Indiana hip-hop duo ThePro Letarians just released their sophomore project, Not All of Me Shall Die, right on the heels of the premiere of their track "Dream Catcher", from Sufjan Steven'sChopped and Scrooged 'mix-tape'. Why does this matter? It matters because the The Pro Letarians happen to be very, very good.
The duo otherwise known as JO and Jupiter Jim, are both 20-year old students at the University of Indiana Bloomington. But don't let their youth fool you into expecting something sub-par. JO produces beats that are both diverse and well-executed, enabled by his savant-like sampling skills, while Jupiter Jim exhibits a vocal dexterity and flow that speaks to a confidence notches above most young MC's '#SWAG'.
It's worth noting that The Pro Letarian's stylistic and tonal variance can, at times, feel hasty. Not All of Me Shall Die and the their first tape, Hello Forever (2011), both have moments that sound like growing pains. But, all in all, every track is done well enough that it's hard to remain fixated on what is lacking. Additionally JO and Jupiter maintain enough natural talent to convincingly emulate or experiment with any style (which is pretty remarkable, by the way).
I was recently able to catch up with JO and Jupiter to have them share their influences, their youth, and even some Hoosier-centric goals. Read on and download Not All of Me Shall Die below.
EARMILK: Your first project, Hello Forever, sounds pretty different in some ways from Not All of Me Shall Die. Do either of you feel like you're setting into your own styles? Do you feel like you're proactively working to find yourself in that way, or does it just happen with time?
Jupiter Jim: We think every artist is trying to do that, trying to proactively find themselves like that. That's what music is. We definitely want to try to switch it up and raise the bar so people don't know what to expect, so people want to keep listening.
JO: Yeah, and we're growing too. We both think that Not All of Me Shall Die is a more complete, and well-rounded mixtape than Hello Forever, and that we made great improvements while also finding our sound.
EM: Your music seems to be pretty heavily influenced by Kanye West– have you heard this before? If not Kanye, who would each of you name as your most significant influence?
JJ:I am influenced a lot by Wu-Tang Clan. I feel like they encompass the importance of versatility in Hip-Hop, and that's what I try to indirectly reflect in my music. Being from the Midwest, Kanye and Common's style is definitely what got me into music.
JO: We get the Kanye comparisons a lot, especially with my high-pitch sampling. I used to listen to a lot of oldies and soul music when I was real young, so those are my go-to samples because I think it's so cool how they can be incorporated into a rap song. I would say my biggest influences are No ID and Just Blaze though, those guys really know how to flip samples and I'm always listening to their tracks or watching their YouTube videos.
EM: When I read that you were both 20-years old, I was shocked. What advantages do you think your youth gives you musically? Are there any disadvantages?
JJ: I think that the younger you are when you start off, the better, so you have more time to mature and learn and grow.
JO: Being young is great, it gives us time to experiment and try different things, have fun with it, it's what we love to do. I've learned so much about producing in the short time between the two mixtapes, that I can't wait to see where my beats are at the next release.
EM: What do you want people to know about Not All of Me Shall Die when they listen to it?
JO: We want them to know that we're here to stay, and that we want to be remembered. Like the title Not All of Me Shall Die suggests, we want our music to live on well after we're gone. We want to create a legacy, and this sophomore mixtape is our second step.
EM: What are some of the trends in hip-hop, or in the music scene in general, do you think you've actively tried to avoid?
JJ: None really, trends in hip-hop are definitely interesting because they're constantly coming and going. I don't try to go for them or avoid them, just make whatever I'm feeling.
JO: Yeah, we definitely stay away from anything trendy. When we first started, people really wanted to throw our music into the college party scene, but that's not what we're about. We ignored that and started to make our music about what we really liked and felt. We may make some songs here and there that we can just have fun to or whatever, but a majority of the time, like Jupe said, we ignore whatever the hype is and just make our own.
EM: I'm having visions of Cody Zeller running out of the tunnel to a JO beat and a Jupiter Jim verse. What needs to happen for this to become a reality?