Member of the Month: Josh Levine
Wimpact’s very first Member of the Month is Los Angeles-based creator, Josh Levine, for his contagious passion for music and the impactful, refreshingly positive sounds he shares with the world.
Multi-faceted artist, musician, producer, filmmaker, director and actor; a man who evidently wears many hats; a member of hip-hop duo, The Faculty. Josh, is a Central California native who was originally from Visalia, before he set out to the big city of Los Angeles with big dreams and a reliable Honda, to eventually go on to work with some of Hollywood’s most talented artists such as Snoop Dogg, The Game, Dilated Peoples, Rob Dyrdek, Carmello Anthony and Nas. He is simply a visionary.
“I like to just create content no matter what the content is, over all the platforms,” Josh said. “I don’t like to be limited, like a painter, he’s not limited on the canvas. Sometimes I get to use music, sometimes I get to use video, sometimes commercials, sometimes it’s writing. So number one, first and for most is being able to create what’s inside me and show and share it with the world.”
As far as sexism in the industry, in his line of work he sees sex sells for both female and male artist. And he believes it is being taken advantage of throughout the media, and it is just an easy fallback when television shows show role models that are sexualized. He explained it is the media’s responsibility to remind musicians that, “look you don’t have to be like that, you don’t have to be overly sexual and everything to a gratuitous point, I mean we all love beautiful imagery, but that’s one thing.”
He has been involved in a lot of female driven commercials, projects, productions, music videos, where he collaborates with strong empowering women all the time. Fortunately for him, he is exposed to work environments where it is an equal playing field for women. “I don’t see [sexism] in my world specifically because I work with mainly a lot of women to be honest with you,” Josh said.
His title as self-proclaimed “creator” was easily earned since he was born into a fun, singing family where Josh was constantly surrounded by music and creativity. His father sang in a band, while his mother captured all the liveliness with a video camera.
“He [dad] had his classroom sing and it turned into our family going around singing at different places like fairgrounds, and I would perform Little Elvis, and my mom was always shooting video of everything we did, so video cameras were always part of our family,” Josh said.
The video camera was something he soon picked up on his own. At the early age of eight, Josh started creating fake commercials, which you could say foreshadowed his career path. He had his own television show with Public Access Television.
Do not be fooled, this creative has more than his imagination to work off of; he showcased his athleticism in a football game he played in, and five years later made a documentary about it. After high school, his repertoire of productions grew during his time at community college. It was then when he realized his true drive to make films. Josh ended up getting a job from making horror movies and low-budget feature films.
At 18-years-old he got a business license without any production equipment, and borrowed production equipment from his community college. His hustle and determination landed him gigs to work on music videos and weddings.
The hustle continued once he officially moved to Los Angeles, taking on random video jobs for different production companies. Paradoxically he was actually going to start crimes investigating at one point, and that took a different turn on its own.
“I started doing crimes investigating, but I went to get my windows tinted and I told the guy I do commercials, so three months later he told me to do his commercial,” Josh explained. “Then Time Warner saw that commercial and that’s how I got the Time Warner gig for five to six years.”
Time Warner was his own version of film school where he was able to study his craft and get paid for it. This job opportunity introduced him to big commercials, high-end clients, quality professional experience and four hundred commercials to proudly put his name on.
So here is where the music comes in. Even while staying busy with several film productions, it never stopped him from continuing his music on the side. It was not until an ironic reunion at Best Buy with a childhood friend, and an enlightening conversation with Grammy award winning hip-hop artist and actor, Ludacris, where Josh decided to take his music more seriously to share with people.
That childhood friend was Jerrett Johnson, who Josh met in seventh grade and has now become musical partners in their group, The Faculty. When you are meant to create, you create.
“So we were always making music together and we reconnected weirdly one time at Best Buy in the CD aisle, in the music aisle,” Josh explained. “One thing led to another and a year later now, we’re in the studio again. I’d say it was about two and a half years ago when we really founded The Faculty and got serious with it and that was through another friend who was like ‘if you’re doing it, you gotta do it.’”
