OJ da Juiceman Talks About His Independent Movement, New Music, Relationship with Gucci Mane
OJ Da Juiceman has a rap resume longer than the extensions on your favorite Instagram thirst trap. Knee deep in the game for a solid dime, this East Atlanta hustler is a forerunner in the now-dominating mainstream “trap music.” From peddling his own product hand to hand, to major label joint ventures via his label 32 Entertainment, OJ has been flipping dirty money into legit cash since distributing his 2007 hood classic mixtape On Da Come Up outside the Texaco on Bouldercrest Road.
With more than three dozen mixtapes, two albums—2009’s The Otha Side of the Trap and 2014’s The Otis Williams Jr. Story—and separate, non-exclusive deals with four distributors, OJ has more juice than a Tropicana truck. Grab a glass and take a swig.
GRIP: People may not know this because your music isn’t constantly being played on the radio. But you stay busy. Last year alone, you put out three mixtapes, and the year before that, you dropped four.
OJ da Juiceman: I been putting out music. I been putting out four, five or six mixtapes a year for the past few years now. It’s all independent. That’s why it hasn’t been on the radio or had a major push like that.
I know you’re your own CEO of 32 Entertainment now, but weren’t you signed to 1017 Brick Squad or So Icey Records at one time?
I never was signed to So Icey or 1017 Brick Squad, none of that. I always have been 32 Entertainment. I been independent from jump street. 32 Entertainment has always been an independent label. OJ Da Juiceman signed a deal with Mizay Entertianment, which was Debra Antney and we got the distribution deal with Warner Bros. If we go back to The Otha Side of the Trap, my first album, it had 32 Entertainment on the back. It said 32 Entertainment/Warner Bros./Asylum.
How is your relationship with Guwop now?
Everything is still cool. Bruh is doing him, getting his paper. I’m doing me, getting my paper…That’s big bruh so he do what he do. If he hits me on a feature, ain’t no money involved. I’m getting on it. If he wants to do a whole mixtape, we’re doing that.
Now that you’re back independent, is there a major difference in marketing and distributing the music through 101 Distribution?
As far as radio wise, it’s a difference but as far as mixtapes and being in the streets, there’s no difference. I got four distribution deals: Empire Distribution, TuneCore Distribution, Foundation Distribution. I got 100 percent splits. Some of them are 80/20, with 80 my way and 20 their way. That’s why I don’t need a major.
Wouldn’t a major label give you more exposure?
That’s kinda true but with a major, you might have less money but more famous. More people know you. You might have two million followers. But independent, you might have more money with no followers. I’m cool going through my distribution company, blowing up on iTunes, getting 100 percent. They don’t get nothing. You feel me? I’m cool with that.
There are some major label artists who are winning, though. Mainstream money can be better than indie money. Don’t you want some of that crossover, mainstream money?
I want the mainstream money but if I got to change my whole persona of who I am and what I gotta do to get the mainstream, then I don’t want to do that. Hell naw. I’m from the trap, man. Slow money is better than no money.
How did you get to this point?
I came in the game with my first mixtape, pressed up 10,000 copies out my own pocket and gave away all 10,000 free. I ain’t want no money. I wanted to be known. And it kinda worked for me. I ain’t gone say it all the way worked for me but that was my passageway into getting in the game. I had to pay to record, pay for the beats, pay to get it pressed up and then give it away free, just so I could get paid shows.
Your most recent mixtape is On the Comeup 2 but is there something new in the works for 2017?
I’m working on some new stuff but right now. I might give it another two or three months before I put out some new material. I’m gone let that surface for a little bit. But after that, I’m working on a new mixtape called Trap Boss.
Do you feel like an OG in the game?
That’s how I feel, kinda/sorta, because when I was coming up, we was listening to Project Pat, Dog House Posse, Ruthless Juveniles, ESG’s Ocean of Funk, Playa Fly, UGK. They are OGs to me. But I came in the game in 07, 08 so that’s like a 10 piece, almost an 11 piece. So I’m kinda right there at the OG status. I got about two or three more years to go so I’m not going to change the lane. I’m going to keep rapping like I been rappin.
How have you managed to stay around for so long?
Stay authentic. Don’t try to follow this lane or that lane. Stay you. I done had folks come to me when I was signed to a major like ‘Juice, you’re a crossover artist. You gotta stop rapping about trap. Let me get this girl in to write you some girl records, this and that.’ Right then and there, I start reneging because can’t nobody come in and write for me because they ain’t never been through what I’ve been through.
And then if you change your style and alienate your core fan base, you’re going to lose fans. Then, the label drops you.
It be like that. That’s how the big labels do you. They get you when you’re hot, sign you to some terms that you really don’t know and then when the buzz dies down and people ain’t buying what you’re putting out, they drop you from the label…If you want to keep going down the road to where these folks sign you to a 360, where they’re taking 70 and you’re only getting 30, that’s you. I can’t tell you not to do that. I know I ain’t going that route. I done had folks to come and try to change me. I ain’t going for that shit.