joony is just doing joony

The Maryland rapper talks about collaborating with Brent Faiyaz, creating new sounds, and diving deep into SoundCloud.

October 05, 2022
joony is just doing joony joony.   Photo by Sebastian Olaya (@gio.vaun).

joony’s Pretty in Black opens with a simple declaration: “I just wanna make this shit clear,” he whispers before raising his voice to shout “Mama, I’m not going back” at the top of his lungs. But compared to “Untold Stories (Silent Battles),” the muted and anxious intro of his 2021 album Silent Battles, it’s a hell of a warning shot. The 22-year-old artist is hard to satisfy and sometimes even harder on himself – in an interview with Audiomack last year, he criticized the volume of the vocal mix on one of his songs, saying he was “sick of it.” The annoyance he takes with complacency comes off as admirable, not for its self-flagellation, but because of his desire to squeeze the most out of life. By the end of Pretty in Black, joony’s found a reason to celebrate. “There He Go” smells like a champagne-drenched locker room with joony crooning about being high out of his mind while demanding bands, bottles, hoes, and a travel fee.


But on this particular Friday afternoon in early September, there aren’t any festivities going on. Instead, joony’s running late to our virtual interview. When he logs into the call, he apologizes, saying that he got caught up in working on his tour setlist with his manager. It’s the latest in a string of accomplishments for the Silver Spring, Maryland rapper this year. In July, joony’s feature on Brent Faiyaz’s “FYTB” scored him his first Billboard Hot 100 entry. When he hits the road supporting Lancey Foux this month, it’ll mark the first time he’s ever been on tour. He’s not nervous at all though—there are stars in his eyes when he talks about eventually taking the stage.

“We both don’t necessarily make the same type of music, but we have fans that would fuck with each other’s shit,” joony says. “I’m excited for the reactions.”


As for the kind of rap joony makes, he’s fine with being labeled a chameleon. If you ask him personally, though, he’s more likely to compare himself to Kakashi, a character from Naruto who could copy any jutsu after seeing it just once. But joony is more than simply adaptable and far from being just a good copycat. In his music, you can see how the lines between regional rap scenes and internet rap are being blurred by a rising generation of artists. Take “Dork” for example, where he sounds like a disciple of Slayworld’s woozy strain of melodic rap. A few tracks later on “Recipe,” his use of the DMV flow is slippery enough to make Big Flock proud. While his fluency in regional and internet rap is exciting, it’s his palpable enthusiasm in talking about never wanting to stop sounding like home and bubbling scenes on SoundCloud and eagerness to champion music from both at the same time that makes it feel all so new.


What got you into skating?

My dad had bought me this shit for PC, it was called Backyard Skateboarding, and I was really into that shit. That shit got me into skate videos online. I would play that shit all day, and then I would go on YouTube at six years old and I would type in ‘skateboarding.’ I would just watch these niggas skate, and I would be like, “This shit is hard as fuck.”

Do you still skate now?


No. I mean, I could still skate if I wanted to. The last time I skated, I think, was five months ago. But even that was rare—five months ago, that was my first time in maybe another five months type shit. The last time I skated consistently was high school.

I was curious about that because there’s a real connection between skating and underground rap.

Yeah, for sure, I could see that for sure. Skating and underground music, they've always been intertwined. I remember some of my favorite artists growing up, they would be skating, like Odd Future, back when they were still underground and shit like that. I was really cranking them at the time, so it's definitely a big correlation.


Where do you get the confidence to try all these different styles out?

I just stand in front of the mic and I just let that shit fly, bro. I would say I got the confidence from there being no pressure. When I go into the studio, it's only me and the engineer. It's not like I have a thousand people watching me in the studio. So when I go into the studio and try a different sound or a sound that's very different than what people think I would do, the reason why I have the confidence to do it is because I can fail and nobody's watching me fail.

I could go into the studio and be like, “I'm going to try to make an alternative pop sound today,” and if it sounds like some shit at the end of the session, at the end of the day, it's just me and the engineer that heard it. It's okay to fail. It's okay to make a song and it be some shit, it's not like I'm going to put it out.


Last year, you were talking about feeling grateful for the progress you’ve made, but still not being where you wanted to be. Do you feel you’ve gotten any closer since then?

If I got to talk to myself from two years ago, this time 2020… I don't know if you’ve seen those TikToks where it'll be a producer and he’ll be like, “Man, I need to sell more beats.” And then it’ll cut to the producer's baby picture, and it’ll be like, “people are buying our beats?” It’s kind of like that.

I know that if I talked to myself from two years ago, even one year ago, really, but, if I [had] a conversation with my younger self from two years ago and got to tell him everything that I'm doing now, he would be ecstatic. He would be like, “What the fuck, that's crazy. We was on the number one R&B album, the number two album in the world. Brent Faiyaz fucks with us.” But at the same time, I know what I'm truly destined for. That’s why I feel like I can't get too washed up in celebrating what I've already done because it’s so much more to be done.


How does it feel to have a few songs out with Brent Faiyaz?

