His diversity in rapping, singing, and recording, alongside his promising new project Just for Now…, puts rapper Jose in an incredible position to blow up just six months out of college. 22-year-old Jose Rodriguez is a multi-faceted artist that has the capability to create impressive tracks with professional quality. Growing up a hooper in Worcester, Massachusetts, it was only in college when Jose realized his musical talent, and his rate of improvement since then has uncovered true natural ability.
The 2018 Denison University graduate has created a unique and appealing sound with only a few years of musical experience, and the next few will include great opportunities for him to grow his fanbase. Jose has put out two projects this year – Distracted in February and Just for Now… in October – out of his own bedroom/studio, where he says he can “get good practice and my hands all over every song because of my ability to mix and record.” This young talent has worked hard and done everything in his power to come to this point of near breakout.
Just for Now… dropped on October 12, his second album of the year. The seven-song, 30-minute project displays Jose’s ability to rap, sing, and mix. The combination of trappy instrumentals, Jose’s sing/rap balance, and hard flow delivers a dance-happy and emotional album with great stamina and replay value.
The album opens with “Deeper Than Concrete” a fast-paced track that displays Jose’s skill to rap long verses with entertaining flow and lyricism. Jose says the track was inspired by his city where “people normalize their poverty and their inner-city life and they think that it’s all that they are.” During the song, he reminds his listeners of this, stating “don’t ever forget your roots, it’s deeper than concrete.” The song displays Jose’s natural ability to couple his voice with hard-hitting beats, both in recording and mixing. Jose’s talent diversity is prevalent on this opening track as he raps and sings to create an accessible sound that carries throughout the project.
Next on the album is “Lost” and “Sinner.” “Lost” begins with a catchy chorus that accompanies a guitar riff melody and a heavy, but simple, bass line and hi-hats. Partway during the first verse of the song, the beat comes back in and Jose delivers an impressive quick flow and shows his rapping skill. “Lost” is one of Jose’s favorites on the album, and it’s the first on the tape with a video. “Lost” stands out as the banger of the album, and “Sinner” follows with a similar beat and sound. In “Sinner,” Jose gets more emotional and aggressive in his flow, showing his ability to move away from his sing/rap balance as he just spits strong bars.
“Bipolar (feat. SHEL)” is the fourth song, and my personal favorite on the project. The six and a half minute song features fellow Class of 2018 Denison University graduate SHEL. The song is split into two halves, with the switch-up occurring about three minutes and 15 seconds in. The first half contains two very impressive and long verses from Jose and SHEL, alongside a slower trappy beat where both artists emotionally rap about personal experiences and relationships. After the switch up, an Odd Future-esque beat comes in and SHEL and Jose both deliver aggressively hard verses. The song creates a powerful core to the album and shows a slower and more emotionally serious vibe from Jose.
“Fake (feat. Two23)” and “Bad Guy” are the next two tracks on the album and they stick out to me because of the display of Jose’s mixing ability. The sound on “Fake” is next level, combining a complicated fast trappy beat, a vocal sample, a feature, and Jose’s own bars. “Bad Guy” is another banger on the album that is memorable for Jose’s skill of both recording and mixing; integrating echoes, ad libs, singing, and rapping. Both of these songs exhibit Jose’s capability of recording and mixing his voice over demandingly complex beats.
The final song on the album is “Do or Die,” in which Jose sings for the whole four-minute track. Jose uses this song to wrap up the album by reverting to a slower beat, as well as by explicitly presenting his incredible singing ability. The final song reminds listeners that he’s is capable of being both a talented rapper and singer and that he knows how to create a good balance of both in his sound.
I sat down with Jose to talk about his life, career with music, the new project, and his plans to become an artist.
Q: Where’s home?
A: I was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, but I moved around a lot. It was tough at times growing up when I was young because of family issues and things of that nature. But overall, Worcester felt like a huge high school growing up, where somehow everyone seemed connected. In terms of music in the city, my whole environment was hip hop or some type of latino music. I was a hooper growing up too, and that’s still the image I hold in my city.
Q: What was life like at Denison University?
A: I came from the urban inner-city, where most of the people around look like you and come from similar circumstances. Then I went to Denison University and the demographics and type of money around me completely switched. At school, I was able to develop my new identity with music and really fall into the art.
Q: How would you describe your current position in music?
A: Career-wise, I’m at a weird place right now. People know I do music in my city, but there’s not really buzz or hype around me right now. Out here, everyone raps; it’s a trendy thing. When I came back from college, because I was a hooper turned rapper, I wasn’t really welcomed with open arms. In terms of moving forward, I’m moving to Atlanta in three weeks. I’m going to go try to pursue music as a career where the scene is huge.
