No matter how many detractors may disagree, the concept of virality simply cannot occur out of the blue. Even with how sudden these occurrences may seem from a spectacle, being a potential candidate to have your image make rounds across the Internet and beyond takes at least some sort of nuance about oneself, or at the very least, the smallest bit of talent, marketability, or relevancy to our current times.
Placing this notion in the realms of our current music landscape today, artists truly have to make themselves known as a wholly unique and unprecedented act if they want to have any chance of blowing up in such a quick and efficient manner — regardless of where their actual talents lie on whatever preconceived scale the grander public dictates. But as rare the following occasion may be, there certainly comes a time where a viral sensation can effectively transcend the idea of being “a flash in the pan” or even simply being fascinating for a moment’s notice and then fading into obscurity once again.
With that being said, the viral rise of Mario Judah is something that extends even beyond what has just been stated. This 21-year-old Georgia-based phenom embodies everything that title represents in itself — as after suddenly seeing his operatic, heavy, and absolutely earth-shaking single “Die Very Rough” skyrocket to prominence off of the back of places like Twitter and Tik Tok, this once-in-a-generation talent is finally seeing his wholly unique presence as a working creative pay off in droves.
Though he has without question capitalized on his newfound fame in these recent weeks, Mario’s upbringing and cohesive background is one built off of a sense of pure and utter passion, creativity, and sheer artistic fortitude in regards to his lifelong craft. He absolutely could not have imagined his rock-centric and hip-hop adjacent sound blowing up in this manner, but this is a status not formed in one day, nor even as far as one year. With the help of his loyal and seemingly “ride-or-die” management company in One Room Media, Mario has slowly fine-tuned and worked towards a moment like this for quite a long period of time — a time in which he fully committed to defining what it means to fully encompass the essence of a modern-day rockstar.
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LL: Bursting onto the wider music landscape as you have, no one quite knows much about your background. What was life like growing up for you?
So I’ll tell you this, I was never really into the whole music thing for a long time in my life. My parents did play some good music – my father really played a lot of rock and classical music especially – but it was just a vibe growing up and that’s it. Growing up, I wanted to be a teacher at one point, a football player at another, like there was a lot of stuff I wanted to be before I started making music.
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LL: What was life like for you as a teenager specifically?
Going into high school, I was getting into a lot of trouble, and a bunch of other stuff was going on like that. Then my pops ended up sending me to a military school, because it was really that bad. So when I finished military school I ended up getting accepted into a college for free, and I went there for welding. I got out of there at like 16 or 17 years old, like I graduated really early.
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LL: At what point in your life did the idea of making music enter your mind?
So as soon as I graduated college, I got introduced to FL Studio, and then it was really off to the races after that. When I made my first beat, it took me like 18 hours, like my pops was asleep, he went to work, and then came back and I was still working on that same beat. Ever since then I got really into production, and things didn’t start happening until way later — June 19 (this year) to be exact because that’s when I dropped “Crush.”
LL: That adds a lot of context to where you are now, knowing that you self-produce almost all of your content. Was exclusively doing production work the only way you were making music for a while leading up to “Crush” and the songs that followed?
For a while, I was just only making beats and trying to network with other artists to get connections and all that, but it was a lot of artists that I was trying to work with… who really just weren’t serious about their careers or was expecting me to make free beats for them and this, that, and the other, and it was really a struggling period for me and just a slap in the face, honestly. Eventually I was told that if I started doing hooks by myself, I could make a lot more money. And I was like, “you know, that’s not a bad idea.”
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LL: Your vocal presence is absolutely one-of-a-kind, and there is no way anyone could dispute that. So knowing that you got into that medium in particular this “late” in your career, how did you come to be comfortable behind the mic?
For the course of my entire producer career, I never wanted to be a (full) artist initially. I always wanted to be in the background with another artist just producing for them, and if that artist blew up, I wouldn’t feel any type of way because I would just be in the back, and that’s what I wanted. But around January of this year when I just started doing hooks and that’s it, people around me started telling me that I needed to put these out on my own. But even then, I wasn’t even doing any “rock sounding” hooks, they just sounded really good and different.
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LL: So you mentioned “Crush” being the first song in your signature style that you came out with, what led up to that track specifically?
It came to a point in time where people were just telling me how amazing my hooks were, and then (the pandemic) hit right around then and I was like “I just gotta put something out… what’s the worst that could happen?” — and I just went ahead and dropped the audio for “Crush” and it was pretty much over from there. I definitely wasn’t where I’m at right now when that song dropped, but people definitely caught on and every song that I’ve dropped since then has gone up just like it.
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LL: Was this around the time you started working with One Room Media?
