We have the exclusive premiere of Justo’s Black Ops with an interview with the Brooklyn native.
Coming from the birthplace of hip hop, a lot can be expected from New York rapper. The history is rich within each borough, let alone the whole state or the entire East Coast. But Justo takes this all in his stride. His heritage enriches his output, evident on new album, Black Ops. There are some head tilts towards the 90s mafioso style and clever quips throughout. Accentuating this further are the beats of Showbiz of D.I.T.C., a 3-decade veteran but still adept on the MPC. The two marry up perfectly, from the stonking grit of The Council to the cruising vibes of title track, Black Ops.
We caught up with Justo for the premiere and discussed the album and what influences his music and his life.
Sampleface: Firstly, congratulations on the release of Black Ops. Would you say this is your best to date?
Justo: Thanks, I sincerely appreciate that. And nah, I wouldn’t say it’s my best work to date. I’m too much of a perfectionist to go out on a limb and say that. I will say it’s my most noted release with the likes of Showbiz as the producer on the project, along with Vic Black & DJ Premier helping to push it. That kinda takes it over the top in that regard.
Where did the inspiration for the album come from?
Well my OG Vic Black gets the credit for this one. He linked up with Showbiz and was able to grab enough joints off his Rare Breaks beat tape that he put out sometime ago. We were able to get some flips on the samples and turned it into, Black Ops. The inspiration was just to showcase raw, unfiltered Hip-Hop in its purest form. Period.
Who influences your music the most at the moment?
At this very moment, no one. I grew up listening to all kind of great music and unfortunately in this day and age, unless you’re searching the internet, good music can be tough to find. I’m in a place now where I’m really the only influence on how I approach my craft. I still listen to ‘90s and early 2000’s Hip-Hop for inspiration, with the occasional current artist like Kendrick or Cole, but my influences at this moment comes from me and my experiences.
You’re a New York native. How much have your environment, particularly Brooklyn, influenced your music?
My music definitely embodies Brooklyn. It embodies New York. That’s how I want and like it to be. I want people to think of Brooklyn when they hear me spit. Rappers don’t differentiate themselves by coast through their music anymore. They might rep where they’re from, but how many artists can you honestly listen to and say oh he’s from wherever, without even thinking about it. Everyone tends to sound the same. I want to be different, I want to sound like my coast, use my cities lingo and big up my Borough anytime I get the chance.
Black Ops has that quintessential New York gritty sound. Do you feel some of the EDM elements currently infused in mainstream hip-hop production takes away from its quality?
That’s a great question. I don’t think the EDM qualities take away from Hip-Hop. I actually think it’s cool. It adds a new element to the game. However, it’s way over saturated with that one sound in the industry, and that’s where the problem lies. There has to be some kind of balance or like you said, you lose the essence and quality of Hip-Hop. Let’s just balance the game out is all I’m saying.
What is your perception of what defines ‘Hip-Hop’?
Another solid question man…you’re good. lol. I’d say the definition of Hip-Hop has everything to do with originality, creativity, storytelling, and lyricism. It’s like spoken word over a beat. I think it’s changed significantly over the years due to the lack of the four elements, but I think the absence of authenticity is what’s breaking Hip-Hop down more drastically. Hip-Hop is authentic, and the more real you are, the more your listeners can relate. I feel like more Hip-Hop artists should follow that code at least to be considered under the Hip-Hop umbrella. Otherwise they should start calling it something else.
What’s was the biggest obstacle making the album?
Man, the biggest obstacle making this album was just the timing honestly. We had a few setbacks, a few not so great moments; plus figuring out how we wanted to present it to the world just combined into a tough stretch. But lo and behold, here we are, and here it is. Divine timing.