Dallas rapper Jui$e Leroy saunters through the corridors of Arlington’s Ben Thanh Plaza and Asian Market, backed by dusty piano keys and crunchy snares, and draped in a royal blue tunic suit and shimmering chains.
This is the setting of Leroy’s latest music video, “Exquisite,” which doubles as the lead single from his forthcoming mixtape, Trappy Chan. The video (shot, edited and produced by Crea8tive4k) also introduces listener's to MC Quentin Smith's new moniker: Jui$e Leroy. He previously rapped under the name Tony Staxx.
Leroy flaunts his versatile flow, keen lyricism, and ear for melodic hooks atop the single's romping beat, produced by MyRookieYear. He tells of his street cred (“Made a name for myself on the East side/ Get treated like a god in the streets”) and warns of the haters and pitfalls along the path to success (“If you think you got a chance, you should go for it/ Never let them hold you back, only go forward/ All the bums in my hood on the blowtorch/ Lookin’ like we livin’ in the land of a post-war”).
On the occasion of “Exquisite,” which is the first installment in a series of mixtape releases, music video unveils, and single drops planned for the next year, we caught up with Leroy to talk his recent name change, his writing process, and the rappers who inspire him.
For listeners not familiar with you or your music, can you give us a little background on how and when you first started rapping?
I started recording my own raps at 16. Writing raps was a way for me to get things off my chest without doing anything violent. It was a way for me to express myself. I was already rapping at age 5, but writing them down helped me get through some personal struggles. It helped me through some hard times.
Wait, you were writing raps at 5!?
I was freestyling at 5, yeah. But I didn't start writing them down till I was about 13.
Were you hearing a lot of hip hop around the house? How did you get into rap so early?
Of course I was; my whole family loves music. There was a lot of Tupac, UGK, and my dad’s from Memphis, so also 8Ball & MJG. I grew up around music; not just hip hop — blues and soul, too.
What MCs inspired you when you first started trying to rap?
2Pac — that was the first MC that captivated me growing up. Then when I was a teenager, it was Chamillionaire. That’s who I learned to master my bars from. No one else was doing it like him. I wanted to be like him and more — even better.
You recently changed your moniker from Tony Staxx to Jui$e Leroy. Why?
I wasn't growing anymore as Tony Staxx. I decided I needed a change. Then one day I was in the studio working on a project, and there was a movie running: Last Dragon. The main character’s name is Bruce Leroy; he’s just a black version of Bruce Lee, basically [laughs]. I thought that was kinda dope. Then I started thinking about the movie Juice and from that came Jui$e Leroy. Tony Staxx was the caterpillar. Jui$e Leroy is the butterfly.
What do you see as the differences between Tony Staxx and Jui$e Leroy?
The image is totally different. Jui$e Leroy combines martial arts and hip hop, a foundation originating with Grandmaster Flash and obviously Wu Tang. The name Tony Staxx came from some dope boy shit; at the time, I was selling dope and I was getting money. I was walking around with stacks of money in my pockets, so my best friend Cousin Pete gave me that name. I had a Tony Montana mentality. I was in the streets; I was different then.
What do you think of the Dallas rap scene? Where do you see yourself in that music community?
I think it’s in a good place, but I think we need a big push to get to that next level. I don’t mean one breakout artist. It’s gonna take a coalition of artists, promoters, and DJs to get us there — like how Atlanta is doing it now, the way Houston did it in the past.
As for me, I’d like to bring the new wave of Dallas artists to the world. I know I have what it takes, but I don’t really care about being “the face” or the frontman of Dallas hip hop or anything like that. What I want to do is to have an impact, to influence the game in a positive way through lyricism, through knowledge, through consciousness.
What are your goals moving forward? What do you want to accomplish with your music?
Eventually, I want to get to a point where this is full-time for me — that’s my personal goal. But the reason I want to get to that point is not because of money, but so I can do more outreach, give back to the community, uplift, and hopefully one day raise funds for communities that need it. I want to ignite a flame in people that inspires them to be greater, to be better people. I don’t want to spread negativity, so that’s why I’m particular about what I say. I only want to preach and profess positivity. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.
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What’s your writing process like? Do you mostly write or freestyle?
When it comes to my creative process, I start with the beat first. When I hear the right beat, it speaks to me; It has to give me a certain feel. That’s how I wrote the hook for “Exquisite;” It was just a freestyle. I wanted to have a trappy beat, but I wanted to spit my ass off, too.
I write all my songs, but I freestyle them first — sometimes just the cadence or the hook. It’s like scat singing. Basically, I’ll scat rap a track, and then i’ll write the lyrical content.
On the track you mention Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, and both Members of UGK: Pimp C & Bun B. Are these MCs that especially inspire you, or did they just work with the rhymes?
All artists inspire me. But especially Rakim — that voice and his rhymes! I mentioned Big Daddy Kane because when I think about "Exquisite" I think about him. Once on Amateur Night at the Apollo when I was young, he came on stage with this loud ass suit on [laughs] — but it was clean. He looked real sharp, precise. I remember thinking, “Damn he’s fly.” So every time I think Big Daddy Kane, I think “Exquisite.” And being from Texas, of course I’m gonna’ be influenced by UGK. As for Slick Rick, I like him for his storytelling.
What projects have you been involved with lately? What can listeners expect from you moving forward. Any big releases or videos planned soon?
I was recently featured in a Scotty ATL and Cyhi The Prynce music video, “Nigga Concentrate.”
That got me a little clout. I’m getting ready to release my Trappy Chan mixtape. I’m planning on shooting more videos — actually, I’m shooting the music video for the “Trappy Chan” single this week. Then I’m releasing another mixtape in February.