Justin ‘Sensible J‘ Smith is certainly one to watch out for. Drummer and producer alongside Melbourne MC REMI, the duo teamed up for For Good, the lead single off REMI’s second album Divas & Demons, and launched their own label House Of Beige Records.
Smith was taking a walk with Sampa The Great mid-Fire Sign tour when I gave him a buzz to chat about his musical journey. “Alright well, it’s pretty long,” he tells me, “I’ve been going for a while.” No lie there, it’s been a solid ten years since Smith started making beats. been taking on the music world. Starting out in 2007 making tunes for himself by playing around with overlays of Kanye West and other acapella vocals until 2010 when he met REMI (Remi Kolawole), and began working together less than a year later. Six years have passed and Smith has been a busy busy man, producing and drumming for REMI and other friends such as N’fa Jones and L-FRESH The LION.
Our chat went on as it soon came to mention that Sampa Tembo and Smith were taking this walk before their show to get fit, activewear and all! Tembo chimes in and describes Smith to me as smart, meticulous and talented – and she most certainly isn’t wrong there!
At the beginning of this June, Smith released his debut single, Fire Sign, which features REMI and Sampa the Great. It’s an exotic tune which was unbelievably pulled together in the 30 minutes Smith and Tembo had spare at an airport. Since then, Smith tells me, the response so far has been “way, way over the top… in a good way,” he laughs. Radio stations are adding Fire Sign to their playlists and Smith is truly over the moon with the outcome.
We get to talking about influences and upcoming shows, and whilst so far Newcastle has been a favourite, Smith was definitely most excited for Melbourne’s sold-out show. “We’ve never sold so many tickets for one of our shows before… laughing that a thousand people bought tickets for us!” He gives me the lowdown of the show format: he plays drums for both Kolawole and Tembo’s set, then they all come together at the end and perform five tracks. It most definitely sounds like something you wouldn’t want to miss!
As for influences, Smith says that it’s definitely Questlove, the drummer from The Roots. “They’re obviously a hip hop band and I love making hip hop, but also because they use all live instruments which is what I love doing as well.”
As the tour wraps up, Smith is on his way to completing a solo album, “with all my favourite people,” he adds. There’s definitely a lot of Sensible J to look forward to!
1 July, The Waratah Hotel, Hobart
7 July, Beachfront Hotel, Darwin