Oakland-based Hip-Hop artist JusTme, known off-stage as Timothy Earl Scott Jr., inspires kids and adults alike to look internally to manage emotions and cultivate well-being.
Through his original beats and rhymes, he teaches skills such as mindfulness in a way that commands attention. In Spring 2015, JusTme visited the Center for Healthy Minds in Madison to surprise a classroom of fans.
The Center asked him about his background and musical motivations.
Why music and mindfulness?
JusTme: I got into music because my mom is a singer. My dad, he’s always been my hero. I lived with him all my life. He was a corrections officer at the California Medical Facility. I got a cool balance between the two of them. When I was 7, they got a divorce, and my whole world was shaken up. I had anger, frustration, guilt. I started getting into a lot of fights.
So first grade all the way through sixth grade was a real violent time for me. I didn’t have someone tell me to be present with those emotions. But, looking back, I was practicing being mindful. I picked up drawing, and a lot of my drawings were violent, but it helped me displace that energy and function at school.
When I started hearing Hip-Hop, it was the gate for me. But I had the misconception through music that I was supposed to talk about selling drugs and killing people. I remember one day my dad and I were driving and talking about music, and I was asking if all these people who rap about killing kill people for real. He said that most of the guys who talk about it don’t do it and the guys who do it are in prison or dead. He told me, “If you’re gonna be a man of your word, you gotta stand behind it.” So at about 15, I stopped writing about the stuff that I didn’t live, and started writing about what I knew.
"Hip-Hop is such a dominant force, and most of the time it has a negative connotation. We’re healing the misunderstanding of rap and Hip-Hop cultures. We’re giving fundamental things that as a human being, you need – awareness, presence, being in the now."
How did you end up sharing these experiences with youth?
I’ve always wanted to serve with my music. I really just want to help people. It started when I went to the local YMCA and they give me a front desk job.
And at one of the trainings I met this guy, JG Larochette, who is the founder of the Mindful Life Project. He introduced me formally to mindfulness. To me, mindfulness was just common sense: Take a breath when you need to. Be present. But the first time I tried mindfulness, I was bored. But the more and more I kept giving it a shot, the more and more I became peaceful with stillness and a new world opened. I began working with the Mindful Life Project and sharing my music with kids.
How do you envision your work inspiring kids who can relate to you through their own life experiences?
When I started working for the Mindful Life Project, I had to come up with a way to relate to kids. I took beats from songs on the radio and put them with a positive message. My passion is taking this music to people so they have something relatable and culturally relevant.
Hip-Hop is such a dominant force, and most of the time it has a negative connotation. We’re healing the misunderstanding of rap and Hip-Hop cultures. We’re giving fundamental things that as a human being, you need – awareness, presence, being in the now.
I’m a human being. I have flaws, too. But if I can get people to cultivate their own way of expressing themselves, then why not? It’s really cool that the next wave of people could be mindful Hip-Hop artists.
What’s next for you?
What I see for the future is doing my own thing, JusTMindfulness. I want to take this nationwide. I want to pioneer this lane in Hip-Hop.
It’s inspiring because here in Madison, the experience I had with the kids was so surreal because I’m used to my kids out in Richmond. So to have kids who don’t have that personal connection to me be so driven to do good for themselves, and for them to embrace me with so much love… I’m nothing without them.
We wouldn’t be here without each other.