Below you will find an interview with Jon Boy conducted by H&B Founder Cyrus A. Webb. They discuss Jon's beginnings, how he came to be a part of a reality show and how he remains true to himself.
Thanks Jon Boy for taking out the time to talk with us about yourself and your career. Many people know you from The White Rapper Show on VH1, but I want to go back to your life before then. When did you know you were interested in music, and more specifically rap?
Iíve been into music my whole life; I really got into rap when I was 6 yrs old. I remember out of no where mysteriously finding a mix tape with Dougie Freshís The Show, I listened to that song over and over again, there were other rap artists featured on the mix tape, but ďThe ShowĒ was definitely my favorite. I always had a fascination with music, there is a photo of me at the age of two holding a guitar, my mother said I would play with that guitar for hours and hours everyday until it finally fell apart. Looking back, I always had musical instruments at home whether it was a karaoke machine, a saxophone I played in middle school or playing my keyboards at the age of 9. Any extracurricular activities such as sports, I always had an element of music around with any and everything I did.
As I got older, I started listening to a RUN DMC cassette and The House of Pain and other rap artists. Professionally, I started practicing and working with various studios in the Hampton Roads, VA area in my late teens, around 17 or 18. My interest in rap was that it was a voice for the common person, it allows you to express yourself and not be confined to the rules of society, and thatís why I have so much respect for the genre.
Did it as a surprise to your family and friends that rap was something you were drawn to?
No, I donít think so, my family and friends always knew I would choose something unique, they saw I was working hard and going to various studios and working towards my goals by making myself better. They support me in anything that I do. I was brought up to believe in myself and work hard to attain what I wanted in life; my choice was to become a successful rap artist.
If you had to describe your style, what would you say?
Versatile, none of my songs sound alike. Iím always trying something new, and people are always surprised about what Iíll come up with next. I love the challenge as an artist to continue to bring something new and fresh to my fans.
Since Vanilla Ice there haven't been a great deal of high-profile white rappers coming into their own. What told you that you could be one of the few?
I donít look at it in terms of being one of the few; I look at everyone in the industry no matter their race as my fellow peers and competition. Iím honestly not looking to be the next White HYPE or that next White Rapper. Iím looking to be a great musician that is apart of a genre that has been very gracious to me and in return, I want to give my all and make publicity for all the ďright reasonsĒ by giving back to the Hip-Hop community and culture.
Has it been your experienced that the hiphop community as a whole has been acceptable of you and your talent?
Absolutely, I think the hip-hop community has been very accepting of me. Many industry professionals have given me pointers, and have helped me along the way. Iíve always been truthful and honest about who I am as an artist and most importantly as a person. Those Iíve worked with know that Iím genuine and have been working on my craft for several years.
For example, when I first started recording with Ernest Smith who ran MITROD Studios, in Norfolk, VA he mentored me and gave me direction and pointers on becoming a great musician, writer and producer. The more people give, the more I would listen; I attribute the advice of Ernest Smith and many others over the years for me being a great artist. The hip hop audience is very intelligent and takes pride in their music; they know when youíre not being real. Iím a rap artist that isnít trying to be anyone but himself and the hip-hop community they appreciate and respect that.
Okay, let's get into The White Rapper Show. How did you initially learn of the project and did you have any hesitation of joining a reality show cast?
Well, I was doing various shows within the college circuit, a young woman who was coordinating shows for me heard about the auditions on Craigís list. Yes, big ups to craigslist, so she contacted the guy who did my promotions, he then contacted me at work on my cell phone. At this point everything I tried, everyone had been telling me to change the topic matter, or edit my lyrics and sometimes wanted me to dance.
Initially, I didnít want to audition, I felt, here we go againÖ!!! I wasnít going to be able to be my authentic self as an artist. When I was told about the 100 (gís) on the line, and that I only had to submit a 16 bar tape of me rapping accepela and an interview, so I saw this as an opportunity to give it my best shot and was true to myself as an artist, with no holds barred. I felt they were either really going to like it or hate it, either way; I was going to be myself.
So 4 days later, they called and said they loved the tape and the interview. They had regional try-outs in 4 major cities one was in NY, so I was invited to audition and went to New York. I did several free-styles and just about everything I could to be noticed; I basically acted a fool. Then they choose me to be in the top 25 and the rest was on Vh1 which reached a world-wide audience.
Probably one of the most controversial moments was with Persia and the use of what many simply call the "N" word. I'm curious as to how you saw that situation. The word is used allot in the culture. Why not be able to use it?
People are always going to have different opinions on the usage of the N word. With this country being built on freedom of speech, you will have people that are going to say what they say, and there is no way you can truly stop the usage of the word. I donít like the word; I personally choose to not use the word.
After you left the show, what would say was the changing point for you to guide you into where you are now in 2008?
The moment I came home from New York after the show and all the local rappers that I worked with no longer wanted to work with me. They were jealous, starting rumors, my intentions were to work with them and teach them what I learned when I returned, so together we could be the best team, but it never happened. After my associates turned their backs on me that gave me the drive and determination that I never had before. I focused on myself and perfecting my talent and skills. I felt like the opportunity being cast on The White Rapper Show showed me the golden rule of music, which is to not count on the next man for anything, that itís all on me.
As you know, I'm working on the Hiphop & Books project, an initiative to encourage lovers of hiphop and R&B music to remember the importance of reading an staying in school. We are pleased now to have you and your management involved in it with us. Why do you think programs like this are so important?
Programs like Hip Hop & Books is important, because many kids fantasize about being an entertainer or athlete. If you want to be a singer or actor you need to know how to read or write. You have to know how to read music or lyrics to be a singer or read scripts to be an actor. As a ball player its necessary to be able to read plays and memorize them, which are essential learning skills. Kids, when they get older start to find themselves, and with programs like Hip Hop & Books it gives them the access to books that will provide confidence and basic skills to take advantage of opportunities to become successful in various facets of their lives.
Reading and writing has been the greatest advancement in the history of mankind and to be apart of this history you must be literate. Hip Hop & Books is doing a great deed; Iím proud to be apart of it and will give everything I have to make sure that reading is number one in the lives of all children.
Since we are on the subject, what is the book that has impacted you the most in your life.
The Bible, because the word of god is the most important thing to me.
Jon Boy, who would you say has kept you encouraged along the way, telling you not to give up even when the situation looked bleak?
Iím a highly motivated person, the few times that have really set me back, the encouragement came from my mother, her wisdom and strength have gotten me through some of the roughest storms.
Other than working with Hiphop & Books, I know you are working on other projects. If our readers want to keep up with you, where can they find you online?
My online presence is on my MySpace page. My management is currently working on my Official Jon Boy Website that will have a calendar of events and a blog to correspond with me. Go to: www.myspace.com/jonboyceo stay posted on the MySpace page itíll keep you posted of all upcoming show dates, appearances and information of the new site launch.
Thanks again for the interview. Do you have any last words for your fans?
To my fans I appreciate your support and all the kind words over the course of my career. Always stay focused on your goals and strive to be the best in all you do. Embrace who you are as a person and never let anyone take your swagger or sense of self away from you. Support a cause that will in turn help to make you a better person. Keep up with the Hip Hop & Books Tour, it is a cause that means a lot to me. Pass the word on to others, because together we can make a difference in the lives of those who are in dire need of books. Literacy is the key to everyoneís success in life. To keep up with the cause, or help please go to http://www.hiphopandbooks.com and http://www.myspace.com/hiphopandbooks.