Jusme discusses his Motivations, Health in the Black Community, Confidence, and his Identity as a Spoken Word Artist, Author, and Motivational Speaker.
The Empress Dee: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what it is you do?
Jusme: I consider myself to be a spoken word entertainer. I am an author, poet, writer, motivational speaker…and I guess that the new word to use these days is, influencer. I enjoy reaching the people. I enjoy being able to use the gift that God gave me to inspire others. I am inspired by the people that I inspire.
The Empress Dee: How did you acquire the name, Jusme?
Jusme: I have been writing for years…I mean since I was a kid. The first poem that I remember writing was at the age of six. When I went to college a buddy and I were just sitting around, writing poetry. We used to have little poetry sessions at our apartment, and I said that I needed a name. My friend told me that when it hits you…it hits you. I said to him, but I do not know what to call myself, I’m just me and that was it…I’m Jusme man.
The Empress Dee: Yassss! I love that. It is super authentic and simple. I saw on your website that you would like to bring spoken word to a bigger platform, because people tend to see it through a smaller lens, can you explain a little bit more about that?
Jusme: Spoken word as you know is considered grass roots but, I have met and I have witnessed some talented people…I have seen in the world…in my lifetime at grass roots open mikes and I wanted to find a way to bridge that connection. I have seen it done; it is being done but it is not being done on the level that I think it deserves but it is being done. My community and other communities and other cities that I have seen people do it, people who usually would not go to an open mike night for spoken word or poetry because they do not understand it. People are starting to bring When I invite people out for the first time to one of my events…they think that we are supposed to “snap” or are we going to have bookbags and burn incents, and it is not like that. It is not like that; you are about to have a good ass time…we about to get lit! I am telling you it is…I want that same energy…that energy when your favorite singer or rapper comes on the stage, is the same energy that I want right now. Anytime that I host an event, I do my best to display that energy when I am hosting. I do all that I can to bridge that gap and smash that stereotype of what people think poetry is all about. I want to show people what we are about.
When you listen to these artists, people are like man, if that was a beat, that would be a hot ass rap song. I have seen some of the best entertainers be able to do something with words that can move people with just themselves and a microphone. That is different! It takes a special being to be able to do that. That is different; to be able to have a microphone and yourself and people who are all ears and just move them. You can turn on a hot beat right now and I’m going to move, I do not care what you are talking about, the beat is (he bobs his head) but, if you lose me once you take that beat away, then something is missing. Something is missing in your message. If I move you with a message, I believe that anyone who can do that deserves a platform. I believe that spoken word artist will be millionaires soon.
The Empress Dee: I see that you host Poetry nights at Nipsey’s in Marilyn.
Jusme: We are not going to call it Poetry night, it is called, “The Poetry Experience with Jusme” because it is a whole brand. When I first started doing it…hosting that event, I told myself that I was not going to host any more open mikes. I was done with it. I have been hosting open mikes for…the first open mike night that I hosted was in 2006, so I was done with that and I needed something different. I wanted to do something that would grow the platform, grow the brand. So, I was not going to host open mikes anymore and the opportunity fell in my lap and I said you know what, sometimes God has a plan for you and you do not need to fight against that. There is a reason that this connected the way that it did. It fell into my lap and it is a beautiful thing.
As soon as the pandemic is over, we are going to get it started again. We are going to call it. “The Poetry Experience with Jusme” because I do not know if it will be at Nipsey’s.
The Empress Dee: It’s funny because while you were talking, people were posting positive comments about the events that you host. So, you have some fans out there. Was it difficult for you to connect with the audience or was it something that came naturally?
Jusme: It came naturally. To be honest, I am shy… I am an introvert. Like, even right now, the light is in my face (laughs). I am a shy, quiet person and when I get on stage and people meet me for the first time on stage doing what I do, they will say things like, omg, you are so lively and I will say to them, honestly, that is not my personality. Then the see me off the stage and they will say, wow, that is different. Jusme is a whole other dude.
The Empress Dee: So, you have an alter ego?
Jusme: Yes, and it is crazy because that is the name of my second book, “My Alter Ego Jusme.”
The Empress Dee: Wow, I love it!
Jusme: To answer your question, it came naturally, and it was something that I enjoyed and love…love to do. To be able to connect with the people and being able to inspire and motivate people and to be able to bring out different emotions; just to know that everyone is going through something, I cannot wait to get back in front of the people; knowing that we have made it through this pandemic and realizing that people lost their loved ones and just being able to make people smile and have a good time, that is a big deal. We do not give that enough credit. I do not care what your audience is, I do not care if it is one or one million, if you are able to do that for somebody, you cannot take anything away from that.
The Empress Dee: I feel you on that. When do you know that you that you had this potential and ability?
