Houston producer June the Jenius has been carefully forging relationships in the music industry long before producing YFN Lucci’s 2016 hit “Key to the Streets.” It’s just that now, everyone wants to know him.
Especially since Travis Scott’s 2018 Astroworld LP earned a nod from the Grammy gods and June was behind the production of the platinum track “Yosemite.” True to their Texas roots with a Western guitar twang throughout, the song was regarded as one of the best on the album. So it’s not surprising that everyone wants to get close to June. Still, he’s mindful of who he’s been building with and how these links will be beneficial to himself and his Hit Cartel brand.
On a recent afternoon, June sat with HHW for lunch in a quaint hideaway in NYC’s SoHo. David Bowie’s “Changes” played overhead as June took a sip from his water glass before revealing that sometimes, the connection with rappers goes as far as the studio door. And that’s fine. “I don’t know. I don’t really f*ck with rappers, I ain’t gon’ lie,” he shared. “I f*xck with producers and engineers, rappers can be weird. Producers don’t f*ck with rappers often they really just be around you when they need you and that’s it after that.”
There are at least two artists that June does admit to having a solid vibe with though: Detroit’s Sada Baby and Atlanta’s Rich Homie Quan. By the end of the year, June hopes to have a completed EP with them both. He’s also working on a five-city tour of sorts — beginning in July — that will end up producing another full project by fall of this year. The tour presents an opportunity for June to pay homage to other producers, working with them in the lab and getting them to speak on their careers. He’ll also be gifting local artists with a song that will premiere at each city’s show (Houston, Dallas, Detroit, Atlanta and DC) and on the EP that will punctuate the tour’s end.
Now that the ink is dry on his distribution deal with Empire, June is looking forward to getting more work done with other artists in a variety of genres, because it’s not just about rap. This Texas boy grew up in the church and acquiesced to his mother making him learn how to play the horn in his youth (he’s currently taking piano lessons). He was naturally talented, but discovered a greater love for production in his freshman year of high school, carrying his skills all the way to Texas Southern University where he played trombone in the band.
Now, a lifetime away from being that kid with the horn, June the Jenius is one of hip-hop’s most talented up and comers, he’s focused all on his own. It seems autonomy is just in him. “You know we used to be our own country, right?,” he says excitedly, over the lunchtime chatter of nearby tables. “The Great State of Texas.”
Hip Hop Wired: Tell us about Hit Cartel. What are you doing with the brand?
June the Jenius: Hit Cartel is a collective. We have songwriters, musicians and engineers. It’s a label now so we’re like, the new kids on the block. The goal is to take the label to the next level. The highest that we can take it. We got distribution with Empire now which is cool and we want to find and cultivate acts but we’re taking our time. We’re going to open a studio in Atlanta and another one in Houston and just build up from there. It’s a collective of producers who just make hits. We’ve done it so far and we just wanna try and take it further.
HHW: You’ve said that there are only a couple of rappers that you have a decent relationship with outside of work. How are things for you typically in the studio?
June: That’s the only time when [certain rappers are] cool. Outside of the studio, they just be awkward. Even in the studio, most people `don’t work how they used to work, everybody just be tryna chill. Honestly, they try and bring the strip club to the studio. I like working with pop artists moreso, like for the vibe, I can tell they’re really into the music. Sometimes when I work with rappers, you can tell who’s just in it for a check and who got that passion for it. I like working with passionate people who are creative, it doesn’t matter what genre it is.
HHW: How did you get into playing the horn? And where did producing come into play?
June: My mama was the one who made me do that sh*t in middle school and it just went from there. I liked it to a certain extent but really I was just good at it. I started producing with Fruity Loops in my freshman year of high school and I liked it more, so eventually I stopped doing the band sh*t and got into producing.