In August 2015, Joji was celebrating 1 million Youtube subscribers under his moniker, Filthy Frank. This was an iconic moment, as it paved the way for off-kilter satire in the online world. More and more personalities rose from the depths of 4chan message boards, and the cyber comedy space became a melting pot of madness where even the most obscure of ideas were applauded. Filthy Frank changed the course of online content forever. Flash forward to 2018, and Joji’s celebrations have vastly changed. It was a Friday evening, and he was locked in the studio as he reached 1 million Spotify plays of his new single ‘Yeah Right’. This was his first single following his In Tongues EP from last year, and a continuation of his work with the 88rising team, home to artists like Rich Brian, NIKI and Keith Ape.
Joji however, seemed pretty calm for a man achieving these milestones. His calm, polite nature juxtaposed the no holds barred antics of his previous monikers Filthy Frank and Pink Guy to the point where you might not believe this was the viral mind behind the Harlem Shake. He seemed more curious about where I was calling from than he was in finding commercial success. Joji was content in his current state, serving as a testament to his newfound avenue.
We start off discussing his latest track: “Yeah Right is about being with someone that’s way too good for you, but not minding. It explores the vulnerable, sad reality of that sort of situation, and I think it’s something that a lot of men would be afraid to put out there,” he says.
This isn’t the first time Joji has explored themes of sadness and vulnerability throughout his music. In Tongues was a stream of conscious commentary on everything from heartbreak to mental health. It’s a lo-fi, melancholic collection of observations that fuses R&B with elements of modern-day internet rap that saw artists like Yung Lean flourish, and pinpoints Joji’s maturation from his comedic days.
“The songs on In Tongues amplify the vulnerability of people. The songs are based around being completely honest with yourself, and tackle topics that are similar and intervening. The vagueness allows people to interpret their own meanings from the music,” he says.
Joji’s music is purely a reflection of his status as a creative. Opposed to chasing hits or following trends, he locks himself in the studio with nothing but his mind. The messages he conveys are a product of his fly on the wall status, garnering themes from the beats he produces, and the people around him. “You see friends and the people around you go through things and you can gain inspiration. Picking up themes, phrases and messages from people you meet along the way is just what you do as a writer,” Joji says.
While his music is vast and open to interpretation, Joji describes it to me as an “exaggerated caricature of himself that’s inspired by inner turbulence.” This is how you know that Joji, Filthy Frank and Pink Guy are products of the same mind. His evolution has seen him transition from the loud to the lush, but his intentions have always stayed the same. Both outlets have served as therapy for a creative brain, and one had to end for the sake of existence. Filthy Frank had caused throat tissue damage for Joji, leading to him retiring the character. “It wasn’t about me following my dreams as a musician or anything, it was just that I medically couldn’t do it anymore. You always have to keep moving forward, ” he says.
Although the demise of his Youtube career is something that’s out of his hands, there is still a fanbase that longs for his return. Every time Joji reveals a single hint of quirkiness, a cult following will run to the occasion of him “showing that there’s a bit of Filthy Frank left”. It seems as if this past is something that Joji cannot escape, and he’s completely fine with that. “At the end of the day, they lost a character that was iconic to them, and I understand that. It doesn’t affect my current career at all, more so just creates conversation,” he says.
So while Joji’s outlets may have changed, the man will always stay the same. His purpose is to always curate and craft content. His comedic and musical tone may contrast, but they both serve as milestones in the natural evolution of a creative being. With ‘Yeah Right’ continuing his trend of vast, interpretative ballads, as well as a co-headlining slot on 88rising’s ‘Head In The Clouds’ festival, it seems like Joji has found his way of making himself bigger and better than he’s ever been. But in reality, he’s just existing. “I’m just kind of going in any direction, my life is very random at the moment. I just want to try and tackle every corner,” Joji says. “At the end of the day, no matter how I do it, my job is to entertain.”