The Evolving Artistry & Authenticity of Joyner Lucas

The Grammy-nominated rapper discusses his highly-anticipated album that features guest appearances from DMX, Conway the Machine, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, and more.

Joyner Lucas is one of the most respected rappers in the game. Since his debut in 2015, the Worcester, Massachusetts native has garnered widespread acclaim from critics and his peers. 

Lucas first received national attention with the release of his single "Ross Capicchioni," and he gave a memorable performance in the cypher at the 2015 BET Hip-Hop Awards.

In 2016, he was catapulted into the mainstream with the release of his gold-selling single "I'm Not Racist", which went viral. The video was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Music Video at the 61st Grammy Awards.

Lucas would go on to release several mixtapes including Listen to Me, Low Frequency Oscillators, Along Came Joyner, and 508-507-2209, his debut with Atlantic Records.

After a four-year hiatus since he dropped his LP ADHD (which went Gold) in 2020, Lucas is back on the scene with the release of Not Now, I’m Busy. The highly anticipated LP features appearances by Conway the Machine, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Jelly Roll, Symba, DMX, Logic, Twista, Logic, and Nefertiti Avani.

Lucas spoke with about how he’s grown as an artist and a human being since the release of his last album.

“I was going through life and making the transition from having much to being financially well off, and everything that comes with it. I tried to talk about that in the “Broski” record,” Lucas said. “But I think those experiences shaped me into the person that I am now. So now there are kids, spending time with family, and now you're responsible for a lot of people, so you have to keep the income rolling in.”

“When I first started, I was hungry, I was starving. It was a survival thing. So, after some success, it's different now,” he added.

In addition to his music, Lucas is now an actor. He shared how his friendships with film superstars Will Smith and Mark Wahlberg got him into acting and how much he enjoyed being on the big screen.

“It was great. When I started to transition into acting, I decided that I was going to do the best that I could. I'd never been in a movie before Mark Whalberg hired me to be in Family Plan,” Lucas said. "He made me feel like I could play the role. But it's a different process than shooting a music video.”

“What was interesting is that I didn't have to climb a ladder from doing independent movies to the big screen. My first movie had a $200 million budget, and my second movie, Bad Boys, was probably $250- 300 Million,” he continued. "I didn’t care how small or big the part was. Being in those movies was fire. Most people have to climb a ladder to even get in those buildings, and I didn't have to.”

One of the key attributes of Lucas as an artist is his compelling visuals that drive home the message of his songs. The attention to detail of his music videos is essential to Lucas’s vision.

“I think one of the most important things is making sure that the visuals match the song because it is like a soundtrack to a movie. Certain movies wouldn't be as good without the soundtrack," he said. "The Lion King would never be without the soundtrack because the emotions are different.”

“If you watch a scary movie, you don’t get that eerie feeling until the eerie music comes on with the dark pianos and that sound dark. You need something sinister, dark, and twisted to make that work,” he explained. I know that the visuals have to match, so it makes sense. So when I have the idea of the video in my mind, I know I need to create the soundtracks to match what I'm seeing.”

Expanding his reach as an artist, much of the production on Not Now I’m Busy was produced by Joyner which allowed him to craft songs that reveal another side of his creativity. Becoming a producer was the next step in his progression as an artist.

“A lot of the album is self-produced along with my engineer Leo Sun was fired. We literally would sit in the studio and crafted beats together for like, 90%- 95% of the project,” he said.

“As a producer, you have more control over the record. You can cater the sound to exactly what you want. Before, I  had to depend on producers to send me music and then try to come up with sh*t,” Lucas shared. “But once I started getting into production, I realized that it's no different than directing. Once I learned how to direct and edit, I was like, ‘Okay, there's more range here.’ Then I started creating records that I can put the visuals together for.”

Not Now I’m Busy is another stellar effort from Lucas and with every project proves he is one of the most consistent lyricists in hip hop. Spanning 17 tracks, Lucas is on a mission to be himself without compromise or inhibitions. 

“The theme of the album is really about evolving. It's interesting because my last project was about being more enlightened and positive. On Not Now I’m Busy,  it's almost like, I went backwards because the real message is that sh*t that I’ve learned and the person that I was, is out the window now. I'm going to a new stage of my life now where I'm a new person due to my new traumas,” Lucas said.

“That’s why on the album cover I have blood on my face. It's like I’m killing off my old self, you know what I'm saying? There's a really powerful metaphor there.”

Overall, Lucas wants his fans to never be afraid to be their authentic selves, which is the album's central theme.

“What I want people to take away from the album is that they should not be afraid to shed their skin,” he said. “Everybody changes due to the things that you go through that shape you into the person that you are.”

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