NATIVE Exclusive: A sonic journey into Juls’ world
into the mind of the Ghanaian producer
into the mind of the Ghanaian producer
It’s almost become comforting to hear a familiar yet still unknown soft-spoken lady mention “Juls Baby” at the beginning of an Afropop record. This was usually confirmation that the tune ahead would be an enjoyable number, soaked in a rich array of melodies and capable of provoking pensive thoughts and gathering listeners to the dancefloor in the same breath.
This famed producer tag belongs to none other than the British-Ghanaian beatsmith, Juls who has only evoked more levels of excitement as he’s mastered his skill. In Juls’ world, no skips are necessary. He is undoubtedly a household and worldwide name when it comes to this current era of Afrobeats, Afroswing – or just great music inspired by the African continent.
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Deservedly so, Juls has been getting hip to the game since 2013 when he laid down the gentle and traditionally folklore-like approach to Afropop on Mr Eazi’s string of earlier releases including “Bankulize”. The pair’s catchy sound introduced a much more thoughtful approach to the fast, party-starting genre we were used to. Juls’ beats allowed for reflection, and for poignant storytelling, with a pace made for reading between the lines. It’s no surprise then, that years on, many emerging stars on the continent still use creations from the Eazi-Juls partnership such as “Bankulize”, “Skintight” and “Hollup”, as soundtracks for their traditional engagement and wedding love stories all over YouTube. A few days after the release of his debut album, on a Zoom conversation with me, he says of the musical pairing: “We had a good run…I feel like the sound we created shaped Afrobeats…the modern-day Afrobeats anyway”, Juls responds.
From Burna Boy to Wizkid and Wande Coal, artists still look to Juls for his Midas touch and hit-making assurance. Whether it’s mellow, romantic numbers such as Wizkid’s “True Love” featuring Tay Iwar and Projexx or Burna Boy’s urgent, bass-thumping “Rock Your Body,” Juls sets a vast tone for where he can go sonically. Now, the enigmatic, calm and collected producer – officially a solo artist – takes us on a sonic journey with his debut album ‘Sounds of My World’. A fitting title for the commingling of sounds that listeners are met with. Much of the sounds, instrumentals and languages Juls features pull from a variety of cultures and nationalities.
On here, listeners are comfortably transported to various parts of the world – no clashes, no turbulence. Laced with hints of Samba from Rio De Janeiro, to the traditional percussion instruments, shekere shakers and 3-click tone-setting rhythm of West Africa, and the soulful house-inspired Ampiano vibes of South Africa, there is something packed for every ear. With sound, he demonstrates how connected we actually all are, not just in theory. What’s more impressive is Juls wouldn’t have had to read up on all this – he’s heard it all before. It’s who he is. Like a lot of us who have migrated and travelled around the world, he was raised with this awareness of boundless interconnectedness between cultures. In turn, it’s gifted him with a well-rounded understanding of music.
Being a citizen of our culture, Juls is most definitely tapped into emerging sounds from around Africa. With the help of a new vanguard of Afropop hitmakers from Fireboy DML, to Niniola, newcomer Knucks, King Promise and of course Wizkid, it’s proven to be a defining showcase for his ability.
Our conversation which follows below has been lightly edited for clarity.
NATIVE: How would you describe your debut album, ‘Sounds of My World’?
Juls: Very spiritual and experimental. I experiment with a lot of things soundwise – whether its making beats or even mixing – when I’m setting the tone for that I just like it to be good vibes…very spiritual. Give the people good vibes, let them feel the music, that’s what I like to bring to my music since that’s what I like to bring to my world.
NATIVE: How much of your background would you say informs this title?
Juls: Being from London, I merge [a variety of sounds] to the African sounds pretty much embedded in me from when you’re a child. [Obviously] as a child growing up these are the records that your aunties, uncles, mum and dad are playing in the house. So you literally have the best of so many different worlds, and that’s pretty much my influence with regards to anything music-wise. I like to channel everything I hear around me.
NATIVE: With everything going on, I can imagine you had quite some time to work on the album. I believe you said a couple of years on IG. Tell us about that process?
Juls: I started working on it literally after dropping my mixtape Colour. Colour was a great mixtape, but I didn’t really enjoy the creative experience as much as I enjoyed making this album…and I was just making quite a lot of music in between. [This time] I purposefully got a studio and said “I’m gonna make music that I’m happy about”. Over those 2 years, I’ve just been learning, experiencing different things, building the brand. I definitely needed those 2 years to kinda understand and experience a lot more.
NATIVE: Since the album is a representation of who you are, how did you select the artists you wanted to help do that this time around?
Juls: It was more so a collaboration, we just connected in different moments and we were more fans of each other’s music. We just came together naturally, and they were intrigued with how experimental I was trying to be like Niniola, she said she’s never done a record like we did before, the same was said by Haile about Makossa Riddim as well.
NATIVE: Knucks is quite a new artist. Describe the process of working with him?
Juls: Well Knucks has become a friend now. He’s been doing his thing for quite a while now, it’s actually my brother in law who put me on. His sound is different to the usual commercial rap in the UK…and I like that. And I feel like that sound is a fresher, new breed. I definitely wanted to tap in and even learn from him [and the other upcoming artists featured] to a certain extent.
NATIVE: How would you say this is different to your past production? Would you say you’ve evolved or improved over time?
Juls: I don’t wanna compare it to other stuff, I think it’s just literally…again, it’s me being experimental. I’m used to creating certain vibes and now it’s like the end of an era and now I am trying to do something new. I was really eager to get this album out, and then re-group again and try new things from a creative perspective.
NATIVE: I hear global inspirations in this album: Amapiano from SA, some Brazilian and Latin American style beats. I can imagine you’re very well-travelled… Have you been able to spend time in those countries you take inspiration from?
Juls: I do a lot of travelling, man. For example, I went to South Africa just before the pandemic. I have relationships with most of the Amapiano producers and DJ’s. I’ve known DJ Maphorisa for a minute…got to chop it up with the twins over there and when they came to London too…Busiswa is a friend, we’ve worked together before, Moonchild…I linked up with the twins [Major League Djz]
Going to SA, they took me around to all the clubs…I went to Soweto to shoot the video for Soweto Blues ft. Busiswa and Jaz Karis. I got to see what Jo’burg and the townships were like, and you could tell that their [dancing and music] is a reflection of their feeling and pain…looking around you still see [effects of the] apartheid. [Yet still], they are happy people, they love their music and have fun. Then obviously, I go to Ghana and Nigeria frequently, so you know…so i’ve experienced these genres first-hand.
NATIVE: I saw that you said you wanted to spread love and good vibes? What other messages did you want to get across about yourself and as a whole?
Juls: I think we’re in a world where people love to judge people by the book. I think my music speaks for itself and it’s literally a reflection of my personality. If you meet me one on one, you’ll realise I’m the same person you hear in my music.
NATIVE: What are your expectations for the album?
Juls: People talk about charting and all of these things all the time, I don’t know…[more importantly] I want people to take it in…and I want longevity. I don’t want people talking about it for 2 weeks and that’s it…I want to be able to break the music down…also through visuals coming up…I want to travel and play the music to different people and different audiences…so, yeah, longevity.
NATIVE: It’s early but, have you thought ahead of this album? I can imagine you had a lot of time during the pandemic to create?
Juls: I’m already thinking about the next thing…to be honest…yeah. Whenever I can get it to the people.
Featured image credits/Courtesy of the artist