Juice Lee
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Juice Lee

Cincinnati, OH | Established. Jan 01, 2006 | SELF

Cincinnati, OH | SELF
Established on Jan, 2006
Band Hip Hop Alternative




"hip-hopper retools with independent CD release, shows"

America won't choose its next president until 2008; but if hip-hop fans are looking to elect a new leader, Juice Lee is ready to blaze the campaign trail.

"How many people do you know that are on the block that are selling drugs or in the street or have these fabulous lifestyles? How many people do you know like that? No one," he says. "I'm just like the average person; I just have the average life. I don't have this fantasy of big cars, a big crib and a million chicks or whatever ... The fact I'm where you (are) at sets me apart."

Born Fred McKinstry 24 years ago, the Colerain Township resident known in local rap circles as Juice Lee possesses a bio like that of many other fans who grew up watching Yo! MTV Raps and participating in MC battles like those featured in the film 8 Mile.

Lee says his friends describe his music as "like hearing someone (read) a journal.

"I was heavily influenced by Asian cinema and culture and obviously, Bruce (Lee) is the man - not so much for his movies, but just what he's done as an individual and his philosophies," Lee says. "When I came up with my stage name, I was trying to take his approach to fighting and apply it to my music. The No. 1 thing about him was adaptability."

Adaptability - or more specifically, evolution - is the concept behind Metanoia, his upcoming CD. Calling it a "re-tooling/rebirth" of his 2003 debut Ascension, Lee intends to use the independent release to strengthen his place in the local hip-hop scene and beyond.

And while he knows he sounds like an infamous "mad rapper," Lee hopes to reverse the trends he says are keeping a lot of good hip-hop from being heard by the mainstream.

"Hip-hop is not dead; it's unbalanced, or as I like to say, it's out of shape ... The corporate philosophy of music is, 'We're going to go with what works until it doesn't work anymore,' " he says. "The only reason people (think they) want to hear what they're hearing now is that's because that's the only thing they get to hear. Think about it: If I only fed you steak for a year and a half and you knew about no other foods, would you inquire about any other foods?"

Lee is hopeful his shows will leave fans starving for another taste of his music.

"Rap shows, for the most part, are boring; they suck ... You have Joe Schmo yelling at the crowd, maybe (asking for) some bulls— responses, and that's it," he says. "I want you to feel my energy ... and leave you saying, 'I went to see this guy last week and his name was Juice Lee. I got his CD from him and he's pretty tight. I have to see when he's performing again and you have to come with me to see him.' That's what you want."

link to article

- CINweekly

"Locals Only: Juice Lee"

This MC eschews machismo and boasting in favor of honesty
BY Mildred C. Fallen | Posted 06/08/2007

Juice Lee's name is a play on the name of cult martial arts hero, Bruce Lee, whose moves laid rows of men out like fallen dominoes. But his name is just props because he's nowhere near as aggressive.
Snacking on a "Craisin" muffin for breakfast, he expresses up front that he's from the 'burbs and doesn't try to write rhymes through a ghetto gaze. Growing up in Colerain, a village where he says people still leave their doors unlocked, Juice knows that faking the funk would forever tag him as a sucker MC. He adamantly expresses disinterest in slinging ghetto propaganda or hyping drugs and violence because that's not him either. But in an era of Hip Hop where even radio stations promote violence and drugs, he suspects he'll be tuned out.

"The music is a lot of emotion with a lot of sincerity," he says of his forthcoming EP, Metanoia, due in July. "I would say the music is exposing everything that's in my head in the sense that most of the songs, I wrote them with the belief that nobody would ever hear them because it's not what the world wants."

As self-deprecating as that sounds, the 24-year-old doesn't need a head doctor. His treatment is writing down the thoughts that wander his mind and laying them across tracks meant for electric relaxation.