Jusme: The first time that I performed.
The Empress Dee: Where were you?
Jusme: I was young. I was doing talent shows in middle school. I always wanted to be an actor…I am not going to say wanted to be, I will be an actor. That was always my childhood dream for whatever the reason, I just loved that art form. I fell in love with writing and I never thought that with me being a shy person, that my writing was good enough. Even to this day, I do not believe that I am as brilliant a writer as some of the things that I have heard. I do not give myself, I will be like, nah… I am not that good, but I do try to bring something to the table and then somebody else will be like, what are you crazy, do you see what you just wrote? Really? You think that it was good? So, I am not writing for a response, I am writing from my experience, from what I feel. I am writing about the experiences that I have seen other people go through. I am writing from emotions and not with the thought of what people are going to think about it.
The Empress Dee: You sound passionate about what you do; not looking for recognition because a lot of people tend to do that and if they do not get the response that they thought that they would get, I guess that it is a big letdown. So, who are some of the people that inspired and influenced you during this process?
Jusme: Lamont Carey, dope artist man; his story…I remember everything about him. What is crazy is that I was coming home from college and he was coming home from prison. He was on Def Poetry Jam. He was doing a lot when he got out of prison and we connected on the open mike circuit and I just took to him. He was like a mentor and I was his mentee. So, my first book I wrote, I was straight out of college was called, “Straight to the Point.” It was a self-published book and he put me on a radio show; something like this but there was no IG at the time, he destroyed the book. He was like, what is this? I mean he destroyed it. He said that he did not feel the connection and when he did that, I told him that I will love you for the rest of my life. To this day, he is my mentor, that right there inspired me. It did not discourage me; it burned the fire in me that made me realize that I had to dig deeper. One Wise African, spoken word artist; one of the best I have ever seen do it. Check out his work on YouTube. He had a poem and I wish that I could hear him do it right now. In these times that we are living in, he would say,” Can’t nobody do it like we do it when we do what we do.” Look up One Wise African and look up some of his work; he has a poem called, “The Beast Inside So, those are the two artists that inspired me but on the business side, I give credit to Kevin Hicks, his art gallery is where I think that I found myself as a host; where I found my personality as a host. I was always able to go into a character when I was performing but I did not have that same energy when I was hosting. I found myself with Kevin Hicks. He showed me the business, I mean he really SHOWED me the business. So, those 3 people right there…there are more people but those three are SOLID!
The Empress Dee: How important would you say that confidence is in your work?
Jusme: You need confidence. You are standing in front of a lot of people by yourself with nothing but a microphone…confidence, you need that. If you do not have that then you are not going to keep up on stage. Excuse my language but the “shit ain’t easy.” It might seem easy, but it is not. It does not matter if it is one person or two…it is not easy, to get up there on stage and make yourself vulnerable in front of people, I promise you, it is not easy.
The Empress Dee: You spoke about having confidence, did you ever have to practice the “fake it, to make it” method?
Jusme: I do not believe in that. To be honest, I thought that you had to do that, but that was short-lived. I decided that I was not going to do that because it is not even me. I told someone the other day, it is a hard reality for me to accept, but I would probably never live to see the fruits of my labor, but my work is not for that. If I am setting a platform, if I am paving the way…for this “thing” to go to the next level, if I am doing my part…I am cool with that. Because I am not going to conform. I will not sell my soul…I am not going to do it! So, I may never see it because as soon as you ask me to do something that is not me…I am not doing it!
I will walk away, I have a job and I will stay there and I will ride this thing out and I will continue to motivate others until we knock “that wall” down so that we do not have to put on a dress to be in a movie…where we do not have to demean ourselves or tear down our people or tear down our women; until we can make songs where we are calling our women Queens and not bitches! I believe in that and I will stick to my guns. I will not do it unless it is something that is positive.
The Empress Dee: I appreciate you for being “ten toes down” about that. Unfortunately, we do see that there are a lot of people who will comprise themselves in order to become a celebrity, so I appreciate that.
Jusme: I will be authentic and keep it real. I know people in the business that I have relationships with who are doing that! If they think that I do not see it, I see it! You are doing that! If they see this live and it hits them a certain way…then I am talking to you because you are doing that!
The Empress Dee: Do you ever have these conversations with them?
Jusme: I try to. But I try not to be too direct and I am more subtle about things. I do not want to be too invasive because I love them. But if I see that it gets to a point where it is getting out of hand, I am going to say something. If I did not care then I would just let it go, but I have seen so many people crash and burn because they were doing that. Stop what you are doing right now! (he displays the mug that he is drinking from with his name on it)
The Empress Dee: Yes! I see that people are commenting. Everyone is riding for you!
