Justin Starling is the epitome of hustle on his new LP ’20Gr8teen’. While up-and-comers dream of a hit song catapulting them to foreign cars and sold-out arenas, Starling pulls back the curtain on the realities of the rap game, where doubt, failure, and fear of rejection hover over you like a storm cloud.
’20Gr8teen’ is painfully transparent, connecting the dots of an artist who has poured everything he has into an unforgiving music industry, with honesty that would make Drizzy blush. “Damn, I went to bed at 16 / woke up at 24 / and was expecting more,” the Long Island native admits on the revealing opening track “Pick and Choose.” His patience is paying off, however, as Starling uses minor setbacks as fuel on his quest to be recognized by the masses, acknowledging that climbing to the pinnacle is a marathon, not a sprint.
The production on the LP works hand-in-hand with Starling’s strengths, providing a platform for the artist to levitate, making his lyrical performance and message take center stage. On the jazzy standout track “Sold Out,” Starling uses the light, saxophone-led beat to kick knowledge on his current state in the rap game and reassure his cult following that he won’t be sacrificing his spirit for a quick buck and a shortcut in the industry. “I just give you my art / but I’m still keeping my soul.”
While the journey has been long and grueling, Justin Starling knows he’s right where he needs to be and ’20Gr8teen’ proves that even the smallest of flames can burn the brightest.