Jru Anthony
Jru Anthony’s Life for Now is a strikingly original album that establishes him as a prodigiously gifted musician; Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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Pronouncing Jru Anthony’s first name isn’t all that complicated: Say it as it’s spelled, which sounds like “Drew.” But people routinely get it wrong. “You don’t know how many people call me ‘Jay-Roo,’” he says. “It’s ridiculous at this point.”

If Anthony’s remarkable debut album, last fall’s Life for Now, is any indication, it won’t be long before a great many people know his name—and say it correctly. A 2021 graduate of Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Anthony is just 19 years old. That he wrote and produced the album’s nine musical tracks and played nearly all of its music is impressive. But that’s not all: Life for Now is a strikingly original collection that establishes Anthony as a prodigiously gifted musician with the ability to incorporate multiple musical influences while crafting a wholly original new sound. 

Since the album’s release, its first single, “Greenlight,” spent weeks on rotation on local radio stations WPGC and WKYS. The second, “97 Chevy,” was also highlighted on WKYS, and Anthony is currently filming a video for Life for Now’s third single, its title track. Along the way, he is collecting influential fans including WKYS program director MikeSwiftPowell, who liked “Greenlight” so much the first time he heard it that he played it five times in a row. Effusive reviews include one on the Dancing About Architecture website stating, “If you want to know where modern pop is at, this is the album for you.”

Full Circle Entertainment’s Tom Goldfogle, who formerly managed go-go innovator Chuck Brown, started managing Anthony in June of last year after hearing Life for Now. “There wasn’t a song on the album I didn’t love and didn’t want to hear again…repeatedly,” says Goldfogle. “It’s a massive challenge for new artists in the digital age, but the maturity and artistry on this album is well beyond Jru’s years, and certainly beyond almost any freshman release. Getting to know Jru let me know that this stunning album is just the seed from which an incredible career will grow.”

There is another connection between Goldfogle and Anthony; Anthony’s father, FrankScoobyMarshall, is an established go-go star who currently leads Sirius Company. Scooby also performs with the Chuck Brown Band, which Goldfogle also manages. Anthony was raised in Southeast D.C., where he experienced a fairly typical childhood focused on playing basketball, soccer, and street hockey, but his father’s musical influence was always there. As a toddler, Anthony was already accompanying Scooby to daytime go-go events. “That was pretty cool to see early on, everybody in the crowd screaming his name,” says Anthony. Later, watching his father producing records at his home studio sparked Anthony’s determination to pursue music. 

At Duke Ellington, his concentration was on vocal techniques, and a music theory class was particularly impactful. “Music theory taught me the basics of everything I know about music,” he says. For everything else, he learned on his own. That meant carefully listening to a wide range of music, including psychedelic rock, hip-hop, and Britpop, especially Lil Uzi Vert, the Migos, Prince, Kanye West, Beyoncé, Quincy Jones, and a lot of Chaka Khan. “I love Chaka. Stevie Wonder. Tyler, the Creator. And my top inspiration, probably, is Pharrell Williams,” Anthony says.

Anthony was a junior at Duke Ellington in the spring of 2020 when he released his first collection, Hitori, on his own Jrusalem Records through the digital distribution service Distrokid. “I just wanted to put something out to see if my friends liked it, and it ended up becoming like a Duke classic,” he says. “People used to come up to me, singing the lyrics to the songs in the hallways, so it was pretty cool.”

Much of his subsequent Life for Now was inspired by an ill-fated romantic relationship. “It started off kind of good, and then it kind of went downhill and kept going downhill,” he says. “This album was really a peek into my mind as I was navigating through that relationship.”

Life for Now dips into hip-hop, atmospheric neosoul, and even country, and its impeccable production enhances gorgeous tracks including “Greenlight,” “Fouram,” and “Move On.” The album’s perspective belongs to a young man trying to find his way through uncertainty. Anthony describes the creation of the album’s title track, which sounds a bit like Parliament Funkadelic meets Quiet Storm, as therapeutic. “It really resonated with everything I was going through, talking about, ‘I know this girl doesn’t really want to be with me,’” he says. 

One of his favorite tracks on the album, “Fouram,” depicts a sleepless night. “You wanna call that special someone, but they won’t really answer,” he says. “In that moment, it doesn’t really feel like you can live without somebody, even though you can.”

Part of what makes Life for Now so compelling is its emotional honesty. “I feel like people who are content in their ability to be vulnerable are stronger than the people who keep it bottled up and never say anything about it. So I just wanted to….explore that vulnerability that people shy away from so much,” says Anthony. “I tackle depression and anxiety on this album, but this album doesn’t feel like it’s a downer. I’ve gotten told that I make sad happy music.”

This spring, Anthony and his father will serve as co-music directors for the next production of the go-go musical The Giz, which will be performed at the Lincoln Theatre from April 28 to 30. While Anthony does not consider himself a go-go artist, go-go is undeniably a part of his life. “I grew up on go-go. It’s in my DNA,” he says. 

He is also working on his next album and planning for his future. “Hopefully, I’ll be Grammy-nominated, working with some of my favorite people who have inspired me, and producing new artists,” he says. “I hope that my work pays off.”

The Giz starts at 6 p.m. on April 28, 29, and 30 at the Lincoln Theatre. thelincolndc.com. $60–$125.