Joseph Black isn’t a hopeless romantic. The Duluth, Minnesota native has made significant headway this year as a breakout artist, and his streaming numbers support this truth.
With a medley of records that spotlight unrequited love and toxic behavior, music helps Joseph cope with the internalized bouts of distress that have managed to manifest overtime.
“You can be vulnerable,” Joseph avows in confidence during our conversation. Vulnerability is a concept that’s often misunderstood, but not for this eclectic lyricist. His art form is deeply personal, imbued with a palpable sense of affliction that accent private imperfections. However, this very same notion of perceived angst is what drives Joseph’s ambition to rap.
Sonically, Joseph’s sound champions a melodic flow that provides insight into his unruly lifestyle. Most recently, the 22-year-old self-taught artist released a deluxe visual for “(i hope you) miss me”, directed by Daniel Weiser. With notching over 1.7M views via YouTube and 4M videos on TikTok, Joseph’s pain has now translated into virality, in terms of his lauded prowess as a digital megastar.
He finds solace in getting off his thoughts by confronting his past, all while trying to be the best version of himself. Our conversation follows below.
How did you first get started with music?
I was kind of young. When I first started making music I was like 15. I was already inspired from my childhood and listening to music. My homie approached me with a song and actually already had verses done and written, he just didn’t have it recorded. He was like, “Yo, write to this beat and let’s have our video guy record it.” Aight bet, so I did it, and our school went crazy about it. I kept going after that and he took a break for a while, but I kept going; kept making music and slowly built from there.
With you being a self-taught musician, did you start out with the YouTube beats route, scouring the net for free beats?
I still do it (haha). My A&R’s, managers will send me beats, but 9 times out of 10, I’ll go to YouTube instead.
Let’s talk about that a bit more. With you being self-taught, do you feel more equipped as an artist now, because you had to hone in on your creativity individually, without a team?
Yeah, I definitely think so. Now, I think that’s what separates me from a lot of artists. When I’m in the studio working with these producers and engineers, I’m always putting my two-cents in. I don’t know music very well, but I speak the language. I think that really gives me an advantage, because if my DJ is fucking up my set, I know how to run back there and tell ’em what’s wrong. I’m not just talking gibberish. I’m happy I took the route that I took. It was harder, but it was worth it.
How has life in Minnesota influenced your sound?
I think what the city did for me was that it hated that I was trying to do something different. Not even my city, just kind of my state. Like, with Minnesota, we have Soundset, that’s a big thing. Minnesota is big on lyrical artists, lyrical music, lyrical rap. They’re still all stuck on Eminem — not that that’s a bad thing, that’s one of my biggest influences — but what the city did for me, I have a real fuck you attitude, and the city was like “Don’t do that stuff. You’re not gonna make it. Do what we do.” My hometown didn’t really show love until “Miss Me” came out. The hate inspired me.
Your music seems extremely personal. How do you get past that natural fear of oversharing with your listeners?
I like to listen to music where they don’t lie. If I listen to an artist and he goes into an interview and says that everything that he talks about in his music is fake, at least he admitted it, but I’m not going to listen to him anymore. I want everyone to be honest and keep it 100 with the music. Personally, I listen to artists who keep it 100 and say it how it is. I wanna be that. That’s why I make music, because I heard music that made me feel some sort of way.
Like, with Eminem’s story, that influenced me a lot, because he was so vulnerable and opened up. I feel like right now, in hip-hop, I think we’re too tough. I mean, that’s what hip-hop is; it’s raw, it’s hard, but I think a lot of people forget that you can make a song like “Miss Me” or “Homesick” and it still be tough. You can be vulnerable.
Does your past ever get in the way of your growth as an artist?
No, it’s weird; I don’t see myself grow. I can’t say anything really gets in the way of it. The only thing I can see getting in the way of my growth is myself not waking up early enough, or not staying in the studio long enough. The only thing that stops my growth is when I don’t push myself hard enough. I can revisit the darkest times in my past and I’ll sing about it in a song. I cried when I made “Miss Me”. I usually take one studio session to finish a song, but I was too stuffed up at the end of the verse bro, I had to wait until the next day. I was talking about a bitch and I cried my eyes out while making that song. It didn’t hold me back, it boosted me, it gave me an extra drive.
If you don’t acknowledge and appreciate the dark, the light is going to get boring. I just moved to California after living in Minnesota my whole life. This sunshine is the most beautiful thing. I go down to my pool every single morning, because I would not take advantage of this if we had sun 365 days out the year in Minnesota.
What drives your ambition, how do you stay motivated?
A lot of things motivate me. The fact that I’ll be able to put my friends and my family in a better position, because of my success some day, that motivates me. When I make a good song and I listen to it, I love my music, I love it. I’m motivated to make good music so that I can listen to it. One of my biggest motivators is women. Right now, it’s specifically one, and it’s been one for a while now. That’s honestly my number one motivation. Money, females and whatever else (haha). I’m a lil’ bit different, but that’s pretty much it for me.
You’ve been very vocal about your life early on, which includes your experience with welfare growing up. What did that moment in time do for your work ethic?
I was always on welfare growing up; from when I moved in with my mother at 10 years old, to when I moved out at 16. I guess when I grew up and started realizing we were on welfare, the kids who would hang out with me – I knew we were looked at differently. My freshman year in high school, they [the students] really frowned upon poor people, acting like it was my decision [haha]. I’m not even old enough to get a job yet, don’t hate on me ‘cuz my mom doesn’t have millions, thousands, hundreds even. I just wanted to prove to everyone that no matter where you start off, you can still make it. I even reached out to some of the kids who used to make fun of me for being poor. It’s funny, ‘cuz we had a conversation about it and they remember. Two of ’em are in the NHL now, and I’m at where I’m at, so it’s like – you started off good and I didn’t, but we both made it. When I was 15, 15-year-old me would be sending them my bank statements, I would’ve been on their ass. But now, I’m more mature. I wanna see them make it too.
Do you consider yourself to be a hopeless romantic?
No [haha]. I just hope for me. There’s hope for all of us. I honestly don’t even know what that means to be real. I’m a lil’ on the edge of being bipolar with my decisions. Some days, I do and I don’t; I’m yes and no. When we get off this call, I might get in my feelings bro, I’m an emotional roller-coaster. Hopeless romantic, no – but in 5 minutes, maybe. At the end of the day, it probably does sound like that with my music though.
When you think of the term “home”, what comes to mind?
I’m really lost right now. I moved to LA, but this isn’t really my home. My only home is with my people or someone I love. Home is who I’m with, it’s not where I’m at. I’ve never had a home. Me and my mom moved so much. I lived with my friends for so long. It’s who I’m with, my homie, you’re my home. My girl, whenever we reunite, I feel like I’m at home, that’s home to me – it makes me feel good.