He is the epitome of postmodernity. His style screams Chris Stapleton, but his rhymes perfectly encapsulate the long reach of hip-hop. The microphone is Youth’s machine gun, as his words fire rapidly and aggressively, usually communicating some end of lifelong legacy to less pressing matters like having fun and letting loose. Jung Youth continues the blurring of the line between rap and other styles, as his aesthetic helps his music reach previously unreachable audiences. His hit single “Only One King” was recently tabbed as a Thursday Night Football promotional track. His sound is very, very remiscient of X Ambassadors, a group independent of any one genre, but consistently true to their ambiguous, unique sound. I had the privilege of catching up with Jung earlier this month.
Music City Underground: How did you get into rap music?
Jung Youth: I got into rap when I was a kid and my buddy Jacob’s older brother John used to drive us to school–he had a crazy speaker system in his Explorer and would play the radio as well as different CDs and mixes that he had. I hadn’t listened to rap before that because my parents are from the country and listened to different radio stations but once I heard it, I connected with it. The internet started blowing up and I was able to seek out all types of rap records and dig deeper into the genre and here I am now, haha.
Music City Underground: When did you begin rapping?
Jung Youth: Some of my first freestyles and cyphers began when I was a junior or senior in high school. I was already a huge fan of Nas and Jay but my friend Basil put me onto guys like Jeru the Damaja, Big L, Guru, Preemo, and we would find old boom bap instrumentals to freestyle to. I started trying to produce some of my own beats in FL Studio. This was also around the time that The Clipse put out Grindin’ and my friends would knock that beat on the lunch table so I started rapping every once in a while with friends at dances or wherever else we were. In college a very good friend told me that she thought I was dope and encouraged me to start taking it more seriously. I’m grateful to have taken her advice.
Music City Underground: How would you describe your particular sound?
Jung Youth: I would say that these days it’s constantly evolving. My sound is a mix of everything I like and whatever I feel with my team when we are working on a song. Sometimes I just get in a trance and try to layer different things just to see what happens. Recently I have been experimenting more with melodic elements in my vocal performance which some might categorize as R&B or Pop or Jazz but my goal in a lot of cases is to get together with people that I respect and just create something beautiful. Deep blue hip hop soul rock psych pop.
Music City Underground: Do you like including other genres in your music?
Jung Youth: Absolutely. My first band was a rock band and I grew up singing in choir at church so other genres have always been around me. I include a lot of electronic elements in my own personal production but I love blending funk, soul, r&b, and even sometimes emo–it’s all about what fits. People always ask me to make a rap song with a banjo in it. If it’s authentic and makes sense for the song then sure, but I try to exercise a level of restraint sometimes. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. But with that being said I think it’s fun to mix all types of genres together–my dj set is gonna be ridiculous.
Music City Underground: What other artists inspire you most?
Jung Youth: Frank Ocean, Radiohead, FKA Twigs, Saba, King Krule, Flying Lotus, Bon Iver, Kendrick, Kanye, Esperanza Spalding, Sufjan Stevens, Tennyson, and a bunch more. Jai Paul and Jay Electronica would be included if they ever put anything out.
Music City Underground: How do you feel the climate for rap is in Nashville?
Jung Youth: The climate for rap in Nashville right now is at an all time high and only getting higher. The water was in the pot and we brought it to a boil–now it’s up to us to add in the noodles and get this money by the time it’s al dente. Then it’s time for everybody to eat.
Music City Underground: Which artists in Nashville would you want to work with most?
Jung Youth: Tbh I’m already working with a lot of people that I want to work with the most. With that said though, I think it would be fun to work with Pink Slip, Estef, Sad Baxter, El El, Stan, Biyo, Brainweight and SykSense and a ton of super dope producers. I also plan on working with a handful of developing artists in the not too distant future as an executive producer and cowriter.
Music City Underground: How do you go about choosing beats to rap over?
Jung Youth: For me it’s pretty simple–I can tell right off the bat if I’m going to be able to make something out of the song. Sometimes I will even get goosebumps hearing a beat the first time and that’s how I know. A lot of the time my friends and I will spontaneously make the beats while coming up with lyrics but other than that I just choose based off the vibe. It has to be something that I feel like I can take to the next level, otherwise there’s no point in adding my voice to it. I’m always open to submissions, you never know who might have some serious heat in the vaults.
Music City Underground: What’s next for Jung Youth?
Jung Youth: This sounds kinda funny considering that we are in Music City but in a couple weeks I’m heading up to Philly/Delaware to finish a record I’ve been working on with some friends from up that way. I’ve been writing a lot and making a ton of new music so I plan on dropping a lot of stuff in 2018 and keeping things moving. After breaking my leg, the last thing I ever want to do is be stagnant so I’m always looking to shake things up. Expect to see me collaborating with new people and old friends alike. I have a project that I worked on with Bryant Hill called 61502 that should be coming soon as well as a deluxe edition of Stay Chill and a lot of other stuff I can’t even talk about yet. Hopefully there’s always something next because I sure don’t plan on stopping now. Stay tuned.
Check out Jung Youth’s music here: