Joyner Lucas is looking to cement his place in the hip-hop history books, while deservedly earning the respect of his peers. The 29-year-old released his major label debut in June with (508) 507-2209, which enlists New Orleans legend Mystikal, songstress Snoh Aalegra, and Stefflon Don as features on the 82-minute project. Joyner pays homage to his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts, where the MC will kick off his 508 Tour with a sold-out show on Sept. 22nd at The Palladium.
The Atlantic Records artist often draws on his relatable life experiences, painting vivid pictures combined with spine-chilling lyrics. It doesn’t stop with story-telling for Lucas, who is 100 percent involved with his captivating viral visuals, which are more like cinematic short films. The Worcester native was introduced to the world with his deep “Ross Capicchioni” video in 2015 where Joyner exuded his talents as a director, employing multiple perspectives in the hard-hitting visual to open up the minds of viewers.
Billboard caught up with the brash lyricist as he gears up to head out on tour in September, diving deeper into his 16-track album, being on the receiving end of a Kevin Durant co-sign, and one day potentially collaborating with Eminem.
How was working with Boi-1da, who served as an executive producer on your project? Did he inspire or change the creative direction at all?
He didn’t push me in any direction I wasn’t already going in, but working with somebody like that is definitely inspiring.
With lyricism not being appreciated as much as it once was, were you worried the project would go under the radar?
Yeah, definitely. I still feel like it’s under the radar, but I’m not worried about it. I feel that the higher I progress in my career, people will go back and re-listen to it.
What made Snoh Aalegra the right choice for “Way to Go?”
Boi-1da introduced me to her music. That second segment was all Boi-1da’s idea to add to the record. Originally, I think he wanted to change the whole beat and I didn’t want it. The second half we decided to go with that and he got Snoh Aalegra on there and that was a great fit. It was dope, it’s actually one of my favorite records on the project.
When you’re crafting records, do you already have an idea for a potential video attached?
Depending on the type of record it is, but yeah. I actually write the video treatment before I write the record. I do the editing and directing. I’m 100 percent involved with the direction of the videos in the record.
“I’m Sorry” is a very deep track. How did that come together?
With that record specifically, I never thought I was ever going to be able to top what I did with “Ross Capicchioni.” So when I wrote “I’m Sorry,” that was really me trying to top what I did, and I think I did that. I’ve always felt misunderstood. Growing up it’s been my word against the teachers or my parents word and nobody would ever listen to me.
So in my videos I try to give two perspectives, so you could always see there’s two sides to everything before making your initial judgment call. I did the same thing with “Happy Birthday.” When listening to that record you think that dude is such an asshole yelling at kids and shit, then you listen to the entire record and you’re like that’s not even him.
“F.Y.M.” is actually featured on the soundtrack of Madden 18. That’s got to feel special as someone who’s played the game since the ’90s.
That was really big. It’s definitely a good feeling. I used to get in trouble playing the game. When I was younger, my mom would try to take it away from me. Now, I’m a part of it — but honestly, I haven’t played video games in a while. I’d rather put that energy into a record and propelling my career.
I stopped watching sports because I didn’t want to watch someone running up and down the field making millions and I’m not doing anything about it. That methodology made me go harder and take control of my career. Now that I’m in a better place, I can go back and appreciate by playing the game that has my record in it. That’s a part of what I was talking about, I took a step away and now I’m in the game. It all comes full-circle.
On the “DNA” freestyle, you talk about being denied from being the next one up.
It’s not about being denied. I don’t feel as if someone is standing there and saying you can’t be next up. I feel a lot of these rappers are scared. I’m not a mumble rapper. There’s a community within all of them. They all jump on each other’s shit. They all show love to each other. At the end of the day, it’s not really a competition. When you talk lyricism, there’s competition. So not a lot of n—as won’t put you on their tracks for you to outshine them.
There’s a few that will like Tech N9ne. That’s someone I have a lot of respect for, he’s always up for the challenge. He’s like me, that’s why we click. I’m the type of dude that wants you to come body me and spit the illest shit. Busta Rhymes is another one, but then you got others who aren’t having that. They’re well aware of who I am, but nobody ever reaches out and gives me respect or invites me into that circle.
Are you looking for friends in rap or you’re not in the game for that?
I’m cool with being friends. I don’t have any problem with saying I think Kendrick [Lamar] is better than me. I’m not the guy saying I’m the best, the greatest rapper alive. I personally think J-Cole is a better rapper than me, that’s how I feel. I listen to these cats and I’m impressed. Connecting with them would be dope, I would tell them that.
You’ve gotten some huge co-signs though, Kevin Durant shouted you out on Twitter in July.
That was dope and really big for me. Kevin Durant is a legend, he’s a champion. The dope part is I’ve never met him, that’s Dave East’s dude. This is what I’m talking about, I’m getting that love from NBA players. They know what’s up. I want to see more artists do that. I think we need more of that and less competition. Less f–k everybody and more uplifting each other.
The “Mask Off (Remix)” showcased your lyricism.
Yeah, I like doing shit like that. It keeps me on my toes. It’s like a lyrical exercise.
You went after the “mumble rappers” and Lil Yachty on the track.
I didn’t really go after them. I was just having fun. It’s just me showing the difference between mumble rap and lyricism. My goal when going over these beats is to do the opposite of what the song had done already. Showing this is what I would’ve done if this was my beat. Everybody has their own style. I’m not shooting anyone down. I just do it different.
You also dissed Logic on the track. What has he done behind the scenes that you wasn’t a fan of?
I just think he’s a corny guy. Honestly, it stemmed from him [Logic] going on the “Sriracha” record and it took a long time to get it back. When Tech N9ne initially gave me the record, I was excited about Logic being on there, but after that much time went by and the verse he gave was so disrespectful, I felt like he gave Tech that verse on a count of me being on the record. I felt he was upset I was on the record and gave a wack verse. I think if that was just a Tech N9ne and Logic record, he would’ve never did that. That definitely rubbed me the wrong way.
I took that a little bit personal because that was real disrespectful. I know how he raps. Matter of fact, I was watching an interview Logic gave the other day, they asked if he had to choose between JAY-Z and Eminem whose feature would he want? His response was Eminem and then he said, “because I know Eminem’s going to come spit for real and really rap and I’m up for that challenge.” So now I’m looking at the screen like, “You’re lying, bro.”
Then the phone number idea. I noticed when I had dropped my album title [508-507-2280], he dropped a phone number record, but I’m not going to bash him for a suicide record, but like come on bro. There’s too much stuff that make me feel a type of way. I feel by now the cat should’ve reached out, but it is what it is. It’s not like I’m mad at him like that, I just think he’s corny.
“Keep It 100” had a brilliant video concept. Could you explain how that came together?
I spent so much time on this video. Nine or ten days of shooting, this wasn’t a regular camera either. It took a long time to get those scenes right. So what happened was we dropped that video with the project. Now, I have a lot of YouTube subscribers and when we dropped it the video went under the radar because my team thought it would be a good idea to upload every record from the project to YouTube. That just saturated my channel too much and nobody saw the video. That record just hit a million views in a month, which is horrible.