Julianna Joy wants to comfort people with her music

The 19-year-old Chicago-born artist discusses her music and feeling like a veteran in the music industry.

If you’re good at what you do, age is just a number. Such is the case with 19-year-old Julianna Joy; the Chicago artist is now making her name known. “I’ve been in this industry since I was 15, but I feel like I’ve been in it forever,” she said.

My first impression of Julianna Joy came from one of those nights where you skip everything on Spotify, and through countless new artists I landed on Joy’s track, “Poseidon.” Something about the poignant lyricism with a voice like Alessia Cara’s screamed at me even though the song is so beautifully gentle.

In a bid to commit to a life of making music, Joy made the move to Los Angeles the same week her debut EP, Cherries, was released.

“I followed the advice that I got my freshman year, which was: ‘If you want to do music, you gotta be in L.A. It thrives there.” Now nearly a year removed from the departure, Joy is not in school — she is now working full-time to support her musical aspirations.

While the move has been one of those bets on yourself, her humility remains unmoved.

“I would say my goals have stayed the same, being in L.A. just made them more achievable.”

Having released Cherries on Valentine’s Day 2020, she currently sits at nearly 70,000 Spotify monthly listeners in addition to having well over a million total plays in just under a year of debuting on the platform.

“I’m hoping to be an important person in the music industry. I want to be touring and recording tons of music,” said Joy.

Joy’s instrumental ability spans across a variety of skill sets, including guitar, piano, ukulele, bass and even a bit of banjo. Paired with a desire to keep creating, Joy has been able to bring about something that is gaining traction online. While I have found similarities between Joy and Alessia Cara, she describes her sound as if “Lorde had a lovechild with Taylor Swift, and that child got really really really into classic rock and ‘80s pop music when they turned 16.” She furthers her point on an appreciation for older music with her dream collaborations, dead or alive. “My dream collaboration alive would have to be Jack Antonoff. Dead would have been Freddie Mercury.”

Muses come and go, but Joy says “Most of the time I write music for myself or for the person I’m trying to talk to, and for the people who find comfort in my weirdly personal stories that I choose to publicize.” Seemingly all of Joy’s tracks have a self contained narrative, but the must-listen from the young artist comes in the shape of “Cherry Bomb,” an upbeat concoction of guitar and strong percussion that could form the soundtrack in a coming of age movie.

Most recently in the blossoming career that is Julianna Joy’s, came the Spotify release of her song “Seventeen.” Its appearance on Spotify comes as a rerelease of sorts, seeing as the song previously existed solely as a YouTube video. With the song’s lyrical themes of young love, it becomes easy to remember her youth. “My age never comes into question when talking about my career. It doesn’t go unnoticed, don’t get me wrong,” she said. But when it comes to business, Joy is respected in her artists’ seat.

 “It never changed the dynamic from what I can tell,” she added. Though expectations are sometimes high for promising young stars, Joy is not feeling any rush or schedule to drop an album anytime soon.

“Maybe the next three years or so.”

Even with things still being cloudy and shrouded in terms of when live performances can be held again safely, things still look good for Julianna Joy. For the fan of indie music and soothing vocals, Julianna Joy is not someone to overlook.

Music Quickspins


If New Beginnings is like a long car ride at night, then REASON is the driver pouring his heart out while going 100 km/h on the highway

There are certain albums meant for a specific time of day. REASON’s debut album New Beginnings sounds like the beginning of an overnight drive with a friend you know, but not too well. In this hypothetical, you’re not particularly close with this person, but as the night progresses they open up to you. They trust you.

If the first track “Something More” is the first song you play in this fake car ride scenario, it’s akin to the parked-car conversation that literally every car owner knows too well. It’s almost like a church confession. It’s heavy, but it brings you closer to REASON right away. He doesn’t shy from his truths and this honesty is present all across the 14-track project.

REASON has no interest in sulking across the entirety of New Beginnings though. “Stories I Forgot” is a car-rattling banger that sees REASON trying to manipulate his voice not unlike Young Thug to create a distinct chorus, something he doesn’t try more of after. The results are muddy, but it shows the Carson-born rapper is trying to make this car ride bump after pouring out his guts on the previous track.

The album, while still very much a broody affair, maintains its high energy for the majority of its runtime. With only two features across the first seven songs, REASON has a lot to prove to keep listeners on-board, for better or for worse. “Show Stop,” backed with Kendrick Lamar ad-libs and a bouncy instrumental, is a fairly standard showcase. “Favorite Ni**a” is on the aggressive side but REASON’s raps aren’t as engaging as the instrumental.

After “Fall” and an embarrassing bar about Mac Miller, REASON seems to find his stride. With a myriad of features, he seems to be more comfortable sharing the stage than owning it by himself.

“Slow Down” is a syrupy reflective track that emphasizes on taking things in slowly instead of rushing to reach your goals. Though derivative in the message, REASON’s casual cadence and the song’s jazzy beat are worth the four minutes of reflection he offers.