Still, an air of self-deprecation is what makes Juice so fresh because he second-guesses himself the way most people do. His single, "Maybe If I," finds him pondering, "Maybe if I/Paid more attention in class/I wouldn't/Work as a temp/Getting paid petty cash."

Like other boys who dissected the two-sided thought processes of superheroes and secretly wished they were the 10th member of Wu Tang Clan, his self-awareness was heavy. When he was about 12, Juice figured he'd be sharp at something that required sharing his observations and was attracted to stand-up comedy (until some friends let him know that he wasn't that funny). He changed his mind and looked toward MC'ing, mostly writing Christian Rap, but once again, friends hit him with tepid feedback.

"In the beginning, a lot of people were like, 'Man, he has skills ... but he needs to lay off the religion stuff,' " he says. "Christian rappers and gangsta rappers, even though they're polar opposites, they have a lot in common. One, is because they both have to maintain the lifestyles they talk about in their music at all times. And two, someone will always test you and be looking over your shoulder.

"If that's really who you are, then, hey, that's cool. For me, it became a chore and it wasn't real. I had to step away from that, sit down and wonder, 'What do I really want to write and say to people?' I wanted to tell a story, but not always have to relate it back to God."

Juice is always willing to change, so much to the point that he uses an oft-used theological idiom and Greek word, "metanoia," to explain the artistically repentant mindset that he developed since his first CD, Ascension.

"Artistically, I'd begun to evolve from doing the Ascension album and it was like something snapped in me," he says. "I felt like I was just born again. It was a complete rebirth and revamping of everything I'd done."

The Web helped him find Nonsense, a producer he equates with some of Hip Hop's royalty ("It's like the RZA from '95, from that golden era of Wu Tang").

Though he sees himself as an underdog, his introspective lyricism earns him nods of respect from peers who would actually call out a cornball MC and announce his name over a loudspeaker. For example, MC Skandal Da Ruckus Man, who competed in HBO's Blaze Battle and hosts Thursday nights at Baba Budan's, endorses him as "having the tools to leave a lasting impression in the Hip Hop world."

At the end of the day Juice doesn't regret his conscious decision to be himself, because it serves as wellness. "The song, 'My Anthem' or the song, 'Maybe If I,' those songs are still therapy to me," he says. "If no one relates to it, I would, even as a blind listener."


JUICE LEE (myspace.com/juicelee) performs at Clique in Covington on June 30.

LINK TO ARTICLE: http://citybeat.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A139545
- CityBeat

"What people are saying about Juice Lee"


"I've watched Juice Lee evolve into what a real MC is. He definatly has to tools to leave a lasting impression in the Hip-Hop World." Skandal da Ruckus Man (SelfCore Records, Cincinnati OH)

“well this is the God honest truth right here and i told him on a couple occasions, he is one of the only cats who consistantly hits me with a song that i can literally play 6 times in a row and not get tired of it, currently "Maybe If I" is that song. I bought his very first EP and have been a fan every since.” Jermiside (The Red Giants, Atlanta GA)

“Juice Lee's CD is what the streets need right now in a time of where there's line of MC's and rappers. The music is like a breeze on a hot day. The lyrics aren't force at all. This is definitely something I would bang when I want the truth. When I feel I want that real hip hop. Best of all, I didn't have to skip a track!” DJ MNM (WAIF 88.3, Cincinnati OH)
- 513knect

"metanoia album review"

Hip Hop has gotten a bad rap. Positive hip hop and lyrical verse is not a new thing in the genre, but all the gangbangers seem to get all the press and be the only ones that the industry wants to push onto MTV. Juice Lee is an artist that expresses disinterest in the thug propaganda, violence, and drugs, which is a welcome thing, because that has been done to death already. DIY and not representing any particular crew, Juice Lee is not alone in the fact that he is part of a new movement in Hip Hop: self producing, self promoting rappers who aren't concerned with what 'fiddy cent is doing. With smart words and smart rhyme it is obvious that Lee is thinking of the message. We hear that loud and clear. - reax online magazine


No stranger to the nerdcore scene Juice Lee has performed on the sames stages as Mega Ran, SkyBlew, and D&D Sluggers, he has also opened for numerous mainstream Hip Hop acts, including The Roots, Aceyalone and Talib Kweli. When he’s not behind the mic he also presents a weekly geekly podcast, “Darkfyre Entertainment,” with co-hosts Nyte and Leago.

