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JR Castro Ft. Kid Ink & Migos - Get Home

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As a kid growing up in the rough North Town neighborhood of Las Vegas, Castro fell under the spell of R&B music, thanks to his father. “My dad would play Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Midnight Star, The Commodores, and Prince all day every day,” he says. He first became interested in singing himself when he noticed that it impressed the girls. “I had two friends in junior high who would sing to the girls at lunchtime,” Castro recalls. “It tripped me out. It made me really want to try it. I actually sounded kind of decent and I realized, ‘I can actually do this.’ I started loving it. Next thing you know, there was nothing else I wanted to do.”

When Castro realized he could sing, he gravitated toward artists like Boyz II Men, Brian McKnight, and Usher, and took notes on what they were doing. Aside from singing, he also loved to draw, seeing his artistic endeavors as an escape from the harsh realities of his daily life. “You can’t show any kind of softness, coming from the ‘hood,” he says. “It’s considered weak and is frowned upon. I was fearful of stepping outside the box and being different because people judge you. Where I come from, people are always preying on weakness. The odds are against someone like me in North Town. You either work in the casino or at a fast-food joint. Or you're a drug dealer or a pimp. Those are the options we got. I've always had a creative mindset and have always wanted to express myself in a way that felt fairytale-ish to some people. But to me it wasn't a fairytale. I always knew that I could make it a reality in some kind of way.”

He has done just that with the upcoming release of The Mixtape EP and its lead-off single, “Get Home.” Tall and chiseled, with a smile that takes up half his face, Castro has the charisma, talent, and vision to bring R&B back to the pop charts. But the 26-year-old singer and songwriter’s story has all the epic twists and turns of a movie, complete with death, divorce, broken dreams, and the redemptive spirit of a mentor who appeared just when those dreams began to feel like a distant memory.

Castro got his first break in the music industry with the vocal group I-15, who were signed to Polow Da Don’s Zone 4 imprint with Interscope Records. The group achieved some success with their 2007 single “Lost in Love,” but disbanded soon after. “I went back to Vegas from Atlanta without a penny in my pocket,” he says. At the same time, Castro was grieving over the recent death of his mother, who had been struggling with a serious illness for many years. In addition, his wife was pregnant with their first child. Castro knew he had to do whatever it took to make a living. “It was a really depressing time,” he says. “My mom had passed, I was about to be a first-time father, and the group had broken up. I felt like all that hard work I had invested was for nothing. So music wasn’t even a factor. It wasn’t even on my radar. I was in a really dark place. I didn’t want anything to do with music because I had a kid on the way and music wasn’t going to put food on the table. I didn’t feel like I had any right to be in a recording studio.”

Castro hustled to make ends meet. He unloaded trucks for FedEx, worked in the Tire & Lube Express at Wal-Mart, and took a job at a Converse shoe store. When those didn’t work out he drove a bus and worked in the warehouse at the Golden Nugget Casino. Eventually, his marriage fell apart, and now with two daughters to support, he put all his dreams aside. “I woke up feeling like shit every day, but I had to keep a smile on my face because I couldn’t let my kids down,” he says. “The music business is a gamble, and, as a man, you gotta provide by any means necessary. So, if it meant putting music to the side, so be it.”

Over the next few years, Castro tried to pull himself up. “I did a lot of things I’m not proud of,” he says, “but I told myself that I was doing what I had to do to provide for my kids.” While pushing through the adversity, Castro launched a successful SEO company with a friend (the income from it now provides for his family). He also continued to write and record songs, but resisted doing anything with them, even when his inner circle insisted they preferred his music to what they were hearing on the radio. “I didn’t want to deal with the business part of the music,” he says.

It took an unlikely meeting with hip-hop heavyweight Timbaland to lure Castro back into the game he loved. The two met backstage at Justin Timberlake’s final show in Vegas in August 2014 when Tim, noticing the energy and natural pull Castro had on mutual friends in the room, approached Castro out of the blue and said, "’Yo, man, what's your name? Where you from? You a rapper or a singer or something,’” Castro recalls. “I told him I sang a bit and he said, ‘Man, listen. Take my information down. I’m working at The Palms while I’m out here. Slide through so we can build.’” Castro did exactly that. He played Timbaland some records and soon after, Castro and his crew flew out to Tim's studio in Virginia Beach to work on tracks.

“It was meeting Timbaland that really made me believe in myself again,” says Castro, adding that he grew up listening to Timbaland and the records he made with Aaliyah, Ginuwine, and Missy Elliott. “He told me straight up that he hadn’t felt this feeling toward any kind of male R&B artist in a long time. That the last time was with Ginuwine. When he said that, it made me feel like my mother was speaking to me through him. She really believed in me. She was the first one who reassured me that I was good enough to compete with the majors. So when Timbaland and I had that conversation backstage, I knew I had to either stop doing what I was doing in the streets or continue to live that life and just let this dream pass me by. He basically gave me the push to get back into this. It was like he hooked his jumper cables up to mine and revved me up and I’m good now. Focused!”

Timbaland, who produced “FMN” on The Mixtape EP, is one of the many hit-making producers who have lined up to work with Castro. His other collaborators include DJ Mustard (who produced “Get Home,”) DJ Camper (“MOB”), and Polow the Don (“How You Do”). Castro has also been in the studio with Mike Will Made-It, Nic Nac, The Audibles, and Boi-1da, working on tracks that will be featured on his upcoming debut album. And this time, Castro will have complete control of the music, marketing, and branding — having formed an independent company, PMG, with the same core group of friends who held him down while back in Vegas.

On The Mixtape EP, Castro sets his soulful falsetto to seductive songs that explore places where romance and sexuality intersect, but he turns up the heat several notches, displaying a youthful street vibe that will appeal to listeners raised on hip-hop. “Lately, R&B music is rarely geared toward one woman,” he says. “It's always talking about sleeping with this girl, then that one, then on to the next. That doesn't make women feel special. And I think that’s why women conduct themselves like men these days. They’re player-types, too, because they’re influenced by the music. It's like that saying, ‘If you can't beat ’em, join ’em.’ And I think that's what's missing. We need to get back to making women feel special. That was my whole goal with the mixtape. I want to be the voice of what’s been missing.”

First single “Get Home” (featuring Kid Ink and Quavo of the Migos) is based on Faith Evans’ 1995 hit “Soon as I Get Home.” “I just love that song,” Castro says. “My sisters would play it all the time. My version’s a bit more X-rated. I'm just taking off all of the disguises and giving you the raw, naked truth of what's really going to happen.” Indeed on “Get Home,” “FMN,” and “Different Strokes,” Castro doesn’t shy away from being sexually explicit. (Neither did his idols Prince, Maxwell, and D’Angelo). “The lyrics are very provocative,” he admits, “but at the same time, they’re about love. There are many faces to loving someone. I’m just speaking what every guy who’s in love with a girl feels, from the nastiest things you want to say, to the sweetest things, it's all on here, and I think people will appreciate it. I want women listening to it to feel sexy and beautiful and special. I want them to feel like they're the most important thing in the world to someone. And if men don’t have the words to say it, they should play their lady the mixtape. I want to help them get their message across. Maybe a couple of babies will be made in the process,” he says with a smile.

Follow @JRCastroLV on twitter!

Follow @Kid_Ink on twitter!

Follow @Migos on twitter!




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