Jenius Level is one of the many producers helping shape the sound of not only Toronto, but the industry as a whole. At just 18 years old, Jenius is already a veteran, making beats since he was 8 and getting his first placement with Tory Lanez when he was just 14. Since then, Jenius has gone on to work with artists such as Killy, Don Toliver, Jack Harlow, Travis Scott, and most recently Pop Smoke – co-producing “Bad B**** From Tokyo” with WondaGurl and 808Melo, off Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon.
Jenius is more than a producer, he’s an inspiration. He’s fun, positive, and excited, but also disciplined, focused, and deliberate. He’s one of the hardest working people we know, who makes sure to have fun every step of the way. Almost two years after his conversation with Jodianne Beckford for The Epiphany Project, Jenius spoke with Sidedoor to give us an updated look into his past, present, and future.
Check out the exclusive interview below and be sure to show Jenius some love. Stream “Bad B**** From Tokyo” available everywhere now!
What were your earliest memories of music? What did you listen to growing up?
I’ve always been into music, not necessarily at the creating level, but as far as I can remember, I was listening to reggae – from Sizzla, to Capleton, to Buju to a bunch of different people. All I used to listen to was that back in the day, after my father put me on. It all stemmed from there. As I got older, I started to go outside and listen to the radio more. In about 2010, is when I first started diving into rap music. Before that, it was all reggae. Once I started diving into rap music, I was listening to Mob Deep, Nas, Jay-Z, and Eminem – who had just come out with Recovery around that time as well – so that’s where it really stems from, yknow?
That’s not at all what we expected. That’s like “Boom-Bap” – how did your music get so hard?
Really and truly, if you listen to reggae music, dancehall and those tracks – the bass and the drums are knockin. Always from the get-go I wanted to hear the bass, feel it in my chest you know? Get it knocking and bumpin, so I guess that transferred into me making trap music or whatever genre of music I’m making you know? [It translates into] any song you hear from me.
When Jenius was 12 years old, he decided that creating music was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life, which seems unimaginable to someone like me, who spent 23 years of his life trying to do everything BUT be creative, so we asked him to describe what he was thinking when he decided to share his intentions with his parents.
For me, that time was also a turning point in school. Up until then I was getting straight A’s and A+’s – which is kind of where the “Jenius” stems from you know? Teachers always used to call me that. But there was this turning point where I was like “Yo you know what? I’m not really rocking with school like that”, and I’m not really a big fan of doing something if I’m not applying it you know? This all happened around that same time that I started to notice that my production was becoming “radio ready” and sounded like stuff that people could actually start rapping on, you know? About two years after I made the decision to really start going hard, I made a song with Tory Lanez, and that’s when I was like “Okay, it’s go time,” but I had been producing since I was 8.
We felt inclined to ask him how his family reacted when he told them that he wanted to make a career our of what was just a hobby at the time.
My family has always been super supportive of what I’ve done and what I’m doing, it was just a matter of me proving that I could back up my words, which I was able to do. Any little kid, especially at 12 years old, can go up to their parents and say “Oh, I want to be an astronaut” – they’re gonna hear you out, but they won’t take you seriously until you show them that you can do it. At the time, I couldn’t show them yet, but I still knew I had to prove it to them.
We thought that the confidence that Jenius moves with now might be a new thing, so we asked him if he had ever felt nervous or worried about pursuing his dreams when he was younger.
Honestly, no, because I knew my ability to make music and I knew if I stayed focused, determined, and worked hard, I would get to where I wanted to be. I remember listening to interviews from people like Jay Z and Kanye – looking at those interviews, and seeing what they were saying back in the day about the things I was feeling. They were like “They’re not going to take you seriously, but you are gonna prove your point one day” – just seeing that, I was like “Okay, these people are successful, they’ve done it already, and they’re describing how I feel, so I must be on the right path”, you know?
When I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously, I felt like it was just a “young” thing. People aren’t going to take you seriously, not even just in music, just anything in life, when a kid comes and says whatever to an adult, they’re not going to take it as seriously as when an adult says the same thing. I always knew that in the back of my head that no one was gonna take me seriously, so I also had it in the back of my head that I had to take myself seriously.
How did your first placement come about? How difficult was it to make that happen?
I was working with Portion, a rapper based out of Toronto. Us and a bunch of other people used to go to a studio called Achieve Dreams back in the day; everyday from when I was in Grade 7 to Grade 9, I was going to the studio and making music with those guys. One of the artist that I worked with there named OuttaTown wanted to do a song with Tory Lanez, after he got into the studio or whatever he called me like “Yo, we need you to the come to the studio”.
At first Tory thought I was someone’s younger brother like, “What?! You’re the guy with the beats?”, he was like “Yo, you look like you got the fire”. So I started playing the beats and he was really rocking with them, so then they made the song together and the placement came out (Millions). Shout out OuttaTown and Portion.
What advice would you have for producers trying to get there music out?
Firstly, experience is education. If you go outside and are linking with people, you learn stuff just from being there, going to studios and working with people – and some way, some how, if you believe in that process, you’ll get to where you want to be. That’s why I’m such a big advocate for telling people to go outside, because literally, that’s the best form of learning – about yourself and about others, especially in the production world, but even on a personal level.
Just go outside, be at events and meet people, because people aren’t going to take you seriously if you’re just a person who lives on social media. If you see a person, they’ll understand and respect you, because a lot of people now are stuck behind a keyboard.
Going outside and showing face, that’s the most important thing. I’m not gonna say I wasn’t nervous when I first got into a studio session, but I went to it, and I overcame that fear and that nervousness. Now I don’t have any of that at all. I’ve seen every different type of situation that can occur in a studio, or in any situation for that matter, cause I’ve really been out here, from time you know? It’s important to overcome a lot of the fears and nervousness that come with just going out.
