The Journey Continues...
He is born an old soul.
He arrives slick behind the ears with wisdom as ancient as the moon, as invisible as air.
An almond butter-brown baby, he learns to walk beneath the Tennessee sun. Even then he knows he is a sojourner.
Truth finds him before he can tie his own shoes.
It descends smooth as sunlight, and whispers in beams of warm confidence: You are not of this world. You are here on a mission. To remind folk of their Godselves.
And even though he cannot yet spell God, he deciphers the Divine with curiosity. He has no fear.
He is a 4-year-old swinging a stick near his Granddaddy’s garden when he shares his suspicions.
“Granddaddy,” he says, standing beside cornstalks, watermelon and turnip greens, “do you think there is a place just like this, with people just like us, on another planet?”
Grandaddy gives no answer. No judgement either. Just gazes at his grandson with pleasure. And the grandson gazes right back with compassion dressed in fresh respect.
It is so obvious, even the child calls it: Granddaddy is not just a man, not just a gardner or silver-crowned patriarch; he is divinity on two legs. Just like the little boy.
And so the journey begins and continues.
The boy becomes a man. No longer James but “Just-One.” No longer swinging sticks but swinging lyrics.
He is, instead, a meditative manchild wired to be independent and introspective.
Contemplation keeps his mind humming. Why doesn’t anyone understand my language?
Why don’t I belong here?
Why do folk want to confine me? Define me? Suppress my me-ness and demand I fold my wings?
His family - those made kin by biology and chemistry - know Just-One is from somewhere. Out. There.
The kind that transcend rhythm and rest in that place between hip-hop and SoulSpeak.
His roots rest in a family who cradle his specialness - his otherworldly-ness - with wide fingers and open hands.
They see purpose in his glassy-eyed daydreamer ways; they trust his silent speech.
They ditch schoolhouse labels of mischief-maker.
He is not unfocused, but focused elsewhere.
And his Kindred Spirits know it.
He is a StarSeed sent to deliver messages from the Divine with music.
His people believe as he believes:
He is a being from beyond; a lyricist on loan.
Forty revolutions around the sun and he deems himself an an extroverted introvert, a visitor to Earth.
Except...when he is submerged in hip-hop.
Then he is home.
Music floods his mind with lyrics so swift he cannot wait for the luxury of paper and pen. Instead he stashes the rhymes in memory chambers in his mind and retrieves them on stage. Or in the studio.
With sealed eyes & parted lips, words emerge like caged birds frantic for flight.
Forty revolutions around the sun and he is an inside outsider, a dweller of margins and shadow spaces.
Except...when life politics become poetry. And his feet land on stage.
Gripping the mic in his fist, he separates from time.
He is a 7-year-old King Tut body-popping at a talent show.
He is an indie actor transforming lines into legacy.
He is a teen-aged MC spitting rhymes so cold, even deaf kids dance.
He is 100-proof adrenaline, electric & lethal. He is home.
And content with his divine assignment: To share truth as he feels it. To write truth as he learns it. To live truth as he becomes it.
With a slow, side smile he remembers the first time music says his name.
1982: A summons shouts from a boom box, a black one with shoulder straps and about 500 batteries tucked in its backside.
Elders call it noise; Just-One hears a personal invitation from Afrika Bambaataa to join Planet Rock:
Party People, can y’all get funky?
Just-One stands still as ice. Hypnosis freezes his feet.
Breakdancing, pop-locking, body-rocking, 1980s-style swag, bring him back in motion.
And just like that - faster than a headspin - he finds his gift: to use hip-hop to guide listeners toward their own soul zone - the place where they understand greatness is given in the womb; it is as natural as breathing.
His hands spin around his speech like propellers. His fingers snap and point. His torso swings to and fro, blissed out on hip-hop history.
1986: Rakim flows fierce from his stereo. All words vanish from the cassette, smudged away by an 8-year-old’s eager fingers.
1993: Just-One takes the stage at Tennessee State University, his alma mater.
He races and leaps across a pit of air.
He lands on his feet, hyped-up and breathing heavy.
His recipe for joy is seen & known: He is best when bounding skyward, like a star, fluid and free.
1996: Deep in his own flow, Just-One spits “The Question for the Wise.” What’s wrong with everything being all right?
What if reality - the highs & the lows - is perfectly divine by design?
The query - and the answer - amp his ambition.
I am here to raise vibrations, he says.
To help us be who already are: whole and holy. Everything, and everyone, is already all right.
TODAY HE IS “BABA” TO A GIRL AND BOY.
NOW HE SHAPE-SHIFTS FROM FATHER TO STUDENT; FROM CREATOR TO OBSERVER.
HIS SEEDS ARE HIS TEACHERS.
THEIR NATURAL, UNTAINTED, SELF-ACCEPTANCE THRILL HIM.
THIS BALD MC - DAILY DRESSED IN DENIM AND TS, IN KICKS AND TUBE SOCKS - DELIGHTS IN HIS CHILDREN’S INSTINCT TO BE AUTHENTIC NON-CONFORMISTS.
CHILDREN, HE MARVELS, CAN BE BORN INTO BLISS.
THEY SEE NO SEPARATION. GOD IS NOT OUTSIDE BUT INSIDE THEM. THEY DO NOT STRUGGLE WITH THIS TRUTH.
HE SENSES THEY ARE STAR SEEDS, TOO. JUST LIKE BABA.
THEY ARE HERE, HE IMAGINES, TO HELP HIM FEEL THE RHYTHM IN THE EVERYDAY ACT OF LOVE. HERE AND BEYOND.
HE IS BORN AN OLD SOUL. A TRUTH-TELLER. A MUSICMAKER. AN ANCIENT ONE.
A STAR SEED.
Just-One’s new album Onyx Star is an epic evolution far beyond his first two albums. This third installment is guaranteed to stimulate its listeners into a state of utopia with a next level way of thinking and being. This album is one of a kind, it is politically conscious and socially motivating, simply put it does what hip hop is supposed to do.
Since the first release, Just-One has taken on an acting career along with his music career. With lead roles in independent films like "The Cross Bone Click," a Science fiction film, and "Keyed," a black erotica. He also has a wealth of experience in voice over’s. He has be included in a variety of commercials, from the "Opal Car Company" in Europe to McDonald’s commercials nationally.
Just One also uses his creative skills to help build communities locally and internationally. In 2010 his song “Freedom Mind” was a part of the “Change the Music” Forward Movement a compilation in conjunction with the United States Social Forum (U.S.S.F) Forward Movement is a collaboration of multicultural artist and activist who work every day to make the world a better place. Just-One has also played a huge role in the "Inner City Music Program" in Nashville, TN. This movement is geared to educate inner city youth learn songwriting, audio engineering, mixing, and mastering. As a father, Just-One understands the importance of providing our youth with better education, so that they can make a better future.
If you are a free spirited star gazer that loves music that feeds the soul and makes you feel good, grab a seat on this starship and enjoy this fantastic voyage with JUST-ONE!
Photographer: Jeffrey Bryan