was more dance music, so it made me shift towards that.

Are there any other inspirations, sonically or in terms of place, that you feel influenced your new work?

This EP is very largely inspired by the emotion of the city passing by on the bike. A lot of my inspiration—especially with this record—is drawn from sampling; I'd find a nice little piece of music that I'd chop up, and it would guide me to the next spot.

Have you always been into dance music? Did you grow up going out and dancing?

Growing up in the Netherlands, dance music was always pretty prevalent. I grew up a rock kid. Nirvana was my first love. There was always a lot of dance music around me, though, and when acts like the Chemical Brothers came out and started merging rock music with dance, a lot of people like me got very into that. Dance music has always been around me, and I've always had a big love for it, but it hasn't necessarily always come out in my music before.


I know you do a lot of art as well, and it's pretty unique to see someone doing such high-quality work in two fields at once. Which did you start out with—art or music—and how do you see those two fields relating to each other?

That's really kind. I've always done both, as long as I can remember. I've been drawing as long as I've been playing guitar. I always say I feel like they come from the same place, and anyone's brain that can do one can do the other—it's multidisciplinary. They feed off each other so well. If I get stuck in either, I just switch up and keep going. I don't think there was one before the other; it was a chicken-and-egg kind of thing.

Your art and music seem to fit so well together. Do you have any sort of synesthesia? Do you see music in colors, or see them related in that kind of way?

I do think they tie into each other incredibly. I know people have full-on synesthetic things where they actually see color in sound—I don't have that to the full degree, but if I do artwork for my music or others' I tend to listen to it while creating the artwork, to really shape them around each other. I do see a very strong connection between them. When a band or artist gets that connection right, it makes me very happy—when someone's just getting it when the music and art live in the same world, it's such a gratifying feeling.

Did you feel pressure to choose between them? Was there a moment when you decided you weren't going to pick one of the two fields?

I wouldn't say I was pressured to ever choose. There were early moments where I was thinking, I want to use this name for both fields, for doing art for other people and for myself and also for making music, and there were definitely moments where people were kind of wary of that. But I never had to choose, luckily.

Your music and art are very psychedelic. Is that something you're interested in and do you explore spirituality in any way, or where does that imagery come from?

My work draws from 70's psychedelia, and obvious bands like the Grateful Dead that I've always looked up to, in terms of their art and how well they made an insane brand for themselves. I'm a big proponent of that type of art, going that far in detail and tying everything together that well. I'm not necessarily a very spiritual person but I do tend to like the occasional psychedelic… I definitely draw inspiration from that.

What's happening next with your music?

I'm working hard on a follow-up. A lot of musicians like me, as soon as you finish something, it's kind of out of your system. I'm working to follow it up with something different, but in a similar line.

What's the inspiration behind your band name?

My manager used to throw a lot of parties in New Orleans when he was going to Tulane University. He'd ask me, do you know a good name for a party? I'd come up with one and make a flyer, and he'd start passing them out. One day I saw those two words [young and sick] together, sitting next to each other, and I made a poster for him with that name, and he said that was one of his favorite parties. I had that poster up in my bedroom in London when I was living there, and I was looking at it and thought, I kind of need that name. I started putting out songs and making art with it, and it kind of stuck. It's a simple, striking name—you just have to tell someone once and they remember.

Are you going on tour soon?

There's going to be a few shows—LA and New York and some festivals—and I'm doing a bunch of DJ sets as well. We're figuring out what the next tour is because we just came off of one.

You do a lot more than visual art and songwriting. What other fields do you work in?

Remixing is something I've been very fond of lately. Obviously, the art for festivals and other people and that kind of thing has been amazing. Fine art and making things, in general, is definitely a big passion. With music and art, there are so many little nuances within each field.

Are you particularly excited about any of the songs on the upcoming EP?

Every time you make a release, there are a lot of songs that don't end up on it—usually I make about triple the amount, and we send them to the people we work with at the label and they come up with their favorite lists, which were pretty close to what I had in mind for this one. Sometimes it's hard to pick between the songs because you made all of them, so it works well when somebody on the outside picks one and it aligns with your choices. My favorite songs all ended up on this EP. The song that's about to come out, which will close the EP, is called "SIZE OF RELIEF," which is also the name of the EP. I wrote it in New Orleans in such a short time—maybe a two-hour window of making the first loops and all the vocals—and it just felt so right. I just had to change a few things, and detailing and mixing took a lot more time—but initially, it just took a few hours, and when that happens, I just feel so good. That one is definitely one of my favorites.

Anything else you want people to know?

I know it's hard for a lot of people these days to take in more than a few songs at once, but I'd encourage people to take off 20 or 25 minutes and listen to the EP in full.

It seems like kind of a lost art to go through and listen to a full album, but it's super rewarding when you do.

That's kind of how it was meant to be heard. If anyone's able to do that, that'd make me happy.

Young & Sick's debut album was released in 2014. "Size of Relief" is now available on streaming services. Listen here.

Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York. Follow her on Twitter @edenarielmusic.

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