For many music artists from small towns, it can be tough trying to gain exposure. But Johari L, a singer/songwriter/producer from Grand Rapids, MI, sees this as an opportunity rather than a barrier. “As of now, there's no one really making a name for our city in music. From what I’ve heard, most of the musicians here are too focused on the trends that surface in mainstream. It’s the perfect place for me to really stand out with my unique sound. Hopefully I can inspire others to do the same,” said Johari.
Johari L has been cranking out music from his bedroom/home studio for many years. He and I met online through my cousin Kaileia back in 2011. At the time, we were both amatuer teenagers just trying to make music. Although we might’ve not been as skilled just yet, we collaborated on a track together and I remember specifically playing the song over and over again to hear Johari singing his verse. We lost contact for a few years, but recently reconnected as both of us have progressed artistically and professionally since then.
Formerly known as L12 for eleven years, Johari recently changed his official stage name to Johari L. He felt that the name change was necessary in showing his growth and maturity as an artist and as a young man. Johari’s music journey began even before his birth, and only developed further and further through his childhood and youth. “I was born around music. My mom has always told me stories about how she'd play her favorite albums aloud close to her stomach while she was pregnant. I'd always kick while she sung. My mom is an amazing singer. Her and I always sung together, especially our favorite cuts from Prince albums,” said Johari.
Johari’s experience and exposure to music has allowed him to experiment with all genres, most notably R&B, Soul, Pop, and Rap. Johari stated, “I grew up listening to Prince, TLC, Missy Elliott, Jon B. and any other well known artists from the 80's - 90's.” We can see heavy R&B and Soul influence in the artist’s songs “Press Play” and “Come and Get Me,” both which are classic love-making styled tunes. Recently, however, Johari L has leaked his newest self-produced & self-written, Hip Hop and almost poetically inspired track - “Waves,” which just might be circulating in email inboxes around the U.S. As a businessman and artist, Johari chose to release “Waves” in September 2016 as an exclusive download which can only be received directly via email from the artist himself. He is more focused in long-term growth than mere plays, and focuses on generating long-lasting relationships with his small but growing loyal fan base.
Johari L has a new name and developed persona, to go along with his new audio and visual material that will be coming very soon. He is consistently working in his home studio and doing all he can to improve all aspects of his music career, from studio equipment to networking to videos and promotions. “I’d like people to know that when it comes to me and my music, it’ll be an experience for them. When you listen front to back without skipping a track, you'll see a story line. I love cohesive projects. It's what turns music into art,” said Johari. For more information on Johari L, visit his Youtube channel and/or follow him on Facebook.
Who remembers the good old ‘MySpace’ days and even as far back as Xanga or AsianAvenue? Then along came YouTube, founded in 2005, and the world opened up for kids all around the world that wanted to share their silly skits, rants, vlogs, and music. To me, growing up as an Asian-American, I never really saw ‘cool’ Asian characters on TV or in music videos. Asian girls in particular were usually portrayed as submissive and easy sexual targets. Asian guys usually played the push-over or ‘geeky’ characters. Of course, those roles are still shown in the media today. But I think tools like YouTube and other social media devices collectively opened up new platforms for kids like me to be heard, and has allowed us to show our various characters - Timothy Delaghetto, Dumbfoundead, AJ Rafael, J.R. Aquino, NigaHiga etc.
With that said, one day I was on ‘YouNow,’ a live broadcasting web application that allows users to run their own live video broadcasts...when I met a young lady that goes by the name Ca$aNoVa. She saw that I rapped, we conversed about music, and even had a dual ‘jam session’ through YouNow, while many viewers watched. (The internet can be an amazing place sometimes.) It’s been about a year since then and Ca$aNoVa and I have kept in touch via social media. Ca$aNoVa is an aspiring singer/rapper from the island of Guam; she is currently back on Guam after living in Arizona briefly. As a fan of all musical genres, Ca$aNoVa brings heavy elements of pop and techno, along with hip hop/rap influences into her songs. Her lyrics are deep and personal, but also share stories of love and other topics. This week’s “Track Tuesday” segment features Ca$aNoVa’s newest track “Rewind.”
Produced by FlipTunesMusic, “Rewind” is a love song based on a true experience that happened to Ca$aNoVa. Pop and R&B are the primary elements on the track, but features rap-styled verses by Ca$aNoVa and Rezzo. “The song talks about meeting someone for the first time and not knowing when you will see them again, so you want to take it back to the moment you met,” said Ca$aNoVa. Ca$aNoVa is still at the very beginning of her musical journey, but this artist has already accomplished so much personally, having recently competed in the 2016 Mission Underground Live Cypher draft. Mission Underground is a Team Backpack event, that was held in Brooklyn, New York.
