FLATBUSH, BROOKLYN: In an Internet age rife with phony Auto-Tuners and aspiring thug-rappers, 19 year-old Flatbush native MC D. Julien relies on a different approach.
Despite his young age, Julien attacks his work with a measured, thoughtful integrity that shines through in his obscenity-free lyrics. Evident in the way he talks about his industry relationships and how his experiences have shaped his sound is D. Julien’s respect for hip-hop and its inherent community in NYC.
From a young age, D. has been able to appreciate the real art behind a significant track. “I was listening to Biggie and was really just moved by the way he could tell a story about the very same surroundings I was currently in and I’d picture it vividly,” Julien articulates.
“I was like here’s a guy that’s from the same borough as I am expressing himself through this art-form. When I heard him for the first time he had already passed away. [But I decided] I wanted to tell my story through this art-form as well, especially after I started listening to more artists and understanding the history of the culture.”
This regard for authentic hip-hop culture has permeated Julien’s approach to creating it. Toying with hip-hop at the age of nine or ten, he wasted little time jumping into the competitive world of music.
“I actually started battling around the age of 13. That was fun while it lasted, and even helped me build certain things like confidence, charisma, flow, etc.,” Julien adeptly notes. After toiling away with his first mixtape, Julien is quick to credit close friend and producer, Buzz, with giving him an extra push.
“I was stagnant in creating my mixtape but when I saw that he dropped his (I didn’t even know he rapped) I was like man, I got to finish up. So I dropped my first tape in July 2008, Let Me Introduce Myself. Ever since then we’ve been real close friends.
“If I need to hear an honest opinion about something whether it be music or life, I’ll go to Buzz. Since [we] work so much together and keep it real with each other we helped elevate our respective sounds,” Julien continues. “We always have conversations about different aspects of my music such as content, hooks, etc., which are always productive.”
BARREL HOUSE & HIP-HOP COMMUNITY BUILDING
Beginning with the first track, “Shine On,” on his mixtape Live, Love, Learn, Julien’s honesty as an artist and storyteller is readily evident. His sound can be boiled down to a much more old-school approach, in which his often jazz-infused beats set an emotive state for his poignant lyrics to breakthrough. With so many young artists looking to shallower subject matter for inspiration, Julien instead showcases his intellect and appreciation for hip-hop as a source of inspiration, with lyrics like the following, from his track “Feel It”: “This song is so perfect, if you feel like you got no purpose/ This could be your healing surface.”
The concept of we comes up a lot in Julien’s talk about his work. Locally, he has found a supportive and equally motivated group of musicians and hip-hop heads to work with in developing not only his sound, but also what he represents as an artist. Take his relationship with Barrel House, a local organization whose mission is to promote positivity and ambition within our communities through all outlets of entertainment: fashion, art, music, and other forms of expression:
“I went to Middle School with the founder, Ashani [Allick], but we didn’t get acquainted until 2010 when he hit me up to come to a studio session they were having in January,” he recalls. “At first I went as a nice gesture, but after we spoke and I met everyone else and I seen what they were trying to accomplish, I wanted to help out any way I can.”
Julien has released several works with Barrel House, and has worked with a number of other local artists and companies like Hiptics.com owner, Chris Franco, and producer King I Divine in promoting his work and developing his sound. The relationship with Hiptics has been particularly fruitful, as it led to an opening gig for quickly rising hip-hop star Wiz Khalifa at a Hiptics-sponsored event earlier this year.
READY FOR TOMORROW AND BEYOND…
With strong publicity from websites like Allhiphop.com and Globalgrind.com, as well as constant performances at local venues like the Bowery Poetry Club and The Sugar Bar, Julien’s NYC-bred personal relationships have helped him expand his reach and push further towards his artistic goals.
“Brooklyn is home man. I love everything about it. Most of the moves I made in terms of networking have been in NYC. I’ve done a bunch of shows in Manhattan, hit a lot of events and met a bunch of people. I met my current manager (Moody) for the first time at a show in Manhattan.”
With his name already floating about on reputable sites like XXL and HipHopDx, even earning recognition as Myspace ‘Artist of the Week,’ it would be tough to fault D. for taking a minute to revel in it all. In reality though, it’s quite the contrary.
“I’ve been blessed to get a little buzz for what I do but I’m not even near my goal,” Julien emphasizes. “We have a lot of work to do and I’m glad the people that believe in me are still riding with me.”
Julien has taken an impressively systematic short-term approach to achieving greater success, while keeping an eye on the future.
“Right now we’re expanding the grassroots following, which is really important to me. I don’t care how hot any artist thinks he/she is, if the people aren’t feeling you, you have no future,” Julien says. As for his near-future, he’ll be releasing Ready For Tomorrow on Barrel House.
To produce this latest, Julien has been working out of Persico Recording Studios in Queens, as well as Double Up Studios in Connecticut. At Persico, Julien and his production team have been building beats in the Akai MPC 2500 and Pro Tools HD.
“I’m here for longevity man. I’m blessed that I’ve gained a fan-base at this young age but there’s a lot more people who haven’t heard of me,” states Julien. “Not too many artists my age are appealing to the range of demographic I am and I expect that to grow.”
Rooted in his desire to appeal to a broader audience is Julien’s decision to rid his work of profanity. “That decision was influenced by the feedback that I was getting from the older demographic that listened to my first project,” Julien allows. “I always wanted to make music my parents would be proud of. They were, but at the same time I’d cringe when we listened to the project multiple times together because of the language. So I just made a commitment to not use profanity or the “N” word in my music. Made it a more enjoyable listening experience for all demographics.”
His forward thinking and commitment to positive music has Julien on track to reach his long-term career goals — “headlining my own tour, winning a Grammy, having my first album dubbed a classic and just enhancing my brand and developing business partnerships outside of music.” For now, however, Julien is content to just put in the requisite hard work and let his music speak for itself: “We’ll see what the future holds, but I’m ready for tomorrow.” — Alex Edelstein