RealTalkNY had the chance to speak with VH1’s White Rapper Show runner up John Brown aka “King of the Burbs.” This was one of my more interesting interviews, John Brown explained a lot of things people had questions about. The King of the Burbs answers what is the, “Ghetto Revival,” the meaning behind, “King of the Burbs,” his beef with Persia, his thoughts on the finals and his future plans. John Brown is making moves to be looked at as more than just another white rapper, Hallelujah HollaBack. Official Myspace Page
Some Audio of the Interview:
Explains Ghetto Revival, “King of the Burbs,” the beef with Persia, Lord Jamar situation & the guest friend that came through.
Speaks About Final results and challenges facing a White Rapper.
More Than Just Another White Rapper
Interview by Nigel Degraff
ReaTalkNY: Where did you grow up?
John Brown: I was born in San Francisco, and I lived in Berkeley until I was 14.
ReaTalkNY: When did you start rapping?
John Brown: I started rapping when I was about 15. I lived in the Bay, which was pretty multi-cultural. Then I moved up to Davis which was 98% white people. I was trying to find a little scene or whatever, some people that moved up form the bay were all into freestyling and talking about what’s going on in the Bay. I kind of got real into it and I started producing when I was in high school. I was a kind of an oasis in my town, the dude that had the music gear in his crib, and that’s kind of how I got started.
ReaTalkNY: Who were the first rappers you started listening too?
John Brown: Honestly, probably MC Hammer, cause he was from Oakland and he was really big when his stuff first came out. Then I started getting into NWA, 2 live Crew, Ice Cube and Ghetto Boys too.
ReaTalkNY: Who do you feel influenced you style?
John Brown: Definitely Tupac, only because I admire his passion, his drive and his riding for the cause. Especially with my family, my name is John Brown, so obviously I come from a progressive mind and background. I was definitely inspired at the gate by speaking truth to power.
ReaTalkNY: What made you decide to relocate to Brooklyn?
John Brown: When I was in Cali I linked up with the co-founder of Ghetto Revival, Dred Scott. He was out there working on some stuff and we linked up through music, and were doing music out there. I ended up coming to New York because I knew the culture out here was good for inspiring artist, and we been building ever since.
ReaTalkNY: What’s the difference between Cali and NY?
John Brown: There’s a huge difference, the weather and architecture fosters different styles. In Cali things are more laid back, the sun is out, there’s more space. In New York everyone has an A type personality, everyone is super ambitious and it forces you to be under pressure, but pressure makes diamonds, so it can be beneficial at the same time.
ReaTalkNY: How was the transition in the rap scene?
John Brown: I was always real into West Coast production and more East Coast lyricism. I came out here and I was really one of the backbones for the production side of Ghetto Revival. Just supplying beats, over years we just stacked songs and developed our brand and mentality and everything like that. I always been an MC too, I developed it more over the last couple of years, spending all those hours on beats and what not. Being around people up here definitely helped me develop my style.
ReaTalkNY: For all those people asking what is the,” Ghetto Revival,” can you explain it to them?
John Brown: First of all, “Ghetto Revival,” is the name of our company. I’m the Vice president of Ghetto Revival, and our whole M.O. is really unity, we are about people being there own bosses. Creating your own destiny, whether you are from the burbs are from the hood. You are working to make a better America, what I think cause so much trouble is the fact that I juxtapose, “Burbs,” with, “Ghetto.” It kind of all of a sudden ignite a certain passion of, “What the fuck you know about the hood, keep your mouth shut if you don’t know what your talking about.” I think that those discussions need to be had in America. That’s why there sending the burbs, sending me, to the white rapper show. Ghetto Revival, we recognize, especially with policies that have been going on in this country for a long time, there’s just a a strong effort to hinder creating an equal society. We are trying to work to help stop that.
ReaTalkNY: So Ghetto Revival is more than a group of rappers?
