Toronto producer Jenius has been living up to his name, by applying his prodigious skills to recordings by some of hip-hop’s biggest names.
Freshly signed to WondaGurl’s new label Wonderchild, 19-year old Jenius’ most recent success was a placement on Chicago rapper Polo G’s Hall Of Fame, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 in June 2021. Credited on “Go Part 1,” alongside fellow Toronto native FrancisGotHeat, Jenius worked directly with Polo G on the song’s foreboding sonic foundation. “It wasn’t like we just gave him the beat,” says Jenius. “I mean, we really, really produced the record out, and made it come to fruition.”
In describing the process of producing it, you can hear the pride in Jenius’ voice. It’s a testament to the confidence he has in the growth and versatility of his production acumen. “That versatility is definitely something that I pride myself on,” he says assuredly. “I know how to make every type of music, I guess. One thing that I want to get out of music is that it’s me, you know? My style is hard-hitting and knocking. I want my music to be felt, not just be heard.”
Aside from Polo G, artists like Travi$ Scott, JackBoys, Jack Harlow, and Canadian artists like KILLY and Anders, have all benefitted from Jenius’ sonic prowess, which was cultivated at a very young age.
Born Julius-Alexander Brown, Jenius remembers the musical foundation of reggae and dancehall – by artists like Buju Banton, Capleton, and Bob Marley – being instilled in him as a young child growing up in Whitby, Ontario. He was turned on to hip-hop by hearing his dad play the ominous boom-bap of Mobb Deep. Taught by his father to make beats at the age of eight, Jenius was raised in an encouraging familial environment to cultivate and develop his craft.
“For a couple years, we were just making beats as a father-son bonding type thing,” says Jenius. “And then it became a thing where I was just making beats by myself on my own time… then I really developed the passion, and loved creating music.”
In addition to his father’s encouragement, Jenius also drew inspiration from Toronto rapper Infinite, who happens to be his uncle. Infinite came into the spotlight as a member of influential Canadian hip-hop group Ghetto Concept in the mid-‘90s, and branched off from the group to record hit tracks like “Gotta Get Mine” and “Take A Look” in a notable solo career.
“That showed me that I could do it also, at a young age,” says Jenius. “Seeing that, from a family member being able to do it, at his level, it was like, ‘If he can do it, I can do it, too.’”
“I want my music to be felt, not just be heard”
At 12, Jenius was convinced that being a music producer would be his career. After logging his first major placement at 14, there was no turning back. “Never Let Up,” a song he produced for Killy, was nominated for a JUNO Award while he was still in high school.
While Jenius has obviously proved himself in his own right, early on in his career he made a shrewd link with WondaGurl. After his father reached out to her team online, to notify her of Jenius’ production skills, the two met in a studio to make some beats. The creative connection they forged, which Jenius describes as “organic,” has meant that – as well as being signed to her label – Jenius has often worked collaboratively with her. One of the production credits the duo shares is “Bad B**** From Tokyo,” the intro track to the late Pop Smoke’s Shoot for the Stars, Aim for The Moon album – although Jenius didn’t know it at first.
“When [the album] came out, I pressed play on the first song, and it was my beat,” he says. “And I was, like, ‘Oh, wow! I got a song on the Pop Smoke album.’” It turns out the beat was one that Jenius had created with WondaGurl a year earlier, while in high school, and he’d almost forgotten about it. WondaGurl – who was in the car with Jenius and some friends when he pressed play – had been given the heads-up about the placement, but wanted to surprise her beat-making colleague.
As exhilarating as that particular scenario sounds, Jenius’ usual collaborative approach thrives on strategy rather than serendipity.
“I have a very, very small group of producers that I work with,” he says. “But it’s all, again, an organic relationship… It’s just people that I like making music with. But when it comes to making music with them, I like to dive into the process. I’ll be in the studio with whoever said producer is, and we’ll just create something together. I’ll do the melody, they’ll do drums, or we’ll both do it together. It really depends [on the situation].”
It’s this type of intuitive fluidity and malleable intellectual approach that anchors the seemingly lofty aspirations of Jenius’ production moniker in matter-of-fact reality.
“I was always told that I was a genius, even from before I was making music,” he says. “I was in school, getting straight A’s, doing reading at eighth-grade level in first grade. And beyond that now, I prove that on a music and creative level, I’m a creative genius. Anybody that I’ve worked with on music can vouch for that.”