Updated: Apr 7, 2021
He’s just getting started out, but Boston-area based Julian Mendoza is already an artist that can captivate audiences with his slick bars and wavier beats.
SOME ARTISTS TRY OUT SOUNDS or rhymes schemes simply cause that's what's popping. Others spend time talking about certain topics that are just not relatable to 99% of their audience. Then there’s others, the select few, who not only put relatable and meaningful lyrics out to the world, but their style and sound is entirely representative of their own interests. Julian Mendoza is an artist that falls into that latter category. On his debut project Closer Than They Appear, Mendoza incorporates sounds from a wide range of genres, producing an album that transcends the confines of “rap.”
HEY MAN, THANKS FOR BEING WITH US TODAY! CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF TO START OFF?
Likewise! I like to consider myself someone who likes to try everything. I am a dancer on top of a musician. I’m a basketball player, I’m a poet… I just like finding the beauty in anything I can get my hands on which I reflect in my music. I categorize myself as mostly a hip-hop artist, if you want to label it, but am very inspired by jazz, R&B, soul, and even folk music.
WHAT WENT INTO CREATING CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR AND HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC IMPACTED YOUR PROCESS?
I actually came up with the album name before I even had interest in music. I remember driving with my mom when I was really young and noticed the saying on the car mirror “objects may be closer than they appear” which I said was really poetic, asking if that was a literal warning or a metaphor. I was a kid at the time so I had no common sense but thought it would be a great album name.
As for the pandemic, I’ve been writing since the beginning of high school but never made music of my own. I was really restricted with what I could do and had been thinking of making music for a while so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity I had.
The album deals with past romantic relationships I’ve had, worldly conditions - this was at the height of the revival of Black Lives Matter protests - and just thinking about conflicting consciousness like internal waring and general reflection. I summarize it by the “album’s about affirming our past actions and relationships both do and don’t define us in different ways. Our experiences will always be part of us so if we act like our past selves and past mistakes are entirely done away with, we ignore the fact that being our best self is a constant effort we need to uphold.”
WHO WOULD YOU SAY ARE SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST INSPIRATIONS?
I’ll list some that come to mind. J Cole is a huge one, probably my favorite rapper but right behind that, and maybe more inspirational to my sound is Smino. Raury is an artist that I don’t just listen to but have met in real life and have had conversations with on IG. Love Earthgang and they inspire my style as well. Dominic Fike is huge for me right now… he Filipino just like I am which is really uplifting. Yeek’s another Filipino artist that inspires me. I love Masego, Uno Hype, Tom Misch, Jordan Rakei, and the last person would be Esperanza Spalding who was playing a lot in my house growing up.
SO YOU'RE IN COLLEGE... WHAT'S THE PLAN MOVING FORWARD? GONNA PURSUE THIS FULL TIME AS A CAREER?
For plans after college, I’ll quote Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars and say “I’m gonna leave the door open.” I have a lot of venues I could pursue whether it be journalism or music but it’s just about what comes to me first in the form of a reasonable opportunity. For now, I’m just gonna work as hard as I can without compromising my mental health and happiness and the rest will follow.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE OR MOST MEANINGFUL SONG YOU'VE MADE?
The one that really tugs at my heartstrings the most is Better Today. I wrote the hook years ago, I was taking a walk and literally recorded it on Snapchat or something like that. The rest I recorded over another beat that I sent to one of my producers - shoutout Jaz Altman - and he built some piano around it. We have really good chemistry where he knows what I’m thinking and I have a prediction for the sound he’s gonna make. I have my brother’s girlfriend (Kat Hill) doing the background vocals on it and an artist I met through Dame’s 4 Bar Friday - TreBouncee - who gave me one of the best verses I’ve ever heard. I’m probably biased but that’s the truth. Aside from the content matter and lyrics, it was really just about who I was working with. Combining that with the sound, the lyrics that I wrote that I feel like really came from the heart, it’s just something I can go back to and think about and smile.
WHAT'S NEXT THAT WE CAN BE LOOKING OUT FOR?
I just released a remix of Feel Me to celebrate the month of it’s 1-year anniversary. It features Davionne who is best known for appearing on Sleep Deprived off of Dreamville’s Return of the Dreamers III album. This is very big for me as someone who’s still new to music. She did a rendition of the original hook which sounds absolutely incredible.
The other thing I have coming up is I’m working on a joint EP with London-based producer/guitarist Adam Chessis. We have what’s probably going to end up being 4 songs on this EP which are all sort of LoFi beats, very soothing and relaxing beats but my delivery one each one of them is distinctly different. It’s been fun combining my range of versatility with a cohesive instrumental project. We’re gonna drop a single before the rest of the EP which I’d say look out for over the next few months!
For the full interview, watch on YouTube or listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify (AM/Spotify will be uploaded momentarily). Follow Julian on Instagram at @Julian.I.Mendoza. For producers who want to reach out, email him at email@example.com. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Julian!