An attempt to break the ice with rapper Juicy J by offering a sarcastic congratulations for being nominated for the Best Song award at the recent Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Music Awards didn’t result in the expected shared laugh, but instead, an enthusiastic response from Juicy.
“I didn’t know about it!” he said. “I’ve just been touring and sleeping. Nobody told me anything about it!”
It’s not hard to believe that the news may have escaped Juicy’s attention, as he is in the middle of a summer tour that has kept him on the road for weeks, including recent dates in Canada. On Thursday, he is set to take the stage at The Ritz in Raleigh to add another chapter to his “The Hustle Continues” tour, which promotes his new album, “Pure THC: The Hustle Continues.”
Juicy says the solo headlining tour is going great. “People are showing up, showing love, and I’m selling out stops everywhere.”
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If someone had said 10 years ago that Juicy J would be selling out midsize venues on a solo tour, there is a good chance the prediction would have been met with laughter. His solo debut album, “Chronicles of the Juice Man,” was released in 2002 on a small label and didn’t exactly break any sales records. In the past, Juicy’s talents had always been best showcased on the recordings of Three 6 Mafia, the well-known rap group out of Memphis, Tenn. Three 6 formed in 1991, with Juicy surrounded by other talents of the rap game, but failed to achieve any serious mainstream attention. The group didn’t gain widespread fame until 2006, when it won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” the anthem from the film “Hustle & Flow.”
With that resume, it may surprise some that it was producing and appearing on a Katy Perry song that launched Juicy into solo stardom. 2014’s “Dark Horse” took radio by storm, opening doors to options the rapper had never considered.
“That song was big, man, and it’s still big,” Juicy said. “It helped me reach to a whole other level. I’m getting asked to do concerts in Dubai, getting calls to do shows all overseas in places that I’ve never been. As a solo artist, that song has really been a blessing. It’s been a great time.”
When not taking advantage of the perks of being a newly minted pop superstar, Juicy stays busy with his other job – being part-owner and A&R representative of Taylor Gang Records. The small label was founded by Juicy’s good friend and fellow rap star Wiz Khalifa, and while being involved behind the scenes of the recording industry isn’t easy, Juicy says that working with people you trust makes the experience a rewarding one.
“It’s been great, it’s just like everyone is family,” he said. “We’re all on the same page, and we all have the same work ethic. I’m thankful to be able to work with someone like Wiz that’s so talented and full of energy. Everything is just so positive right now.”
Even though his attention is on so many projects, Juicy hasn’t forgotten the act that got him where he is today. Despite distancing himself from Three 6 Mafia in 2009, Juicy insists that no bridges have been burned and that his relationship with the other members is just as strong today as it was all those years ago when they were starting out in Memphis.
“Right now, nothing is in stone,” he said. “I’d love to do something with those guys, but we’ve never talked about it. It’s just never discussed. You never know what the future holds, though. I’ve definitely still got love for everyone in Three 6, though. There’s no beef there. We achieved everything that we set out to change at that time, though. We really changed the sound of music. There’s so much stuff out there right now that just sounds like our old songs. I’m just proud to have been part of it now.”
Oh, and that “The Hustle Continues” tour title? Hustle isn’t just another word for Juicy; it’s a way of life.
“To hustle is just to keep going and don’t stop,” he said. “Just keep working it and see where it wants to go, whether that’s your goals in music or life or whatever. If you want to be the biggest star in music, or whatever you are trying to do with your life, what are you doing to get there?
“I’ve done so much music, but I still feel like I can do better, so I keep trying. I want to be one of the greats, and that’s where I am trying to get to now.”
Who: Juicy J – The Hustle Tour Continues
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: The Ritz, 2820 Industrial Drive, Raleigh