Baltimore-based drummer, singer, & producer Josh Stokes talks about his Baltimore roots, his new music video, his latest album, and his upcoming tour

Josh Stokes, a Baltimore-based drummer, singer, & producer operating with every genre from Hip Hop to Funk to Rock, is a musical force to be reckoned with. His childhood was steeped in faith, family, and music/the arts, and his gifts were nurtured throughout his childhood. Growing up in the church, playing drums, watching choir rehearsals, and watching plays come together are all experiences that shaped his life. Josh has performed, recorded, and toured with many artists over the past 20 years, such as Redman & Method Man, Marsha Ambrosius, Kim Burrell, Erica Campbell, Future Islands, Jpegmafia, Abdu Ali, Joy Postell, and Blaqstarr to name a few, allowing him to learn many lessons that have shaped the artist he is today. With a sound he calls New Age Funk, his music blends new-age soul with a twist of R&B, funk, and psychedelic punk. In 2020, Josh hosted 2 outdoor music festivals in Baltimore, NuLove 1 & 2, bringing the city together and offering a break from Covid, with a documentary later being made about the festivals. Having released his first solo album Who Is Josh Stokes? in 2016, Funktion in 2018, and Toons in 2020, 2021 saw the release of his latest album God Jewel, inspired by the perseverance and belief in one’s self, while showcasing a family of songs surrounding life, love, and new sounds.

His latest single, “It’s Your World”, featuring fellow Baltimore artist Al Rogers Jr., is what Stokes described as “the song of the summer”! The broader message of the song is that it’s your world! Don’t ever let a person tell you what to do or put you in an uncomfortable space. It’s all up to you. Take that knowledge and keep living. You have the power! He also just released the official music video for the track, inspired largely by Janet Jackson’s “Got Til It’s Gone” video, with the desire to show the beauty in people just as they are. His over-arching message is one of empathy, love, understanding, and respect for each other and being the best you can be and inspiring that in others. “Just letting people know to love themselves and to take it easy on themselves and that they are worthy. I think that’s going to continue to be my message from now on. My overall message is just love and revolution.”  Stokes is preparing for his upcoming God Jewel Tour, starting on July 1st in Baltimore, so make sure to check out the tour dates below and catch a show! He will also be releasing his next album in October and has another tour planned for November! With plenty of exciting things to look forward to in the months ahead, make sure to connect with Josh Stokes via the following links to stay up-to-date with all upcoming tour and music news!


God Jewel Tour dates:

July 1st- Baltimore, MD

July 7th- Brooklyn, NY

July 15th- Washington, DC

July 21st- Greenville, NC

July 22nd- Winston-Salem, NC

July 23rd- Atlanta, GA

July 30th- Baltimore, MD


You were born and raised in Baltimore and are the son of a preacher. What can you tell me about your childhood and growing up in Baltimore and the role that gospel music played in shaping you as an artist?

Yeah. With my father being a pastor, and I don’t even want to say with any Black child, but just with any child, you never really wanted to broadcast that. Because it was like, your father was a preacher and you weren’t cool and people thought you would, like, tell on them or that you weren’t as hip as everybody else. So, there was always a balance between going to church, playing on Sundays and dressing up, and then Monday through Saturday trying to fit in and trying to be cool with everybody else. Or, doing more and overcompensating and telling people “Yo! Don’t think that because my father is a pastor that I won’t fight you or get in trouble with ya’ll”, so you start doing more to try to fit in. Gospel music helped me in such a way, because it showed me that we really kind of knew everything already, because Gospel is a melting pot of a bunch of music. And I would say that Gospel music really isn’t the name of it, you know? It’s the Blues, Jazz, and all kinds of different music that we just throw in one thing that we call Gospel. So, it just really prepared me to adapt to any kind of genre. I can play rock music, I can play trap music, I can play country music, I can play classical music, or just knowing how to approach all of these different kinds of music. Church was just a vast thing and you had to learn a lot of different styles, but you didn’t know what you were doing.


What can you tell me about the Baltimore music scene?


