Open “Season” for St. Louis Rapper J.R.; Max Frost Heats Up with New EP, Tour

In 2000, Nelly arguably put the St. Louis hip-hop scene on the map with “Country Grammar.” Some 16 years later, Cards country rapper J.R. has taken that torch and run with it ever since he dropped his No Filter On Da Way mixtape a few years back. Fittingly, a remix of “I’m Just Sayin” featured Nelly. Keeping the mainstream climb alive, J.R. released his debut EP – Gang Season – last month. The album’s first single “Best Friends,” which features Trey Songz, is already a hit and its accompanying music video has racked up over five million views. It’s also caused some controversy (not for J.R.) in that a Long Island assistant principal appeared in and was subsequently fired.

A few weeks before J.R. , played some shows at SXSW, he sat down for an interview with A-Sides Read on.

“Best Friend” was huge. The video garnered over five million views. Did you think you’d score right out of the gate?
Yes and no. There is always that being the new guy in…there is always that ‘what if’? But, we most definitely had our eyes set on what we wanted to do and accomplished it I feel, and [we’re] still going.

Your EP is seven songs. Did you ever consider bringing it to a full-length album vs. EP?
Not at this time. I just want everybody to get used to me sonically and to build a core fan base and after a single I just felt that would be just too much to submerge with all that at this time. [We’re] just trying to give them a taste right now and let them know what we can do.

Nelly really paved the way for St. Louis rap. He’s an integral part of your remix as well. Can you describe his inspiration to you and your city?
Of course, he is a huge part, a huge influence on me musically and just as a kid growing up where I’m from. He changed the all feel of the city at that point in time. It was fun, you know what I mean? Even though there was still the crazy stuff going on streetwise, he made it entertaining. He was definitely a big part of everything I got going on.

You’re about to hit up SXSW. What have you heard about the festival and what do you expect? It’s beautiful chaos.
I know that it’s a great experience where you get to see a lot of other artists, a lot of other artist’s work, their grind and at the same time showcase what you’ve been doing for the last year or whatever you have planned for the year coming up. I’m just really excited for this year to be more submerged within the shows and actually being part of the show this year.

I performed last year. With the buzz we got from the little “I’m Just Sayin” record, we went down there and it was more basically off of us knowing that we needed to be there. But, now it feels better that people want you there.

Do you have any additional tour plans in the immediate future?
Yeah, I’m doing a lot of running around right now. All the dates are on locked down for sure, but I’m doing a lot of one off shows through March to the beginning of April. SXSW is there as well, but we just try to touch all the coasts, all the corners of the country and make sure that we don’t miss a spot.

Totally unrelated, what’s your favorite breakfast cereal?
Lucky Charms. It’s delicious.

Magically so! Getting back to the music, how easily do the lyrics flow out of you?
I think it depends because I’m so critical of my music so if I’m doing music with somebody else it takes a different process. When I’m working by myself it usually flows pretty fast ’cause I feel like I listen to what the beat is telling me as far as in a hook or the feel of the record. So, I’m basically just speaking off my feelings, [and] how the beat is making me feel. I’m speaking on that instead of trying to fish and find something to fit my words.

The video for “Best Friend” was somewhat controversial. Have you spoken to the former assistant principal since the video came out?
Yeah, we spoke to her and she let us know that everything is in good grace. We didn’t want anything to happen to her job. I’m sure she didn’t want anything to happen on our end or any bad backlash but it’s just is what it is. Some people are not gonna like everything you do and you are just in the wrong area, wrong kind of people or wrong audience whatever. It may have been but we definitely reach out to each other and she told me she is doing good. I’m happy she is though, she is a good lady and all of that wasn’t that necessary.

Lastly, can you impart some words of wisdom to my one-year-old son?
Yeah. It’s gonna sound cliche but just you can do anything you want to. I’m learning that the older I get, anything that I really want to do I am capable of doing that as along as I keep myself ready and keep myself open to being ready and being up for the tasks…my goals. I really can do anything I want to and my whole view on that changed in a year of time and, like I said, it sounds so cliche or so petty to say to somebody like you ‘follow dreams’ but that’s really what is it is.

I couldn’t see myself ever being happy just going through the motions if I’m not making the steps myself. So that’s all I can say stick with the dream and keep it moving.

And now for something completely different…

He’s toured with everyone from Fitz & The Tantrums to Gary Clark Jr., and come springtime, he’s headlining his own show here in the states*. He’s Max Frost, and ironic to his name, he couldn’t be any hotter. Jon, you can do better with that opening. Yes, I can. OK, enough talking to myself Gollum style- let’s stay with Frost. The singer/songwriter recently released his Intoxication EP and is climbing that proverbial hitmaker ladder. His single “Withdrawal” has hit #1 on Hype Machine, and can already be heard in various TV spots. All of this comes on the heels of his debut EP Low High Low, which dropped a few years back. That album featured the hit “White Lies.” The artist recently recorded two exclusive songs for A-Sides. Watch “Withdrawal” and “Let Me Down Easy.” Watch below, and jump on the bandwagon before everyone else does.

* Here are Frost’s upcoming tour dates!
Apr 27 Tank Room- Kansas City, KS
Apr 29 Studio B – Minneapolis, MN
Apr 30 Schubas Tavern- Chicago, IL
May 01 Big Room Bar – Columbus, OH
May 02 The Drake Hotel – Toronto, Canada
May 04 Great Scott – Allston, MA
May 05 The Boot & Saddle – Philadelphia, PA
May 06 Mercury Lounge – New York, NY
May 08 DC9 Nightclub – Washington, DC
May 10 The Evening Muse- Charlotte, NC
May 11 Vinyl – Atlanta, GA
May 13 House of Blues (Bronze Peacock) – Houston, TX
May 14 House of Blues (Cambridge Room) – Dallas, TX

About A-Sides with Jon Chattman:
Jon Chattman’s music/entertainment series typically features celebrities and artists (established or not) from all genres performing a track, and discussing what it means to them. This informal series focuses on the artist making art in a low-threatening, extremely informal (sometime humorous) way. No bells, no whistles — just the music performed in a random, low-key setting followed by an unrehearsed chat. In an industry where everything often gets overblown and over manufactured, Jon strives for a refreshing change. Artists featured on the series include Imagine Dragons, Melissa Etheridge, Yoko Ono, Joe Perry, Alice Cooper, fun, Bleachers, Charli XCX, Marina and the Diamonds, and Bastille.