Jusme: I love my city and no matter where I go, this will always be home…ya feel me? Nobody can make it doing anything in this life alone. If you think that you can then you are lying to yourself. You cannot do anything by yourself. You can have a heavy couch…go ahead and try to move it by yourself. You cannot do it; you need somebody to help you.
The Empress Dee: I have done a few interviews now and this the most support that I have seen (referring to the people commenting on the IG live). This is amazing and it is beautiful. What inspired your poetry?
Jusme: Life. Relationships that I have experienced, that I have been in…mistakes that I have made, mistakes that they have made, mistakes that I have seen other people make. Whatever feeling or mood that I am in at that time and it hits me to write then I will write about it. I have poems that I have written, and I will never share them. I will not say that I will never share them, I am not prepared to share them.
The Empress Dee: Do you feel too vulnerable to share them?
Jusme: I want it to come off right and I want it to…because you see when I perform, I do not read off a paper, I have to become that poem. So, when I write a poem, I write and then I memorize it. Once I memorize it then I have to become one with that poem. When I say become one… I mean when you see me perform this, I want you to feel like, yo…he is taking me to a place right now. I can memorize something and then I could “spit” it to you and you might be like, oh that was nice. But if I become that poem…it would be like, damn, I really felt that shit. So, that is what I try to do, that is my process anyway.
The Empress Dee: Evoking emotion, that what makes a great spoken word artist. When you can make a person feel the emotion of something that you have experienced, that is awesome. Do you have any upcoming projects that we should be looking out for?
Jusme: There will be a Podcast called, “Jus Talk.” We will start it on IG live before we start pre-recording. So, we will introduce it on live and we will be talking about different issues. The first episode we will be talking about fitness because I believe that it is an important topic in our community…the Black community. We need to address that shit! We need to address it… I had 2 people die within 6 months of each for issues that were related to their weight. One of them had a heart attack and the other have the Coronavirus. He was high risk because of his health issues. We need to address it because it is extremely important. I love my women thick, but I do not want you to die! I am not going to promote that unhealthy shit just because I like the way that you look in those jeans. To the fellas out there we too have to start eating right. We have to leave that fast food alone and get in this kitchen. So, what I am going to do, I have 2 buddies that will be on the Podcast…on this segment with me, I used to play football. Let me ask you a question, what position do you think that I played in football?
The Empress Dee: That is a tough one for me because I am more of a basketball fan.
Jusme: Alright then if I played basketball…I am 6’4, what position do you think I would play in basketball?
The Empress Dee: I cannot even tell you. Ok, so let us go with football, probably a wide receiver.
Jusme: I am glad that you said that. So, a wide receiver probably ranges in size from about 175 – 220…ok, I played football and my heaviest weight was 305lbs. Do you see what I am saying? So, when I finished football, I knew that I had to get it together. This is unhealthy! So, I had that journey. I went from 305 to 210 lbs. I changed my lifestyle. I have another body who is a body builder and then another guy who have been fit all his life and into fitness. So, we are going those three people and their life experience together and we will be talking about fitness coming from 3 different aspects. Most people will say, well you have always been in shape or you have always been small. No, we are going to show you how to do this thing.
We are going to show you how to diet, we are going to show you how to prep food; it is easy. People will say that they do not have time…if they say that they do not have time to prep, I am going to say that I do not understand, because when you prep that frees up more time; that is called an excuse the only reason why you are making that excuse is because it is new and it is something that you are not comfortable with. But once I show you and make you comfortable with this, you are going to feel bad when you do not prep. If I do not prep my meals for the week, it’s a problem. I have to prep my food.
The Empress Dee: That is definitely the best way to stay healthy. My last question, we are going through a lot of civil unrest during this time in this country. What words of wisdom can you offer the Black community at this time?
Jusme: It is Juneteenth let us be with our friends and families and celebrate. But tomorrow, let us get back to work. It is not going to one or two, it is going to take ALL of us. We all have to continue to fight. We all have to continue to press the gas because, we are getting somewhere. We are being heard right now in ways…last year I was going around talking about I am celebrating Juneteenth; I do not celebrate the 4th of July. Do you know how many people did not know what Juneteenth was?
The amount of people today who are at my job talking about Juneteenth, we are getting somewhere! They did not give a f**k about it. Now people are posting about it and that is a beautiful. Two years ago, people did not know what it was and now…that is a beautiful thing, that is progress. We cannot allow things like to be water under the bridge because it is not. We are being heard. We are hitting their pockets…we have power. We are important and we brought into this country for a reason because they realized that we were the chosen people and how brilliant we are.
The Empress Dee: Yasssss! Motivate us today! I can see why you are a motivational speaker, I felt…I felt it (laughter). Thank you for making time for us to interview you. We wish you the best of luck!