Grammy-winning production team COBRA adds 18-year-old producer to roster
Somewhere in the small town of Brandon, Mississippi, an 18-year-old freshman at a local community college is making beats with the aid of cheap desktop speakers, Beats headphones and a basic keyboard.
His producing catalog is nothing too substantial. Besides working with a few local artists and a generous sprinkling of unclaimed beats on his Soundcloud, he is most well known for his work with Rapzilla 2016 freshman WxNDER y.
This person is Juice Banger$, the newest addition to COBRA Music Group — Reach Records’ go-to production team and possibly the single most successful and influential production group in all of Christian hip hop.
“When people find out that I am 18, they are like ‘What! You are better than a lot of the older people,’” Juice said. “I’m really just learning right now because I want to be not just like the people that are already up right now — I want to be better.”
Juice makes it very clear that he is not going to let his age get in the way of his goals, something COBRA has embraced in taking on Juice as a team member. Joseph Prielozny, one of the two original members of the group, feels that Juice’s young age serves as a perfect opportunity for mentorship between him and Juice, ensuring the eventual longevity of COBRA as a production standard within Christian hip hop.
“He helps us and hopefully we can help him,” said Prielozny. “There’s no success if there is not a successor. That’s why I love that Juice is so young. I love that his humility is on par. I just hope that he wins at the end of the day, so I am going to try and do as much as I can for him while he is with team COBRA.”
Dirty Rice, the other original member of the highly successful production group, also feels that Juice’s age benefits the group as a whole, presenting unhindered potential from an already talented musician.
“I started producing seriously at 18, and he’s 18 and he is already producing amazing music,” Rice said. “We kind of looked at that and thought, ‘Well, man, wait till he is 22 or 23, he’s going to be unstoppable.’”
Despite his age, Juice has been seriously committed to making beats longer than most. His introduction to producing came at the age of 13, and from somewhat of an embarrassing encounter with his uncle where jealousy of his brother, who got into producing before him, sparked an awkward and inspiring situation.
“One day, me and my brother, we got picked up by our uncle, so we went to his house and he asked, ‘Hey [Juice] you make beats?’ and I said, ‘Yeah! I make beats.’ But, I really didn’t,” said Juice. “My brother went to the other room to make beats, and I just sat in the kitchen with a laptop … For a while I just sat there and thought, ‘How in the world am I going to make a beat. I don’t know what I am doing.’”
Shortly after admitting he lied to his uncle, Juice made the decision to learn the production software FL Studios, a commitment he has taken seriously ever since.
“When I started producing I felt like, ‘Man, this is for me. This is what God has for me. Why should I stop?’ So, I kept going with it.” Juice said.
He picked up the basics of beat making quickly, and started to work with a few local artists to begin his career in production. He stuck with this route for a few years until one day he reached out to Florida-based artist WxNDER y, a connection that would eventually turn into a priceless opportunity.
“I kind of brushed him off [at first] because you get a lot of emails from producers and artists and things like that,” WxNDER said. “Then, I got another email from him … I checked [his beats] out and I was like, ‘Woah! I definitely want to work with him.’”
Soon Juice was recruited to produce most of WxNDER’s self-titled EP. The project made somewhat of a splash within the subgenre and, soon, he started to receive more attention than he bargained for, especially upon the release of the lead single “With You.”
“After [‘With You’] started going, it was booming, everybody was loving it. All of the sudden I get this notification from Twitter saying Joseph Prielozny followed me,” said Juice. “Minutes later he hits me up saying, ‘I love your work, keep doing you, man.’”
Prielozny wasted no time measuring Juice’s skills as a producer. In a matter of five minutes after their initial contact, he gave Juice an assignment to see what he could do.
“It wasn’t really a question. He just said, ‘See what you can do with this ‘Sideways’ track,’” Juice said. “He sent me the instrumental, and I was so happy it took me like 20 minutes to finish … and he loved it.”
A couple months later, COBRA sent Juice the finished version of the remix along with some news that he never expected.
“He was telling me how he and Dirty Rice were talking about me joining the team,” said Juice. “For me to be even mentioned by those two is already great.”
According to Prielozny, he and Dirty Rice had discussed the decision to add Juice to the team for a while, and after seeing his work on the “Sideways” track, they knew it was the right move to make.
“He’s just super easy to work with,” said Prielozny. “He can take a critique and it’s not the end of the world for him, and he is just so talented. His drums are just amazing.”
Juice’s profound talent of placing drums on a track is one of the main reasons COBRA pushed for him to join the team in the first place, something Juice feels is the focal point of any good beat.
“The drums got to be on point. If the drums are not on point, then the song is not on point.” said Juice. “I had to learn that, but that’s pretty much all I care about anymore.”
Prielozny feels that it is this focus that makes all of Juice’s production special, bringing a unique, unpredictable arrangement to each song he works on.
“He just picks the right place to put the right sound,” Prielozny said. “Every musician’s brain thinks alike. You know, you’ll hear a beat and your brain tells you to do this to that. When I hear stuff he does I think, ‘Man, my brain would never do that.’”
With Juice as a new member, COBRA is ready to take on more challenges than ever, expanding their horizons to more than just rap music.
“We are really excited about working with new artists,” said Rice. “We just want to be a part of helping create new artists sounds. And then we also be a part of some film and TV opportunities, just trying to kind of expand what we do.”
As for Juice, he is just glad to be along for the ride, excited to see what opportunities are presented to him in his time with the group.
“I know that God is giving so many opportunities with them right now,” said Juice. “Even as we speak, they are probably working on something for me to murder.”