Roland Johnson is a self-professed sneakerhead, inspiring author and fashion designer, uses his experiences and perception of the world to inspire his music. The sounds of 90's underground hip-hop undergird his lyrics with a pop of Nas-esque truth that point people to finding purpose and fulfilment in being themselves. The way he flips styles, changes speeds, and smooths beats, reflect his passion for skateboarding as well as a tip of the hat to greats like Andre 3000, a driving influence in his artistry. And Roland doesn't just stop there! Alternative rap is where he feels most at home, pulling from the sounds of N.E.R.D., Lorde, Ana Tijoux, Ol Dirty Bastard, and Nirvana, just to name a few. Releasing his new LP, The Creative Writing Process at the age of 42, Roland is not interested in labels as much as he is in pursuing whatever is in one's heart to accomplish. Join us as we chat exclusively to this remarkable artist...
Hey Roland! Welcome to CFM! Thanks for answering our q's.
So firstly, how would you describe your sound?
When I say my sound is "alternative hip hop", people look at me like I'm crazy like "no, it's just hip hop. I'll take that. I grew up in West Virginia in the early 90s during the grunge era so when I write I always like adding a twist to the song. I definitely like to express my feelings to human beings and the way we're living right now. But all in all the music is my guide. I always try and do what the beat is telling me to do.
What’s a typical day in the studio like for you?
I work at 8-10 hour day then I drive from Baltimore, MD to Johnstown Pa to record at Prada G Studios. It's about a 3 hour ride. I know I could go somewhere closer but Supreme(Prada G engineer and family) knows my sound and he always believed in me since day 1. I wrote my entire album during a 9-5 lunch break. Timing myself one hour to find a beat, write a song and select the features for that particular song. I actually wrote the song entitled "Baggage Claim" in my car on my way to the studio, lol. I decided to add it to the album but it was amazing how I could see the words and sounds dancing in my mind putting the verse together bit by bit. Once the verse line comes out, everything just flows from there.
Do you have to be in a certain mood to write a song?
Not necessarily. But my album does explain where I'm at in my life right now. I wrote The Creative Process in the happiest period of my life. I'm financially free, I strayed away from all things(people) that are negative and I often stay off social media so I can stay in touch with reality and not this social perception. Honestly after promotion I know I'll disappear again until I time for round 2 lol (kanye shrug).
Who are your three biggest musical inspirations?
Nas, Andre 3000 and Mac Miller. I'm a huge fan of N.E.R.D., Ana Tijoux & Sound Garden as well. But the first 3, whenever I heard something new from them it gave me this feeling. Almost like a glow that makes me drop what I'm doing and start beat hunting. I love it that feeling. But then I could play anything from Maggie Roger's to Saba and get the urge to write as well. I guess I just get inspired by whoever made something dope. Not catchy....dope.
What’s the toughest part of the industry for you?
Toughest part of the industry is everyone thinking I want to be apart of it lol. I don't. I don't buy material things like I used to so my money is good, I have outstanding friends and family. I have people I've never met that I consider close friends. I try new things every moment I get and I make music I've always wanted to make so...yeah...im good on the industry thing. I do this for me. It's just a huge plus when someone else appreciates it. I don't care about the lights, the gimmicks and doing what I can to make a hit song. I want to create music that I can always go back to smile and say "I did that...I made that."
What’s in store for you for the rest of 2021?
I'm helping the people around me live out their dreams. I want to donate more to non profit organisations and although I don't tell people this a lot.. I often pack my trunk with clothes and food and pass it out to the homeless during the winter. I always go alone and I never post or speak on it...it sounds like a brag when you do. I'm only saying it now because maybe someone will read this and start doing the same. We need more of this...and not just for 2021. Also working on the Creative Writing Process with a special feature in mind. *wink wink
Look, at the end if the day I want to help as many people as possible, keep my peace and do the things I live. Music is 1 of a million for me...but it will always be my top 3.
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