It feels good, man. I just met him maybe two years ago, and it's been great, man. He was really just a fan of the music. I remember when he first was texting me, he would just send me screenshots of my songs and he would just be like, "Bro, this one is the one." And he would send me another screenshot, he'd be like, "No, no, this one. This one's the one, bro." And he would quote the lyrics to me, and he would send the screenshot of the song, and then he would put in quotations the lyrics that I said and shit.

I was in high school when he was first coming out. He was Grammy-nominated before I graduated high school, so that shit is, I'm grateful for what it’s brought me. I'm grateful for the experiences that I got to have, and I'm grateful for the shit I get to learn.


What is your relationship like? I was wondering if he's ever given you advice or anything like that.

We talk about the music, we don't really get too deep into that other shit. Maybe eventually, when I'm closer to his level, it might be something he'd be like, "When I was your age, at your level, I was going through this. Just make sure that you don't move too much like this, or make sure you move like this." We don't have those talks just yet, but for now me and Brent, we just talk about just the music and regular nigga shit. He's really my homie. I look at him, that's my friend before he’s my industry mentor.


How do you find new music? You seem really tapped into what’s currently bubbling on SoundCloud.

I've been into plugg shit since probably '16, really. I’ve just been tapped into the community for so long, to the point where the algorithm, it's my taste. For example, I've known Yeat since 2017 because we used to be in group chats together with all the other plugg and SoundCloud rappers. Like BigBabyGucci, Yeat, it was a whole different scene back then, it's hard to even describe it. It was a lot of other niggas, like this nigga named Lerado, KYSLingo.

It was the 2017, 2018 scene. We was all coming up together. Now everybody’s lit, but back then the lit niggas was Smokepurrp, Lil Pump, Lil Yachty. This was before Juice Wrld. I just know where to go, bro. There's a whole new scene now with the plugg shit. It’s like, sgpwes, xhulooo, OnlyBino. Do you know any of these niggas? All of these is niggas, they're part of the new plugg scene. Shout out to [Kashdami], I’ve known Dami since he was 14, 15 years old, and he was on SoundCloud. We was bonding over knowing the same people and Maryland. I don't really have to go anywhere to find new music, that shit just finds me.


The whole new generation of SoundCloud stuff is interesting to me, because like you said, it's all in group chats. I'm 24 now, so sometimes I feel a little too old to even be caring about some of this music because sometimes it's middle schoolers making this music, or high school freshman.

People like tana, I love Baby Santana, bro. He’s one of my favorite artists. I’m only 22 and I be feeling too old for this sometimes. I’ll be on my phone like, “who the fuck is Young Something Something?” The kids are going to keep going, it’s never going to stop. I actually like being tapped into the young nigga shit so much, because it’s so interesting to me to see the generations. It's so many young niggas right now that never heard a song by Future. All they're listening to is Yeat.

I was trying to make my manager understand, he's old, he's your age, he's 25 actually, 25, 26. I was like, “Bro, Yeat is about to be the next…” I think he's going to be as big as Future or Young Thug, or maybe Uzi or Carti. He's going to be in that realm of people. And he was telling me, he was like, “Fuck no, Yeat's a trend, Yeat's a fad, it's a trend, bro. It's this, that.” I was like, “Bro, no, you got to understand a new generation.”


“Drifting in Tokyo” is cool to me because of the drum’n’bass production. I love that more rappers are embracing those kinds of influences in their music.

Man, I just dropped it. I mean, “Drifting in Tokyo,” it's one of my biggest songs now, but I'm glad that you fuck with it. I'm not going to lie really, I thought it was either going to be a hit or a miss.

It's always weird taking risks as an artist because people think they know what they want, but they don't know what they want.


They don't know what you have in store. That's the thing with Carti. They thought they wanted another Die Lit until he came out with Whole Lotta Red and they was like, “Whoa, this is just the greatest shit ever.” I mean, keep in mind, it did take a couple of months for people to come around and say this is the greatest shit ever, but once they came around, they came around hard.

Because a lot of people were like, “What the fuck is this? We want the baby voice Carti, we want the "Flatbed Freestyle" Carti, we want the Die Lit Carti. We want the ‘woke up with my toolie what it do’ Carti.” They wanted that, the whole time he came out with some, "Ever since my brother died.” Fans think they know what they want, but at the end of the day, they don't know what they want. They just want fire shit from their favorite artists.

As long as you're giving them that, it don’t matter. Because the more you listen to your fans, the more of a slave you're going to be to your fans. You're going to stop tapping into that creative part of your mind that got you your fans. You're going to stop tapping into that and you're going to start tapping into what you think they want. That’s going to fuck you up as an artist, it always does. I’ve seen it. So you really just got to keep tapping into that creative side of your brain that got you your fans in the first place and trust your gut.


They just want to be surprised by some shit.

They want to be surprised, and it's like, I'm not about to hold you. Sometimes, I be trying to surprise my fans a lot, man. Shit be working. I just try to give them whatever I think is the best music I have in the vault at the time, I give it to them, regardless of what they say like, “Yo, we want this snippet, we want that." I'm like, “Bro, I'm going to give you what I think is the best music in the vault, and you all are going to like it.”

joony is just doing joony