Hailing from Maine, UConn-based rapper JR SPECS is planning on releasing one more single before his four years at UConn come to a close.
“RED SOLO FUNK,” a dance track with a stylish melody, features UConn rapper Tre Breezy with production by dg.zip. The song contains a number of layered guitars, keys and saxophone tracks, making for a nice track to add to your party playlist. “RED SOLO FUNK” will be released on April 28, with a music video being released later on.
“It’s pretty light compared to some of my other songs,” JR SPECS, or Josh Redmond, said. “[It’s] got more lush instrumentation than a lot of songs I’ve dropped since David [dg.zip] is a multi-instrumentalist.”
“RED SOLO FUNK” is just one song of a small package of singles Redmond is releasing this spring, with the previous one being “GETCHA GEEKED,” a boastful and catchy track that came out on Feb. 24. One more song is planned to be released immediately after “RED SOLO FUNK,” making up the last of the singles.
Redmond said that the process of creating “RED SOLO FUNK” came together rather naturally when a friend of his asked to shoot footage of Redmond recording.
“I figured I might as well make something on the spot rather than fake the creative process,” Redmond said. “I happened to have that beat from my friend David [dg.zip] and I wrote the song and recorded it right there … I name dropped Tre Breezy in the verse just because I felt like it so naturally he’s got to be on the record.”
An eighth-semester computer science major, Redmond can be heard quoting TikToks or playing basketball when he’s not working on music. While on the set of music videos, he’s often cracking jokes and maintaining a lighthearted atmosphere. He said the music video that took the most time was for “GETCHA GEEKED,” considering the amount of people involved for camera work and art direction for the juice carton and sneaker designs. Redmond mentioned his strategy to shoot lots of footage and later cut it down, removing entire scenes from the video’s final cut.
On the contrary, the music video for “RED SOLO FUNK” was done with just a few shots in mind, cutting down the amount of time taken in the editing process. The video was filmed in Redmond’s basement, with the set constructed from a handful of store-bought sheets, a box of tube lights, a folding table and red Solo cups. Redmond said he’s definitely had to be resourceful with making music, but that the burden of visual production has been lifted by his team.
Creative Director Eric Wang said it’s often a very long process to take an initial idea and produce a video from it. First, the team discusses social media promotion and what direction to take the song and music video in. From there, they create a release schedule and plan the shoots. Then, it’s a matter of fleshing out a shot list and working to be as efficient as possible when shooting photos and the video itself.
Redmond said nowadays he shows up with the music and a vision for the video, but doesn’t concern himself with imposing his ideas along every step of the way. Having known each other since freshman year and having worked on several creative projects together, Redmond said there’s been a “sense of creative trust that’s developed between Eric and myself.”
“There’s a team of us that work on every JR Specs production, including music videos, and help with the creative process,” Wang, an eighth-semester computer science major, said. “The core team includes me, Josh, Jacob Stockman and Josh’s managers (who aren’t UConn students) Garrett Clare and Alex Belandger. Josh and I bounce ideas back and forth and with the team all the time to find out what would work and what wouldn’t. We usually talk about how the visuals should mesh with the music. As of late, we’ve agreed to follow this ‘container’ idea, first with the [‘GETCHA GEEKED’] apricot juice carton, and now with [the ‘RED SOLO FUNK’] Solo cup.”
Even on the sets for music videos, the team works with as few people as possible. Over the past year, Redmond said his music process hasn’t had to change because of the pandemic. He produced, recorded and mixed his 2019 album “YELLO” all by himself, and did the same for most of his 2020 narrative-driven album “‘99 DAYDREAM.”
“The pandemic was so useful for an artist like me that doesn’t go to the studio, because if you’re a veteran … artist, you’re in your element with no distractions,” Redmond said.
Making music on his own was something he was used to, since he preferred not having to worry about other people’s ideas intruding on his creative headspace. Lately, Redmond has been working with different producers and branching out for help so that he can focus on one thing at a time for his music.
“[I’ve been] focusing on songwriting and my voice as an instrument and not [trying] to do four things at once and just not be a jack of all trades, like really just [mastering] one thing,” he said.
Since he came to UConn, Redmond’s focused on improving his singing abilities. His background in jazz music helped him understand chord progressions, which has allowed him to experiment with different melodies and blur the lines between different genres.
Despite the pandemic being a blessing for him as an artist, Redmond also mentioned that it was nearly “maddening” to have so much free time with no responsibilities. The lack of social interaction taught him how to better be alone and form better habits, but he said it was a cycle between good and bad days.
“There [were] a lot of things where I may have relied on other people,” Redmond said. “When I was younger I always wanted to be hanging out with other people, I always needed a buddy to go running with … I wouldn’t work on improving myself as a solo thing but when I was stuck in quarantine, I was like ‘I’m not just gonna sit here and rot away.’”
Redmond admitted he was sad when it struck him that he wouldn’t be able to perform at UCONNIC music festival before graduating. But, he still looks back on one of his favorite memories as an artist at UConn as opening for Phony Ppl at WHUS’ 2019 Mischief After Dark show.
“That was probably the first time I really felt like I killed a set, and some friends told me the main act had walked out and looked like they were enjoying our set,” he said.
At the end of it all, it’s clear that Redmond cares about what he does. Whether he’s on the set for his next music video, in the studio for a new song or studying away to complete his degree, he’s always determined to improve on what he does and become his best self. He said if there was one difference between the rapper he is now, and the rapper he was four years ago, it’s practice. Although he’s graduating from UConn in a couple weeks, it probably won’t be the last time you’ll hear of JR SPECS.