Last month (May 2), Queens, NY rapper and actor Julian Stephen released his debut album Restart Continue.
The 9-track EP also serves as the soundtrack to his web series Appropriate Culture. Stephen, 27, credits classic television shows such as; The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Martin as the inspiration behind the development of his web series. “I wanted to develop a show to bring artists together, [to] tell relevant stories we don’t see in most shows,” Stephen explains. “The series has been a concept of mine for years tbh, it’s something I know the industry needs. I want people to learn it’s possible and just to do it.”
Restart Continue is a “blend of rap/R&B melodies” and features his leading single “When I’m Lonely“. Stephen calls the song an “eye-opener” for him, revealing that the track helped him see himself as “more than a rapper”. Aside from being a talented musician and actor, Stephen engineered the vocals on his album completely by himself. “This album was recorded in my bedroom, I engineered all the vocals alone,” He started. Everything was mixed and mastered via email.” Proving that anything is possible.
When it comes to his process of writing, Stephen can’t differentiate the creation between his web series and music. “My [writing] process is endless, from scribbled words to sketches. I’ll write a lot and then [I will] start picking at it, taking out words, I’m surgical. I’m OCD with words and fonts but still don’t know the difference between ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’ sometimes.” Admitting that there’s never a moment when he isn’t writing, Stephen considers music as “more subjective” while the production process “is objective”. But he looks to find a balance while navigating through his brain and time.
Appreciating the “conversationalist take” of Drake and Kanye West, Stephen credits Jay-z, Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar and more, as his musical influences. Growing up listening to a majority of Hip-hop and 90’s R&B, Stephen names “Illmatic” (Nas), “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” (Lauryn Hill), “College Dropout” (Kanye West) as some of his favorite childhood albums. “I love pop and rock melodies especially, I’m a BIG fan of whats going on today with [lil] Uzi, Trippie [Redd], Thugger. I love Kendrick’s and Andre 3000’s flows, and Nas and J. Cole’s vivid storytelling.” Stephen calls the current state of Hip-hop a “beautiful space” and a reminder that artists can do whatever they want with “no limits and no rules.”
Like many other musicians, Stephen has goals of working with other musicians and producers, however, it’s the type of musician that draws his attention and not who. “I want to work with someone just as committed as me,” he started. “[someone] that appreciates and understands sound, so I can really flex in terms of just layering quality vocals and create something musical.”
Whether it’s his heartfelt music that draws you in or his comedic perception of living in a gentrified NYC with Appropriate Culture, the multi-talented Stephen is prepared to make a change in today’s culture. “It’s a great time to be a star and just overall entertainer.”