The Reverie is an eight track release which dropped in late November and hits the ground running with a brief but solid opening track that shares the album’s title. Dramatic yet uplifting Lee exhibits confidence and fine timing in his lyrical delivery. Sampling Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Scales picks up the pace with lyical commentary on the creative process and the aspirations and pitfalls of being an indie rapper.

Offering an orchestral introduction with tight snares and splashy cymbals Lightning Strikes Twice is poignant and complex. Guitars fill out the sound of this epic sounding track and the message is uplifting. Melodie J provides a melodic chorus on I Need You, a steady track that allows Juice Lee to bounce his raps confidently across its surface. XP is a more rugged affair vocally, musically, 80s sounding guitars and brass hits permeate a busy sound with complex beats.

Goodbye is another inspirational track promoting a positive mental outlook. Musically in-keeping with the rest of the release yet suffering somewhat from dragging on a little at almost five minutes long without ever really changing pace or flow. At the other end of the scale If I Never Wake times in at under two minutes. As with much of the album there’s a whimsical nature to this penultimate track which tones down the instrumentation to something of an incidental nature.

Technically a bonus track (bonus over what? Is there another version of the release with no bonus?) the album plays out with Con-Soul a tribute to growing up with video games with plenty of references for fans of retro titles to present releases.

The Reverie is a very competent release that sounds unlike the vast majority of recent indie and nerdcore releases. There’s a ton to enjoy here if you like a mix of sounds from decades past with current hip-hop sensibilities, but it won’t be for everyone so I recommend streaming first before committing to buy.

The Reverie is available to download now via bandcamp for $7. - The Unheard Nerd


Nerdcore rapper origin stories tend to follow two basic archetypes:

Nerds are seeking an outlet for their nerdiness, and find that outlet in rap.
Rappers have a lot of nerdy interests, and begin to incorporate those interests in their music.
Often they have a conversion story, a moment that they realized what they really wanted to do with their art. Cincinnati-based nerdcore rapper Juice Lee can pinpoint his conversion moment exactly, to a 2010 meeting with legendary nerdcore rapper Mega Ran.

In Juice Lee’s debut album, Metanoia, you can hear Juice straining against the conventional topics of rap. From the opening track, “Deaf Ears,” he is hyper-aware of his difficulty in finding an audience, and in the ways he is violating the stereotypes of rap. Though it has traditional tracks like “Police State,” the stronger ones are those like “Metanoia,” calling himself to a more educated and intelligent rap. When I interviewed Juice recently, he described the experience of recording before his moment of nerdcore revelation, where the local rappers couldn’t understand what he was doing, but the nerdier sound engineer got it exactly. The entire album has a subtext of frustration.

It’s hard to imagine how Juice could have continued. He either had to sell out his voice to an audience that wasn’t interested in it, or he would have to accept his music continuing to fall on “Deaf Ears.” All that changed (not when the Fire Nation attacked) when he was introduced to Mega Ran in 2010. Suddenly he learned that there was a name for what he did, and that there was already a nerdcore audience waiting for him.

This revelation did not just change his artistic direction; it unleashed him. His next album, The Epic of John Fong, is a rap opera fan fiction of an obscure kung fu film — about as high-concept and nerdy an album as you could imagine. Juice Lee jumped into the deep end of nerdcore, embracing long-form storytelling and relishing geeky obsessions. With Mega Ran as a mentor, he was positioned to make a serious impact.

