Up and coming rapper comes home
His lyrics are raw and edgy. The streets of Lenoir, where Justun Lynch grew up, are the inspiration.
Lynch, who goes by J.Ara, records on his own label, CRWNLIFE, but has captured the attention of JayZ’s music label, Roc Nation, Sony Records and Atlantic Records.
“He’s bridged the gap between the old and the new,” said Eric Biddle of Sony Music, who is helping build Lynch’s career. “He is the JayZ of the South.”
Lynch, 30, who now resides and records in Atlanta, is bringing his brand of hip-hop and rap to Lenoir Saturday with a free concert to promote his new mix tape. The event, organized with the help of his brother Jonathan Horton, will also be documented on video.
“This event is important to me,” Lynch said. “The people in Lenoir have responded positively to my music, but there haven’t been a bunch of rappers coming out of here. I want to represent Lenoir in a big way.”
Lynch, son of Kim and Elleareca Lynch, said his family, music and sports got him through the veil of racism, drugs and violence he saw all around him. He played basketball and ran track at Hibriten High School, but his music began at age 8, when he wrote his first rap.
“It was a rap for my church, Mount Pilgrim Baptist,” Lynch said.
His last public performance in Lenoir, on July 2, 2013, also was Mount Pilgrim, but the occasion was much more somber. It was the funeral for his good friend, Raoul “Oolie” Dula, who had been brutally killed two weeks earlier in the Baton community.
“Raoul was like a brother to me,” Lynch said. “As you can see, the roots of my music run deep.”
Lynch wasn’t an angel. He spent more than a year in prison for a 2004 drug conviction. It was there that he decided to try to change the world with his music.
“Everbody in prison was struggling like me, but they wanted the lifestyle of the rapper,” Lynch said. “But when you’re in there, there’s no street life, all you have is yourself. I made up my mind to pursue my music.”
After he got out of prison in 2006, he attended barber school and cut hair for three years, saving enough money to move to Atlanta. He married his wife, Lia, and began laying down some tracks at Headquarters Recording Studio, where he polished his music.
“Justun’s music has evolved over time,” Biddle said. “His new album is a quality body of work. He’s doing very well. Lyrically, he’s destroying the rap scene.”
Lynch vows to never forget his roots and says no matter what his future holds, he wants to leave his mark through his music.
“I’ve sat in million-dollar meetings and met millionaires,” Lynch said. “I have one life. If I died today, am I cool with the legacy I have now? There’s no settling with me.”
WANT TO GO?
The free concert by rapper and Lenoir native Justun Lynch, aka J.Ara, will be at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, 313 Greenhaven Dr. NE, on Saturday from 5-9 p.m.