Local Hip-Hop Artist Shares His Story in the 50th Anniversary Year of the Genre

Justin “Jhodge” Hodges (Photo by
Fareye Images)

Justin Hodges is Crucian by choice and a hip-hop artist through the lineage of his father and uncle. It’s in his DNA, Hodges said. 

Hodges was 12 years old and remembers going to J&R Music World and several different places with his dad. Somehow, the youth would always end up at the drum machines. 

Born and raised in Queens, NY, Hodges’ exposure to hip-hop was the stepping stone for him during his college days. He majored in computer science at Hampton University, yet he began producing hip-hop during his undergrad years, officially at age 18, with artists the likes of JID and Earth Gang.

Hodges is a writer, producer, vocalist, audio engineer and videographer. Professionally, he is a digital marketer and web designer. His professional name is JHodge, pronounced Jay Hodge. He has been DJing for 26 years and writing and producing music for 20 years. 

Hodges founded Love Art Group in 2015 as a production house and artist development vehicle. “We help dancers, singers, actors, poets, and models find paid work, help them produce their projects, and help them build their brands,” he said. 

“I assembled a group of hip-hop and dancehall artists to create works and put on shows throughout the New York tri-state area. We released the Love Art Project in 2018,” Hodges said.

Hodges released his first solo album, “Nano Tech, Vibe Vol. 1” in 2019 and was performing regularly around NYC at places like Nuyorican Poets Cafe, African Poetry Theatre, fashion shows, art galleries, and the National Action Network Gala. He also opened for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes during the 2019 Harlem Week. His performance run ended when the pandemic shut down everything.

When Hodges visited St. Croix in 2017, he had the opportunity to perform in Christiansted. “The conscious style was so embracing, I felt at home. Our plan was to move the business to St. Croix in 2023, but we changed plans and moved in 2020,” he said.

Hodges spent the first year getting involved in the community, onboarding clients, and doing pro bono work while he was working on his next album. 

He said, “I began performing and scouting talent at different open mics on the island while working with and/or producing local talent such as Ras Attitude, Ancient King, and Katalyst, to name a few. I released ‘Nano Tech Noir’ in June 2022 and it did better than all of my previous work combined.”

The ‘Love Art Group V.I.’ started to form. Kateon; D.E.E.(Divine Ethnic Energy); Negasi Ambesa; 4.Forty.Eight, Darkadone, Sun Savior, Tony Stark, T-RAWW, and Hodges began having freestyle sessions at Serenity’s Nest on weeknights. 

“We rented a storage unit in Barren Spot to create and record our first project. It was too hot and we had too many members, so we set up our own studio. For the rest of the summer, we were having three or four studio sessions a week to develop our sound. We call it New Jazz,” Hodges said.

In October 2022, Hodges was given the opportunity to open for Dezarie with the V.I. Fire Band at the Resurrection Music Session, which brought the conscious hip-hop vibe to the reggae community. Hodges purchased his own MPC drum machine and after mastering it in November, the group had their first performance at Bars Open Mic at Levels in downtown Christiansted. “We started doing live shows at Levels every month and we’ve been going for a year now,” he said.

“Our first SoundCloud release was created and recorded live inside the Prolific Immersive Art Exhibit December 10, 2022. With that momentum, I started to love beat-making every Friday afternoon in King’s Alley. Local artists, as well as Love Art Group members would come out and have creative sessions while I would produce the beats behind them,” Hodges said. 

“While working on Love Art V.I. 2, we released Love Art V.I.1 on SoundCloud on New Year’s Eve 2022 to a decent reception. We definitely ‘found’ ourselves with this one. V.I. 2 has guest features: Khadijo Kwabena, Jahmani Johnson, Ras Calle, and a theme: Communication, Understanding, and Honesty. You can find us creating at Levels every first and last Thursday of the month, 8-11 p.m.,” Hodges said in March of this year.

The first album was released and celebrated at Levels Thurs., March 23, from 9-11 p.m. 

Hodges recently started his own company, “Nano Tech Productions,” a multi-generational, multi-genre core group of nine, with the youngest musician at age 18 and the eldest at age 48. They will be coming out with an album in February 2024. “Royal & Divine” is their reggae single that’s been getting air time on radio station WSTX.

Nano Tech Productions prepare to release their first album, “Only Tech,” in 2024. (Photo by KJography)

Hodges said, “Moving to St.Croix from New York is learning how to make reggae.” His biggest inspiration is Vaughn Benjamin [Midnite Band]. Although he has never met him, he has worked with everyone Benjamin has taught, he said. 

Hodges and the group will be at Levels the last Wednesday of every month. With the Festival upon us, it’s every Wednesday. They will be back at the Deep End Jan. 17, 2024 and will be in full swing in February.

Hodges does artist outreach. “I can always develop someone into what they want to be. It gives me more of a sense of purpose than doing a show.”

About the “50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop” for Hodges…

“I come from a family of DJs. For me, to see such a young genre finally celebrated the way it is…it’s not just a genre of music. We are the new age version of the ‘Get Down.’ It’s my lifestyle. It’s the way I dress, talk, create music, how I elevate to the next level. I’m not grabbing the back of a song and looping it. I’m actually making the beat live on the spot.”

None of the artists have anything written down. It’s all from the feeling of the crowd. People in the crowd can come up to the mic and get on to the song if they want to, Hodges said. “That’s the beauty of it. Some nights we have artists come out with their instruments and add along to what I’m creating.”

“And it just makes it more magical. Our elder in the group, Ras Calle, plays the saxophone. With the hip-hop or reggae beat, and with my house or a Baltimore or New Jersey club beat, and his sax over that…it gives it that real ‘from the bottom up’ feeling,” Hodges said.

The first single on the album, “Rising,” is about ghetto youth elevating themselves to the top. 

Hodges calls himself a “professional creative.” He works in graffiti, he paints, and is now more of a digital artist. He says he feels like the next iteration of hip-hop. He is the web developer for the Falcon Gas Station and literally put them on the map. Hodges does all the creations for Boomerang Eats Delivery Service. The internet is where he hangs out the most, he said. 

Justin Hodges has shed a bright light on the local hip-hop scene and he is not going anywhere…but up!

Nano Tech Productions Group Members:

Justin “Jhodge” Hodges

Negasi Ambesa

Rolando Huertes

Ras Calle

Gifted Warchild

Sun Savior


Deen Trill

Michael Flemming

KJ Richards

Contributing Artists:


Jordan “Dutty Heart” Jones

Ki-Ana Tongue

Junior P

V.I. Fire Band

Jordan Griffin

Conrad T. Yanez


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