LaJune Grant is the first female to have seven straight wins on BET’s “Freestyle Friday Competition,” retiring to the Freestyle Friday Hall of Fame in 2003, and making it into the hearts of everyone who has ever experienced her talent. Grant regularly performed when she first moved to New York (at The Apollo Theater, Arlene’s Grocery, The Delancy, and so much more) to pursue a music career, and she finally stepping up to the mic again at Joe’s Pub on Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. with the new release of her "Body EP," and she is stronger and more eclectic than ever!

She currently works for the Emmy Award winning show, VH1’s Big Morning Buzz where she has performed jingles and her own song, “Breathe” for live audiences. Since her win on “Freestyle Friday” she has gained the strength and the courage to share her singing voice, adding power and soul to her music, and bridging her love for hip hop and indie rock. I sat down with LaJune to talk about her experience and inspiration thus far. The following is her account of the musical life she’s led and joy she is spreading with her heart and voice.

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On BET’s 106 and Park — Freestyle Friday:

Growing up, rap was the fun way for me to release my tension, so a lot of raps would be pretty aggressive, me against the world, and they would have a battle sort of style to them. [Although] the first time I battled someone was on the audition for that show, and I was too young actually to even audition. I had to freestyle my way in with producers.

When I was on Freestyle Friday, one of my things was doing it for the ladies because I had seen an article online. It said it had been three years since the start of this competition, and the article questioned whether a female can actually win, ever, I thought, "I can do it, I can be the first female ever to do it!"

It was weird because I was on TV and people would ask me for my autograph on the street. One time, my father took me to an LL Cool J concert. It was the first concert I had ever been to, and then the people would notice me and shout, “There she is! It’s the next Eve!” The next thing I know I had my own line for autographs. It was really scary for me because there were a couple producers calling me, but I couldn’t really make a song. And I didn’t want to be like this gimmicky thing or have someone else write my songs or create who I am as an artist.

On Performing at VH1’s Big Morning Buzz Live:  

 

It was so amazing! It was the best experience of my life because it was the only time that I have ever performed that I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t have time to be nervous. Usually you know in advanced, and every time I have to perform I hope that something would happen that could cancel the performance because I get so nervous I feel like I am going to die.

The Big Morning Buzz live went so fast. I was about to leave for work, I checked my e-mail and I get an e-mail from the executive producer saying, "If the band can’t make it this morning, would you be able to perform?" And I was like, "YES!"

Jim Shearer from VH1s Top 20 Countdown had been throwing my name in the mix for some time… and I had some really cool opportunities to perform some jingles, but I never got a chance to sing any of my music [until then] so it was a really cool and I felt like I had to like really perform because Jim is our music expert. So if he if he is calling me out this is my chance, I have to do it and make Jim proud! (and she definitely did!)

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 On Tay, Janelle Monae, and other influences:

This season I’ve been really paying attention [to Taylor Swift], and when I saw her as a guest host [on Big Morning Buzz Live] it gave me a total respect for her. I love her, and I feel like I should call her Tay. I feel like we’re great friends and what I love about her is the fact that when she is giving those people advice you know that this is what she loves to do. You know that she loves music, and she is genuinely trying to help these people, and she is giving advice that is so useful that I feel like I’m getting free lessons in preparation for my events.

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Janelle Monae has been great [too], and really puts herself out there in creating her own image. There are a lot of really great artists that are out there, but they are not always recognized, or acknowledged. Queen Latifah for sure [is an influence also], in fact my song “Permission” is my new age version of her “U.N.I.T.Y” song. It was a song that she put out in the 80s. It was really big for female empowerment.

I have a really old soul. I really love Anita Baker, Marvin Gaye, Phyllis Hyman, The Eagles, and Smokey Robinson. When I make music, I pay respect to those that came before me, and I know that something is good when I get the feeling that I got when I listen to those older artists. I want to give others that same feeling when they listen to my music. My "Body EP" has real horns, real strings, and real drums. I really hope that people can feel it, I hope that you have fun with it, and that you can follow in the journey!

On Performing

 

When I was younger I never really wrote songs. I would just write these rap verses, and back at that time I wasn’t really singing either. I wasn’t confident in my voice, and as a singer, if you don’t have the confidence, it can really come out. That’s why when I see people do these auditions for American Idol or X Factor, and they show the bad auditions, [I want to remind people] nerves can really change your voice completely. You don’t know really what that person can do, or how they are feeling. It’s a lot of pressure — so that’s why it took a long time before I was able to sing.

It is literally a dream come true to be able to perform at an awesome venue like Joe’s Pub on Dec. 1, with a live band! I want people to feel that dream with me. This is really what I love to do. When I watch shows like The Voice…not even just The Voice, but anytime that I can see someone put themselves out there, and you can tell that it is something that they have always wanted to share, I am just like a baby. I just cry and because I totally know the feeling and it feels so good! That’s how I feel when I am on stage, I’m just high and I am just where I am supposed to be and I hope that people feel that!

You can buy her EP on iTunes, or with Bitcoins at the show or through Easybitz! Then come vibe off of her performance and come say hello to LaJune on Dec. 1 at Joe's Pub @ 7:30 p.m.! It's a performance you won't forget!   

Photos c/o iamlajune.com and donyc.com 

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