Another significant moment that stuck with Josh to go after his music career was a response from Ludacris during an interview he covered. Ludacris emphasized to Josh how many doors music opened up for him in his career.
This was eye opening for Josh. Soon after this interview, Josh and Jerrett headed to the studio and created their first EP, “Summer School.”
Here is why you should pay attention to The Faculty. As the emcee, producer and percussionist of the duo, Josh explains their vision as a double entendre because everyone associates faculty with school, but he gave us the real meaning of faculty.
“And so it’s like on the outside we’re all part of the faculty, we all have different strengths and we come together for a common purpose, similar to a school faculty and how they all teach a different subject but their common goal is to educate and progress and share the knowledge,” Josh explained with fervor. “And the word the faculty means possessing this mental and physical power like your critical faculties or your capabilities, your wherewithal, so it’s like being aware, that’s how it kind of came to be.”
The concept was apropos since the duo met in school, and although they are not in school anymore, through their music, they strive to show a message, teach listeners and continuously learn in the process.
He is a true collaborator, utilizing his talented resources to create a unique genre The Faculty dubs, “indie hip rock.”
“There’s so much that being in the film world and all of the connections I’ve met have introduced to all these musicians to where they’re just a phone call away to where I could have a big band so I feel blessed to have those,” Josh described gratefully.
The Faculty accomplished their Honor Roll album in 2016. Honor Roll showcased a vibrant mix of head bobbing hip-hop beats, hair whipping electric guitars and the natural vibrations of reggae. During live shows, Josh might even surprise you with a country twist.
“We don’t just go out there and do hip-hop with a dj, we bring in the live band element, which you never know who could be playing with us, we could have horns one day, we could have saxophones, break it down to acoustic,” Josh proudly explained.
What differentiates The Faculty from many current hip-hop artists is the vivifying consciousness in their lyrics. Their lyrics and language are carefully crafted with meaning. In an industry filled with injustices and societal challenges, there are simple things that inspire Josh to stay true to his eternal verities that he proves through his lyricism.
“But you know mainstream music isn’t anything I go out and search for. There’s a time and a place to have that ignorant music we all know and play. In reality it’s like what’s being glorified right now in the mainstream isn’t how I want to be represented. I want to be able to be proud of the message, if I do throw a swear word in there, it’s going to be a meaningful one, it’s not going to be some gratuitous overboard swear word. I write movies and I do film so I don’t believe in censorship by any means, but I also believe ten, twenty years from now you want to look back at what you did on this place, on this earth, when you pass and say look I made this place better.”
In the world of hip-hop some may not understand the artists’ true stories because they cannot see passed the vulgar and derogatory language. Regardless of how many hip-hop artists express their stories, Josh chooses his words carefully recognizing that everyone has a different struggle and story. He added that people who cannot see passed the f-word or b-word fail to see the art behind it.
“So you can never take away someone’s voice by censorship, is there a better way to say it? Who am I to say?"
To identify with the genre without an excessive amount of swears words, Josh accredits his positivity to his faith in God. He added, “and the belief system that everything is going to be alright. And seeing the glass half full instead of half empty. Focusing on what you can do instead of what you can’t do. A lot of times I take it for granted that I don’t realize not everyone thinks that way, so an innate thing of how I live everyday and how I try to be and how I try to communicate to everyone that I’m around."
"So the inspiration just comes from life and people that I see, everything I'm influenced by. Life isn’t all peaches, of course, we discuss those things as well. Life will take you down, but you just have to remember that next day, when you wake up, that’s another gift.”
There are exciting things in store for The Faculty in 2017. Their song, “California” will be in a romantic independent film where they will also be making a cameo. Be sure to keep a look out for their music videos and a brand new EP ahead. To get updates on their newest music and upcoming shows follow The Faculty on Instagram @TheFacultyMusic.
How Josh feels about being member of the month: