#Jonn Hart featured
Jonn Hart intro
Meet Epic Records’ latest prospect, Jonn Hart, who sparked a label bidding war with his West Coast smash “Who Booty.” Since leaving a local Oakland R&B/hip-hop group, the 23-year-old Bay Area native has already worked with the likes of E-40, French Montana and fellow up-and-coming Californian Iamsu!. We caught up with Jonn on the set of the video for his “Who Booty” remix with French Montana to talk about Bay Area rap, his audition for L.A. Reid and his upcoming solo mixtape. If you don’t know, now you know. —XXL Staff
On his background in music:
I grew up around music my whole life. I grew up with my mom singing in the choir, and my stepfather actually does gospel music. My stepfather had his own studio, and I remember going in the booth for the first time and playing around. After I got out, I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I’ve taken vocal lessons, but it’s been more of a natural thing since my mom sings. I think I’ve inherited some of that. I haven’t taken all of it from her. But yeah, I’m actively [working] with a vocal coach and will continue to be throughout my whole career in order to keep getting better and keep getting stronger.
On early influences:
The Bay area definitely has a huge influence on me. How I am, how I dress. But I really listened to everything. As far as our generation nowadays, if you look inside somebody’s iPod you’ll see pop, hip hop, R&B, rock songs, everything. And that’s the same for me. Growing up, one of my favorite rappers was Fabolous. He was from New York, but he was one of my favorites and still is. Obviously, being from the Bay, 40 is a legend to me. Too $hort is another person that made his mark as a legend. On the R&B side, Tony! Toni! Tone! In the Bay they were just huge. And to this day I still look up to Usher. When he came out with “U Make Me Wanna,” I thought that shit was so fly. I appreciate all the Ushers and my peers like Chris Brown and Trey Songz. I have a lot of respect for all of them.
On the making and breaking of his former group, Tha Outfit:
I was in a hip-hop/R&B group for a while. Two singers, two rappers. I got a lot of my foundation from that. Two of them were on tour during the hyphy movement with E-40, and after hyphy was kind of over, they came back and we formed the group. We had some local success from the Bay to Los Angeles, and then we broke up in January of this year. There hasn’t been a real successful urban boy band since Pretty Ricky, and I thought it could’ve been really successful, but the group was in the group’s way. Basically just four individuals with four different personalities that couldn’t get along. It’s crazy how “Who Booty” has taken off, because it was really one of the first records I did as a solo artist.
On auditioning for L.A. Reid and signing to Epic:
There were five people in the room: L.A Reid, the head of urban, the head of A&R, all that. I did three songs and it was just a crazy experience. Very humbling. It was that feeling though, like I’ve been doing it for so long to finally get to this point to have somebody listen to me. So even though I was nervous, it didn’t matter because I wasn’t going to leave that room without giving it my all. So even if nothing came out of it—no deal or whatever, even if he told me, “Go have a great life”—I would have felt like I left my all out there on the table, so whatever happened is what happened. And that’s what I did. I was like, “No matter how nervous I am, I’m going super hard—it don’t matter.” After the showcase, they put the lawyers in contact that night. And I’ve been signed for about two months.
On fusing genres:
I don’t want all my music to be the same. I still make Bay Area music, and then I’ll also make an R&B track, and I don’t know when I’m going to get to the pop, but I’m gonna get to the pop. I enjoy it all because the thing I like about music is that it’s all art. So sometimes I might want to do an R&B club song, or if I’m feeling turnt up I’ll do something for that, and sometimes I might want to do more of a slower love-song record that still has that edge to it.
On what’s next:
I have a really strong base on the West so hopefully we’ll take that East and South and cover the whole nation. As far as music, I have enough material to release a mixtape. So if I have Epic’s blessing, I definitely want to release a mixtape by early next month. I’m ready to go with that. It’ll be all original material, which I’m excited about because since all my old material was within a group, this is the first one from just me. It’ll make things make sense and people will see what kind of artist I am. Nobody wants to be classified as a one-hit wonder. Everybody’s wondering, ‘So, what else do this guy have?’ The mixtape will silence those questions. And then along with that, I’m already working on album songs. I don’t have a date or a deadline or anything like that yet, but there are certain songs I’ve made where I know they’ll end up on my album.