John Brown: Its a group of rappers, but the Revival will take a lot of stages. Right now we are the artist, we hit the people with the inspiration. We are brining out the ideas, in terms of business and politics. First, we are here in the inspirational stage. Once we get our weight up, and establish our classic albums and get our entertainment side of the game up, that when we can transition to more impractical things. Trying to buy land for social stability, or being in public policy and affecting legislation, similar to Russell Simmons. We are inspired by that, we love making music, and partying. We are concerned with, once you make that money, how do you choose to use that money. We are trying to bring a creative approach to what we do with our success.
ReaTalkNY: Where does the saying, “Hallelujah HollaBack,” originate from?
John Brown: Hallelujah HollaBack, its a seven syllable phrase that Dred Scott, president of Ghetto Revival, hit us with one day when we were in the lab getting revived. It became a song and slowly became a catchphrase for Ghetto Revival as well as a way of life, to greet someone or just say peace. Its also the title track on our upcoming mixtape, Ghetto Revival.
ReaTalkNY: Where does the term, “King of The Burbs,” come from?
John Brown: King of the Burbs is sort of a theory that I developed with everyone around me. When your from a city like New York or Atlanta, there’s such a rich culture and rich history. A lot of people give shit to people from a sanitized, kind of boring town. Its a feeling like, if your from a town with nothing your corny, especially when your young. Like I said, I was like the oasis of my town, and I felt in order to get where I got in Hip Hop and to be a better artist in the game it wasn’t easy coming from a small town. Sometimes you have to have more passion, more dedication, more knowledge of Hip Hop to really be a factor. I recognized a lot of kids from the suburbs had issues about being from the suburbs. I realized that what I wanted to do is embrace that and also teach some of the cultural traits and mentalities of the suburbs. Especially the idea that everybody is trying to be in the suburbs, its all about getting your paper and your ride and that’s the American dream. So its like if I’m already sitting in the American dream, let me embrace the American dream and talk about the irony behind it. By saying, “King of the Burbs,” I’m carving out a whole new sphere of Hip Hop that never really been carved out before. I’m making a statement, I’m from the West coast, but not from the West coast like Game is, because Game is representing the hood of the West coast and that’s where Hip Hop comes from. I, being from the suburbs, I culturally have more things in common with another kid in the suburbs of Florida then I would have with a kid from the hood of Sacramento. So I’m trying to make a bigger social statement, that America tends to breed cultures that are segregated from one another. You can look at kids in college, kids in prisons, and that whole thing, I’m really on that, I come from a background of checking that out. I’m really trying to bring light to these issues.
ReaTalkNY: How did you first hear about the VH1 White Rapper Show?
John Brown: I heard about it online, people we advertising it a lot. I just submitted my myspace page nonchalantly. The way it was marketed was real corny, it was like we’re trying to find the next Eminem. If your mad naive, your going to think there really trying to find the next Eminem. The fact that Ego Trip was behind it, I was very familiar with Ego Trip’s work, and I could read between the lines and seize the opportunity to really brand to America and marketing these new ideas that haven’t really been brought up. I initially wasn’t going to the show, they wanted me on it, but I felt it was a little corny. I got a lot of calls from the executives at VH1 and they were really trying to emphasize that there was going to be legitimate people involved and they really needed me. So at the last minute, Friday night, I decided to go, the filming had started on Sunday. The only people that came at the last minute was me and Misfit, the rest of the cast were bonding in a hotel for a week, so when we came in it added to the tension and that’s what led up to that first episode.
ReaTalkNY: What were your initial thought on the other MC’s?
John Brown: I thought everybody was alright, I really didn’t hear from anybody that much. To be honest, I felt people were intimidated by me, people may of thought I had evil ulterior motives. On some basic shit, I was just tripping out, like yo this dude is from Atlanta, this chick is from Pennsylvania, like this is crazy. I would be like, “yo let me hear some shit,” and everybody would be like not trying to spit anything cause they thought I was trying to get an edge or something like that. So I really didn’t hear anyone spit until like eliminations.
