'I don’t think it’s about putting music together that meshes with what’s going on, or what a scene is doing. It’s about sticking to your roots and then people will gravitate towards it'
Just Adam x Evan Dale // April 16, 2023
Meeting in the West Loop, the North end of the apartment was all glass. And just like the light that flooded into the clean, minimalistic space from the windows, the light that flows into Just Adam’s music can be sourced from the backboard, too. Basketball has a profound effect on the Chicago rapper. He’s got a whole series called Buckets, after all. But in just as many ways as the sport has permanent through-lines to rap and hip-hop at large - especially in this city - it’s also a thematic tether for Just Adam to create therapeutically, tying the sport to his life to transport himself into different memories and spaces. Music is a space for him to express himself and work through his thoughts and emotions. So whether he’s weaving audio from old family videos into his tracks, or pulling in influence from Common, Light is perhaps just as prevalent of a theme in his art. Always creating, growing, and evolving, the music is a reflection of the man, and Just Adam is always working on something special.
RNGLDR: You’ve been posting about recording lately. You have something in the works?
JUST ADAM: So right now, I’m more focused on a little three-song EP that I’m putting out next month. And then on the back-burner is Buckets III - but that’s an on-going thing that I just want to keep building until I feel like it’s right. Then it’ll come out. But until then, we’re just gonna keep cooking up. I’m also doing some executive producing on my boy, Goldhaze’s project - working on his album heavy. Then just doing some writing and some co-production and shit.
RNGLDR: With Buckets - which is obviously a series - you always seem to tap into something special .
JUST ADAM: Yeah, the last one, Buckets II, is real nostalgic for me, because it was during the pandemic. I remember that I was going to hoop at a gym, and there was still mask mandates and everything, which is crazy, because I was working on this project, I’m having all these memories of being a kid playing basketball, and now I’m in a gym by myself wearing a mask. It just brought me back to a lot of moments with basketball at the center of them all. And it’s still crazy listening back and thinking about it.
'Take a step back and evaluate, otherwise you’re just gonna be running in circles'
RNGLDR: That’s an interesting through-line to have present while you’re writing a project centered on the theme that’s affecting your day-to-day. The samples you have from that project, are those from you were actually a kid?
JUST ADAM: Oh, you heard that? Yeah that’s crazy. It was a super old clip from when I was a little kid.
RNGLDR: Like a home video?
JUST ADAM: Exactly. It was from a home video when I talking to my uncle after I had gotten into a bike accident where the pedal went through my leg. I was this close to ripping my achilles tendon. Like you could see my bone, I could have never ran again. But I was just concerned about playing basketball, which wove well into the project.
RNGLDR: It’s cool to weave that stuff in. It brings that authenticity to a project, but it also feels intimate for the audience.
JUST ADAM: For sure. And we all have those home videos that we may watch sometimes, and it’s like, ‘damn, if I made music, I might put that shit in there.’
'If I’m not making something fresh or different from what I’ve done before, then I need to go back to the drawing board'
RNGLDR: So, how does being from Chicago influence your music?
JUST ADAM: I don’t know if I’d be making music if I didn’t grow up in Chicago. If you remember the hip-hop scene in Chicago back in the day, just living here was different. Kanye, Common, Lupe. The same way we had that feeling when Chance, Vic, and Chief Keep were going crazy in 2012 and 2014, it was the same feeling, but growing up it was just different artists. Not a lot of people got hip until later, but if you knew, you knew. I think Common in particular was a huge influence for me - his rhyme patterns, and even more so his beat selection while also working with artists like D’Angelo. His sound was unique - it felt more Neo-Soul - which I really liked.
RNGLDR: If it’s even possible for how monumental of a career he’s had, I think Common is actually somehow underrated - at least his extent as a rapper - because obviously he’s got his hands in so many other things.
JUST ADAM: 100%. Finding Forever is probably in my top-5 favorite albums - or in my most listened to albums, at least. Dilla production.
RNGLDR: Chicago is interesting because there’s not one sound, and yet there’s something cohesive about the artists here.
JUST ADAM: There’s a lot more going on for sure. We’re not sticking to one particular BPM or one beat pattern.
RNGLDR: So, for you as an artist, how do you think that your sound fits into that patchwork identity that Chicago has.
