As Julius Jetson, 26-year-old DMV talent Julian Ragland has spent the last few years treating audiences to new songs, styles, and artists, first as a party promoter, then as a DJ-producer, and now as the head of his Ghetto Ghetto imprint. But it turns out his gift for musical introduction started even earlier.
Born in Silver Spring and raised in Bethesda, Ragland attended boarding school in southern Virginia for much of his adolescence. He wasnâ€™t allowed to have any music with explicit lyrics, but he remembers smuggling in three obscenity-filled rap CDs: the self-titled debut by Boyz n da Hood, Young Jeezyâ€™s seminal trap record â€œLet’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101,â€ and an album by Lil Scrappy and Trillville. â€œMy counselor caught me listening to Trillville and he took it away,â€ Ragland recalls, â€œAnd then he started listening to it!â€
From then on, Ragland would listen â€“ after lights-out â€“ to a SiriusXM radio that he hid under his mattress. But soon, it wasnâ€™t all Atlanta hip-hop in his headphones: during his junior year, he was introduced to the world of electronic music, first listening to acts like TiÃ«sto and Eurodance heavyweights Scooter, and then to whatever was being championed by Mad Decent and their tastemaking blog. He says it was â€œvery weirdâ€ to be listening to hip-hop and electronic music in southern Virginia alongside his conservative classmates. â€œTurn that hip-hop and techno down,â€ he recalls them saying, adding a heavy Southern drawl.
Ragland attended the University of Maryland and would soon find like-minded music fans. His first electronic music show was a Nouveau Riche party at U Street Music Hall during the summer of 2010. Founded by DJs Gavin Holland, Steve Starks, and Nacey, Nouveau Riche ran for seven years and was D.C.â€™s preeminent dance night for electro, hip-hop, and everything in between. Ragland doesnâ€™t hesitate when asked what drew him to the party: â€œThe community aspect.â€ Soon, he was part of that community, interning for the Nouveau Riche crew while also running Electric Squeeze, a combination blog, radio show, and promotional outfit.
After a year of DJing and throwing parties, Ragland pulled back from the nightlife scene and started making music. â€œI made 60 tracks, and they all were terrible, awful, so bad,â€ he laughs. Those practice reps served as the foundation for his production skills, which he honed alongside his friend Chris Gavino, who would soon find notoriety as Manila Killa. â€œHeâ€™s talented as hell, and it was so crazy to have someone like that around, 24/7, hanging at my momâ€™s house,â€ he says.
Heâ€™d go on to co-found music collective/booking agency NÃ¼ Androids, promoting a wide range of electronic dance music in the D.C. area. But after a few years, Ragland had lost his passion for promoting. He was depressed, and wasnâ€™t making music that he wanted to make. He quit NÃ¼ Androids last summer and moved to Berlin for a month and half. While there, he attended a 48-hour Superlongevity party that celebrated the 20th anniversary of minimal techno label Perlon. â€œThat party changed my life,â€ he admits. â€œI came back so inspired. It was the first time I was really attentive to detail, and I felt myself growing as an artist.â€
After Berlin, Ragland was inspired not just to make music, but to start a label, Ghetto Ghetto. His goal was to bring people together, recreate the type of community he had first discovered with Nouveau Riche, and let his friends release their music without having to tailor it to the needs of a label. â€œThey get to do what they want to do,â€ he says of artists on the label. â€œThatâ€™s special for a lot of people.â€ And for the first time, heâ€™s trying to create not just a local community, but a global one, and is working with artists from the U.S., Mexico, Norway, Turkey, Lebanon, Brazil, and elsewhere.
Ghetto Ghetto has also become a clearinghouse for G-house (or â€œgangsta houseâ€), which he describes simply as â€œhouse music with hip-hop influences.â€ He says the style allows him to â€œbring my childhood back in a way that I can play out.â€ It is also reminiscent of the electro-house mashups favored by Mad Decent and Nouveau Riche at the turn of the decade, connecting the dots of his musical background. As for the labelâ€™s name, he acknowledges the risk of it being seen as inappropriate appropriation, but it comes from a personal place. â€œThere was a moment when I was making silly tracks, and I thought, I want to rep the African-American in me,â€ he says, noting that heâ€™s â€œfully black.â€ â€œIâ€™m making bass [music], but I want to draw in all my influences, and with a name like Ghetto Ghetto, you know exactly what youâ€™re getting.â€