Working with Culture VI Records founder and manager Wil Loesel since the age of 15, the Baltimore native has matured to a level that far exceeds most 24 year olds. Already a husband and father to a daughter prone to life-threatening seizures, the newly-minted President of this small, yet accomplished, record label has accepted many of the day-to-day responsibilities of running the business. He was instrumental in coordinating collaborations with Joe Budden, Royce Da 5’9” and Wordsworth on the label’s 2008 release “ninety-four.”
The former graffiti artist is finally ready to release his debut solo album “Sorry I’m Late.” After impressive appearances on label projects “Elite” and the aforementioned “ninety-four”, the youngest member of Culture VI is ready to step away from his desk and onto the stage. He has collaborated on the project with many of hip-hop and R&B’s most respected names, such as Marsha Ambrosius, Joell Ortiz, Skyzoo and PackFM and also features production from multi-platinum producers Nottz and Needlz, as well as classic hip-hop producer 88-Keys.
Yesterday, featuring Joell Ortiz, finds Joell in a very reflective place, reciting a passionate verse over an emotionally empowering sound crafted by Culture VI’s go-to producer YZ. It exposes a side of Joell that is usually hidden. On the Marsha collaboration, John speaks on the loss of the most influential people in his life. Paint the World is his ode to his previous graffiti lifestyle, while She & H.E.R. deals with his relationship and music balance. She Loves Me…Not is a rock/hip-hop hybrid song performed live by Dub B and the JYG (Junk Yard Gang).
How do you describe your music to people, John?
100% authentic & genuine. "Sorry I'm Late" pretty much consists of chapters in my life that were devastating to my family and me as a person in general. From losing my grandparents and finding my uncle dead, to dealing with balancing my love for music & my wife. You won't hear about me selling pounds of drugs or shooting people. You could consider the album as a outlet to escape and/or soothe myself from my troubles, I consider it my therapy.
Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
I grew up a fan (and participant) in the graffiti world. And that's a major part of hip-hop - it's part of the foundation. So through graffiti, I was exposed to the world of breakbeats, breakdancing, DJ'ing and rap. Growing up in Baltimore, it was just always around me.
What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Spending time with my youngest daughter. There isn't even a close second. Since my daughter was 9 months old, she starting having fibral seizures. We're fortunate that they haven't occurred as frequent as they did when she was younger, shes 4 now. It's one of the scariest things I've ever had to deal with. One time, I almost felt like I had to prepare myself if she wasn't gonna be here anymore, and since, I've cherished every moment I get to spend with her.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Being successful in the field that I'm in. One of the things you want to do is separate yourself from everyone else, but not to the extent that will place you in an unnoticeable position. Your brand, the quality you deliver, and your reputation must be unprecedented, along with the relationships you build and how you deliver your product, which in my case in the music.
When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
An artist. Not with a microphone tho, with a paint brush. Artistry runs in my family. My grandfather was a really good artist, and my uncle was too. Growing up with both, I felt like I was gonna be the one to continue the trend and make a living from it. In elementary school, a majority of my work was always put on display at various places, and I received a lot of awards for my art. As time passed, and my interest travelled into music, my interest shifted.
In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
In a way that motivates me to push harder and remain above the influence. I live in Baltimore. Everyday I'm surrounded with struggle, poverty, violence, drugs, and everything else that contributes to the "crabs in a bucket" mentality. Over the years I've learned that the competition isn't between each other, but within yourself to keep moving in a positive direction every day.
What other artists out there do you love?
Lupe Fiasco. He's probably my favorite at the current moment. He's not a yes man. He rages against the machine. I've followed his debacle with Atlantic Records since the beginning, and he stays true to the art, and who he is as a person. He doesn't sell out. He could have done what the label wanted a long time ago, and his album could have been released the way THEY wanted it. Instead, he choose to fight for what he believes in, and his fans have stood beside him, and that is a great thing.
What does your future hold?
That's a good question. The album is out, and we've received nothing but good feedback from the music, so that's a start of good things to come. Evidently were doing something right! lol. Were in the beginning phase of the album campaign, so where this will end nobody knows!