From the streets of New York to a spot on Monique’s couch on BET, Jus K is just getting started in making himself a household name. The singer has also appeared on BET’s 106 & Park, winning multiple “Wild Out Wednesday” competitions, and most recently he took home the top prize in the “Unsung” contest on TV One. Jus K got his start singing as a mode of survival; now he sings to spread the message that a little faith goes a long way. The crooner says the career path he’s chosen is about more than just singing, he says, “people just need to hear my story.” Soultrain.com talked to Jus K about his journey from being homeless to being in the national spotlight and who he credits with helping to turn his life around.
Soul Train: For those that may not be familiar with your music, can you describe your sound?
Jus K: My sound is just a real sound–I call it the “raw me”–and it’s just me being real straight forward and honest, telling it like it is. Being raw is just my style of music; I don’t call it hip-hop, I don’t call it R&B, it’s just me and it’s universal.
Soul Train: Who would you say influenced you?
Jus K: I would say Sam Cooke. I’m real old school. Also, Otis Redding, David Ruffin, the Temptations–you know, a lot of that type of music is what my mother listened to when I was growing up. I never sang in church, but that sound was always present. I would say New Edition, you know Ralph Tresvant, Bobby Brown, and Luther Vandross are my influences that made me want to sing.
Soul Train: Did you take singing lessons?
Jus K: No, I’ve never taken any lessons. I’d say the lessons that I have learned is that my voice is a gift from God. It’s a natural talent. We didn’t have the money and the resources for me to take lessons. So what happened? Jus K started singing in New York on the trains. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to New York and been on the subway, but I had to sing over the sound of the train going over the tracks so people could hear me so they could pay me. That’s how I was making my money in New York. So that’s why when people see me perform, my voice is so strong because I was on the trains singing, or pan handling if you want to be technical (laughs).
Soul Train: When you were on The Monique Show you mentioned that you were homeless at one point. What happened, and how did you overcome that point in your life to get to where you are now?
Jus K: Yes, I was in New York at the time. I had a child on the way. My child’s mother and I were homeless sleeping on the trains. I wasn’t working. We would stay at her sister’s house for a little bit. My mother was from the church, so she wasn’t having that and said we couldn’t stay with her–you know the mentality of you didn’t make it here so you can’t stay here. People were trying to talk us into getting an abortion, but I wasn’t trying to hear all that. So that was our only other option. We’d have to sleep on the train, or roam the streets until one of my friends got home and let us stay the night. We were homeless for about a year, but it felt like a few months. It took some time for me to get myself together.
Soul Train: Do you think that experience also adds to your music?
Jus K: Yes it does. I’m going to tell you how people don’t care about you. One, I finally found a job, and that was great, so it was time to find us an apartment. However, people kept turning me down. We couldn’t even afford a kitchenette; they just kept saying sorry and turning us down. So then we had to go revert to staying with people so that takes all my money just to sleep on the floor. I’m not even into the church like that, but I know that God, a higher power, got me through that period in my life. I’m not bitter, so when I try to push my music, it’s more to it than just trying to sing and get on and win an award. I don’t care about any of that. People just need to hear this, hear my story.
Soul Train: What was the turning point from being homeless to finally getting on your feet and getting your music heard?
Jus K: I got a better job (laughs) and I got an apartment. My mother helped me through it. It just so happened she helped me get that job and that was the turning point in my life.
Soul Train: You finally moved down south to North Carolina and your career seems to be taking off. How did you start getting your name out there and music in front of people?
Jus K: I have had a manager before and it was always like this. I always made my own calls and marketed myself, so I do everything myself. People would buy my CDs and I’d go to people’s doors and slide the CDs under the doors. I’d hand out the CDs at the mall, and then when the radio station in Charlotte started playing it, people started hearing my music. God just started opening doors. I started sending my reels with my videos on it to BET and got on “Wild Out Wednesday” and won in 2008 and 2009. Then I went on The Monique Show and it’s just me putting it in the universe that by any means necessary. I used to ride around Charlotte on a bike and I would ride with my radio on the handlebars. I didn’t know that people here even knew who I was until one day I stopped at a gas station and my song “ Special” was on, and 5 girls came out and they were like, “That is my song!” I said, “Yo, that’s me!” and they started laughing. So I sang it to them and their draws dropped (laughs), but after that people just started calling me and calling me because of that song.
Soul Train: Are you still trying to go after the big record labels or are you just focusing on going the indie route?
Jus K: I have my own label. I can’t stop what I’m doing because they aren’t going to come for me. They all have said to me, get your numbers up. So I ask, “What music do I need to make to get my numbers up?” I mean I have a fan base, I’ve done all of this stuff on my own. I have opened for a lot of artists and I just don’t understand what more can I do. So that’s how I came up with my new song. I’m not going to put boundaries on my music anymore. I love doing what I’m doing, God has a plan for me and I think I’m headed in the right direction.
Soul Train: You took on the challenge of directing your own video for “Always Flippin’ on Me.” What made you decide to do that?
Jus K: I got blessed with a camera. I do so much for people and one lady bought me a camera. So people always say they want to do a video for me, but they wanted to do a video for the song “Special.” I didn’t want to do one for that song. Since I was blessed with this camera, I took it to God and decided to just do the video myself. I really believe in the Lord. I have a relationship with God that is unreal, we all have that.
Soul Train: Let’s switch gears. How did you get involved with the “Unsung” competition on TV One? Congratulations on winning!
Jus K: Thank you! A fan on Facebook told me about the contest, so I entered and just kept posting online “vote for me” and next thing I know I got a call saying I won. They played the commercial on TV One. Stuff like this always attracts itself to me, and not too long after that BET called me and wanted me back on “Wild Out Wednesday.” I do what I’m supposed to do and I go on these shows. I’m not going to fake it until I make it, I’m just keeping it real. This is something that God has planned.
Soul Train: For the artists that you have opened for, have you sung on any of their music, or gone on tour with them yet?
Jus K: No I haven’t, but in fact I have been in the studio with Anthony Hamilton a few times, and he was interested but he’s been busy with his own new album that’s out. But hey, at least Anthony was interested! I have done shows with Calvin Richardson but I haven’t been on tour with anyone. The few times that I have opened for folks, I have torn it up. I believe that whatever is for you will be for you. I really believe that. Nobody can take that away from you. I would love to go on someone’s tour. I love the stage.
For more information on Jus K, follow Jus K on Twitter @JusKMusic
Shameika Rene’ is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and writing for various websites such as Charlotte Vibe, Creative Loafing, or her own site, www.themofochronicles.com. She’s also a special guest contributor on The Social Hour on Urban Soul Radio. Follow her on Twitter @mofochronicles.