Where would you recommend people start?
At first, I was just going to the studio, focusing on being the best producer I could be in the studio. Once me and my Pops, as a collective, really started getting our names out there, we started going to events, album release parties, concerts backstage, festivals, and all that, meeting these new people. It comes with progression, you know? You’ll know when its time for you to go to all those places.
I started out in the studio, but you can start in all kind of places. I know people that were going to clubs and stuff before they even started producing; they already had their name out there and then people were like “Oh say word you make beats now”, you know? It’s different for everybody, but find your place.
Even though Jenius is only 18, he’s already become a veteran, being around music and studio spaces for almost 10 years. So we asked him about the difference between then and now.
I was really raised on this. I been doing this. Traveling to Atlanta when I was 15, traveling to LA when I was 16, going out on tours when I was young – this is not a new for me at all, I really been out here so I don’t have to think about it at all anymore. When I was first going into studios and making beats, I didn’t know what was going on; I didn’t know the process and I didn’t know how certain things got done. Really and truly, I just know how to maneuver now. That’s the different between now and then. Now I know how to facilitate, give directions for certain songs, and be a producer; know my role and play my part in every different type of situation.
You would think that after 10+ years of making beats, Jenius would find himself tired, or stuck, looking for inspiration – “beat block”, if you will, but Jenius assures us that’s never the case. He’s too busy living life to be stressed about something he loves to do.
I never get “beat block”. I think that comes from trying to force yourself to do something. When I make beats, I just go on and make beats. That feeling I get about wanting to make a beat is all the time, so I just make a lot of beats.
When I don’t feel like making a beat, I don’t consider that “beat block”, that’s just me wanting to do something else. Link up with my boys, my family, whatever, just experience stuff. I never really think about making beats, I kinda just do it, so I never get “beat block”. I feel like beat block is people being in their head too much, you know? You don’t have to be on the computer 24 hours a day, get outside.
How did “WHAT TO DO?” off JACKBOYS come together? And how did it feel to work with those guys?
Honestly, with JACKBOYS, just being in LA. I live with London Cyr and WondaGurl, they were going to those sessions and I was just staying at home. One day Wonda told me to come to the studio – I didn’t even know who I was working with, she just told me “Yo, come to the studio”, and I was like, “Bet.” I ended up working with all those guys and we just made tons and tons and tons of songs, “WHAT TO DO?” was just one of the songs that came out of that collection.
It was an exciting time, but I don’t really get excited over things. It was really just surreal.
How about your relationship with Jack Harlow, how did that come about?
The Harlow relationship started with me missing the first two weeks of Grade 12 to go to Atlanta and LA. I went to a studio called Mean Street; Wonda had a session with Jack but she had to go do some other stuff and didn’t want to cancel, so she told me to go facilitate the session, be the producer, and make some songs for them, so I met him during that session. We knew each other from before, from me just being at that studio, but this time he really got to see what I was about, you know, hear what my beats sounded like. The first ever song we made was the “ONCE MAY COMES” song off Sweet Action that he just came out with. After that, throughout Grade 12 and up until now, I was just sending him beats here and there – we just ended up making a bunch of songs.
After I graduated, I went to Atlanta again for the sole purpose of working with him, and we made like 30 songs in a weekend.
As amazing and talented and confident as Jenius is, he has no problems giving respects to those that deserve it. Without hesitation, Jenius let us in on the producers that he looks up to.
The first producer to make me go “Damn, that’s crazy” was Bobby Digital (RIP🕊), he produced almost all of Sizzla’s stuff, and Sizzla is like my favourite artist all time. When I learned that JUST him produced all of Sizzla’s stuff, like everything on Sizzla’s first album, I was like “This is just one guy… making all these beats… and I love all of them”. [Finding that out] let me know that the kind of person you can be in terms of producing, you can produce someone’s whole album. That’s what I would say really started me wanting to get into this thing, you know?
In terms of other people, WondaGurl is definitely someone whose beats I’m amazed by to this day, but also just a bunch of different people. Pharell. Boi-1da – I heard the “Pound Cake” beat and then I discovered he was from my area as well – from Durham, and I was like “Yo, this guy’s dope”. T-Minus is from my area too, his beats are crazy; “Swimming Pools” by Kendrick. There’s a lot of different people you know, but mostly Canadian and mostly Jamaican.
Toronto’s sound has definitely molded the industry – people from here producer wise and artist wise have really set the tone for a lot of people that have been coming out recently.
We also asked him about some of his favourite artists from the city.
JUGGER is one of the people I work with the most out of Toronto. Anders, too, I’ve been working with him for a while – I have music coming out with him soon. Definitely stay tuned for the Anders and Jenius songs coming very, very soon. Another person that I’ve worked with too that I mess with is Fiji from CMDWN – and also Killy, I make the best Killy songs. Those are the people that I really been rocking with.
Jenius Level is only 18 years old but is already making a name for himself as one of the top producers in Hip-Hop. Not only does he have distinctive sounds and tastes which will materialize themselves in a Drum Pack soon (stay tuned), but he’s also growing his brand, by knowing what he brings to the table. He has a strong team around him, and shows no signs of slowing down. When we asked him when he’ll feel like he’s accomplished what he set out to do, in true Jenius fashion, he reminded us that the world is his playground and that he’s here for more than just music.
I could do something tomorrow and get inspired to do other different things. In terms of music and stuff, I have my goals of getting a Grammy and all that, but it doesn’t just end there for me, you know what I mean? I’ll continue to make change and make an impact on the people that need it.
So yes, his goals may change, and new aspirations may come, but one thing is for sure, Jenius will always be prayed and prepared.