The raw car ride that is New Beginnings closes with an incredible run between “SAUCE” and closing track “Windows Cry.” If the first nine tracks of the album are similar to a high-speed romp down an empty highway, then the final act is the return home, gas almost empty.

REASON’s debut album is masterfully sequenced and an insightful look into the rapper’s fears, goals, and ambitions. He doesn’t always rap as well as he could, but the pure genuineness of his raps show that he’s raw talent ready to develop. Here’s hoping his label Top Dawg Entertainment doesn’t squander his talent.

Rating: 8/10

Trial Track: SAUCE


Warren G tells his story about the rise of G-funk

G-funk documentary in honour of Nate Dogg premiered at SXSW

The documentary G-Funk portrays Warren G, Nate Dogg and Snoop Dogg rapping together in their childhood years and charts their progress as international hip-hop stars. From their early days at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, Calif., the trio had talent and dreams to become famous rappers. They rap-battled their friends during recess and at parties. In 1990, they formed a rap trio called 213, and eventually became the pioneers of a hip-hop subgenre called G-funk, or gangsta-funk. G-funk emerged in the 90s in southern California and is also known as West Coast hip-hop. It is a combination of motown, funk, R&B and gangsta rap, and has become a staple in mainstream American music culture.

As mentioned in the documentary, G-funk is different from East Coast hip-hop—it doesn’t fit the flow of New York City. G-funk is mellow and smooth, and is meant to be heard in your drop-top below the palm trees as you cruise along Sunset Boulevard—it has a laid-back, West Coast feel to it. Some classic G-funk tunes include “Regulate” by Nate Dogg and Warren G, or “Ain’t Nothin’ But a G Thang” by Snoop Dogg. The film featured several hip-hop artists who played leading roles in the rise of G-funk, such as Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre. There were also interviews with hip-hop artists, who have been around during the rise of G-Funk or who were greatly influenced by Warren G’s career, such as Russell Simmons, Ice T, Wiz Khalifa, Too $hort, George Clinton, Deion Sanders and Big Boy.

The documentary depicts the rise of drug and gang violence in Los Angeles in the 1990s, and the many who lost their lives or were incarcerated. G-Funk also highlights how black men often faced severe police brutality and racial profiling by the Los Angeles Police Department. It was a tough time for these up-and-coming rappers, which is probably why their music connected with so many people since they sang and rapped about their hardships.

From left to right, Bob Ruggeri, Karam Gill, Warren G, Gary Ousdahl and Rafael Chavez at the G-funk panel. Photo by Sandra Hercegova

The film touched on G-funk’s contribution to the rise in sales and popularity of the hip-hop genre. The film premiered in Austin, Texas, during the SXSW Festival at the Paramount Theatre on March 15. It was a tribute to one of the main leaders of G-funk, Nate Dogg, who passed away on March 15, 2011. The film portrays Warren G, Nate Dogg and Snoop Dogg as a family. “Snoop is one of my best friends,” Warren G said. “We talk all the time, you know. He crazy, but that’s my dog.” As for Nate Dogg, “I miss him. We all miss him,” Warren G added. “Nate wrote songs that people go back to. ‘The Hardest Man in Town,’ that’s one of the dopest records ever,” he said.

Prior to the film’s screening, Warren G and members of the G-Funk crew held a panel at the Austin Convention Center. The panel featured filmmaker and director of G-Funk, Karam Gill; executive producer, Matt Carpenter and producers; Warren G, Gary Ousdahl, Robert Ruggeri and Rafael Chavez.

Gill, who is 22 years old, began filming G-Funk as an undergrad at Chapman University. Warren G met Gill at one of his shows in Orange County, Calif. “He came in with his buddy, Daniel, and asked, ‘Can I film your show tonight?’ I was like, ‘Shit, it’s all good,’” Warren G said during the panel. When Gill showed him the concert footage a few days later, Warren G was impressed. “The stuff he was doing was off the chain—this guy can help me get my documentary laid out how I want to, and that’s how he came on board,” Warren G said. G-Funk portrays the ups and downs of the journey of an artist, “back then when I was young … I’m still young, I ain’t that old. I just went through a lot—I knew that I wanted to do a story just talking about a lot of the things that I went through before I started getting success,” Warren G said.

According to the film producer, Ruggeri, while many producers might think it insane to put their complete faith in a 22-year-old director, Gill was prepared and competent. “We flew our investor [out] to meet him and Warren and the four other producers. Karam had every single thing laid out. This film was in his head because he had been traveling with Warren previously—he had the passion and we could see this in his eyes, that this guy had it all under control,” Ruggeri said.

To Gill, G-funk is the backbone of all pop songs today. “Rappers were never singing on songs before Nate Dogg,” Gill said. “When you are thinking about Drake and hip-hop artists who sing, that’s a by-product of G-funk.”  In the hit song “Regulate,” Nate Dogg would sing on the track while Warren G would rap to it, combining singing and rapping into one song. This is an example of how G-Funk influenced hip-hop as we know it. According to Gill, G-Funk is an homage to Nate Dogg. “Nate would have wanted it to be a celebration,” Gill said. “It’s not an RIP Nate movie—it’s celebrating his life in a positive way.”

