It's been nearly a decade since Milwaukee's lankiest MC, Juiceboxxx, started wrecking crowds with his whirlwind performances at the age of 15.
Now 24, Juiceboxxx is coming off a year of non-stop touring across the U.S., China, Japan, Korea, and an unforgettable string of shows in Canada opening for the legendary Public Enemy. "Journeyman From The Heartland", one of two mixtapes Juice released in 2010, plays like the manifesto of a kid chasing down his dream in a Toyota Rav4 on an endless string of thankless DIY tours.
With his full length "I Don't Wanna Go Into The Darkness" likely dropping in 2011, hipster press cool kid status, and Chuck D on record calling him "The Buddy Holly of Hip Hop", Juice Boy's profile is higher than ever. Still he remains slept on in his hometown, and almost universally misunderstood by critics quick to file his act away as hipster irony.
"I sort of have this chip on my shoulder whether it's deserved or not that I am kind of misunderstood about what I am doing," said Juiceboxxx, "I tour, and I play with certain types of bands, and I am a part of things, but at the same time I am not really a part of it at all. I am always sort of out on the left side of anything, be it noise, or dance music or rap music."
While dozens of the art school hip hop acts Juiceboxxx was lumped in with or dismissed as early in his career have disappeared, he's kept grinding and it shows. While his frenetic stage presence endures, his rapping, songwriting and production capabilities have improved considerably.
"I think a lot of Milwaukee people remember me from when I was 15 and then they have a hard time taking me seriously, and that's fair," said Juiceboxxx, "But when I was 15 that was just me being me. It's still me being me. I've just stuck with this thing for some reason...Maybe they will come around. Maybe they won't. It's not up to me you know? I am not going to waste my time worrying about it."
Still Juiceboxxx shouts out Milwaukee on his records and his shows across the globe.
"I rep Milwaukee a ton, no matter where I go or what I do. I'm in Japan. I'm in England. I'm in Mexico representing Milwaukee. In that sense I am really proud to be from Milwaukee and I am trying to throw it down wherever I go... I want it to be known that I am never telling people that I am from LA or Brooklyn or anything. I claim Milwaukee 100 percent and I am trying to represent this city wherever I go," Juiceboxxx said.
And as Juiceboxxx preps his first proper LP, his vision seems more clear and ambitious than ever with his mixtapes hinting at a pan-genre synthesis of American music from the last 30 years; think Springsteen meets Spank Rock at a foam party in Ibiza.
"I would say conceptually a guy like Beck is a similar touchstone. Not that we are making the same type of music in anyway but just the way he combined elements of things to create something new in a really singular way. That's sort of what I am shooting for," said Juiceboxxx, "Rap music is what I do, but I am trying to do something that is slightly beyond one genre you know."
As he puts the final touches on the 12 songs appearing on "I Don't Wanna Go Into The Darkness" Juice said people can expect an album full of songs with big hooks that hones in on his rap sound rather than some of the electronic dance stuff heard on his mixtapes.
"It's going to be my calling card. I haven't done an LP and it's stupid," said Juiceboxxx, "But if I would have put out a record three years ago it might have taken me to a different level on the short term, but looking back on it I feel like in the last three or four years I have gotten a lot better as a performer and a rapper and a musician. It kind of took me those years to make this record to be honest."
Juiceboxxx plays his first hometown show tonight opening for Girl Talk at the Eagles Club Ballroom, 2401 W. Wisconsin Ave., along with a slew of DJ's.