Updated: Jan 13, 2020
Shirley Ju interviews some of the hottest artists in the hip hop industry. The tables have turned and Shirley sat down with us to tell her story. Check her out on Instagram @shirju.
Interview by Meesh @meeshindle.
Where were you born and raised?
Bay Area, California.
How long were you living there before you moved to LA?
I actually went to UCSB for 2 years and then I transferred to UCLA in 2010. Wow I’ve been in LA for 9 years.
What made you want to make the transfer?
UCSB was a party school and I was an alcoholic and I literally was drowning myself in Captain Morgan. I had to get out of there, I was a mess.
You knew this new chapter in your life would realign you and get your head on straight.
Yeah. It’s crazy because when I first came to LA I was super depressed and lonely because I didn’t have any friends and I didn’t know anybody. I had these two horrible roommates that were not friendly. I was just so lost. It took me two to three years to finally feel okay.
LA is not an easy place to adapt to honestly. I know some people it’s a couple months and others it can take years for LA to finally feel like home. A lot of people leave because they can’t handle it. It’s such an interesting city and it can be difficult to find the right crowd.
So you were a math major and went over to philosophy?
Yeah. College was a whirlwind of highs and lows. I thought about joining a sorority but that was like completely not happening once it came to rushing and all of that. I thought it would be a good option because I didn’t know anybody. Third year everyone has their groups of friends and don’t really want to accept outsiders. I tried to play lacrosse, that was a fail.
What was your transition out of college? What were some of your first jobs?
I was a server for nine years. I literally always worked part time jobs just to pay the bills. Getting into music my first internship was with DJcity and then eventually I started writing for Hot New Hip Hop then HipHopDX. HipHopDX was my first real entrance into the hip hop scene. From the internship I was able to start freelance writing and then I ran their music section but that was my first “I feel like I have a purpose, I feel like I have an identity” so DX was such a big part of my life. It didn’t end so well but that was such a great stepping stone. Not even just the music industry, but my love for music and being able to actually do something with it. A lot of people think it’s wild but I don’t even like writing. I do it because it’s an outlet where I’m able to work with artists and show my passion for music.
Do you see yourself expanding in other areas of music? You could totally do A&R.
Yeah! I want to do A&R. Honestly I’m a little lost. I’m 28 going on 29 and I’m still nowhere near where I want to be. I don’t make enough. I’m in my head a lot too. I struggle with a lot of mental health issues so I’m always constantly down about where I should be at my age and what not. A lot of people look at social media and think “oh she’s so happy, she’s killing it” when it’s quite the opposite in reality.
People don’t understand how much more there is behind it. I can definitely relate. I feel people see my life and think the same. It’s like no, I have my ups and downs. We are so young. I think we have this built into our heads that we have to know what we’re doing in life by a certain age and that’s so false. I’m really hard on myself as well but just remember your head is on straight and you’re goal driven so you’re in the right direction.
I feel like my entire life I haven’t known what I wanted to do. I would even go to career centers and at the end of the day I’m still just like what do I really want to do. There’s so many options I just don’t know.
You’re just trying to make the right decision.
What are some of the perks or the things you love the most about interviewing and the music industry?
Getting to know the artists and building those relationships. There are people that I see and I get so excited just knowing their energy and the things we share in common.
How do you choose your interview questions?
I research everything. One thing I really like is 9 times out of 10 if I’m interviewing the artist it’s because I like their music. I actually listen and hear what they’re saying in the music and ask them about that. I love pulling quotes and being like “what were you going through in that moment?”
I know their fans appreciate that as well when it’s not those basic, surface level interview questions. What are some of the downfalls of the job?
Oh wow, I’ve been through it with work stuff. Butting heads with bosses, bosses taking opportunities away from me. I don’t know. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, artists bail, there’s a lot of things that suck with what I do.
The music industry is definitely not easy. Do you typically reach out when you want to interview someone or do they reach out to you?
I would say it’s 50/50. A lot of my relationships are actually with publicists and managers too.
What is something this past year where you have seen a lot of growth within yourself?
Damn that’s a good question. I think happiness. Like I said I struggle with depression and anxiety so just knowing that happiness is attainable. It really is in your head. A bad thing can happen to you but it’s all about how you are able to accept it and move forward. I’ve had LA on some bullshit. I’ve had my car towed three times, I’ve had my car broken into, but when those things happened to me just being able to accept it and move forward from it and know that God has a purpose in everything he does.
Dwelling on things with negative energy it’s just like what is that really doing for us? It’s hard to think that in the moment when shit goes south but I myself try to be better at that. It’s better for your mind. If you lived in any other city where would you want to live and why?
I would want to live in Atlanta. I heard it's too slow for me but I just love the hip hop music that comes out of there. A lot of my favorite artists come from there and it's just the culture, I appreciate it. I thought about New York before but I think it would be too much and I suck at the subway.
You take the trains out here right?
I don’t, I drive everywhere. Not in a good way, I literally drive everywhere.
Where you feel like you live in a car?
How do you cope with traffic?
Vape pen. Sometimes I literally spark up a joint!
I feel that. LA has some of the worst drivers.
I might be one of those drivers girl!
Dude really? At least you admit to it! Who are you interviewing next?
King Lil G, he’s from LA. Super LA.
Are you excited to interview him?
Yes, I’ve actually met him before! I’m excited to interview him because he’s one of those rappers who is a really strong lyricist that might not actually get the shine he deserves. First off he’s a Mexican rapper, I don’t know if its because that’s just being a minority and it’s hard to be seen but he’s a really dope lyricist and I feel like people in this generation need to gravitate more towards that.
I love that because you are using your platform for what you believe in. You’re like I don’t care if everyone else is talking about this person, I’m choosing the underdog essentially and that’s amazing. What is the next trip you have planned?
Oh my gosh I’m going to Houston.
Houston is so much fun.
I’ve never been!
You are going to love it, it’s so chill. Texas people are rad. Are you going out of the country any time soon?
I’m actually going to Dubai with my family in January. It’s crazy because we planned that like two years in advance and now it’s approaching. Time is absolutely terrifying me how fast it moves.
Alright last question, if you had to guess what route you want to go with your career what would it be?
I mean like you said A&R is something I’ve had my eyes set on, I’ve just never started in a label or have experience in a label and it's hard to get your foot in the door.
I feel like the right companies can put the resume aside and look at the individual and see their potential. Definitely just keep putting it out there that working in A&R is what you want and it’ll happen for you.
Totally. Working with artists is truly something I enjoy and I want to continue doing that.