A soundtrack is to be released along with the documentary. “There’s going to be a lot of G-funk artists who you guys already know, but there’s also going to be new artists there. It’s going to be dope, trust me,” Warren G said. An artist Warren G said he would appreciate working with for the soundtrack is Erykah Badu. “I always wanted to work with her. Her voice is really dope to me, and I would love to hear her on one of my tracks as far as doing a hook and doing verses,” Warren G said. “G-funk never left,” Ruggeri added. “Everything you are hearing right now is influenced by G-funk. We are hoping this movie will revive it.”


Murs – Captain California (Strange Music, 2017)

Murs – Captain California (Strange Music, 2017)

Los Angeles underground rapper Murs, opens his album up with the track “Lemon Juice.” Just when you thought all rappers today were starting to sound the same, this track swoops in to dismiss that generalization. As refreshing as its name, “Lemon Juice” is a clever and humorous rap dialogue between Murs and featured rapper Curtiss King. In the track, both spit rhymes to see who can win over a woman they both find attractive. In “Shakespeare on the Low,” his flow is quick and sharp as he tells a story of being so madly in love that it ends up killing him. The song fuses beautiful verses with an original hook, one that stands out throughout this album. In GBKW (God Bless Kanye West), he raps about different scenarios and struggles that black men face, such as police brutality. “He’s running for his life, this happens every other night. Walking out the door, he just wants to make it home. A young black male trying to make it on his own.” If you’re searching for underground raw hip-hop, Murs has got you covered with this record.

Trial Track: “Shakespeare on the Low”

Rating: 8/10


The magic of street performance

Charles Rangel, rock-based lap guitarist native to Los Angeles

Visiting Los Angeles this summer, I knew I would come across a multitude of talented street performers. The one who marked me most is musician Charles Rangel, also known as the “Dime Store Novelist.” I noticed him on 3rd street Promenade in Santa Monica as he was playing lap guitar while trap tapping to “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles. I was in awe. He played lap guitar so naturally and effortlessly, although it looked difficult to do.

Charles Rangel currently performs in the Los Angeles area and in Las Vegas.  You would think by the way he plays that he was born with a guitar in hand. Surprisingly, the 27-year-old musician only started street performing at the age of 20. “I was a band geek in high school, and I wanted to be a rock star. When I was around 20, I was getting out of college,” he said. “I was taking these music classes. I wanted to play and start working, no more sitting in a classroom. That’s when I started street performing.”

He said performing on the streets has given him freedom and the ability to control how much money he makes. “The better you get, the more people give you money, the better you feel about your craft,” he explained. “Street performing is a great way for people to be interested in your music. It brings really cool opportunities throughout the years.” It was on the street that he heard about a stage competition by Rolling Stone magazine back in 2011. He submitted his songs, and was featured in four issues of the magazine. He won and got to perform at the Rolling Stone party.

Check out Charles Rangel’s YouTube channel: “The Dime Store Novelist”. Photo by Dmitry Voznesensky

His music can be described as delicate instrumental rhythms that make you want to lay back and enjoy the breeze—they are borderline romantic tunes. Some tracks also have lyrics and a bluesy-rock vibe. Seeing him perform live, I could only wonder where he got those lap guitar moves. “I was just strolling through a music store in Orange County and some guy said ‘Man, you have to go check out this guy here, he plays lap guitar.’ I watched him play and asked him how he does it. I began listening to him and did it,” Rangel said. “I took it to the street and played the same riff over and over again until some bum yelled, ‘play something different!” He said street performing is what keeps him going. “The style I play on my lap is 95 per cent self-taught. I began making things up with it. I have to create techniques on how to play.”

As much as he enjoys street performing, he said his goal is to tour and to make a good living writing songs. “I want to exert a lot of energy on stage. My number one goal is to tour independently or with a band,” said Rangel. His creative process is rather interesting. He said he can write 10 songs in a day if he wanted to. “When I’m driving, I’ll play the instrumental in the car and sing over it, that’s how I wrote most of my songs,” said Rangel. Anything can inspire him, he said. “What I hear in my dreams is f***** awesome and I have no idea how to recreate it so I wake up and hum it into my phone.”

Rangel also performed in Montreal. He toured across Canada with Canadian rapper Nova Rockafeller who hired him as her guitar player in the fall of 2015. They toured with All Time Low and Set it off.  “Set it off was like my favourite,” said Rangel. “I really enjoyed watching them perform. That tour was a very good experience—it made me want to be a rapper actually.” When he’s street performing, his favourite spots to play are in Texas at the SXSW music festival and the Santa Monica Pier. “Performing on the Santa Monica Pier, there’s just something romantic about it. The ocean behind you, couples are holding hands… it just creates an atmosphere,” said Rangel.

How does he want his music to make people feel? “I want people to feel really good and take their clothes off. That’s what first came to mind,” he said. His advice to street performers: “Be courteous and respectful to other musicians, have fun and don’t set up in my spot.”

Rangel is currently working on a new album.

Check out Rangel’s music at

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