by Sionne Neely | photos courtesy of DJ Juls
DJ JULS has been on the grind in 2013. It’s only April and the UK-based Ghanaian producer has dropped three mixtapes so far – the V-Day lovers joint, The Cupid Shot Mix [Feb. 14th], the dancehall fever anthems on Di Bubble Mix [March 11th] and the redhot follow-up to last summer’s Afrobeat fix, DJ Jul’s AfroBeat Mix Volume 2 [released this Monday, April 8th]. Over the last several years, Juls has worked with all the Ghana greats from FOKN BOIS [Wanlov the Kubolor x M3NSA] to E.L., Yaa Pono, Sarkodie, Efya, M.anifest and more.
And the brother’s just getting started. We caught up with Juls recently to discuss a few tinz – his serious work ethic and love for old school jams, how music informs identity and roots make mojo magic. We also rapped about the indie music scene in Accra and the excitement around Dusk – the dope DJ event he produced with YFM’s Vision during Christmas 2012 [returning again this December].
Download DJ Juls’ AFROBEAT MIX VOL. 2 for free here.
How do you describe your sound?
A blend of East Coast hip hop, boom bap sounds over some African elements. The sound has a nod pop to it. It’s always a hip hop thing I’m trying to look for. A blend of old school, fun breaks and some African elements.
Talk about the inspiration for your music. What are some of the melodies you listen to that inspire this sound?
I’m more into listening to the old stuff. I only listen to the new stuff if I have to DJ and I have to be current with what’s playing on the radio. I get a lot of inspiration from old school hip hop – J-Dilla is one of my favorite producers. When I started making beats I was listening to him a lot and 9th Wonder as well. I listen to a lot of old school soul records too. I get them from my dad.
What were some of those records your dad was bumping that you took an affinity to?
He has a lot of rare soul. So everyone probably has Marvin Gaye and Isaac Hayes. But he had Chuck Brown and a lot of exclusives from the 70s and 80s that were really soulful. Back in the day, the guitar was quite influential in the music. And then there’s African music – Fela Kuti, Baaba Maal, Tony Allen. I love Quincy Jones as well.
You do this wicked beautiful mix of Ghana nostalgia [everyday conversations and childhood stories] with vibrating hip hop music. How does Ghana play a part in your sound creation?
My family, we were in the UK before coming to Ghana. Ghana has always been home. There are so many people who have the ability to make beats out there so you have to do something to stand out. The only way to stand out is by sticking to your roots. There’s so much Ghanaian music we could find with the rhythm, bass and beats but people really haven’t incorporated [the music] to their full potential yet. I thought, if I’m able to tap into something like that and create my own sound and add some sort of western feel to it, it could work. If you want to mix hip hop beats and add some African elements to it, you really have to take your time and chop up samples and add more instrumentation to it.
Taking my time and making sure I’m able to blend the culture with the beats is important so that people know that I’m a Ghanaian producer who’s always coming back home. This is music from my roots.
You’re working full-time [as a financial analyst] and yet you’re dropping crazy mixtapes. Where do you find the time?
It’s just boredom, really. It’s always been a hobby. I don’t think there has been a day that I haven’t listened to music. Ever. Except when I’m asleep. Even then, it’s on in the background. After the 9 to 5, you come home. You could have heard something in town and then it’s, I like the way this sounds. You look for the song and see what you can do with it. It could be sounds from anywhere, a discussion as well. It’s kind of hard sometimes when you’re not inspired but you don’t have to force it. So when you are inspired, you do something and it comes out nice.
Kobby Graham [DJ and Ashesi professor] says you are the missing ingredient in the Accra music scene. How do you feel about that?
Well, I learned from Kobby. He’s like the older brother you never really had. He says he learned from me, so it’s kind of a back and forth thing. But I’m not a crazy superb DJ who’s got all the turntables, scratching and all that. I just know how to mix properly. I’m capitalizing on that ability and making money on the side so that’s turned out to be a good thing.
In Accra, people don’t really know how to have a good time if they don’t hear music they are not familiar with. If you walk into the club and the song moves you, you should dance. That’s why Asabaako and IND!E FUSE are so much fun because you can play all sorts of music and when you look at the crowd, everybody is moving and nodding their heads.
I’m surprised at the success of Dusk. The first one was ridiculously packed and everybody had such a great time. People are tired of the club scene and want something different. Now the artists are doing more shows so they can put their music out there. Like M.anifest who does a show every year. It gives artists a chance to do something different and for people to hear new music.
Dig crates with DJ JULS | @djayjuls