“I don’t think I would’ve become the musician that I am today if I hadn’t left home, or gained the freedom that comes with leaving home,” says Junaid Hussain, known to the world by his music-making moniker, wordsbyjuni.
Juni’ story is one of twists and turns – filled with the highs and lows experienced by many artists grappling with making music worth talking about. It’s that passion for creation that keeps Juni going as he continues to ascend.
Having grown up in a Muslim household, his musical ability didn’t blossom until he left home. Nonetheless, the Newmarket native uploaded his very first rap track to Facebook in high school, one that he described as “critically panned” by his friends and peers. “It became the joke of the school, people would rip me about it,” he says. “Looking back I think the song was good but people love to hate.”
Having skipped two grades when he was younger, Juni moved to Montreal at 16 to study at McGill. It was the experience of university at the young age of 16 that pulled Juni into music. On nights out with friends like Jordan Benjamin, they would hang out outside clubs, smoking up and freestyling. Nights like these led him to a point where he “realized [a] love of rapping and singing and went from there.”
At 20, Juni joined a band called Adhoc with Oscar Louis and James Campbell. A beat in James’ room turned into a single called “China White.” It was around this time that things started to click: “Music became a serious option at that point, that’s really when I started making music,” he reminisces. “It’s been a big journey since then.” On those nights staying up until 9 a.m making music, he taught himself guitar and piano, something he now emphasizes on his material as wordsbyjuni, calling it a “conscious effort to do [guitar driven music].”
Now 26, Juni is back home in Newmarket, where he hunkered down in 2020. A series of song-a-month releases eventually culminated in // ss20. Though the project’s title seems cryptic, he easily demystifies it: “It just means Spring, Summer 2020, the slashes signal the end of [that period].” Its bright sounds and lyrical suave fits his vision: “Upbeat and fun instrumentals make it a summer EP,” he says. “But songs should have depth and that’s where the melancholic lyrics come, you have to be able to enjoy it but also find something deeper in it.”
With // ss20 now under his belt, Juni’s hindsight is 20/20, admitting, “the pandemic actually helped quite a bit with the process of the release.” Once back home, Hussain “could focus on doing the other stuff that no musician really wants to do.” Reaching out to industry contacts, getting press for releases, and finalizing the project’s artwork were all things that he was able to do once removed from the creative process for a time.
Moving between Montreal and Toronto before COVID-19 shutdowns, his productivity wasn’t focused: “It was difficult to finalize old music because that desire to work on new stuff was so present.” Once shut inside, he was able to hunker down and finalize //ss20’s tracks. He also believes it upped the productivity value of his trips to Montreal to work with collaborators like Claire Ridgely, Oscar Lewis and Edwin Raphael.
When it comes to collaborations, he muses, “Selflessness lends itself to good collaborations.” As an artist featured on a variety of tracks and hosting features on his own music, he says, “When I get on any track I’m not trying to make the best Juni song, I’m just trying to make the best song possible.” This approach to collaborative work is something that has led to obvious chemistry on tracks like “Bloom,” with Edwin Raphael and Kashmir Winter.
Getting the new year underway, Juni released “death is round the corner (so fuck it),” the first track to a project teased for release later in 2021. With the promise of new releases and collaborations on the horizon, Juni just wants to keep making music: “I don’t need to be the next Drake, I don’t need to play shows at the O2,” he says.
Looking forward to his future, Hussain mentions dream collaborations with artists like Dominic Fike, Rejjie Snow, Frank Ocean, and adds, “Drake, if it’s not too lame to say.” Still, he’s not forgetting his favourites: “Prime Lil Wayne was a huge inspo, and Kanye West is my number one inspiration. What I would like to be is House Of Balloons-era Weeknd and what I don’t want to be is ‘Blinding Lights’ Weeknd.”