Justin Johnson's Dream Is Grind Is Putting Denver Hip Hop and R&B On The Map

Denver native Justin Johnson and his artist and entertainment company Dream Is Grind, is taking over Denver’s hip-hop and R&B scene!

Johnson lived a double life growing up as a beat maker and football player. He took off for Philadelphia for football, but had many run-ins with Philly’s rap heavy-hitters during that time.

Justin Johnson

Justin Johnson

“Beanie Sigel, Meek Mill, Jay-Z would be on our campus…That’s when I really fell in love with music and hip-hop because I was seeing the game right there. It changed my whole outlook. Meek Mill would be on my campus freestyling,” Johnson recounts.

Upon his homecoming nearly ten years later, he connected with producers and started making music with local artists. He hustled while working an unfulfilling full-time gig that didn’t drive him creatively or emotionally, “How I created my production company Dream Is Grind was out of depression honestly. I was going through a huge breakup. I was working in cooperate America. When you go through hard times and obstacles you really start to think about yourself. So I thought to myself ‘lemme go start my own business.’”

Dream Is Grind took off from there.

“My first artist that I managed was Lo-Pez, who happened to be Timberland’s nephew. The universe is crazy on how it connects you.” Justin elaborates on those first stages on building his company, “As far as the business aspect goes, I had to learn. [Attend] workshops. I had to put myself in the game. My focus was learning how to manage artists and building a studio from the ground up. Two years later I executive produced Lo-Pez’ first album W.I.P (Work In Progress).”

After this major project, Johnson and his company had established credibility within the local scene that got him some attention nationally. Dream Is Grind was contacted by a talent buyer out of Seattle to promote the Jacquees concert in 2018; which was later cancelled. The upset didn’t stop Dream Is Grind’s momentum as they went on to take two up-and-coming artists under their wing: Jay Triiiple & Chyreco.

Kush Groove, Dream Is Grind’s newest endeavor, is an urban focused live performance party thrown at Meadowlark celebrates its first anniversary this year. Dream Is Grind is celebrating by throwing a showcase of Denver’s musical talent at Ophelia’s.

Johnson talks about how the event came to fruition, “I saw a lot of division in the music culture out here. It’s very clique-y and not supportive. There are really good artists and I believe in Denver. So I wanted to produce a showcase that shows off Denver artists. We wanted to show people how to work together. It doesn’t matter what race you are or what background you have. I’m hoping that it’s entertainment it’s fun it’s networking. It’s a platform that’s the glue of these bridges that we have created.” The night features a diverse lineup of Denver artists: Soul singer Zach Maxwell, and R&B crooner Napalm, as well as additional performances by Adiel Mitchell, Mandy Groves and Yasi, DJ sets by KDJ Above and Destiny Shynelle.

What does Johnson hope people take away from his events and Dream Is Grind?

“Those people work hard. They believe in themselves. They care about Denver.”

Catch Kush Groove’s first anniversary celebration Thursday February 28th at 8pm at Ophelia’s.

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Ultra5280's Best Of 2018: Band of The Year

Los Mocochetes playing during this year’s Underground Music Showcase. (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

We have usually shied away in the past from naming a band of the year. This year we decide to recognize a band that left blood, sweat, and tears on the stage with every performance. This group of gentlemen provided Denver with a message that was much needed in light of our current political climate. Sharing positivity and love throughout their sets, it was an easy choice to name Los Mocochetes our band of the year. The band had huge presence this year playing an abundance of shows all over our state (we had a chance to see them three times), they blend an array of sounds from Latin beats to funk to politically charged lyrics, add a high energy stage performance and you are guaranteed to dance your ass off. Cut from the same cloth as bands such as Rage Against The Machine and Ozomatli the band is looking to top their year in 2019 with their debut album. We look forward to seeing the band continue to ride their current wave and can’t wait to see what they have in store for the new year. Viva La Raza!!!!!!

Other bands worth mentioning that had an amazing year and should be recognized for their accomplishments this year.

