At only 22 years of age, Canadian-born rapper Johnny Active is already gaining more buzz globally for his fast-paced rhymes/lyrics and unforgettable beats than a beehive full of honey. With his upcoming single Guest List about to be released worldwide, The Levity Ball sat down with Mr. Active to find out more…
How did you become interested in becoming a musician, and how old were you when you started writing/performing?
I was always a creative kid growing up. I would always rather be daydreaming or writing or drawing than be outside playing soccer with my brother. When I was about 9 or 10 I was introduced to hip-hop, by accident, by my older brother. I think he got into hip-hop when he was 14 and I remember hearing a Dr. Dre or Eminem song coming from his room, and I was extremely curious. He sort of put me on game. He would tell me, “this is what all your friends are going to listen to in 5 years.” I would steal his CD’s when he was out skateboarding or biking. When I was 10 or 11 I started writing my own raps with my friend Jonas. I would hide my notebooks from my parents. I took drumming lessons for a little but was really drawn to writing rhymes. I think it was the wordplay that really made me want to try rapping for myself. I haven’t looked back since.
Explain your music and the type of audience that you feel you reach?
I make honest hip-hop. Mood music, meaning music for every mood. I make music that I think most 20-somethings can relate to. I think at the root of my music is relationships, dissecting them. I want you to feel something.
Who are your biggest career influences?
That’s such a tough question. Obviously the greats like Biggie, Pac, Nas, Jay, Dr. Dre, Eminem. I was a big 50 Cent, Shady/Aftermath records fan back when they had their hay-day.. But as far as current music goes, I really like what J. Cole and Kendrick have been doing and Drake has got the midas touch and has clearly heavily influenced the entire genre. Mac Miller, KYLE, and The Weeknd have been on my playlist a lot lately these days too.
Your new hit single is called, Guest List, can you tell us what this song means to you?
It’s really the first track I ever made that is cocky and confident, which is strange because so many great hip-hop songs are based on bravado and an I’m-better-than-you mentality. I guess the timing was right. I was feeling good and felt like there was a bit of a shift in myself. It’s also the first original song I made with my producer Andrew Triple A. I wanted to make an anthem for the kids who used to be laughed at but are now out there kicking ass. The idea of the “guest list” seemed like the perfect metaphor for success and is something everyone can relate to. It’s also my favorite song to perform live. I’m really excited about it.
If you had a chance to work with any other artist in the studio, who would it be & why?
I would love to work with Tory Lanez. I think he’s doing a lot of exciting things right now. Obviously, Drake. We’d make the most ridiculous late-night-text-your-ex song. I feel like J. Cole would be able to teach me a lot. I’d love to be in the studio with Wayne, even just to witness how he works.
What are your goals in the industry and where do you see yourself in a year from now?
I want to take this as far as possible. I want one of the top spots. Takeover… In a year I’d like to be on tour selling out venues across the states and Canada. I want a house in LA and an apartment in Toronto. Supermodel girlfriend, Leonardo DiCaprio swag. The whole nine-yards. Why not?
How do you define hip-hop, and where do you feel you fit into that definition?
Hip-hop is a culture and thus ever-changing. It’s not just one single thing. It’s a way of life. It’s something you live. I am hip-hop… Anyone who has immersed themselves in the culture will know what I mean. It’s about being true to yourself and expressing yourself.
You were born in Ottawa and raised in Calgary… How has Canada as a whole influenced your sound?
When I first started making music I really dove head first into the Canadian scene and soaked up as much as I could… guys like Classified, K-OS, Sweatshop Union, Kardi, Swollen Members, Maestro, they showed me you could take this thing far. And growing up in Calgary I learned a lot from the local scene from older heads like Ricca and Virtue and Planit. Shout out to everyone who is moving the scene forward there. Now, living in Toronto, the mecca of hip-hop in Canada, everywhere I look there is another rapper. It really helps you up your game.
What are your thoughts on other Canadian artists like Drake?
Drake is undeniable. It’s an exciting time for Canadian hip-hop, particularly Toronto hip-hop. He’s really put on for the city which is great. But right now you can really tell Canada is buzzing. Everyone is out here working extra hard now. There’s a solid handful of artists that are making really good music, making professional moves, doing it right and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon.
What do you feel makes you different than other artists on the scene today?
I think I’m relentless. I’ve been doing this for a while and it’s been a very slow grind but I haven’t faltered. I see the bigger picture. I understand it’s chess, not checkers. I’m in it for the long haul. A writer once described me as the “unassuming scholar in the background” and described my delivery as “subdued swagger.” I’ve always liked that.
Do you see yourself moving out to the United States eventually like a lot of Canadians tend to do while pursuing their dreams?
Luckily for me, my mother grew up in New York so I’m blessed with dual citizenship, making the inevitable move to the U.S. a lot easier. I can’t say when I’ll be moving. People always ask when and I always just say in a years’ time. But it will be when the times right, whenever that is. But Canada will forever have my heart.
What tips would you give young artists coming up, or what do you wish someone would have told you when you first started out in the hip-hop industry?
Take it slow and do things properly. Master your craft. Write, create, play, whatever it is, every single day. Don’t be discouraged if your friends don’t love it. Sometimes you’ll make trash but you can’t have a flower without some dirt first. Network as much as you can and don’t be afraid to take chances.
Any last words for our Levity Ball readers?
Thank you for having me out and hit me up or follow me on any social media platform @JohnnyActive to stay up to date with the life and times. Bless.