Talking Compton, His New Musical Direction and A Possible Brain Gang Reunion with Justus.
You must've heard by now, lest you're living under some sort of moss-and-mold covered rock: Last summer, Garland's Justin Mohrle received something of a golden ticket that sent him off to Los Angeles to write and record with Dr. Dre — and all on the strength a demo tape he made for the first fruits of those labors arrived in the form of Dr. Dre's third and last album, Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre, which was announced to much surprise, pomp and circumstance alongside the release of the new N.W.A. biopic, Straight Outta Compton. Mohrle sings three hooks to that LP in addition to receiving various other writing credits.
Nationally, this kind of arrival means Mohrle's being painted as some kind of new kid on the block, an entity that came out from absolutely nowhere.
Dallasites generally know better: If you've had your ear anywhere close to the ground of Dallas music in recent years, you'll probably recognize Justus by his earlier persona of Love, JT, through which he served as an integral piece of the ones matched in intensity locally only by Power Trip, really — that group helped Dallas hip-hop come to terms with the importance of the performance aspect of the game.
Still: There's no doubt that Mohrle's recent accomplishments are on an entirely separate level. That in mind, we figured it high time to catch up once more with the rapper now known as Justus about Compton, his name change, the new musical direction he's heading in and his thought on a possible Brain Gang reunion.
It's been about two weeks since Compton dropped. How does it feel to be a part of the biggest rap album in the country?
It feels crazy. It feels like all the things you think it would feel like. Surreal. I’m driving somewhere and on the radio I'm hearing something I contributed to, which is wild. But, the main thing is I’m just so happy for Dre. This is really about him and his legacy. That’s his final project for people to listen to. So, I’m really just proud of him. I’m excited for my big bro to get the love and good reception that he’s got.
What was going on through your mind when it dropped?
I guess I was just excited. I knew it was good. I knew people were gonna enjoy it. It's high-quality music. More than anything, I was excited. I was anticipating it. It's been tons of years, and you know the whole Detox thing didn't drop. There’s always the thing in the back of your head, “Is this really coming out?” And you really didn't know until I knew. I didn't absolutely know. I didn't know until I saw it on the pre-order.
When you’re saying you didn't absolutely know, are you saying that you were staring to figure that those songs might ultimately end up belonging to you or King Mez or whoever else?
There was always this tiny apprehension, that, “Oh maybe it might not come out.” Sure enough, I woke up on August 5th and saw the pre-order. I had to see it really go live to know.
I've heard Dre say he scrapped all of Detox when he started working on Compton.
When we started working, there wasn’t a title. We were just working. I guess you could say what we were working on was Detox, more or less, but that's what ended up being Compton. But what I can say is that one of these songs [from the Detox sessions] did make it on Compton.
What song is that?
“Talking To My Diary.”
Why did he keep that one?
I think because it was so personal. I think it went really well with the movie and the theme of the movie. Did you see the movie yet?
Man, it was a dope movie! It's kind of like the theme song of the movie. I think it works really well.
You've said that Dre had no part in the decision in you taking most, if not all, of your music off of the Internet. Can you explain why you chose to do that?
I wanted a fresh start. I wanted to start over and kind of come out of the blue. But now what I'm seeing is that might have worked to my disadvantage because people think I'm so fresh.
Yeah, they think you came out of nowhere.
Right. They think it was handed to me. It kind of came around to bite me in the ass. So what I might do is I might throw those old things up one day. Throw 'em all back out there and let people see it chronologically.
Even in on your recent interview on The Ticket, one of the hosts interviewing you said that you had no albums. But, at least as a full-length, I know you had 21, Live Forever.
I had this thing that was just about to drop called Lost, which actually got lost and never came out, which is kind of ironic. I had a video shot; it was like a short film. It just never happened.
How much did moving out to L.A. affect the decision not to get all that material back, though?
It was because I went out to L. A. I was like, let me get a fresh start. But, y'know what? I wasn’t even ashamed of the music. That's what I want people to understand. It's not because I thought it was really bad or I absolutely didn't like it. I just wanted to come out of the blue. What I figured out is that what people really want is to see your story. We're working on that now. I've got some friends and people out in the city that will stand by the fact that I was out there once.
What's next for you now?
I'm working on music. I'm back in the studio. Hopefully, we'll be able to perform some of this music from Compton [on tour]. Hopefully, we'll be able to shoot some videos for it. So, we're gonna go ahead and do that whole process. But I'm already back in the studio. I'm building this new Justus brand as we speak, and that's kind of just what I'm focused on.
Is the Justus brand more of a singer as opposed to Love, JT? Because you don’t have any verses on Compton. It's all harmonizing and hooks and whatnot.
Let's say yes. The Justus brand is a little more geared towards what the name means, what the name stands for. The Justus thing is about what it seems like it's about.
OK, so what does the Justus name mean?
Well, I can tell you how I came to it, and the meaning is up to interpretation. The way I came to it is first of all biblically. When Judas was exiled, one of the people up to replace Judas was named Justice. Also, there’s the obvious “Justus” being justice. And the other one of Justus is “just us.” I kind of leave that for the people to decide what they wanna draw from it.
What led to your transition, to decide to wanna do less rapping and more singing?
I wouldn't say that it's a full transition. For this pocket, for this moment in time, that's what I wanna do. I think it's OK for me to do certain things at certain times and show people certain aspects of the artistry. No, I haven't taken rapping any less seriously or anything like that. You're gonna continue to hear that type of stuff from me.
OK, last question: When are we gonna get a Brain Gang reunion?!?!?!
When is there gonna be a Brain Gang reunion? Let's get Blue [the, Misfit] on three-way [call right now]! Y'know what? I'm willing to do it whenever. I'd love to do that. I'd love to see those guys, and us all be on stage. You put it together. Central Track put it together. Let's do it.