Cheap Perfume

Oxeye Daisy

The Still Tide




The Velveteers


It’s Just Bugs

Ultra5280's Best Of 2018: Top Shows

2018 brought us some amazing shows. From comebacks to the unexpected to the rebirth of a local festival. Denver finally got it’s own big festival after months of rumors with Grandoozy. Red Rocks continued to impress with probably its best lineup in years. It’s hard task when asked to name your Top 5, but we sat down with some of our friends and finalized our lists. The consensus from our panel would be that David Byrne returned in 2018 with the best show of the year, landing number one on many lists. Taylor Swift toured with her amazing production landing a few spots on the list. Other notable shows were Janelle Monae, Childish Gambino and a few new faces such as CupcakKe and Jungle. With 2019 announcements already starting to roll in we expect it to be bigger and better. Thank you to our amazing friends at Live Nation, AEG Presents, Illegal Pete’s, Do303, The UMS, Levitt Pavillion, Open Air, Behind The Scene Podcast, without you we wouldn’t be able to attend so many amazing shows. Until next year…..

Robert Castro / Editor In Chief Ultra5280

  1. Janelle Monae- Austin City Limits Music Festival

  2. Travis Scott- Pepsi Center

  3. David Byrne- Austin City Limits Music Festival

  4. Taylor Swift- Mile High Stadium

  5. Childish Gambino- Pepsi Center

Amy Osgood / Certified Peace Sign Thrower

  1. SZA- Coachella

  2. Taylor Swift- Mile High Stadium

  3. Beyonce- Coachella

  4. Janelle Monae- Paramount Theatre

  5. Florence and The Machine- Grandoozy

Bruce Trujillo / Programming Assistant at Open Air

  1. Los Mocochetes/Pink Hawks/Vic N The Narwhals- Hi Dive

  2. Tammy Shine (of Dressy Bessy)- Sally Centigrade

  3. Ms. Lauryn Hill- Red Rocks

  4. Paul Simon- Fiddler’s Green

  5. Childish Gambino- Pepsi Center

Tobias Krause / Event Director at Underground Music Showcase

  1. DUCKWRTH- Underground Music Showcase

  2. PPL MVR- Underground Music Showcase

  3. Dragondeer (as Bowie)- Globe Hall

  4. Childish Gambino- Pepsi Center

  5. Madge- Underground Music Showcase

Zoe Lanterman / Marketing Manager at Live Nation Colorado

  1. Jungle- The Gothic Theater

  2. Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever- Larimer Lounge

  3. Cold Cave- Marquis Theatre

  4. Sylvan Esso- Red Rocks

  5. BROCKHAMPTON- The Ogden Theatre

Peter Wallace / General Manager at Do303

  1. David Byrne- Red Rocks

  2. Big Gigantic (Rowdytown 3D)- Red Rocks

  3. PHISH- MGM Las Vegas

  4. Travis Scott- Life Is Beautiful Music Festival

  5. Dave Chapelle- Summit

Joel Rekiel / Levitt Pavillion Denver

  1. David Byrne- Red Rocks

  2. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats- Levitt Pavillion Denver

