Craccum sits down with the one and only Jujulipps
With hit singles like ‘Hilary Banks’ and the recent release of ‘Saucy’, Jujulipps is rapidly conquering the music scene in Tamaki Makaurau. Her music is impenitent but earnest – written with the intention of making listeners unlock self love and confidence. In between moments where (abandoning all guise of professionalism) I was asking if we could be best friends, I learned that she is a chai drinker in a city full of coffee addicts, a criminology degree holder, and a massive sweet tooth. From the rich tapestry of her ancestry and upbringing to her dream blunt rotation – how many bitches do I know who carry themselves like her? Not a damn one!
What can we expect from your upcoming music releases?
My single ‘Saucy’ and the music video both drop on the 14th of April! It’s about working your confidence!! Listen to it to hype yourself up! I also feature in ‘DO NOT DISTURB’ with the wonderful ASHY which is out on the 28th of April. It examines that feeling of closing an old relationship; not needing that energy any more!
Speaking of old relationships, what do you consider red flags?
Everyone is intent on jumping from person to person: and yes, do your thing and have your fun! But personally I will not waste my time on people who can’t meet me at my level or my standards. My father always treated my mum with utter devotion and respect and I won’t settle down for anyone who is not all for me!
In your Rolling Stone interview you said that “if you understand who you are, you can go anywhere you want to”. What are moments in your life that led you to understanding who you are?
It was a culmination of many moments, but being raised in South Africa, where my family and I spent many years as refugees had a massive impact on my perspective of the world. Every 3 months we’d stand outside court with tens of thousands of other people to get a stamp that said we could stay in the country for another few months. The instability wasn’t easy, but I got to see so many different kinds of people and what they were going through. Whether it’s driving my car, going to uni or jumping onstage, I’m aware of my parent’s sacrifices and I am so grateful to be doing what I’m doing! Those aren’t options for all women in the world and they wouldn’t have been options for me if I was still a refugee. I am a passionate and ambitious person because what drives me is how grateful I am to be here.
Over chai and caramel slice, Juju chats about how ‘Hilary Banks’ is a message to women of colour that “it’s okay to be bratty!”. “In the sense that the world will make you feel like you have to accept less – lesser treatment, lesser prospects in life. NO YOU DON’T! Go get what you want!”.
You’ve spoken a lot about wanting to empower listeners to feel good about their ancestry. What was your journey to feeling that pride and what advice would you give people who are still struggling with that journey in a westernised context?
“Got the key to confidence, giving it to those who lack, locs so long they offend the white eyes” [lyrics from Juju’s latest single ‘Saucy’]
I went to high school in the South Island where there weren’t many people who looked like me – it’s actually how I chose my stage name! I was 12 and some Year 13 boys came up to me and laughed at my “juju lips”. I remember thinking ‘…I know! I know I have nice big lips!’. I was lucky to love my features from a young age, I was lucky to have a natural confidence that carried me through those experiences. That’s why I want it for everyone who listens to my music. I secretly thought to myself, you know what? I AM Jujulipps. You’re yelling it on the playground now, and you’ll be yelling it at a stage one day!
People love to make fun of natural features and then get lip filler!
‘It ain’t about them girl, it’s more about you, I hope you know that they envy you!’
Yeah! And those guys have girlfriends with filler now and that’s wonderful, but it’s funny how things that were once shamed have become trends. I didn’t have too many of those experiences because I was naturally confident and my English wasn’t accented. But I look back and feel horrified that my older siblings had it harder than me. Why? Because I was assimilated enough to not make people uncomfortable? I’m grateful for having had my developmental years in the South Island rather than in diverse, multicultural Auckland. It made me strong. There is nothing I regret going through.
I would tell people that we all have different journeys of accepting ourselves. But it is already inside you. Understand who you are and that cultural pride will follow. I know as I occupy this space in Aotearoa; I am not Tangata Whenua, but I am blessed to be here and have these opportunities. When I look in the mirror, I don’t just see myself, I see all my ancestors backing me! I would say: remember how many people are proud you’re occupying this space and living in who you are, no matter where you’re from!
You say “you can steal the sauce but it won’t taste the same”!! It reminds me of Maori oral history and how ‘you can steal land, but the food it provides for you will be rotten’. What made you identify so strongly with Maori culture?
There is such an overlap between my own culture and Maori culture in the way we express it – through song, dance and community. I was in the kapa haka group in high school, my first friends here were Maori. Colonial history makes me angry; people who think any different are frustrating because for me the foundations of NZ will always be Maori. I was welcomed into this space through Maori culture and learning about the history was something I identified with strongly and felt passionate about. I carry it with me, in my music and my life.
How do you feel about the state of the music industry in Auckland? The monetary and political challenges?
What is really cool about the NZ music scene is that the industry is supportive of up-and-coming artists. They want to see you doing well, they love talent and they want good music coming out of Auckland. There are opportunities and funding schemes for POC and indigenous artists but unfortunately lots of people don’t know how to access them and maybe they’re not properly publicised. How viable is music as a long term thing? You don’t know till you try! I remember sitting down and thinking: one gig paying $200 can be rent. Spotify streams are rent! I may not be super rich but I’ve always known I wanted my life to be exciting! I never saw myself with a 9-5, kids and a mortgage. That hurts my soul. It makes me happy because I remember being a confused, worried uni student who desperately wanted all the things I have now!
How the hell did you balance a crim degree with rapping, writing and creative production?
I didn’t! Look, I got my degree but if we roll out my grades they are not all A’s! Fuck the timeline! I’m gonna come back to uni when I’m 50 and get another bunch of degrees. I loved learning here even though my degree isn’t what I’m choosing to do with my life right now. Never look at someone else’s journey and feel intimidated!
Tell me about your writing process:
I see people I love, or things I love in people and it looks really rude when mid-conversation, I’m pulling out my phone, ignoring them and typing away! Sometimes though, I just step into the studio with Abrahim Coonin (my day one producer, who has always believed in me). He lays down a beat and I lay out what I’m feeling in the moment. I’m proud of the songs that I put a lot of work and time into, but it’s often the songs that we came up with on the spot, feeding off the energy in the studio that are the most joyous, the most infectious!
Dream blunt rotation (the question Juju thought about the longest)
First of all: LEGALISE WEED!! I want Queen Nicki there, Tyler the Creator, my manager Helena Bakker (though she would green out), you (I was fishing for it), Rico Nasty, Jacinda Ardern and Style Benda! Ooh and Post Malone! And Lil Uzi!!
Tell me all your hot takes (aka your controversial opinions)
-We should have changed the flag! We already spent all that money on it!
-Women in the industry have to work ten times harder than men. Imagine if I showed up on stage in sweatpants, no hair, makeup or choreo? It would not fly!
-We have tall poppy syndrome in Aotearoa. We adopt American culture too much. It’s rare people in NZ make it big in the industry and when they do, we should get arrogant with it! We should be allowed to feel proud of our country’s achievements, of our own achievements!
-Before my first big arena show with like 12000 people, I was so nervous, I looked into the mirror and asked myself what would Kanye do? Then I walked out like ‘You’re all lucky to see ME!’. I think sometimes, we should ask ourselves: WWKD?
Juju has a weakness for rewatching The Princess Diaries. Her incredible skin is achieved (annoyingly) through nothing but shitty 3-in-1 body wash. Several times throughout the interview she spoke of how grateful she is for her producer, manager and the entire village behind her artistry. Her light and energy made the lowly Craccum office seem a lot less humble, and I look forward to being arrogant asf when she inevitably lights up the charts: worldwide!