The Baltimore music scene is really dope. It’s really creative, and I feel like it’s been really underappreciated because we don’t really fit the mold of say, like, people from New York or LA. We’re really trying to do our own thing and have our own voices and tell our own stories and just not continuing to be carbon copies of what the industry wants us to be. I think that’s why we get a lot of push-back, because it’s like we’re kind of putting a middle finger up to the industry, like “I’m not doing what you’re telling me to do. I’m not dressing that way or talking that way. I’m going to do this and get my message across this way.” There are a lot of unique characters around here and a lot of talented people that do a lot of great things that you don’t really hear, you know? We do a lot of things like perform at the Kennedy Center or go to different towns and work with big name artists but just come back home. There is a lot of talent and influence here. I would say a really great kept secret.


You released your album Who Is Josh Stokes in 2016 and said that it was basically a catalyst for your career. What kinds of opportunities did that album open up for you and how do you feel that you have evolved as an artist with each album you have released?


Well, since 2016, I think that I just made a footprint as far as me just being here and existing and not just being like “Yo! I’m an artist and I make music. Check it out!”. But then when you actually put it out, it allows people to see like, “Word. Ok. I see what he’s doing and hear what they are capable of”, and then I think it brings more show opportunities, more performances, just more opportunities for people to know who you are and you can collaborate with them. And it just helps to get your name out more, because once people have a reference of what it is that you are doing, they can rock with you and hear your music and may even be interested in doing things with you. So, it helped a great amount and I knew that it would because I was getting a lot of push-back. When I was getting it mixed and mastered, I was going to drop it around Thanksgiving time, but whoever I was working with at the time was like “Man. I don’t know”. So, I was like alright, I’m just going to take the music and released it myself around Christmas. And people really supported it. It was dope. It was almost unbelievable, like “Wow. People are really messing with this music.” I like it!


You released your most recent album, God Jewel, last year. What can you tell me about the message of the album and the making of it?


God Jewel is just about having really high faith and belief in yourself and knowing what you are capable of as a person. I was just trying to push the message of belief in oneself and just knowing that it’s never going to be an easy road but you have to continue to stay consistent and to persevere through it. So, I just really wanted to push that message to people. I feel like we live in a really dark time and it’s really kind of filtered by a lot of fake shit, you know what I mean? Like, in order for you to be successful, you’ve got to look this way or act this way. I was just telling someone today that I’m more of an in-person kind of person, in how I would impact you. I’m not really an impactful person on the internet, but I know my strength comes in person-to-person interaction, which is the way it’s supposed to be. I’m really just trying to get back to that and to get back to the basics. Just letting people know to love themselves and to take it easy on themselves and that they are worthy. I think that’s going to continue to be my message from now on. My overall message is just love and revolution.


Did you always have that confidence in yourself or was that a journey for you?


I’ve always had confidence in myself, as far as my skills. I wasn’t like “You know, I can get anyone I want” (laughs)! Nothing like that. But, like, when it’s time for me to play or do what I have to do, I’m totally confident in myself, because I’ve been prepared and have done the work to be in the position in the first place. So, when I’m there, I’m definitely going to above and beyond and make sure the job is done.


You recently released your official music video for “It’s Your World”, which features Al Rogers Jr and was directed by Jimmy Powell Jr. How did you come to meet them and come to involve them in the song and video making process?


I met Al when I first started coming around the Baltimore arts scene. At first, like I was saying, I was just working in church mainly. But, I branched out and started dealing with people in the actual music scene and Al was one of the first people I met. He was actually one of the first people that put me on a show at this venue called The Crown that we were all so excited to be able to perform at. Al and Joy Postell, shout out to her, were the first people to give me a shot to open up for them. He and I have been working together consistently throughout the past 5-6 years. I played drums for him for a while and we collaborate sending beats and stuff back and forth. When I started making the beat, I was like “Man! I want to give this to Al”. I think we had just gotten off of this run of doing a few shows, so I was like man, “Let me just give this to Al and see what he can do with it.” The verse was perfect for him. For Jimmy, I met him while I was working at a studio and I knew him for years but we never did anything. We randomly just kind of linked back up and I was like “I like this dude. I like his spirit.” He was easy to work with and could take direction but also have really good ideas, and I just like people like that, so it flowed really well. And I still believe “It’s Your World” is going to be the song of the summer!



You have always said that “It’s Your World” is an amazing song that could stand on its own, but that as you played the beats over and over you really knew that you needed a rapper on the song. What can you tell me about that decision of having a rap part on the song, having talked about the influence of singer/rapper collaborations from back in the day? Who are some of your favorite collaborations?