ReaTalkNY: Where did the beef between you and Persia originate from? I talked to her earlier and she stated, “John Brown can suck a dick.”
John Brown: I mean, Persia also said he had a wet dream about me and had I love John Brown t-shirts on the show. They really edited Persia up, I mean she was going to cut my clothes, because I almost drank one of her slim fast by accident, there was a lot of crazy shit that this girl was on they didn’t show, I’m dead serious. Actually that night, when me and Shamrock were going back and forth after that night with Nore, he was like you better be careful cause Persia is about to cut your clothes up. I was going through a lot with them cats. Persia, I don’t know maybe she wanted my affection the way Sulle & Shamrock gave it to her. Persia is a leader, I’ll give her that, such as myself, I feel like a lot of the other kids on the show were followers. She was sort of threatened by the fact that I wasn’t in awe of her as an artist. Some of if it was a little crush, like a little girl running around saying “I don’t like you, I don’t like you.” To me she focused on my destruction so much, that she just winded up self destructing. She just needs a big hug, I’m not really trying to get caught up in reality show beef, that shit it corny.
ReaTalkNY: People appearing on Reality shows usually say the shows were heavily edited and may portray people in a different light. What are your thoughts on the show’s editing?
John Brown: They only used about 10% of the footage of everything we did. It’s insane how much stuff we did, in terms of where we went, rhyming for this dude, rhyming for that dude. There’s so much stuff they didn’t use, but I think the overall editing portrayed everybody in an accurate light. I was on my robotic, “Ghetto Revival,” mode and that, “King of the Burbs,” shit my first three days. When I decided to do the show I knew there only gonna take what you give them. So when Lord Jamar comes and says something to me, I can try to respond and say actually we come from multiple religions, multiple ethnicities and I could of got in depth with him about what Ghetto Revival is about. I could of gone down that route, but what I’m saying is they wouldn’t have put it in final cut, I knew they wouldn’t off, so that’s why when there was opportunities I would say Hallelujah HollaBack. I knew that was what would cause frenzy, people wouldn’t give a fuck about a socio-economic response, I knew Hallelujah HollaBack would have a longer effect, by hitting them with a marketing phrase. It was intense living with everybody, I was basically living alone, in terms of knowing what I was doing and everybody was against me, so it definitely took a focus.
ReaTalkNY: So your not always that serious in real life?
John Brown: Nah, I’m crazy, I was dead serious on the show because I was focused. I’m a little comedian on the low.
ReaTalkNY: Did you guys get to interact with the artist that cameos on the show like Saigon & Fat Joe?
John Brown: It ranged, someone like Fat Joe, he came in, we asked questions and he bounced. Saigon kicked it a little longer, he gave us input on what we need to be doing. Justblaze was definitely the most genuine experience, we really were in the lab with him for two hours. He gave us tips on the bridge and what we can do for adlibs, so I definitely say it ranged.
ReaTalkNY: How did you feel about the challenges?
John Brown: The challenges in the beginning, up until the JustBlaze episode, were annoying and pretty rudimentary. Obviously going door to door was one of those awkward things but I kind of knew what to expect going into the show. You can’t do a reality show and be like, “it was freaking jokes and they edited me crazy,” you got to understand that going into the show. There’s going to be some good looks and bad looks and its going to be a huge look. I basically tried to roll with the punches and make sure I took advantage with the branding during all the corny shit. Obviously smoke in the club got a lot of buzz, and from there one we go to work on our real skills.
ReaTalkNY: How was your trip to Detroit?
John Brown: Detroit was crazy, we were there for three days, we got to see a lot of different cats. Meeting the Insane Clown Posse was crazy. They really have a fucking mansion with every with aspect of a record label you can think of. Their own radio station, their own DVD production, it was just crazy. The battle was cool, the crowd was intense. I was trying to hold it down and get my lines across.
ReaTalkNY: How was the performance at the Rucker?
