Interview: Taylor J Crafts His Own Lane as a St. Paul Soldier

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The Midwest is taking over.

When you think about Midwest hubs of hip-hop you are immediately drawn to longstanding power players like Chicago and Detroit, and little-big towns that are darlings to the culture like St. Louis. The impact that is put forth from the middle of the country may sprout from those areas but is being cultivated in other areas like St. Paul, Minnesota.

Inside the boundaries of one of the most northern states of our nation is Taylor J, who not only is one of the leaders of their music scene but is showing how to bring the attention from elsewhere to an area that is currently developing.

“Where I’m from, really, the music scene has grown a lot in the last couple years. There are a lot more artists and supporters coming out of St. Paul. More people who want to go to a local show and support local artists,” Taylor J shared. “Even the radio stations here are playing local artists and music now opposed to a couple years ago when it was a challenge to get those things done. Right now the scene is pretty strong. It’s a big group of different artists here and the support is showing there is a scene here.”

St. Paul serves as a special experience for Taylor beyond being his home. He is receiving the opportunity to grow with the scene and get a first-hand view of what other cities like Atlanta, experienced in their rise to hip-hop prominence. He marvels at the opportunity to enhance that transition and receive that involvement at what it takes to create a buzz for your area.

While he is a part of the rise, Taylor J also holds the responsibility of showing others in the area how it’s done. A local veteran, he is still only 25, but has seen and done so much that he serves as a blueprint of what to strive for, especially as an independent artist, only inking himself through a distribution deal.

“I haven’t got anyone to approach me with anything else other than what I can do for myself. I don’t have any problem doing it the independent way, we been doing it like that for a while now. Having someone else do anything for me? I probably wouldn’t even feel that.”

And why should he? Without the power of a big box label he has achieved songs with Gucci Mane, Young Scooter and Nipsey Hussle among other names you could refer to as your favorite rapper. As an independent artist, he has managed to leverage himself in all avenues to foster success. A method that he claims is as simple as “you have to get creative” when executing all of your plans.

Taylor J

“You must look at yourself like a brand and find out what ways can you make money off yourself. On merch, I create shit. I book my own shows, create my own revenue. I make money through my distribution through Empire. There is always something new you can do.”

That creativity and approach has brought attention to himself and his city while giving a showcase to the nation as a whole. A testament to that output is finding himself on the radar of famed producer Lex Lugar who did not hesitate to connect with and eventually work with Taylor on what is becoming a series of projects. The first release was The 91 Family, pitting an “I’m the rapper, he’s the producer” element of the St. Paul and Atlanta products.

Their initial meeting came in neighboring Minneapolis as Lex was visiting for a show. A producer of Taylor, Kush, alerted him about the show and mentioned the two on Twitter suggesting a meet-up. A response from Lugar not only shared he was a fan of what Taylor J had done already but also made him a special guest of the show.

“He invited me out and we went through a couple beats and shit. He was getting out the next morning so we didn’t have the chance to really build so we exchanged contact. Late last year he reached out so we could lock back in. We re-exchanged contact and we went from there. He sent some beats and we went to work from there.”

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Serving as his own executive producer – customary when he creates his projects – Taylor J fielded beats from Lugar and took them to the studio, culminating in a project that’s so cohesive it’s hard to imagine it was done without the two being in the same studio once. The response and coverage to The 91 Family was widespread across national publications, netting positive responses, garnering new fans and sparked the initial release into a series.

 

“I desire to be legendary. I desire to be forever.”

 

But the ambition for Taylor J goes beyond that series. His 2017 is characterized by being more aggressive and capitalizing on momentum. He is keeping up consistency by releasing continuous projects, singles and videos. Evidence towards that plan comes in his recently released The Takeover Tape, serving as a recap of singles from 2016 that fans may have missed or new fans can enjoy. Oddly, a rehash of those records provided a lesson to him.

“Everybody is treating it like new music and that shows me just because I’m over something, people can still like certain things,” Taylor J shared. “That was a way to bring light to stuff I’ve done in the past and build more momentum.”

That momentum will carry over to a project he is crafting for March. One that he details as being currently recorded and is bouncing between difference vibes. An exact release date isn’t set in stone, but with March as a definite, there is an heir of confidence, knowledge of one self to be able to craft a project fans will appreciate within the confines of roughly a month.

Those fans serve as a voice. Tagged with the name “The Takeover,” Taylor J noticed how his fans have enhanced his social media usernames into a movement.

“In the beginning, it was kind of like something that I was bringing. ‘I’m Taylor J and I’m taking over’ and it got to the point that now that brand belongs to the people. It’s the people of The Takeover and I’m just Taylor J. They are taking it to where it needs to be. They hold it down. Every time I do something and put something out it grows.”

Mastering a movement is simple for Taylor J. There aren’t any forced moves, he knows his fan base has grown over time and will continue to. He also knows to listen to them as they are a proper guide for what to release.

Having an understanding wasn’t established for every aspect of becoming a success for the rapper. Sometimes people get in their own way, which Taylor J can attest to when it comes to his career. Earlier he would battle with the feeling of being overlooked.

“I used to be like damn, why I’m not catching on yet? I had to start thinking different as I got older. I was always feeling like I wasn’t on, trying to get to a certain point and that made me feel like I wasn’t getting what I was deserving. I had to remind myself that I’ve done so much already all I can do is keep working and letting it naturally happen.”

Natural growth may be more suitable to the brand and career Taylor J wants to have. In a time where the internet creates overnight successes, Taylor would rather forego immediate social media shine and have more meaning.

“I desire to be legendary. I desire to be forever. I want to always be talked about and listened to. I don’t care about the Internet shit. I want to last forever. Some people do the internet and that’s not something I’m over the top with. I’m thinking long term.”

With long-term as the goal, Taylor J has the foundation: a reputable set of releases and the support of a rising location. What’s the key to it all?

“I’m just working,” he emphatically stated.