Then, to hear Juice Lee tell it, he squandered his opportunity. He took relationships for granted, and didn’t hustle like nerdcore artists need to do to connect to their audience. His next albums, It’s Unclear at this Point and Double Dragon (with I-EL) , never caught fire like he had hoped. Juice made a lot of music (that album is huge at 30 tracks), but he assumed that things would just fall into place, and that just didn’t happen.

Here is where his love for retro-gaming didn’t just provide fodder for his music; it informs his career choices. Juice took inspiration from the story of Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of the Final Fantasy game franchise. According the the myth, Sakaguchi was frustrated with how things were going at Square, where he was the Director of Planning and Development, and he had decided to quit game development and go back to school — but he decided to create just one more game, (hence the “Final” in Final Fantasy). The game was a hit, and Sakaguchi’ went from being a failed game developer to a legend.

Juice’s latest album, The Reverie, is an homage to Sakaguchi, and is his own Final Fantasy. Rather than just give up, Juice decided to pour everything into The Reverie. The first-person narrative of the album can be heard either as the voice of Hironobu Sakaguchi, or of Juice Lee himself. Using all the XP he has gained in the last few years, Juice produces tracks like “Con-Soul” that act as meditations on the role that gaming has had on him and a generation.

Although he has good single tracks like those on It’s Unclear at this Point, Juice Lee is at his best when he steps out of himself and does long-form storytelling for others, such as John Fong and Hironobu Sakaguchi. In other words, he draws his strength from roleplaying, allowing his characters to speak for him. It is through his reverie that Juice Lee finds hope for his final fantasy. - Professor Awesome's University


"Epos" (late summer 2010)
"John Fong Mixtape" (July 2008)
"Metanoia" LP (January 2008)
"Ascension" LP (2003)



“Juice performs with the intensity of someone who puts his all into his craft and it shows. An outstanding wordsmith.”


–Random AKA Mega Ran (Capcom-licensed Nerdcore Artist)




“Juice Lee Puts a raw emotion into his tracks that is seldom seen from artists of any genre."


–AlphaRiff (Nerdcore Artist)






Juice Lee (born Fred McKinstry) is a nerdcore Hip Hop artist hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio.  His in-depth storytelling and near-limitless comic book and gaming references, wrapped inside intricate wordplay, evoke images of a lyrical Superhero. When not steeped in the realm of RPG’s and comic book characters, his lyrics are drawn from real experiences of the average working-class person rather than fabricated images of success. A gamer who performs and rhymes with his game face on, Juice Lee's nice-guy nerd sensibilities and intelligence flow seamlessly into his stellar lyrical prowess and inviting stage presence.




Juice has been active in his local hip hop scene since 2002. He independently released three solo efforts, the most recent being the “The Reverie” EP (2015). Juice has also played in a number of venues across the US, such as Riverbend (Cincinnati), the Shadow Lounge(Pittsburgh), and the Airliner Bar (L.A.). He has also performed in various music festivals across the country, such as the Vans Warped Tour and All Points West. Juice is currently working on his next project, a follow-up to the Kung-Fu Rap opera “The Epic of John Fong,” which he is targeting for a Spring 2017 release. He also has collaborated with Ilyas (formerly of Tanya Morgan) in creating a nerdcore album entitled “Double Dragon.” In addition to playing on the same stages as nerdcore acts such as Mega Ran, SkyBlew, and D&D Sluggers, he has also opened for numerous mainstream Hip Hop acts, including The Roots, Aceyalone and Talib Kweli. Juice is as an avid comic book Nerd he does a Bi-weekly  rap recap series entitled “Mic Issues” When he’s not rapping, he runs a weekly geekly podcast, “Darkfyre Entertainment,” with co-hosts Nyte and Leago.



Juice Lee heralds his hip-hop-high-score raps as beacons of hope for all rhymeplayers. Game Over.


Check out the latest release "The Reverie" here:


Also the Epic Retro gaming LP with rapper I-EL entitled “Double Dragon”


more music can be found here:


here are a few of his video offerings:

The Walking Dead: