EXCLUSIVE: St. Louis Rapper J.R. Talks Originality, Working with Trey Songz & More

If anyone is beginning to feel nostalgic for time when artists put all of themselves into their music instead of songs written for them by other people, if anyone is tired of the same chords played on different tracks because originality is the a thing of the past, if anyone feels a wall going up in the industry between what is out there and what is real, J.R. is your new artist to watch. The St. Louis native bleeds dedication to his true identity as a musician. RRU interviewer Gibson sat down with J.R. in Los Angeles before J.R. headed out to continue his Gang Season EP tour in South Carolina. 

“I have always kept music a part of my life… ever since my mother kept me in school programs. It’s something I have a passion for,” J.R. said, “This is a pivotal point in my career to make sure my fans know me and understand me. I don’t want to get stuck in the lane where it looks like I need a feature.”

However, J.R. is nothing but grateful and respectful to those who’ve stuck out helping hands for him in the industry as he’s continued to rise. Big names such as Nelly, a St. Louis native himself, and Trey Songz are two rappers who have cultivated rich, professional relationships with J.R. 

“Trey was listening to [my] music and inquired… I met him in Detroit and began to build a friendship and music chemistry. He listened to my first single ‘I’m Just Sayin;’’ I sent it directly to him, and he sent it right back. That’s when I knew (laughs). Next day, it was on the radio in my home city.” J.R. asserts his thankfulness and understanding of the influences that have helped shape his career, something that is rare in an egocentric industry. Beside the recent Trey Songz, Nelly and The St. Lunatics are two other artists who’ve inspired him because they influenced his direction, as he grew up seeing what they got to do. His dream collaboration would be Outkast.  

In addition to recognition of his influences, J.R. also notes the importance of his production team. “If you find someone you can really work with for a long, long hours, appreciate them and keep them close to you because it’s really hard to find,” he said. His close circle is also from his home city of St. Louis. This is another major source of passion for J.R. 

“It’s a tough city. In St. Louis, you have to develop a thick skin. Entertainment comes with a million critics. I get the hate comments all day. That’s fine. If you sit there thinking, ‘How can I make this sound negative? That’s really gonna hurt his feelings.’ I don’t care. Imma make good music; make sure my kids are alright. I’m always going to be genuine.”

His tough skin and real personality are derivations from his St. Louis upbringing, as the city continues to mold the musical man from his city childhood. In regards to his music, the genuineness is carried into the studio, as well. “[My music] is very emotional,” he said, “It evokes emotion out of people. I put a lot of me into my records.” In regards to the lyrical content regarding tough situations, J.R. has experienced in his life, he said, “I put a lot of ‘me’ into my records. It’s not struggle music – [I] let you know what we’ve been through, what the struggle was, and where we are now. I want to be able to touch my fans in that way.” 

God blessed me and put me in certain situations. If it all ended tomorrow, I’d be happy.
— J.R.

Since his Gang Season EP was released in late February, J.R. has been on his own tour promoting the EP. He commented on the good reception and love people have been showing him while on tour. However, the tour has not faulted his ability to share new music with his fans. “Party Bussin,’” the rapper’s “celebratory anthem,” was just released. It is a feel-good track that fans can place on their pregame and going out playlists. However, hip-hop is not the only genre that J.R. would consider working within. “I’m open to any kind of music. I don’t want to dress like a country singer and make trap music, but when Nelly sat down and made a record with Tim McGraw (referencing “Over and Over”), that’s blurring lines,” J.R. admirably said in regards to blending genres. He has a strong admiration for artists across all genres of music, which is a unique trait for an artist focused in one genre. 

In regards to the continuation of his career, J.R. goal is concerned with longevity. “I want to be around forever,” he said, “You can die physically, but Tupac’s not going anywhere. Biggie’s not going anywhere.” A strong statement from the up-and-comer who has high expectations for his music derived from a hard, instinctive work ethic. With Summer Jam right around the corner, J.R. continues be grow while continuing to give thanks to those who push him everyday. 

“God blessed me and put me in certain situations. If it all ended tomorrow, I’d be happy.”

Catch the full interview with J.R. above.