In the age of digital streaming and TikTok, it seems like there’s an abundance of new artists at the touch of our fingerprints. And with the plethora of new music out there, it can be overwhelming to find new music you resonate with. So let us help you cut through all the noise and introduce you to one of the young musicians we’re following right now: Justus Bennetts. He just finished a tour with GAYLE and credits J. Cole and Logic as some of his musical inspirations. At only 22 years old, he’s poised to take the music world by storm. 

Born in Seattle, and later raised in North Carolina, Justus doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t into music. In middle school and into high school, you could find him holed up in his closet, rapping to himself. And after a few years of quietly honing his craft, Justus emerged as a notable face on his local rap scene. 

“I started rapping in my closet when I was 14,” he says on Zoom. He was at his home in California, wearing a black tee and a silver chain around his neck. “When I started getting a little bit better at putting together lyrics and a beat, I started getting a bit more confident with things. So I would go to sketchy clubs and perform at rap competitions. I always had a good time rapping and being around all those people because everyone that was there wanted to make music.”

Today, Justus is still keeping that dream alive. He recently signed to Capitol Records and is now living in Los Angeles to pursue music full time. And in the intervening few years since doing so, the young musician has come into his own and in the process, joined a new wave of artists successfully blurring the conventional genre lines. As is evident on his breakout track, “Bad Day,” he blends together the best elements of pop, hip-hop and rock into one compelling track. 

Earlier this month, Justus released his latest single, titled “Girls.” While weaving his lived experience under a heart-racing beat, Justus explores how it’s a woman’s world and he’s just living in it. And with his catchy beat and infectious choruses, Justus broadens his burgeoning discography. The up-tempo track showcases the songwriter’s knack for crafting and executing dynamic, yet complex lines. The electric single also arrives with an equally entertaining music video. Directed by Matt Shaffar, the video sees the young musicians being robbed by a pack of not-so-innocent grandmas. 

“It’s a really fun release,” he explains. “I think it’s goofier than anything I’ve done and it’s always nice to put out songs that are fun.”

With his aim of bringing more positive energy into the music industry, Justus is slowly cementing his status as one of music’s most promising (and exhilarating) new artists. And luckily for us, he’s showing no signs of slowing. This fall, he teases new music as well as a slew of festival appearances. And when asked where he sees himself in ten years, he laughs and says, “As long as I’m doing music, I’m winning,” he shares. “Right now, I’m winning.”

Photo by Joseph Governale

For more on VMAN’s latest musical obsession, read our interview below. We chat about his latest single, moving to Los Angeles, and more. 

V MAN: First things first, congrats are your new single, “Girls,” which came out a few weeks ago and already has 500,000 streams on Spotify. How does it feel to have it out? 

Justus Bennetts: It feels great. It always feels great to put out new music. It’s just a big relief, getting things off my chest. It hasn’t gotten the big TikTok moment that we’ve been hoping for but everyone that was intended to love the song is loving it, and I’m happy with it. 

V: Yeah, but I was on TikTok earlier today and saw a considerable amount of people using the sound. What was your favorite use of the song you’ve seen thus far? 

JB: I’ve seen a lot of people using it while they live their life. A lot of girls I’ve seen will do a vlog type of video, which was always cool to watch. I’ve seen people create their own dances. It’s always fun seeing everyone’s original content and stuff. It’s pretty wholesome. 

V: And what do you like about the song? What makes this release so special to you? 

JB: It’s a really fun release. I think it’s goofier than anything I’ve done and it’s always nice to put out songs that are fun. “Bad Day” was goofy and fun but in more of a dark way. I think this is a funnier, brighter, version of that. It’s not my life’s work, it’s not this big thing. It’s just a fun song that everybody can enjoy. 

Photo by Joseph Governale

V: Yeah, just a good time. I feel that. And then regarding your songwriting process, do you think it’s changed since you started making music? Or do you think it’s pretty similar to when you started? 

JB: I think we found this groove when we first started writing songs, and it’s been a process of trying to find: “Should we stay in this lane of doing the same thing? Continuing the same process that we do because it’s been working?” But I’m not hitting Billboard charts or anything so there are still times when I switch up the process or I do different things. 

V: And where does inspiration for your songs come from? 