  3. Godspeed You Black Emperor-The Ogden Theatre

  4. MGMT- The Fillmore

  5. Rainbow Kitten Surprise- Velorama Music Festival

Shon Cobbs / Host of Behind The Podcast

  1. The National/Sharon Van Etten- Red Rocks

  2. Jesus and Mary Chain/NIN- Red Rocks

  3. Ghostpulse-Syntax Opera House

  4. The Milk Blossoms- Lost Lake

  5. Beach House/Sound of Ceres- The Ogden Theatre

Virgil Dickerson / Fun Pusher at Illegal Pete’s

  1. David Byrne- Red Rocks

  2. Lizzo with Maggie Rogers and Haim- Red Rocks

  3. Janelle Monae- Paramount Theatre

  4. Cupcakke- Marquis Theater

  5. Shannon and The Clams- Crescent Ballroom

Ryan Garbarino- Marketing Manager at AEG Presents

  1. David Byrne- Red Rocks

  2. Khraungbin- The Bluebird Theater

  3. The War on Drugs- Grandoozy

  4. John Prine with Nathaniel Rateliff- Buell Theatre

  5. Taylor Swift- Mile High Stadium

Rikki Aston / Talent Buyer at Live Nation Colorado

  1. David Byrne- Red Rocks

  2. Pearl Jam- Safeco Field

  3. Against Me!- Summit

  4. Janelle Monae- Paramount Theatre

  5. Sofi Tukker- Gothic Theater (can I have 5 more!!!)

Lina Skrzypczak / Lifestyle and Music Writer at Ultra5280

  1. Black Moth Super Rainbow- The Bluebird

  2. Washed Out- 420 Block Party

  3. Childish Gambino- Pepsi Center

  4. Mac Demarco- Red Rocks

  5. Tycho- Summit

Danny Sax / Talent Buyer at AEG Presents

  1. Bouncing Souls- The Bluebird Theater

  2. Highly Suspect- The Ogden Theatre

  3. Dropkick Murphy’s/Flogging Molly- Fox Street Compound

  4. Mac Demarco- Red Rocks

  5. Rancid/Bad Religion/Pennywise/The Interrupters/Mad Caddies/Potato Pirates - Fiddlers Green

Geoff Brent / Talent Buyer at Live Nation Colorado

  1. Itchy-O Hallowmass- Summit

  2. Against Me!- Summit

  3. Turnstile & Culture Abuse- Marquis Theater

  4. BROCKHAMPTON- The Fillmore

  5. The Frights- The Bluebird

Astroworld Invades Denver Thanks To Travis Scott!

Travis Scott spared no expensive on his Astroworld Tour. (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

If you are not familiar with Astroworld, let’s get into a brief history lesson. Astroworld was a Six Flags themed park (think Elitch Gardens) in the city of Houston that was demolished in 2005, it was one of the main attractions in the city of Houston and was known to introduce the very first water rapids ride. It was also home to many prototype rollercoasters that featured many twist and turns while suspended in the air. It was only fitting that Travis Scott took the amusement park from his hometown and brought it to life on this tour. After his performance here in Denver let’s just say he nailed it. Flanked by two stages one that resembled a circle-shaped apparatus suspended chair that took Scott in a 360 degree turn all while belting out lyrics. The other was a mini suspended roller coaster that was located right down the middle of the crowd suspended in the air.

The show got off with a bang as Scott tore through several songs accompanied by flames and pyrotechnics that are usually reserved for a Fourth of July celebration. While many expected him to appear from the main stage, he actually popped out from the back without anybody’s knowledge (we dropped hints to those by the stage during the openers set, you welcome kids). Opening up with a whirlwind as he danced across the stage with a frenzy (briefly mentioning the altitude, but who doesn’t).

The show was non-stop turbulent energy from beginning to end. Hits including “Antidote”, “Stargazing”, “Goosebumps”, and our nominee for song of the year “Sicko Mode”. Fans truly got their dollars worth with this performance, aside from the performance Scott has been one the true pioneers of the streetwear scene all evident by the most impressive selection of merchandise he offered. Lines stretched far and wide for an opportunity to sport the coveted “Wish You Were Here” $95 dollar hoodie. Astroworld although demolished was brought back to life for one special night. The night got off to a rowdy start by impressive openers Sheck Wes and Gunna Gunna who got the crowd all primed up for the main event of the night.n’t

Travis Scott performs in front of a packed Pepsi Center crowd. (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

Childish Gambino Proves Why He Is The Best Entertainer In The Business

The show was a no-photo policy.

Donald Glover is what we can call a modern day Renaissance Man, a man who combines an array of talents and skills to entertain us. A skilled writer, actor, producer, dj and musician, Glover uses all of these components to provide us with his own unique methods of entertaining us.

Tuesday night it was his musical moniker of Childish Gambino that set the Pepsi Center a blaze with his performance. He tore through his 17 song set at will and urged concertgoers to put away their phones for the performance.”This is not a concert, this is church echoed through the packed house” Gambino is a showman with his customary screams and gyrating dance moves that are often portrayed in his videos. Seeing them come to life in a live setting is truly extraordinary.

Childish Gambino performing on his last tour ever. (iPhone photo: Robert Castro)

Gambino erupted through his short catalog (he’s only made three albums) of hits including “Worldstar”, “Summertime Magic” even making it through the lower corridors of the Pepsi Center randomly popping out of the 200 section to give the crowd and up close rendition of “Late Night In Kuai” and “Stand Tall”.

It was those moments that Gambino truly connected with the crowd and kept the energy hyped all night. Most artist complain about the altitude here in Denver, not a single word was mentioned by Gambino, add to that the fact that he is coming back from a recent leg injury, the dude left it all on the floor.

One of the best shows in Denver this year. (iPhone Photo: Robert Castro)

He erupted into “This Is America” to end his set and at that point you could feel the crowd give all they had left in the tank to dance and sing along. After a brief break he returned for his encore set including early catalog hits such as “Sweatpants”, “Sober”, and “3005”. It was an amazing experience to say the least and no better way to end the night than a crowd sing-a-long of “Redbone”, that sealed an epic night and for us a perfect way to send off Childish Gambino on his last tour ever.