It’s amazing how the internet and music enables artists to connect regardless of physical locations. It’s also cool to see my fellow Asian people like myself and Ca$aNoVa get recognition for our talent and swagger, which we should’ve been getting all along. Lol. Check out more of Ca$aNoVa’s music on her Soundcloud.
Many might agree that today’s Hip Hop is “not the same” as when it first started. There are many artists and Hip Hop fans that would say that the Hip Hop of today, with all the “mumble” rappers and “trap” rappers, is not true Hip Hop. But what is true Hip Hop? Is Hip Hop a specific sound? Is it even music anymore? Whatever the case may be, as a Hip Hop Artist and fan myself, I think that anyone is entitled to his/her opinion. Here at OTDHipHop, I give you folks my all, whether you agree or disagree. I also believe that Hip Hop can mean different things to different people. I’ve met artists who’ve used music as a way to overcome depression and destructive behavior like drug and alcohol abuse, artists who’ve felt disconnected from their own families who found community in Hip Hop, and even artists/listeners who simply love the music and culture. With that said, I had the pleasure of interviewing Soul Sergeant D-Man (SSD), for this week’s Friday Feature segment. While he is an artist/rapper, his authentic love for Hip Hop/Rap music and culture truly sets him apart.
Born Damion Davis, Soul Sergeant D-Man (SSD) is a 24-year-old Hip Hop Artist/Rapper from Glendale, Arizona. His name may sound a little “out there,” but SSD explained the meaning behind his rap name. “I came up with the name Soul Sergeant D-Man, by the help of my dad because he made believe that I can put my heart and soul into anything I do. My name is Soul Sergeant D-man, meaning I got soul like The Godfather of Soul. As a sergeant, I'm somewhat like the roughest and toughest, and in my own little world I’m just D-man,” said SSD.
Growing up, SSD was always a fan of Hip Hop and was exposed to rapping on his own as a preteen. SSD stated that one day, his older cousin Deshawn was writing with a pen and pad in the dining room, but Deshawn was already brilliant freestyler. “I told Deshawn that he makes want to rap but I didn’t think I would be good at it. But Deshawn believed in me and told me that I could get better with a lot more practice,” said SSD. He went on to say that, “Deshawn helped me write my first rhyme, and picked out 50 Cent's "P.I.M.P." instrumental to rap to. I messed up plenty of times until he made sure I was on beat with the flow and lyrics.” Since that time, SSD has been writing his own lyrics, first as a hobby that gradually progressed over time, until he was able to record at the GrayRoom Recording Studio for the first time at age 16.
SSD has a number of supporters via social media, largely due to his accomplishments and the network he has grown from participating in contests like Team Backpack’s (TBP) Mission Underground auditions. TBP is a platform committed to showcasing the best in underground Hip Hop, and serves as the initial catapult into stardom for many up and coming artists. “In 2015, I decided to go for broke and do my online audition. After uploading it on YouTube, I was getting nothing but good positive feedback from the other emcees that was also competing, just wishing each other good luck. At first I felt like I wasn't going to get my invitation so I did another online audition to prove I'm in it to win, and after that I got my invitation email from TBP! It felt like I won the lottery,” said SSD. While in California for Mission Undergound Los Angeles (MULA), SSD met many gifted and talented local like emcees like Gio Martin, Naim Def, D'vision Kurosaki, Nasty Nelo, Mr. E, Mizznekol, $arcast, Sean Curtis, Terry Davis aka Freeze, and much much more. “I even met and talked to almost all the famous Teambackpack Heavy Hitters in the game. I seen street cyphers, merchandise, food truck, interviews, and everything there. Overall, I felt really blessed to see Hip Hop music, artists, and culture all come together to bring positive but also competitive vibes all around. Even though I didn’t win anything or make the Top 12, it was great to be part of the Team Backpack movement,” said SSD.
Going forward, SSD is more than just another local rapper. He is a strong supporter of the variety of talent in Hip Hop, and consistently promotes other artists via social media. In an age where everyone seems to want to always “one up” each other, SSD chooses to uplift, and I believe that says more about an artist than anything else. “What hip-hop communities need is a savior and that savior is yourself and it's all on you. If you don't care or even try to do something about it then the more degrading the hip-hop community will be. It's all about pushing the culture,” stated SSD.
For more information on Soul Sergeant D-Man (SSD), visit his Youtube channel and/or follow him on Facebook.
OTDHipHop is an independent music blog and network, curated by Rapper/Blogger Jehzan Exclusive.