Oh yeah, that’s an even crazier story on how this came about. They reached out saying “your sound is pretty crazy, how about you come out and shoot a video?” — and my first response was to ask how much they charge. Because as a producer, I always expected to get paid for my work, so when I became an artist I knew I couldn’t expect things to be free. But they said to just come out free of charge, and I just want everyone to know that I appreciate everything they have done for me. One Room Media has changed my life completely, and we’re doing everything together. No one would be saying “where the fuck is Mario Judah” without them, I’m serious! You can’t throw anyone that has been with you since the beginning to the trash, I just don’t believe in that.
LL: Moving into your music itself, you absolutely have one of the most distinct styles to hit the mainstream this year. What kinds of things built up your sound to the unique place it’s in now?
So with rap when I was in my teens, my main inspiration was Chief Keef. His music, his whole energy, everything that he cultivated you know? Like kids with their shirts off in their living room just doing it organically… it really showed that he had to do this however he had to do it, and it just all came to fruition. Offset from Migos is crazy, like his flow and everything is insane. Young Thug too… he’s definitely a rockstar.
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LL: Where does the rock influence play into all of this?
It was bands like Breaking Benjamin, Five Finger Death Punch, and Pantera. Those three right there are my favorites, because you know I like to be melodic, but also like rough at the same time. My father really got me into a lot of that stuff, and he’s a hip-hop head to the core, but growing up he played a lot of heavy music, and even like jazz and soul music too… Earth, Wind, and Fire and all that.
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LL: So in your eyes, what does this diverse music taste and how you work to draw influence from so many different sources say about your artistry now?
I’m just really, really musical all-around. Like my pops told me when I was just a baby – like at 10-months-old – I was able to keep a steady beat on a drum set. It’s just always been inside of me. I mean I’ve been making beats for 3 going on 4 years now, and to create a sound and have the vocals and everything compliment it in such a crazy way… it’s just so crazy to me. And once I became a full artist and starting singing and all that, I instantly fell in love with it. I had myself saying like, “Wow, I can do this? My voice can do that?” — and I just love it now, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
LL: Do you feel as though being so unique in the way that you are is the reason why you’re at the point where you are currently?
Everything about all of this… it is such a big blessing. You never know what the world or the universe is going to throw at you, it’s a crazy thing and I’m just so blessed to be here in this situation. But I really feel like I’m here because it really was unique and it was different. If I had come out trying to sound like someone else, I wouldn’t be anywhere near here at all. But when you have a brand or a sound that sticks out, I can cultivate something and be myself at the same time. It’s like… I got red hair because my favorite color is red. I like hip-hop and I like rock, so I’m mixing it up. I don’t have to fabricate anything or act like anyone else, and it’s just such a blessing.
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LL: The way you’ve come off via your music has certainly sparked a lot of speculation as to how much you pull from these aesthetics and concepts surrounding 2000s rock music and other forms of adjacent media, which again is really just you being you. What has been your response to people identifying these things in their comments?
Oh yeah I love it, I love all of it. With like people talking about WWE — I used to play all of the Smackdown vs. Raw games and all that. I would just sit there listening to “TIME TO PLAY THE GAMEEE” and all that stuff. I’m way into all of that shit so much. Video games, action movies, that stuff too, I got you with the music man, with all the soundtracks for real!
LL: You definitely don’t hide any of your influences in that regard, and I feel as though that plays directly into your status as a self-proclaimed “rockstar.” From your perspective, what does it truly mean to be known as a rockstar?
A rockstar is someone who is themselves, who’s fearless, who is a leader, who is on top of his game, and just doesn’t give a FUCK. But they gotta be a great person too! It doesn’t mean you have to play the guitar or have any tattoos, you just gotta be yourself. That’s what a rockstar is.
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LL: How do you channel that rockstar spirit as you describe it in your own music, and what’s the goal in even going through with it like you do?
For me, I just wanna make great music and inspire people. Do you know how many people tell me that my music helps them so much? You know how amazing that is for me to hear that? I feel like I’ve given people the strength that they need. And also, I make music for people who have been bullied growing up, because I was in the same spot growing up. All the pain in my music is real with that, I’m letting you all know that I’ve been through a lot.
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LL: So you are obviously so appreciative of the lofty heights you’ve reached thus far, but moving forward towards the end of 2020, what’s next for you and One Room Media?
On behalf of One Room Media, we’re gonna really, really active. Music, visuals, skits, all that stuff. Definitely collaborations with people we feel we can work with and have a good business relationship with. If labels want to work with us, they’re really gonna have to come with something. We don’t need any fast money or anything. We’re gonna be patient, but really spot on with the delivery of all of this content. We want to be something like No Jumper meets Lyrical Lemonade with how we go about content. We’re gonna kill ‘em with content.