JOURNEYMAN FROM THE HEARTLAND. THE MILWAUKEE MANIAC. WELCOME TO THE THUNDER ZONE.
“U.S. PUNK-RAP NEWCOMER MIGHT JUST BE ROCK’S NEW CROSSOVER HERO. 4 K’s” KERRANG
“Now that the prevailing global mood matches Juiceboxxx's freaked out intensity, the world may have found a tragically contemporary rap anthem.” The Fader
“A POP CULTURE PINBALL MACHINE ON FULL TILT.” ALL MUSIC GUIDE
“Different yet familiar, polished yet effortless and from start to finish a nearly 30-minute bander. You won’t want to stop.” ALTERNATIVE PRESS
“The most pop-friendly, life affirming musical act since Andrew WK.” Sex Magazine
It’s no easy task for an artist to sum up who they are in one album, much less in one song. And yet, here, at the start of the first verse of the first song of his newest album, Juiceboxxx lays it all out for you:
Out of my mind but I’m a hell of a guy, I got the PMA, that’s just an FYI / I got a J-O-B and that’s to stay alive, 24/7 not 9 to 5…
So begins “Freaking Out” on Freaked Out American Loser, the latest album from Juiceboxxx, the Milwaukee-bred punk rap artist who is quite simply the first and last of his kind all at once. (In fact, the same could be said for this album, chronologically speaking: while it’s not technically his debut, and will live among the dozens of JB collections that exist in the internet’s ether and on scratched CD-Rs, vinyl singles and cracked cassettes, for all intents and purposes it is a rebirth, if you will, and thusly the first and last of its kind as well.)
But back to that couplet. Juiceboxxx might be out of his mind, but in all the best ways—he owns it and commits to this unstoppable onslaught of creative ideas and outbursts, and he’s still a positive person, not a lunatic. Yes, he is an optimist when it comes to art, despite the times and the reality we live in (this, as you note, is an old Bad Brains trick). Yes, he’s employed. No, that job does not have a clocking out time. Music is, as Juice himself says, essential, and for life. And no one else on earth is approaching it quite like him.
“My story is a bit counter to how most people in independent music have worked over the past decade,” he says. “It’s really a story of my life. I’ve done this for over half of it now, trying to see something through and connect these dots. It’s been my quest to synthesize all the stuff I love about American music into one singular project. I think that’s why it’s taken so long. The reason I continue to do this is because it excites me.”
For Juiceboxxx, his music is “an attempt to merge a bunch of things I have in my head that I don’t necessarily see being executed by anybody else. The music I make could only come from me, the mix of styles and the way I perform it and present it, it’s an attempt to do something that’s has some totality. It’s also just the story of me growing up and hitting all these brick walls and moving forward… I just have to do it.”
We all recognize that it’s virtually impossible to sum up something as vast and infinite as the creative eye of an artist with a word, or in a sentence, or—if we’re being honest with ourselves—within a fucking bio for a fucking album. How do you describe a thunderstorm to a thumbtack? Juice knows this all too well. Hence, his life’s work. But first, we have his music. So at least we can start there.
Juiceboxxx grew up in the ‘2000s within the noise, punk rock, and underground rap communities of Wisconsin, and while those banners still fly high independently today, there are very few other artists who not only understand that venn diagram but who are also actively attempting to merge those sounds cohesively. There is something singular about a Juiceboxxx show, wherein he might run through some songs that remind you of Public Enemy—whom Juiceboxxx went on tour with, in Canada—or Beastie Boys. There will be some fast punk songs, and the whole thing might end on an anthemic track like “Never Surrender Forever” that has a Springsteen or Jonathan Richman influence. Yes, there are guitars, but he raps, too; Juice came out of those noise-damaged scenes, and everything he does is coated in a level of intensity. He sticks to his guns. He sleeps with his tension.
“There’s something weirdly eccentric about what I do that puts it to the left of culture,” he says. “I’m trying to do something eclectic but rooted in parameters I set for myself. Almost like when you watch a Beck show from the ’90s… There’s not that many people connecting the dots between rap music and raw rock-and-roll, attempting to use guitars in a different way. I’m not saying I’m the only one, but there’s not many taking classic rap influences and pushing it to more of a damaged-yet-anthemic punk zone.”
Freaked Out American Loser is a punk rap blast that captures the anarchic, aggressive spirit of Juiceboxxx’s live show while also adding a new level of polish, focus, and dare we say, professionalism. “I’m looking at Beastie Boys as the Ramones or something, and trying to build on that language; looking at Public Enemy within the lens of punk rock,” Juiceboxxx says.
Songs like “Guts and Tension” and “Destruction and Redemption” place the listener in the middle of the pit, blazing with frenetic guitar and thick energy. “Freaking Out” and “Go To the Club Alone” display dexterous rap skill and a heavier hip hop feel while retaining a jittery post-punk edge. And the album-closing eponymous track even brings to mind the melodic chime and epic codas of the Pixies. And while the record is without a doubt the first stomp of a new boot, some moments are even more raw than that which came before—with its live guitar and drums, vocal delays, and basslines influenced by eternal heroes like The Fall and ESG.
“I’m putting together these pieces in a way I find interesting as a contemporary record, and not conforming to any trends of the moment,” Juice says. “It’s just me trying to make my own singular form of American music based around a certain lived experience. I think a lot of kids have actually had a similar experience, but oftentimes they end up segregating the music they actually output. I’m trying to smash it all together into one thing.”
To echo that notion, in addition to his music and performances, Juiceboxxx runs a record label and brand called Thunder Zone, whose output includes music and merch by other artists—including cult rapper Lil Ugly Mane, internet sensation Molly Soda and members of the legendary Paper Rad art collective--an energy drink, and a sprawling YouTube channel. His fans are rampant to the extent that a book was even written by one of them, called The Next Next Level, published by the esteemed imprint Melville House. And, as you have no doubt realized by now, all of this is just to say that it’s impossible to say everything and wrap it up neatly. And so, we grab hold of the long tail and just keep rolling.
“On some level it’s insane that I’ve carried on this project I started when I was 15. A lot of the music I make is kind of about that, and there’s definitely a pathos to a lot of shit I do—obviously, the record is called Freaked Out American Loser,” he says. “The idea that there’s a self-awareness that your entire life has this absurdity to it, but a resilience, too--life is fucking crazy and inherently absurd, and this is a thing deep down inside of me that’s unfinished. I’m gonna continue to make stuff. It’s a life project.”
"I would be making music regardless if it was Juiceboxxx or not,” he continued. “Music is something I’m gonna do forever. I continue to believe in this project as a vehicle, as the years go on I think there’s some meaning built into this that maybe separates it a bit. What I’ve learned is that I can cut a lot of shit out of my life but I can’t stop making music and performing. It’s cheesy but I feel like I’m just starting to get good.”
Or, as the man himself said all those words ago: 24/7, not 9 to 5.