Juice in a can: Juiceboxxx gets hyped with Thunder Zone energy drink
If you’ve ever seen Juiceboxxx perform, you know that the wiry, genre-bending MC has no shortage of energy. “Mellow” simply isn’t in his repertoire—it’s all about raging and running down your dreams, about sheer speed and getting hype. It’s potent enough to warrant trotting out that idiom about how “if you could bottle and sell it...” But in Juiceboxxx’s case, that’s no longer just a turn of phrase. Following in the footsteps of Lil Jon, Nelly, and 50 Cent, the Journeyman From The Heartland is now planning to make and market his own energy drink—with a little help from you, that is.
“I’m just as influenced by rap entrepreneurs like Lil Jon or P. Diddy as I am by Factory Records or Grand Royal,” Juiceboxx says. After starting his own label, Thunder Zone, he was primed to branch into products that were as conceptual as they were commercial and consumerist. “I always kind of wanted it to be sort of like a Factory Records-style situation, where it’s not just limited to putting out music,” he says, referencing the famed Manchester home of Joy Division, New Order, and the Happy Mondays. “It’s all centered around music, but everything gets a catalog number like it’s a record.”
With the idea in place, choosing his first non-musical item was a no-brainer. “It’s been an idea for years and years for me to do an energy drink, so I thought it would be an ideal project to lead off with.”
While the beverage is set to become the brand’s flagship product, Juiceboxxx is quick to point out that it’s merely the first in an eclectic array of planned projects. “It’s not just about doing the energy drink, of course. It’s about doing something broader, about operating with no limits. There are no real, concrete rules on what we can or can’t do. We’re also working on doing some press-on nails.”
But what will the final product actually taste like? “It’s going to be pretty much like a straight-up energy drink—you know, some taurine, some guarana, all that good shit,” he answers, adding that he’s more interested in stimulating people’s creativity than their taste buds. “I do think having a sick-looking can is really important, because it really is about more than just drinking it. It’s about the overall aesthetic and the overall vibe.”
Like so many others who have big dreams but limited financing, Juiceboxxx looked to Internet-based crowd-funding sources, only to find that the field’s biggest name didn’t want anything to do with him. “Kickstarter denied me. Energy drinks are prohibited. I don’t know why,” he says. “It was a crazy saga, because they denied me, and then I wrote to them and broke down what Thunder Zone was all about, and they actually approved me. Then they saw the video I made, which is pretty over the top, pretty extreme, like, Maury-says-‘you-are-not-the-father’-style, and they didn’t go for it.”
Turning to alternatives, Juice found that there were benefits to going with another service, and avoiding Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing setup. “We ended up going to Indiegogo, which is a blessing because I get to keep all the money I make,” he says. “So regardless of what happens, I’ve already made enough to do a small run of energy drinks.”
Without the risk of going home empty handed, Juiceboxxx seems unfazed that he’s still several thousand dollars short of his goal of $7, 500 (which he admits is a much more unrealistic number than the one he would have set had things worked out with Kickstarter), stressing that the awareness he’s raised is just as valuable. Still, he hasn’t stopped fighting hard to get people to give before the June 2 cutoff, and is planning to pay that kindness forward by donating cases to parties and stocking the vans of touring bands. “I’m hoping to make enough to just give as many of them away as possible,” he says. “I want it to be our energy drink. You know, it’s for the kids, for this whole freaked-out scene I’m building.”
One feature Indiegogo does have in common with Kickstarter is the ability to entice donors with various rewards for their generosity. Here, that means energy drinks galore (naturally), but those with deep pockets also have the opportunity to get chummy with Juiceboxxx himself. “You can get a shout-out on my next mix-tape, or we can have pizza when I come to your town on tour,” he says. “And the highest premium, at $1,500, is having me come to your house and hand-deliver a bunch of energy drinks and play a show for you and your friends.” For the rest of us, the big draw is that it’s the only place to preorder Juiceboxxx’s first full-length LP, I Don’t Wanna Go Into The Darkness, due out July 31.
“It’s a pretty eclectic record,” he says, stating the obvious for an artist who blends punk, rap, and dance with an enviable effortlessness. “There are some full-on rock songs, and then there’re songs that are definitely hybrids, but it’s all tied in by its thematic elements, a certain American music thread that runs throughout the entire record.”
In addition to being available online, the album will also see a physical release, for which Juiceboxxx enlisted the help of some of his talented contemporaries. “My good friends Jeff The Brotherhood and their label, Infinity Cat, are putting out the vinyl, and a label from Portland called Gnar Tapes, run by this band White Fang, is putting out the cassettes. I wanted to get my friends involved. I’m definitely psyched to be working with Jeff The Brotherhood. Infinity Cat is one of the best labels in America right now.”
That eagerness to collaborate, to promote others and not just himself, is demonstrably sincere, if rather idealistic. It’s a bit like his music: It can be so fun and crazy and off-the-wall, that it’s easy to forget that Juiceboxxx is in no way, shape, or form, fucking around. “You’re giving to something that’s bigger than just a record or an energy drink. You’re buying into the lifestyle,” he says, making one last pitch. “As ridiculous as that is, I’m trying to create a whole world for people to be psyched about, and it goes far beyond Juiceboxxx. The more resources I have, the more I can bring other people and other ideas and other musicians into the fold.”