Mario Judah leads the charge into a new era of hip hop and metal

It's a belief that seems to cross all divides, a sentiment that resonates with almost everyone universally. Among the handful of core tenets that just about everyone can agree with is the notion that there are a certain few people that are just destined to do what they do.

Jordan was built to ball. Rhoads was built to shred. Musk was built to innovate. The extraordinary ability of certain people seems to suggest that their role, their existence, their arrival, is a matter of circumstance and time - it would eventually happen because it was destined to.

While his name hasn't permeated into the lexicon of pop culture the way the previously mentioned names have, Mario Judah's has managed to strike a chord with a legion of followers that are on the ground floor of watching a rising superstar grow into his true potential.

Just a year ago, Judah was a producer that had hit a professional brick wall. Trying to invest his energy in artists that didn't see his vision, working to establish his footing in a supporting role, Judah was all out of options as the people around him, just weren't willing to take up the march the same way he was. Frustrated, albeit focused, Judah picked up a pen.

Instead of making music for other artists and giving them the tools they needed, Judah took up his own flag and began the march. Having never recorded as an artist prior, the move into new terrain was the result of circumstance that included failed collaborators and an unprecedented pandemic that would ultimately force his hand. Considering the outcome however, Judah's artistic arrival was obviously only a matter of time.

The viral sensation of "Die Very Rough," only the second track Judah had ever dropped as an artist, has amassed more than 21 million views since dropping in October of 2020. Subsequent tracks like Playboi Carti-nod in "Bih Yah," have racked up more than 8 million views, proving, his fury is no fluke. All this from an artist that wasn't just a year ago.

A potent meld of hip hop bravado with rock music's energy, Judah's multi-genre embrace is not just limited to the esthetic, it's at his very core. Powered by a musical pedigree that ranges from Pantera to Young Thug, Judah's emphatic vocal delivery and hammering low end brand of heavy hip hop has penetrated the consciousness of both worlds - hip hop fans love him and rock fans want to know about him.

More than the red hair, the edgy imagery, and his larger than life personality, Judah's authenticity in both spaces is at least in part, what has propelled him into stardom. Cultivating something real, rather than usurping an identity is part of his allure, that when coupled with his obvious talent, suggests that he, is one of those people that is just destined.

The emerging creative force discussed his last year on the planet and how well he seems to wearing his success.

Mario Judah by KATAI

How much of a rollercoaster ride has this last year been?

Laughs. Bro, it isn’t even a rollercoaster ride it’s a fucking rocket launch ride into space. On some NASA shit. I’m just blessed.

Over 20mil views. What was it like watching ‘Die Very Rough’ become the juggernaut it became?

Here is how it all happened, how it all blew up. The audio itself, I dropped June 19th of 2020. That was only the second song I dropped, ever as an artist. A few months later, September 24th, that was when I dropped the music video for it. That was my first music video that I ever recorded, ever shot. It was posted on September 24th and you know, it was gaining some traction. I was doing a lot of promo, reaching out to pages.

October 4th, I woke up and it had some thing like 8k, 10k (views) on Youtube, if that. It could’ve been 5k. But, I look on Twitter, and I didn’t even have a real Twitter that I was using at the time. I just went on there randomly and saw that a fan, a random fan, literally someone who had like a thousand followers, like nobody big or nothing like that, they posted a clip of the video. Like, ‘Yo this guy is going crazy!’ So this tweet that just got posted hours ago, had like 70,000 views. So I am looking at this shit like, ‘What the fuck?! This is more than the video itself. What the fuck is going on?’ As the day goes by, 500,000k views. Now, I’m just tripping at this point. Third day, 2 million. Fourth day, 4 million. It was just going stupid on Twitter. Everyone was just going crazy. From Twitter, it transitioned over to TikTok and it was pretty much over after that. Once TikTok gets your shit, it’s wraps.

You’ve talked about how ‘Die Very Rough’ was a hook you had written initially with the intention of selling it to another artist. Is it funny to think about that now?

Laughs. It’s insane bro. I started off as a producer. Then I started writing hooks to try and find different opportunities, different ways to get in. Then it became a thing where people were like, ‘Nah, fuck that, YOU gotta drop these.’ The day before I dropped the audio, I put a verse on it and just put it out. It didn’t blow up until months later ‘cause I made the video for it but it’s crazy to know how all this came to fruition. For years bro, never wanted, never even sought out to be an artist or whatever. I just wanted to be a producer. That was my passion. And it still is production. But now, I fucking love both sides now. I love being able to make records, make the beat for it and go all in. It’s amazing now.

You have this incredible knack for capturing people’s attention. Do you find it strange that you started out in such a behind-the-scenes role as a producer?

