Atlanta based, underground Hip Hop artist Joe Stu recently released “Wrong Turns in the Right Direction,” featuring production by noted Raleigh, NC producer D.R.U.G.S. who’s worked with Ludacris, LL Cool J, 50 Cent and others, just to name a few.
“Wrong Turns in the Right Direction” has been embraced by hip-hop heads and longtime fans of Joe Stu agree this is his best work to date. Read what he has to say about the music business and sticking to your dreams.
Do you most often actively seek inspiration or does it find you? Or is there a combination of the two?
Definitely a combination of the two. I get ideas from life in general. When I am writing, typically the title and concept of a song hit me before the words do. Then it’s just a matter of me putting the pieces together. In a case where the words hit me first, it’s usually due to the beat and how it moves me.
What led you to art in general and to your art form(s) in particular?
I was reared in The Bronx so not only was hip hop around me but also a myriad of different art forms from reggae to merengue music. From Graffiti to fine art. I grew up as a latchkey child so I had plenty of free time to explore artistic endeavors. I would mainly draw and engulf myself into the music especially so in my teenage years, which were quite tumultuous. Generally, I wanted to be an active part of the culture, because it shaped me so much.
Have you and your artistry ever been involved in traditional business? If so, how?
Besides being an independent recording artist; I’ve also been a tattoo artist and visual artist for approximately eight years. Visual art helped me become more descriptive and an overall better storyteller. Currently, I teach art at Towers High School.
In addition to mastering their art, what other skill sets do you recommend that artists develop if they want to be successful?
Business skills and organization are great assets to have. Sometimes as an artist, it can be difficult to structure things properly outside of your art. Even if you have a manager you should be able to conduct business and know the basics.
How do you stay at the leading edge of your craft?
Consistently practice! I push myself to be better and study the craft. If you study the classics you produce classics. Plus I’m an avid music fan and constantly listen to it to stay abreast of where things are going culturally. I believe it’s necessary to love your craft which keeps you involved in things moving forward.
Do you think that there are any widely held misconceptions about art and/or artists? If so, what are they and how do you work to dispel them?
A common misconception is that we’re ignorant, which is based on the majority of popular music played. I can understand how this can exist because there’s a lot of ignorant music out there. The best way to combat is to make quality intelligent music. It doesn’t help anyone if you make garbage conscious music. My attempt is to make hard hitting intelligent music to even the tide out.
How do you map out your goals? How do you measure your success?
My goals are mapped out according to balance. I definitely want to be world renowned but not to the point I can’t go grocery shopping without getting mobbed. I have a vision board full of the goals I set. Success for me is living comfortably off of my gift.
Who do you consider to be your peers in your field? Who do you see/use as examples for you to emulate?
My peers would definitely be my RHHIB (Real Hip Hop Is Back) fam (Big Rec, Shred, Mic Sic, Infinite Skillz, Headnokkas). They keep me grounded and the competition is healthy as well. We teach each other a lot as far as music and music business is concerned. As far as whom I would model myself after, the influences vary. Krs One, Immortal Technique, Murs, and Phonte. I tend to follow those of an independent grind.
Name two of your top role models: one in the art world and one from outside of it.
Outside of music, my role model is my mentor Dr. Daniel Black. He’s written several novels and was my professor in college. He’s definitely been a huge father figure in my life. As far as music is concerned it would probably be Mos Def. I admire his involvement in social causes.
Name three books, works, performances or exhibits that changed how you view life and/or yourself.
In regards to books, my top three are:
Perfect Peace By Daniel Black
Two Thousand Seasons By Ayei Kwe Armah
Hip Hop Generation by Bakari Kitwana
Why do you consider continued learning important?
In order to master your craft you have to be an active and consistent student.
What affirmations do you repeat to yourself that contribute to your success?
Let my work be my prayer, Gods will be my desire, my discipline is my savior and let my songs inspire.
What role does art have in the community? What role would you like to see art play in the community?
Art (music in particular) is a conduit for the community’s emotion. It acts out for those who otherwise have no voice. I would like for music to be more balanced. I think there’s a place for “ratchet” music as long as conscious material gets equal light.
What role does technology play in your day-to-day life? How do you utilize it?
Most of my music is done with producers emailing me beats. I also make beats on my phone.
What software, app or other technological innovation has made the biggest difference in your life and/or career?
Native Instruments beat machine changed my life! I make beats everyday on my phone.
Please define your personal brand.
Fine Art hip hop for working class constituents.
What is your favorite vacation destination and why?
It would be great to bring this hip hop thing full circle and tour countries in Africa particularly West Africa. Performing in the countries where my people come from would be like a homecoming!
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Free health care and free education point blank.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would make myself more detailed oriented.
What does it take to be iconic? In your estimation, who has achieved that status?
To be iconic takes an insane amount of dedication to your public persona to the point that you are etched into people’s consciousness, I believe Kanye has reached that status.