JB: It comes to me at the most random times, like I’ll be in the shower and a melody or a couple of lyrics will come in my head. Or I’ll be trying to fall asleep and I’ll think of song titles, lyrics, or melodies and I’ll write them down in my notes. My notes app is just me throwing up random things. There are songs written in there sometimes, but most of the time it’s just a bunch of random words and ideas–most of them, I don’t even remember what they mean. 

V: For sure, for sure. And to take it back a little bit, can you share your earliest memory of making music or performing where you fell in love with the craft? 

JB: I was actually listening to a lot of hip-hop and rap music. I was listening to a lot of J. Cole, Chance the Rapper, and Logic. That’s what really got me inspired to write music because I was never a musical person. My mom tried to teach me how to play the piano when I was younger, but I got too frustrated. It was the same with the guitar because I just didn’t have the patience for it. But I was naturally good at writing songs and expressing them over instruments so I just stuck with that. 

I started rapping in my closet when I was 14. When I started getting a little bit better at putting together lyrics and a beat, I started getting a bit more confident with things. Granted, it still didn’t sound anything near to what it sounds like now, but gave me that boost of confidence to go places. So I would go to sketchy clubs and perform at rap competitions. I would do really well when I was there. I always had a good time rapping and being around all those people because everyone that was there wanted to make music. It was always the nicest, coolest people. 

Photo by Joseph Governale

V: And I read that you grew up in Seattle, then moved to North Carolina and now you live in LA. How’s it been adjusting to life there? 

JB: It’s been great. It feels good to be back on the West Coast. The people here are great. There’s a lot of people here that are strictly here to work, strictly here for business. Most people in LA are on their grind so in that sense it’s hard to find a lot of genuine connections and genuine people to hang out with. I feel like everyone’s always, like, “Go go, go and let’s do this”. And they’re always looking for something that’s going to benefit them. It’s been a little bit difficult getting my feet dug in the sand as it has for my girlfriend, just finding friends and getting comfortable with the area. But it definitely feels nice here. We have a comfortable space that we created in our apartment.

V: Yeah, and you can’t beat the weather. I also know that you did a song with GAYLE, “Don’t Trip.” What was the process of collaborating with her?

JB: It’s a funny story because it was before the “abcdefu” song blew up. She reached out to my management team and asked if I wanted to be on her project that she was about to drop. It didn’t work out the way we intended it to. So some time passed and I went to upstate New York for a writing camp with some of my friends from New York. We ended up writing six songs while we were there and one of those songs was “Don’t Trip.” GAYLE had posted that she was in New York and I was in New York at the time, so I hit her up and I was like, “Hey, let’s link up and let’s f*cking make a song”. She was leaving, she was on the go–this was at her song’s peak so she was always on the move. We ended up getting in touch and I sent her the song while she was in LA, and she booked a studio and laid it down. 

V: And you went on tour with her. How was that? 

JB: It was great. It was my first tour. It was only two weeks and we did 10 cities. 

V: Sounds really fun. Do you like performing?

JB: Yeah, I love it. I was really skeptical at first because I’m a nervous guy. I’m shy so I thought I would get stage fright. But I got up there and all my problems went away once I start singing. 

V: In general, what do you hope your music does for people.

JB: I just hope people can relate to it. I hope people can enjoy it. I just hope people can resonate with it and have a good time listening to it. 

Photo by Joseph Governale

V: What are your favorite things to write about?

JB: I like to write about a broad level of topics–real life sucks, quitting your job and doing what you want to do. Everybody wants to have that freedom. I try to take these small things that happen and turn them into a bigger idea. For example, “Bad Day” was about my friend Remy. Some girl on the elevator was giving her attitude while he was trying to go up. Then I just took everything from my life, anything that’s happened in my life from that point before, and just compiled it into one compilation experience.

V: What do you love most about what you do?

JB: What I love most about what I do is the freedom and ability to do what I do. All of it collectively. It’s the greatest thing ever, being able to get up in the morning and decide what I’m going to do or decide where I’m going and making. That’s definitely the main thing for me. If I had to hone it down to one thing, it would just be writing music. I just love it. I just love writing music and being able to do it. As long as I’m doing music, I’m winning. Right now, I’m winning. So as long as I’m making music, I’m winning.

V: That’s a great way to end the interview. Is there anything else that we didn’t talk about that you would like to share with readers? 

JB: I do. I have a project coming out this year called Lifelong Daydream, which is something that I’m really looking forward to. I’ve also got two festival dates in Michigan and North Carolina. I’m really looking forward to that and seeing everybody’s faces.

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