Crazy right? I think what it is bro, 'cause I’ve been making music for four years now right? I was so intrigued by the music and the production when I first started. I was also studying social media and the internet. I would really study it. I would look at interviews. If there was beef was going on or drama, I would assess it and be like, ‘this person should’ve said this’ you know, I would just study that. I would study virality and all this. It came to a point, probably about three years into me making beats, I tried to manage an artist to help them. They didn’t wanna take my advice. I always knew the path, the way to do it, you know but everyone always thinks they know it all. Those were people I had to separate myself from because they just weren’t trying to work in a team fashion. So one day I just ended up doing it on my own, and used all the knowledge that I acquired throughout the years and here we are now. It was a blessing.

Mario Judah by KATAI

Do you feel there was a major revelation in discovering your true potential on June 19th, 2020?

That’s insane bro because before that I wasn’t singing or even recording. So to pop out months into it and I’m already hitting these notes and finding this range, like, I don’t know man. It’s is definitely a God-given gift that I have that I am very appreciative of. Most if came from just being down and emotional and depressed bro. Just wanting to figure out a way. During that time, I was listen to a lot, like A LOT of heavy metal, of all sorts. That kind of gave me the strength and the power. I needed something. A regular rap song wasn’t going to do it for me. I needed to listen to something with some pain, you know what I’m saying. You can hear it in their voice and for me that’s what heavy metal and rock music was for me.

I was in a place where I was just like, “Fuck it bro, might as well. I’m already down this path. Fuck it.’

Pantera. Chief Keef. Thugger. Breaking Benjamin. Lots of rappers are embracing a rock esthetic but for you this is a very real balance. Did you try suppressing that initially?

I didn’t really realize it was rock. I didn’t realize that I was doing that. I looked at it as, this is how my voice sounds. I look at it as like, high energy. When I was a producer working with atists, I would always stress, raise your voice. Let the listener believe you. If you are going to talk about shooting guns or whatever, don’t just be like, (mumbles), no one is going to believe that. If you are going to say it, say it with some power. The power is derived from having a lot of rock influence and that is what it was. I really didn’t realize that until June 19th and people online were freaking comparing me to Five Finger Death Punch. It was like, ‘Damn, this is really what it is. I guess I really am doing it like that, cool. I am already into it, this is what I am into. This is what it is. I am a rockstar now.'

Where is the creative common ground between rock and hip hop? What do you find is the common denominator in what you do that resonates with hip hop fans and piques the curiosity of rock fans?

I really am into hip hop, rock, and metal so much that it just creates something that is real and balanced. It would be different if someone was kinda into it or either or and it wasn’t really all there and you would see the fall out and the ‘not sure’ in what it is that they want to portray or put out or whatever. But with me, it’s like, nah, I really am into these. This is how I feel about both. Both seem to come out of me at the same time. This is why it looks like this and this is why it appeals to both crowds. It’s something unique and organic because it’s real.

There have been different eras of rock that were considered dangerous, rebellious. Do you feel like the modern era of hip hop taps into that?

When it comes to rock music and metal, all of that, those guys are talented bro. With the riffs and the drums going on and being able to perform, and the frontman, that is some serious shit. With rappers, it’s a bit simpler. Nothing taken away from them but its simpler rather than having to perform with a band and be on pace and being on point. One fuck up, fucks up the entire show. Then, just the sound, screaming your voice for that long, being melodic, being able to sing… either way, I’m into both and I love both. I appreciate every demographic that is into either or, or even both like I am. I just know that what I am into and what I am cultivating right now is me.

And I feel like what I am doing right now is so shocking because its like, ‘Damn, this black guy who sounds white and he’s doing this…’ And that is another thing I don’t really understand about modern times is people try to put a color on top of something. Like, music is music. Music is here for people to enjoy and use, to strengthen them and motivate them. And that is why I am also here, to just stamp that. Be what it is that you are into. Don’t let the kids at school tell you that you are this and you have to be into this because of the way you look. I just feel like that’s not fair. Music is out there for anybody to enjoy.

We’re dancing around it but for whatever reason, high hop is still considered black and rock music is considered white. Do you feel like that is a dated way of thinking and do you take any stock in knowing you are one of the guys that is breaking down those walls?

Fuck yeah. Just to put it down in the ground, it doesn’t matter the ethnicity, the size, the look, the hair color, whatever it is that you into, be about it. And be strong about it. I feel like in today’s time, there is a lot of people, if not the majority who have the mentality of ‘fuck everybody I am what I am into. But for some reason when it comes to rock music and metal, they’re just not vocal about it. I’m not sure why. But, that is why I am here. To let that be known, you can listen to this, this is for everyone.

Do you find any irony in having the best year of your professional life during what was one of the weirdest years in modern history?

Laughs. Yo we were just saying that. During a pandemic. Insane bro. I look at it as everything happens for a reason. Maybe all this happened and the universe’s powers that be came down and said ‘look, this guy right here, even though the world is going through what its going through, he is going to be the one to uplift and keep them going and give them that power. ‘Cause like I said before, rock, metal, all of that, there’s power, there’s emotion, there’s real-life energy in the music and the voices and everything about it. I am able to put that out in a hip hop form… put it out in that community to where now they can understand it and possibility go listen to it on their own. It’s like, I’m doing God’s work at that point.