“Dog dad over everything.”
Benjamin Falik’s Instagram is a sort of window of what ‘everything’ entails. Better known as producer JULiA LEWiS, Falik shares clips of him in the studio with some big-name locals (more recently Mikos Da Gawd, Rexx Life Raj, and Mr. Carmack), the every-so-often motivational selfie, admiration of the head of hair he inherited from his Jewish father, and of course, endearing snaps of his dog-child, a two-year-old Australian shepherd named Cody.
Cody is like father, like pup: His several rap aliases (Lil Codeine, ASAP Code, Cody Highroller, Heartbreak Code) is parallel to how his dog dad has his own handful of ventures: producer, business owner, brand strategist, and entrepreneur.
When Falik and I met at Different Fur Studios in San Francisco, we talked at length about a few things not even music-related. His recent undertaking into Buena Vista Premium Rolls, a high-quality cannabis pre-rolls and packaging company; and Odang Udon, his fresh udon noodle brand. The high-gluten Australian wheat flour is better for people with wheat intolerances, high in protein, and chewier (“Texture is everything,” he says).
When we finally come around to talking music, he’s less calculated: “One of my main things was that I didn’t want to apply this super-strategic approach to making a brand for the music. That’d make it un-fun. My hope was that I didn’t have to create a big persona, I’d rather have the music just be there — it can represent itself.”
Up until now, the JULiA LEWiS name was built off of producer credits. More recently, Falik has been putting his name at the front. His latest single, “Potential,” premieres today, featuring Raj, Mikos, and rapper Ciscero. It follows the bouncy knocks of electronic soul on his first single “On the Regular,” with Mikos, Carmack, and Oakland artist Elujay.
“On the Regular,” released in October, cracked through to No. 11 on Spotify’s Viral Top 50 list and landed on the Fresh Finds, SUMMER HEAT, and Just Bounce curated playlists. On “Potential,” Raj sings to his lover, “Let’s figure it out girl, why would we wait. There’s so much potential.” An allusion to Falik’s new direction? Perhaps.
“It is kind of my spiritual moment. I know it’s something that’s beyond me; I’m connecting with a vibration that’s being put out there.”
The choice to finally trade in producer credits for artist credits, especially when guys like Raj, Caleborate, Elujay, and Mikos were hitting him up as the beat plug for the better of two years, is about finally acknowledging he’s earned his keep. Up until this year, Falik’s sound was becoming known under the guise of other artists. “I’ve given a lot of people my time, now I have to put time into my own name.”
His first producer hit, Rexx Life Raj’s “Handheld GPS,” raked in over 4 million Spotify plays (Falik also has production credits on Raj’s Father Figure 2: Flourish: “Having second track on an album is always the hardest,” Falik wrote in an Instagram post). Then there was a handful of tracks on Caleborate’s 1993, including “Consequences” and “August 28th.”
Well-received by publications and being recognized as one of the Bay’s go-to producers, there’s more secret sauce in his early remixes and flips: Xavier Dunn’s “No Type,” Eryn Allen Kane “Have Mercy,” Terror Jr’s “Truth,” and earlier this year, Rae Sremmurd’s “Perplexing Pegasus.”
Even in this small sample size of sound, there’s versatility at play. But never breaks character: His sound inherently hip-hop and electronic, bridged together with tinges of funky soul in the details. As the producer, Falik is a craftsman at recognizing when enough is enough. “Handheld GPS” only had three instruments; “Where I Belong,” from FF2, followed the suit of subtle riffs beneath kicks and synths. The approach is about creating instrumental layers and detail to not just couch vocals comfortably, but dynamically.
Throughout our conversation, I kept circling back to ideas of recognition, success, and balance with his music. And Falik was staunch in his stance: The udon and pre-roll business remain his brainchildren. Music, on the other hand, comes from something much deeper.
“It is kind of my spiritual moment. I know it’s something that’s beyond me; I’m connecting with a vibration that’s being put out there. And the history of other musicians and people that have played the same melody and I think it’s mine, but it’s not — that in and of itself is spiritual in a non-religious way where I feel strongly connected to other people in a non-linear, non-logical, very emotional way.”
As a multi-faceted individual, perhaps that gap is necessary to maintain a certain level of sanity. The business aspects of Falik’s day-to-day keep the wheels in his brain turning, whereas music is the one area where they can finally shut off.