RESPECT. Interview: Green Bay, WI Artist Justin Smith Talks Making Music To Drake & Lil Wayne Beats And More

Courtesy of Justin Smith


Justin Smith is an up and coming unsigned hip-hop artist from the Green Bay, WI area, however, he was born and raised in Superior, WI. Justin first began listening to hip-hop music at the age of 9 when his cousins showed him ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’. He was instantly hooked on the content and the culture surrounding it. However, it wasn’t until he was 18 and watched a documentary about Lil Wayne called ‘The Carter’ that Justin start writing lyrics. He was infatuated with the process in which Wayne used to come up with and record his music, however family life and his constant legal issues would prevent him from ever pursuing his music career. Growing up Justin had his fair share of run-ins with the law which would result in him being expelled from school in 7th, 9th and 11th grade all for marijuana possession and/or delivery.

Unfortunately, this trend would continue into his late teens and all of his 20’s. In the past 9 years, Justin has been arrested more than 5 times for either marijuana possession, delivery or most recently cultivation. Despite his current legal battle, Justin’s new single ‘Pain’ from his debut album ‘The $mithTape’ is currently ranked number 13 on upcoming 100’s Emerging 200 chart and has over 160,000 plays on Soundcloud. ‘The $mithTape’ will be released April 13th on Spotify, Tidal, iTunes and Google Play.

Justin is always busy working on his music career, whether it be writing, recording or promoting. He is currently in the process of booking a tour as well as finishing up his mixtape ‘Mr. Steal Your Beat Vol. 1’ and trying to find ways to get the attention of a major record label. ‘Mr. Steal Your Beat Vol. 1’ will be released April 7th and will be hosted by DJ Pain 1!


RESPECT.: How did your surroundings contribute to your process of making music?

My surroundings are everything to my writing process. I write about very real situations that a lot of people have dealt with or are dealing with and those situations are what all my songs are about. My life. My surroundings. Everything from family issues to my legal issues to my issues with the war on drugs.

RESPECT.: What was it like for growing up for you and how does that factor into your artistry?

Growing up was very rough for me especially after my parents got divorced. There was a lot of hate between my mom and my dad. The first time I smoked weed I was 9 which happened to be the same year they got divorced and the same year I heard ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’. It was pretty much downhill from there. I started smoking weed daily and stopped playing sports when I was 12. I got expelled from school in 7th grade, 9th grade, and 11th grade and all of these events have shaped my artistry to the max. I am a very firm believer that we are all a product of the environment in which we grew up in.

RESPECT.: Your song Pain has been a hit amongst learners why do you think people have been able to relate to that single?

It’s a real song brother. I’ll be completely honest though it’s taken off more than I could have ever imagined. I think people just relate to me as a person. I have a story to tell and I’m ready to tell it and it’s very apparent now that people also want to hear it and see it. Pain currently has over 160,000 plays on Soundcloud in less than 2 months and the video has over 5,000 views on Youtube in 6 days. The video really gives people their first look at me and who I am as a person. I’m just a normal guy out here doing thing telling my story and getting to that all mighty dollar.

RESPECT.: Typically, when you are in the booth creating music how long does it take to finish a track?

Man, when I’m in the zone I can write a song in like an hour. I said in my Set it off Remix “I’m just being honest its hard to be modest when the tracks that I speed write are always the hottest” I love being able to just sit and write and spit. Lately, its been easier because I have a little studio set up so I don’t have to go anywhere I can literally just write, record, edit, write, record, edit, etc.

RESPECT.: In a recent interview with The Hype Magazine, you talk about how ‘The $mithTape’ is the audio vision of your life over the past 6 or years of your life. Can you elaborate on that and is your next project going to be about your future?

Well, I guess it would be because I’ve been writing and recording music for almost 5 years now but never really put anything out or promoted it. A few of the songs on ‘The $mithTape’ was previously released and never actually promoted or were just recorded and never released. I had all my original files and was able to get them remixed and mastered at Blast House Studios in Madison, WI and I put them on my album along with the other music I was currently recording at the time. In my opinion, it worked out really well and it is a great album! My next project will be about whatever is going on in my life at the time. I’ve actually started working on finding beats and writing to some of them so I guess you could say another project is in the works.

RESPECT.:You also talked about when you first started writing you always used to create music to Wayne and Drake beats. What about those two artists inspired you the most?

Well with Wayne he’s been one of my favorite artists for a long time and I really respect his grind. That man is a workhorse to the fullest extent and his catalog of music shows that. I watched an interview with Kevin Gates one time and he said Wayne’s in the studio every day like he doesn’t have a dollar in his pocket. I don’t know what aspiring artist wouldn’t appreciate that. With Drake, I’m a fan of his music, especially his older stuff, as well as his brand. I love what he did from the start with OVO and now its really turned into something incredible. I want to start a label and I plan on releasing my next project off of that label.

RESPECT.: Eminem’s ‘The Marshall Mather LP’ was your first introduction into the hip-hop culture. In your opinion why do you think the public has mix feelings about his latest body of work?

I think people have mixed feelings because they want Em to be the same guy he was before but he’s not that he’s at a different point in his life. I also think the way our country is right now has a lot to do with it. I feel like people don’t like that cypher he did about Donald Trump because they felt like he was basically saying “Fuck off” to his fans who are also supporters and maybe he was I don’t know. What I do know is that Eminem is one of the best lyricists and storytellers the game has ever seen. He’s sold a lot of albums and accomplished more than almost anybody in the history of hip-hop and he’s still going and doesn’t seem to be stopping soon.

RESPECT.: How do you want to use your platform to educate the world?

I want to be able to show other people that if you work hard enough and find the right networking opportunities you can get anywhere you want to go. There’s always somebody who can get you where you want to go you just have to find them. You can’t give up just because something doesn’t go your way. I’ve been at this for over 5 years now and its just now the opportunities are coming but it’s because I’m meeting the right people and marketing myself the right way and putting my money where it needs to go. I can’t stress enough that I’m just a regular guy out here doing my thing working my ass off trying to get the message out to the world and keep my daughters housed and fed.

RESPECT.: What are some things that you would like to pursue away from the music industry?

Away from music one thing, I’m very interested in is selling merchandise. I love the idea of building my brand. I feel like I have a great logo that really stands out and is original. I am very business savvy and also an entrepreneur to the fullest so I’m also looking for ways to give people a high-quality product as well generate revenue from sales. I just got my first shipment of T-Shirts with my logo on them as well as hard-pressed copies of my album. If you are interested in purchasing one send me an email at!

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About Landon Buford

Washington State Graduate Past Interviews include Grammy Award Winner Kenny G, David Banner, WNBA President Lisa Borders, Whats Trendings CEO Shira Lazar, Ice Cube, NBC's Chicago PD LaRoyce Hawkins, Family Matters Darius McCrary, En Vogues Maxine Jones, Team USA Track & Field Member Norris Frederick, James Kyson, WNBA Great Lauren Jackson, and more.