Q: What’s your story with music?
A: My dream was always the NBA. You couldn’t tell me that a 5’7” Latino with barely any athletic ability wouldn’t make it. Then, in high school, J. Cole made me really want to start writing, but I wasn’t recording or anything like that because I was still hooping heavily. In college, after I quit the team, I starting recording off my friend’s laptop. The first time I went to a recording studio was my sophomore year and I put out my first song. During the beginning of my junior year, I got all my own studio stuff and began recording and mixing all on my own.
Q: How has your music career changed 6 months after graduation?
A: On campus, I was able to perform way more. Worcester isn’t a music city at all; we don’t have many big artists. Regardless, I think since graduation I’ve been slowly growing and getting more followers. Hopefully moving to Atlanta will take that to the next level.
Q: How did you get into mixing?
A: “One of my friends is a rapper called Mansa K. I went over to record the song “Mental” at his house and he had a mic, speakers, and everything. I asked him how he could afford it all and he told me you could go rent things monthly from music stores. I went to a guitar center the next day and got all the most expensive stuff. I found you didn’t need to have all the money in the world to really maneuver and create music and have your own studio. I knew I needed to have my own stuff to really get better and make the sounds I wanted to make.
Q: When did you know you were talented?
A: I knew I was good when I genuinely was enjoying my music, and I know I don’t have a bad ear. When I first started rapping it was hard, I had to really dive into the craft to spend time with it. I took an audio mixing course at Denison and that helped, but really once I got the rapping down I started to get creative. Getting my own gear allowed me to try singing more, and that was something I was too embarrassed to do in front of someone.
Q: Tell me about Distracted.
A: Distracted is my baby. I called it Distracted because I was discovering that the reason I was at school wasn’t what I thought it was for. I did my thing and maintained my grades, but it wasn’t my main focus or motivator. There’s not really a cohesive sound on the tape, it’s more a culmination of a bunch of sounds I was playing with while discovering myself in music. A lot of those songs are really just me having fun with it and showing people what I could do.
Q: How did you pick the tracklist for Just for Now…?
A: Some of them had been done for months, some were done just days before I dropped it. It was just a seven-song tape, but I felt like the quality of the music was good enough and the cohesiveness of the album was there. I had a few other songs that could have been on the tape but in terms of sound and vibe, I thought these seven just worked really well.
Q: How did you pick the artwork and name for this album?
A: At this point, I had my seven songs and the name already picked out. I picked Just for Now… because I look at the job I currently have in Worcester and I know it is just temporary. This music I put out is the music to hold you over until I get to Atlanta and I get to make way more. I just decided at work to write the name on a sticky, put it on my desk with all my pens and papers, use my phone to take the picture, and that was it.
Q: How did the “Lost” visual come together?
A: The video was really fun to make. The Sunday prior to my tape releasing, I threw a listening party for some of my friends. We filmed during the listening party because these people were there finding me doing what I do in the place where I really get lost. Throughout the video, you see a slow progression of people in my room just vibing out. In the end, you see me being found, and then me being alone again in the studio.
Q: What do you want the readers of this article to know about you? What’s next?
A: I want people to take this seriously. It’s not a hobby; I’m moving to Atlanta for it. I got to be realistic and work to pay the bills, but outside of that, I’m not stopping with music. I don’t care if it takes five or even ten years; they’re going to hear me. I picked it up late, but this is where I should be and what I want to be doing. I just want people to know that this ain’t one of those things where in five years you’re going to see me working a regular job and not doing music.
Jose is talented and there is no way of denying that. I would say that the future is bright for this artist, but it’s clear that the present is here for the young talent. This album brings forth an example that this young artist is up and coming. With his diversity, I can see Jose exploding and making the next big song that you will be blasting in your car with the windows rolled down. If you’ve read this far, consider yourself lucky that one day you can be the person who says: “I knew Jose when Just for Now… came out.” Jose’s natural music talent and determination have given him the opportunity to be different and blow up because his sound is unique, diverse, and professional.
“I made a promise with myself one night,
Every single moment when I get up on this mic,
Is a moment that I’m showing me and them are not alike”
- Jose, “Residuals (feat. Mansa K)”, Distracted
Links to listen to Jose’s new project Just for Now…:
Jose’s album Distracted is just as impressive, and features two more Dension grads, SHEL and SimoneXTelease. Both are great artists and deserve more attention- SHEL put out his single “Ridin Glidin” from a few months back.