I mean, if you think about Fabolous, who would always be, like, rapping on R&B songs, or, like, Jadakiss, who would get on R&B records, or Biggie Smalls who would be rapping on R&B stuff with Mary J Blige or Faith Evans. It always just felt so good to have both. I guess you could say the roughness with the sensitivity all in one, giving me all of those different emotions. Where with the rappers, it’s like “YEAH!”, with the singers, it’s like “yeah”. They are both kind of just giving you their point of view.


You’ve also said that a big inspiration behind the idea for the video came from Janet Jackson’s “Got Til It’s Gone” video and having the desire to show the beauty in people just as they are. What was the video making process like for “It’s Your World” and how would you describe that inspiration? I really loved your video and the snapshots of the people around the city and the contrast between color and black and white!
I used to watch the “Got Til It’s Gone” video when I was a kid and it was really simple. There wasn’t a lot of flash and special effects, but it was like the way all the people looked so shiny and were just standing there and looked so beautiful and it was simple. I really admire just the simplistic things. I feel like there’s more depth to it. It’s not like you have to be like “Look what I’m doing over here”. I feel like sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes that is a person overcompensating for not having an actual talent so they are doing other things to get your attention. And I really enjoy simple things, because there is more to it. So, when I saw that video, it just always stuck in my head. When I thought about “It’s Your World”, you know summertime and hot, shiny looking people, I was like “That’s cool. We can put that in our video and use that concept.”


What can you tell me about your message of being the best you can be and inspiring that in others, even if it may not align with your expectations, and taking the weight off of each other and ourselves and just existing as we are?
Over the last 10 years, I started getting a lot of revelations, as far as all kinds of relationships…romantic, platonic…and just realizing that you cannot make a person be what they just cannot be. And at the same time, that doesn’t mean that they are bad people. You know, everybody has to grow in their own time. So, I’m kind of more so on the rhythm now that if I feel like we’re not growing together, I can respectfully remove myself while we continue to grow as people. And maybe in the future, it can come back and link back up when we’ve grown. But it’s not like, “Oh. Emily doesn’t get what I’m saying so fuck her. She’s a bad person and I’m never going to talk to her anymore”, because that’s how we used to carry it. But it’s like maybe Emily’s dealing with something. Maybe she doesn’t understand this yet. Maybe whatever, whatever. But, just having more empathy and understanding as opposed to just being so quick to throw people away. I think, especially in this day and age, that’s the thing to do…throw them away, cancel them, delete them…you’re not worthy of life anymore. But it’s like, that’s not real. And that’s not a real concept. So I just want to push the message of empathy, forgiveness, understanding, and just respect. Just because you’re doing something, it doesn’t mean that I have to. I respect where you are and I’ll catch you over here. It’s just about respect and understanding for each other. And not being lazy. Push yourselves to be the best you can be. You know when you’re doing your best and you know when you’re half-assing it. I’m a huge fan of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan and all of these great people that just push(ed) themselves to be the best. You know, not better than anyone else, just the best that they can be. And I really live by that.


What inspired you to do your God Jewel pop up event in April, and how was the reception to the event?


It was amazing! So, what inspired that was just raising awareness and money for tour and being prepared to hit the road, which has actually helped a lot. I always want to make sure that I am able to pay the artists decently, who are on tour with me or that are on the bill with me. I don’t ever want to be like “Aw, man. We don’t have this much but my bad!”. I hate that! I don’t like being that kind of person. So, I just want to make sure, if anyone is ever working with me, they can never say they never got paid from me or get whatever they were supposed to get after working with me. So that’s what it was for. It was a great turnout. A lot of people came out and bought some shirts and I was DJing and stuff, so it was really fun! I was just raising awareness for the tour and getting as much support as I can.


Your God Jewel Tour is coming up soon, starting in Baltimore on July 1st. What are you most looking forward to with the tour and what can people expect from the shows?


I’m calling this tour a revival. I really want to spread love and just a really, really high vibrational spirit and let people feel refreshed and renewed and rejuvenated to kind of just take on this world. And making them feel empowered. I don’t want it to be just another show. I really want this to be a spiritual experience where people can really tap into themselves and find something that they’ve never found, or just something that they lost. I really want that to happen. That’s what I’m getting prepared for.