JUST ADAM: That’s a good question, and I don’t know if I really have an answer for that. I think it’s more so just that you’ve gotta stick with your authentic self, find a group of people that you really mesh with, and then go crazy. I don’t think it’s about putting music together that meshes with what’s going on, or what a scene is doing. It’s about sticking to your roots and then people will gravitate towards it.
'Sometimes you need those breaks - sometimes you’ve gotta take a step back, look at life, see what’s going on, and better yourself. And that applies to everything in life'
RNGLDR: There is something about your sound, that when a listener hears that you’re from Chicago, it makes sense. So, there is something authentically Chicago, even if the city and its scene is a really hard thing to define.
JUST ADAM: Listen to my flows and the beats I rap on, and a listener can understand that I listened to a lot of Common and Lupe, and that I try to pay homage to that era. But I get a lot of different people that are like, ‘oh, I thought you were from Cali,’ which I don’t get. Maybe if I’m rapping on a West Coast beat or some shit I could understand. Like my voice alone doesn’t sound like I’m from California.
RNGLDR: It seems like Chicago does a good job of weaving different scenes and sounds into one another. It feels collaborative here, like people are willing to pull different influences into their music.
JUST ADAM: I think even a couple years ago, it wasn’t as much like that. But I think over the last couple years, it’s really evolved. A lot of people are working together and collaborating. Every city needs more of that. If they did it, they’d see crazy results.
RNGLDR: It strengthens the art, but those connections and collaborations expand the community, too.
JUST ADAM: Yeah. It’s one of those scenes where you can just pop in a room and someone will be there that’ll want to work together. When I was in the studio with HXRY last week, someone could just show up, hop on a track, and that connection could be on the radio next week. You never really know what’s going to happen. It’s important to put yourself in rooms where you’re uncomfortable, or rooms where you’re not always with the same people.
RNGLDR: Speaking on HXRY, he’s wildly talented. His voice is crazy and he’s a crazy producer, too. We came out to meet him and go to his Reflections release party a couple years back.
JUST ADAM: Chromonicci was performing too. I remember that. That same weekend, he came to my crib and we made Summer Blues off of March.
RNGLDR: Chromonicci is unique, and he’s got one of those sounds that sticks out.
JUST ADAM: When you hear it, you know his sound for sure. The same way that you can identify a Monte Booker’s sound, you can with Chromonicci.
RNGLDR: Monte Booker is crazy, too. Chicago really has an incredible list of producers.
JUST ADAM: I used to go to Classics Studios back when Monte and Smino were cooking up a lot, way back in the day. So, seeing them come to the forefront of everything was a huge inspiration for me. Not a lot of people get to see that ‘hey, this shit could happen.’ You can really do anything.
RNGLDR: Someone like Smino - not that there’s anyone like him - is so good for music because he has the most unique sound. And he’s like Chicago by proxy since he splits his time between here and St. Louis.
JUST ADAM: I think he’s hands down one of the best artists of his generation. Still extremely underrated. I think Luv 4 Rent was the best album that dropped last year. In terms of just whole structure, from the sonics to the production to the mixes, just everything man, that project was incredible.
RNGLDR: You’re always releasing music, there’s never much of a gap between your releases.
JUST ADAM: I try to be consistent. And when there is a gap in my schedule, it’s because what’s to come is going to be better than what was before. I’m not afraid to have an extended period of time where I’m not putting stuff out, because as long as I’m growing, that’s cool with me. Sometimes you need those breaks - sometimes you’ve gotta take a step back, look at life, see what’s going on, and better yourself. And that applies to everything in life. Some people overthink it. You don’t need to keep doing if what you’re doing isn’t taking you to the next place in life, you know what I mean? Take a step back and evaluate, otherwise you’re just gonna be running in circles.
RNGLDR: You’ve put out a lot of music. So, between all your projects and singles, how do you feel like your sound has evolved, and where do you want to take it?
JUST ADAM: That’s a good question. And I think that’s where I’m at right now. If you listen to all my projects, everything has a different sound. Still similar, but distinct. That’s what I try to do with every project. If I’m not making something fresh or different from what I’ve done before, then I need to go back to the drawing board. When an artist drops some shit, and it sounds like copy and paste, that’s too easy. You’ve gotta push yourself, and I think that’s the space I’m at right now.
RNGLDR: If you’re changing as a person, then your art is gonna reflect that.
JUST ADAM: For sure. I think that’s important too. Focus on self-growth because if you’re getting better as a person, you’re gonna get better at whatever else you’re doing.