Earlier in the Summer, we had the opportunity to sit down with Julian Stephen. Artist/Rapper from Queens, New York, who now resides in Harlem. From music to aspirations and future endeavors, our sit down went from professional to a conversation about life. Over the course of the year, he’s been dropping singles and music videos to grab the attention of many individuals; leading up to the release of various projects including, Plantations, Streaming, and Aliens & Kick.
HangTime: How would you describe yourself?
Julian Stephen: Black American. That’s how I would describe myself.
HT: What is something most people don’t know about you?
JS: I read a shitload, I love anime… I would say that people don’t know that I read one book a month, I love anime and I [know] American Sign Language and a little bit of French. I’m a cultural person.
HT: What are some of your biggest influences?
JS: Besides everyday life… because everything inspires me, but what influences me, I’d say some of my biggest filmmakers. Spike Lee, Alfred Hitchcock, Fresh Prince, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Wes Anderson. I could keep naming them, because the things that influence me should be a perfect reflection of the artist that I am or the person I want to be in this world. So take Fresh Prince, Alfred Hitchcock, Tupac, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Dick Wolfe, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, and Queen Latifah. I think we need a Black Wes Anderson.
HT: So you’re a rapper?
JS: I’m not a rapper, I’m an artist!
HT: So, as an artist, what makes you stand out the most?
JS: Well, I don’t write verses anymore… I write scripts in songs. So I tell stories, I see it differently. I don’t think about writing a “hot” 16. I don’t think that exist anymore. I write melodies, sounds, ad-libs. It’s more than just rapping, honestly! Besides that, I do film and TV, and I think that’s what makes me stand out.
HT: Tell me about Alien & Kick.
JS: That’s like the modern day Fresh Prince meets Broad City; Martin meets Seinfeld. It’s basically reversed gentrification from a Black perspective. It talks about how that shit affects us as young Black creatives.
HT: What do you see in the future for A&K? Do you see it on TV?
JS: I do see it on TV, but I also see it on its own platform and heavily supported by the culture. I see it as a product we can put on a pedestal and say that, this is us. Something where all creatives can come together and make a dope visual for the story; whether it’s a half an hour or fifteen minutes. I want a makeup artist to come from one scene and just do their thing, or a graphic artist come in and just have his work on display, and the sound man adding some funky noises in the background to bring the scene to life. It’s going to be our own Disney. That’s what it is.
HT: What about your music? What can you say about Prince Charming or University of Julian?
JS: I don’t want to talk about it. I’m lightyears ahead of it, I’m passed it all. It was another Julian, there are still reminisce and elements of it in my new music, and he’s still there, but it’s in a different space and time.
HT: Do you see that as a pattern? Let’s say 5 years from now, would you see yourself differently then with your music now?
JS: 5 years from now, I’ll probably look at it like I’m not there anymore. I think everybody should feel that way about life. It’s not to say that I’m embarrassed of my past, I’m proud of everything I’ve done up to now. I would always stand out, I was always that individual. With Prince Charming, we had the downloadable cards in 2011… I was so ahead of the game, and I was creating a TV show I was putting together simultaneously with my music. Netflix wasn’t even crazy like that as an online streaming service. Culture wouldn’t have any idea what to do with me, so I think now I am perfect for this generation. My goal is to make timeless work. People call and tell me they still have shit from my project Awkward Moments, saying that it’s in their room, car, bag. That’s what I want, timeless works of art… It’s all led to this moment.
HT: With your new music, what have you been communicating with it?
JS: I always loved melodies, and I didn’t necessarily like making the hooks, but I wanted to make both of them work. I always felt left and right, like trying to impress this crowd or trying to impress the other. With this project for the first time ever, it feels like one. It’s only the beginning for me, it’s like a scratch from the surface.
HT: Where do you usually get your beats from?
JS: Oh yeah, I know how to find it. Like you can play me a hundred beats, but I will know which one will resonate with me more. That’s what I’m really gifted at, I know what people want to hear. Usually when people make music, they make it for themselves. I make it for other people. I tell my story, or our story, to them. It’s almost like they can see themselves in me. Cause that’s basically what I am, I am you. I’m like an avatar, a kid that grew up who is now trying to figure out life. I struggled through school, trying to pay rent, I’m you. You asked me how would I describe myself, I’m Black American. It’s not necessarily referring to skin tone, it refers to the role that we play in this country.
HT: Do you see yourself dabbling into other stuff?
JS: Yeah, there will probably be miscellaneous business endeavors that will diversify my portfolio. It won’t be like my passion, but you know, I might invest in a liquor or a sneaker deal. That’s just to sign my name on. But my real passion is to do TV and music. The world needs me, honestly! I feel like the world without me is almost like a crime. Every waking moment, that’s what runs through my head. The world needs Alien & Kick and all these projects we want to curate. I don’t take any moment for granted. I’m always humble about things coming to me.
HT: Do you see yourself ever leaving New York?
JS: I see myself leaving and coming back. I need to travel more and I see myself going to LA for a bit. Just to explore!
HT: What advice do you have for someone that aspires to do so much like you?
JS: One day at a time, and don’t stop. You wake up wanting to make the greatest song ever, and then go to sleep knowing that you did. Then the next day you wake up feeling like you need to make dope art, and you do. You just gotta take one day at a time. Everybody wants a castle, but doesn’t have the instructions to build it. Ask a friend that might know where to find it or the tools to build it.
Ebony Anderson-Brown, Editor in Chief & Publisher