Will you be taking anyone on tour with you or will it be local support at each show?


It’s going to be mainly local support at each town, but I’m taking my sister Bobbi Rush, who’s another amazing artist, to Baltimore and New York. But then for all of the other shows, I’ll just be going with people in that town.


You recently performed at the Baltimore by Baltimore Fest with Blaqstarr and then featured Al Rogers Jr in your “It’s Your World” video, so do you have any other collaborations coming up?


There will probably be more collaborations with myself and Blaqstarr and a few other people. But right now, I’m just focusing on myself. I know one thing I did a lot of earlier, was a lot of collaborating…playing drums for people, making beats for people, DJing for people. And it was like, “Ok. I need to fall back and give myself some time to just focus on myself”, because I’m playing for like 3 or 4 people and people are like “Yo! I be forgetting you sing!”. And it’s like “Damn! I be forgetting I sing too!” (laughs)! So, I had to make a point to remove myself, because when I’m not really feeling fulfilled playing other people’s music, I get really complacent. Or it gets boring to me and I need a new challenge. So, after you’re playing a lot of the same music that’s not really challenging, and it’s, like, the same couple of beats, you get bored. So, I just wanted to tap into some new, fresh, and exciting sounds. I have a lot of new sounds coming and I’m working on another album. It’s always the Funk, but it’s super noisy and really loud and really expressive, and that’s what it is for me. That’s just where I am, spreading that feeling.


In February and April of this year you released 2 instrumental albums, Broadcasting Live From WEFUNK, Vol 1 & 2What inspired you to release those albums? Had you been wanting to make instrumental albums, as well?


Yeah. So as a musician, the instrumental part is always there. I’m always working on beats. It’s my thing that I do to keep myself sharp and aware. I make a lot of beats and I wasn’t really giving any away or selling any. So, I was just like “Man. Let’s use this as something. Let’s use this for something and use as a project.” So, I would just take a couple of beats and put them together and compile them and I just want to exercise everything that I have as a songwriter, musician, producer. I want to be everything. I want my tray to be empty after it’s over for me, because I really used everything that I had. And I know that producing and making beats is another huge piece of what it is that I do. I just wanted to throw some stuff out there so people can know me or get familiar with me also as a producer. It’s easy for people to be like “Oh, you’re the drummer”, and it’s like, yeah I am, but I do other things too.


Do you see yourself, at some point in the future, producing for other artists?


Yes! That’s really something that I want to do. The songwriting and everything, is just like a trampoline, if you will, to take me to that level where I can work with other artists. And where they can hear my music and be like “Wow! This music’s interesting. Let’s call him over here.” I know it’s only a matter of time before that’s going to happen. I like to use my music as that catapult, like “Yeah. Check this out. I know you’ve never heard anything like this. Let’s work.” And it’s like that. Those types of things happen all of the time. I keep myself surrounded by interviews and other people who’ve kind of been in my situation of maybe being homeless or not having any money or people think that you’re whack. But then all of a sudden Kanye West is calling you out of nowhere, like “Come to Hawaii.” These things happen all the time! So, I know it’s not unrealistic for me to believe that it could happen. Until that happens, I’m just constantly working over here to keep my tools sharp.


Aside from working on a new album and your upcoming tour, what’s next for you? What are your goals for the rest of the year?


To keep kicking ass! That’s it. To keep rocking and jamming. I’m going to be dropping another album in October. I started working on that, I wanna say, last week and getting everything together. Getting all of the instrumentals and songs together. I actually recorded two songs yesterday and one today…maybe like an hour before we spoke. And then I’m going to go on tour again in November, with myself and a friend of mine, River. Me and River, we’re going to go on tour in November. She’s actually going to do the God Jewel Tour with me in July at my New York stop. So yeah. We’re going to hook up and do a nice little thing for November. I know she’s dropping an album and I’m dropping an album. And I’m possibly getting some type of label situation, to help propel what I’m doing as far as marketing and promotion. I know that can always be helpful, just having someone else marketing and promoting what you do. But until then, I’m marketing and promoting my own shit and am just going to keep going until that happens. Right now, I’m 100% independent and I love it. I’m not really searching or begging for anything, but if the opportunity presents itself, I’m telling you now!

Related Post

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.