Juliann Alexander’s pedigree is music. Growing up in Los Angeles, the 23-year-old was raised in a family woven into the entertainment industry: his father was a rapper, his grandfather managed comedian Don Rickles and his brother, rapper Kid Ink, served as his musical mentor. When it came to nurturing his own talent, it came naturally, first as a dancer copying moves from Michael Jackson videotapes, and then his true calling as an emcee.

“When I hear good music, it gives you that indescribable feeling,” says the Rostrum Records signee, born Julian Alexander Goins. “Music just saves lives. Music saved my life, for real. That’s all I got, that’s all I know. I’m not a nine-to-five guy either. I would never go to work, that’s not the type of person I am. I’m an artist. I just love art.”

His dedication to and skill in his craft is clearly evident in his most recent mixtape Lost in the Waves, recorded for six months and released in August 2015. The project, which racked up tens of thousands of listens on Soundcloud, features production from The Mekanics (Rick Ross), D.A. Doman (Tyga) and Reazy Renegade (Lil Wayne), and showcases a versatility that can flip from crafting ceaseless turn-up anthems (“$UM’N,” “Talk to Me”) to tracks including the skin-burrowing single “Wake Up,” which carries a charisma that makes his discography stand out.

“I just knew I had to go harder for the fans,” he says, reflecting on the artistic evolution from his breakthrough mixtape Dying to Live Forever that dropped in November 2014. It wasn’t his first foray into music. As far back as five years old, he took visits to the recording studio with his father and learned from his older brother Kid Ink, seven years his age, who would supply him with homemade beats to try his hand at rapping. In 2009, he became one-third of the group The Rangers, a dance and hip-hop collective that racked up millions of YouTube views and traipsed the globe on an international tour.

But he always knew he wanted to go solo. “I couldn’t express myself the way I wanted to in a group,” he says. “I wanted to try something different, [talk about] things I’ve been through.” That meant turning the pen inward and opening up about his past. “What I’ve been through, the struggles me and my mom had to go through, me and the family, everything,” he continues. “I just want to talk about real shit. It was like a fire burning inside, I’ve gotta get this shit out. I know what I want to be, I got the vision.”

His journey led him to Rostrum Records, to which he signed in early 2016, setting the course for what’s shaping up to be his most impactful year yet. With a handful of music videos slated for release including this new single “Vibe,” Alexander is currently in the studio at work on his a new mixtape and full-length debut, which takes his sound to a whole new level. “The music from back then is better than it is now, because they had talent. I’m taking that but I’m bringing the new school with it, I’m making that balance so it’s not just like basic music,” he says. “My shit is outta here, it’s outer space. I just let my music do the talking and the art speak for itself. That’s what I want to do.”