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Indie Rap Hero Bigg Jus: 'Poor People's Day'

It's not economics for me. The word is what's most important at this point in time -- I exist through this, and I exist through love. And I have fun doing it.

Bigg Jus has been a legend in hip-hop music since the mid-1990s -- just not in the mainstream. He's an "indie" rapper who's made his name in the genre's so-called underground, where artists cultivate a sound that's decidedly anti-commercial.

The latest CD from Bigg Jus, Poor People's Day, sports jagged rhythms and off-beat, politically charged lyrics that almost make the recording destined to dodge prime-time airplay. But Bigg Jus says his art has to come first.

"It's not economics for me," he says. "The word is what's most important at this point in time -- I exist through this, and I exist through love. And I have fun doing it."

Bigg Jus almost literally grew up on the streets of New York City, and that street-level knowledge and rugged and immutable sense of self-determination informs his message. Born Justin Ingleton, he was orphaned at age 4 and raised in an abusive household. Before he was even a teenager, he ran away and lived under bridges and in tunnels, living by his wits.

In the early 1990s, Bigg Jus teamed up with two other New York City-area artists to form the group Company Flow, and their fierce artistic independence made them heroes among hip-hop fans already weary of rap's trend toward commercialism.

For his latest project, Bigg Jus teamed with producer DJ G-Man and took on serious topics like global debt relief and the Iraq War -- unlikely subjects for commercial rappers more preoccupied with material success and good times.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Christopher Johnson
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