Richmond Review

30 UNDER 30: Justin Villarosa, musician

Justin Villarosa (left) and Neal Zabala (right) of Gentleman’s Vibe.  -
Justin Villarosa (left) and Neal Zabala (right) of Gentleman’s Vibe.
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Age: 19. High School: R.A. McMath.

It was a single word rolling around Justin Villarosa’s head. The word, Gentleman, became the start of something much bigger, a born-in-Richmond hip hop group Gentleman’s Vibe.

Classy, original and proper, the word defined the way the duo approached music—do it right and make the best possible product.

In early 2010, Villarosa teamed with Neal Zabala to form Gentleman’s Vibe. Since then the pair has been breaking barriers and making music against the odds independent artists face.

Born in Cavite City, Philippines, Villarosa moved to Richmond at age eight. After graduating high school, he studied at Langara College, but took a break to focus on music.

He draws inspiration from artists who aren’t afraid to be different: XV, Nat King Cole, Florence + the Machine, Chiddy Bang, Shad and Drake.

Besides his work with Gentleman’s Vibe, Villarosa works part-time and writes songs for other artists.

He calls himself a regular kid who likes to spend time with friends and family, and is grateful for everyone who’s supported him.

Inspiration? “I have many inspirations that impacted the way I view my music. My family is one of them. My parents have always taught me to strive for more than average and to pursue whatever makes me happy. They have always believed that I have what it to takes to stand out and be someone of importance.”

Most proud of? “I’m proud of many accomplishments but I’m mostly proud of how much Gentleman’s Vibe progressed. Our writing and our musicality in general has surely improved. Looking back on how we were when we first started continues to amaze me.”

Advice? “Do ‘you’ and what makes you happy... I’ve had my share of being bullied because of the genre of music I decided to pursue, but as I kept at it, I have gotten better and the people that originally doubted me gave me the drive and motivation to prove them wrong.”

What’s most challenging about finding success? “There are countless solo acts and groups that are very successful but not many hip hop duos. As young artists, it is also very difficult to be taken seriously... Lastly and to be honest, our race. Being Filipinos can also be a disadvantage when it comes to pursuing a genre like hip hop where it lacks Asians in the mainstream.”

Where does your interest in music come from? “Once I started writing songs on a regular basis, I found that putting my thoughts on paper, then on to a record, is an amazing experience and feeling that kept me wanting to make more. Music then gradually became less of a hobby and more of a passion.”

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