The Story of Lil Joe Collins



Joseph Collins (10) found his happiness in music even as a toddler. His dad would always bring Collins along during his studio sessions.

From the left, Kierston Conner (12), Joseph Collins (10) and Aidan Farris (10) are a few of the cast members already working on the limited series “Ballads.” (ELIAS CLEMENTS//THE SCROLL)

Some may call young artist Joseph Collins (10) a prodigy. By the tenth grade, Joe has had multiple television appearances, has an album underway and is producing and directing his own show. Working tirelessly, Collins has strived to put himself and his ideas in the world’s view. 

“[I will work until] I stop breathing … ‘Til the day I stop breathing,” Collins said. “And even after I’m gone, I’m sure to have enough ideas to carry my family and my legacy too, hopefully.”

Collins’s dad, Joseph Collins Sr., has years worth of rich experience as a producer, going by the name Joe Blowe Da Ceo. Collins Sr. started making music at the age of 19 and produced with major artists like Project Pat, working his way up to receiving a Gold Album Award. He has used his deep roots and connections within Memphis music culture to foster and secure young Collins’s career. 

“My dad tells me … I wrote my first song when I was five years old,” Collins said. “I think it was called “I Love You Girl” …  And a couple years later, I started singing with my sister [Candace], and we started recording.”  

Collins Sr. has strived to make his kids into his next big project, “JoeJoe N Cadence,” a singing duo. He wrote a song for the two called “I Just Wanna Live.” The song preached the effect of street violence on the Memphis community, a deep cut for 7-year-old Collins and his 5-year-old sister. Soon, they were even given their own official day of recognition: The JoeJoe N Cadence March Against Violence Day.

“I knew that [the song] was something serious because besides music, I grew up on a lot of history, so I knew the issues that were happening,” Collins said. “Being 7 years old when I recorded it, I didn’t know how important it was, truly, but I knew that it was something that was important.”
After a two and a half year run time, JoeJoe N Cadence became an integral part of the reason why Collins now pursues a music career and desires to spread a message out to the people.

“It’s not a lot of positivity man, for the youth right now, unfortunately,” Collins Sr. said. “You [only] hear about the bad and the negatives … It definitely deserves some recognition, man, for a young kid to have another focusing mindset on something other than what’s popular.”

Seeking to get his message out to the people, Collins and his dad are producing an album under Collins’s stage name Lil Joe Collins. 

“This album will be called “In My Mind, That’s Just Life,” a double EP,” Collins said. “The first side will be able to tell the good sides of love … and the “That’s Just Life” side will show how sometimes love doesn’t go how you want it to go. Sometimes love is just complicated. And that’s what I hope to bring out in this album.”

Collins aims for his music to be a comfort tracklist, a sound that listeners can relax to with his sweet blues voice. With every song, Collins opens up about a specific time in his life. He wants listeners to share the feelings behind each reminiscent song with him. Making that connection is what makes an artist’s music so universal. Music can connect anyone from any two points in time. 

“If something was to happen … you know [that your music will] never die,” Collins Sr. said. “When you’re gone, it’ll still be there. I don’t think there is anything better than that. There’s not a lot of industries where when you die, you can still be alive.”

Collins is also experimenting with film, taking on the venture of writing and directing an independent limited series “Ballads.” This 12 episode series focuses on the tale of nine teenagers as they confront themes such as mental health, toxic relationships, racial tension and family values in a high school setting.

“I thought that this was going to be something that he’s doing just to say that he did it, but no,” cast member Kierston Conner (12) said. “You can tell he really takes his craft seriously … I have a lot of respect for him as an artist, especially with him being so young. I was expecting him to be playful, but it’s actually very serious.”
Conner plays Lauren, a spoiled and bubbly comedic relief character. The show’s characters are played by a mixture of White Station students and other teenage actors Collins has recruited.

“With [Joe], it’s very clear what he wants,” Conner said. “He will coach you to say the lines how he wants you to, what emotion you are supposed to be invoking.” 

Collins has an exact way he wants this series to impact the viewer — addressing topics such as racial injustice, the troubles of love and the mistreatment and oversexualization of women. He hopes to portray the necessity for equality within every spectrum of society. How can something be made for the people, without being made by the people?

“I’ve always been a history and social justice buff,” Collins said. “If I didn’t do music and I didn’t do film, I would be into law. Going into the show, I spent a long time figuring out what particular subjects I wanted to talk about and what I want to bring awareness to.”

 At the same time, Collins is also writing a book, with a working title of “The Unaverage Joe”. This book is the autobiography of Collins’s young, eventful life. 

“I dont think it’s really just me that [the book] is about,” Collins said. “Because with all these crazy experiences like being on a reality show and being in a [music] group doing whatever, I don’t know if people can relate to that. But I know that me as a person and the things that I’ve been through … I hope that they can relate to somebody.”

By the time he is out of high school, Collins hopes to have season two of “Ballads” underway, to be working on album number two and to be done with his first book of a supposed autobiographical trilogy. With the support of his family, friends and fans, Collins seeks to make a name for himself.

There are so many things I can say I’ve done in my life, but none of them would be possible without my mom and dad, the gifts given to me by God and the people that have been placed in my life, good and bad,” Collins said.