John Brown: Rucker was cool everyone was chill, it wasn’t a hostile crowd.
ReaTalkNY: In the last episode they brought a friend for you to chill with, you didn’t seem to amicable with him, why was that?
John Brown: They brought in a random cat, I know him , he’s a designer. It was one of those weird reality TV moments, where basically a dude I see once every two or three months, you know what I’m saying. I’m on the show focusing on the song, because they gave us 24 hour to write it, and then they throw in this random dude I’m suppose to be on TV talking to, its just mad fucking dry. I was like Yo can I just holla at my dog in like a week, you know what I mean, I’m trying to win this shit. It wasted all of our time, we spent a whole day having a fake hang out session that they didn’t even put on the show.
ReaTalkNY: Do you feel you were robbed at the end? Also I was surprised to hear one of the judges say lyrics don’t matter.
John Brown: Honestly I haven’t seen that episode yet, yesterday was such a crazy day. I been reading people’s response, I mean in certain respects I feel they brought in some judges that weren’t familiar with the evolution of each artist. I talked to Clinton Sparks and he said Serch hit him up and told him come in, listen to the songs and pick who wins, that’s it. They didn’t do research of each of our whole package. I’m happy for Shamrock, because he is a genuinely nice dude and is genuinely talented and put in work during eliminations. There is a lot of stuff involved in winning, like contractual obligations. When I came out with car wars, I was trying to fuck with people’s heads. I first came out with Smoking in the club and then She’s a Stunner, so then I wanted to fuck their heads up with some political statement for the millions of people watching the grand finale. I felt that I put it down in such a well rounded way, I felt unless I totally blew it, I didn’t see how Shamrock was going to really take it. Obviously it was more of an album track then a single. The judges kind of latched on the popularity down south and I thrown them a curve ball. Maybe in that specific challenge I can see why they went with Sham, even though I felt that, “Fly Away,” was a Goodie Mobb song. It is, what it is, it may be a blessing in disguise and at the end of the day everything happens for a reason. It put more fire under me to prove that I’m not just 7 minute reality rapper and we(Ghetto Revival) are really building something that’s legendary.
ReaTalkNY: How would your summarize the whole experience?
John Brown: The whole experience was classic, historical for TV, historical for Hip Hop and it was way more than we could of imagined. When I say we, I mean the team Ghetto Revival. I knew, “King of the Burbs,” would be controversial because it comes off as trying to claim some throne and that got people’s feathers in a ruffle. I didn’t know that the syntax of Ghetto Revival would make people think that we were trying to increase ghettos or have more suburbs or something like that. Its cool to see people react.
ReaTalkNY: What’s next for your career?
John Brown: Right now we are in talks with different labels, independent and major. We are trying to figure out the best situation for us. We got the Ghetto Revival mixtape coming out with all of our artist. Trying to tell people where King of the Burbs came from. Its called Hallejuh HollaBack, to bring the marketing fully home and that’s getting mastered right now, should be out next week. I have the King of the Burbs album, which is pretty done, where just shopping it around and trying to get some singles with big producers. The clothing thing has really been or cake off, the hoodies and shirts have been selling ridiculously, we are trying to expand that and make it a household thing. Now a days everybody burns CDs, so CDs aren’t really the money maker, its in the merchandise and the shows. We are setting up our tours and using our promotion the best way we can. The money would of been cool, but multi millionaire adverting isn’t bad either.
ReaTalkNY: For the last question, what are the challenges facing a white rappers as appose to a black rapper?
John Brown: I really don’t have much sympathy for white rappers, to be honest with you. I think its funny, cause its the first time where white people I guess sort of feel disadvantaged. If you want to be a white rapper and want to be in the culture you got to just roll with the punches. You got to expect some people will look at you sideways, but it has to encourage you to try even harder to make better music. I don’t really stress it all when people are on that, “he’s a white boy,” stuff because that shit is usually deaded in ten seconds. As soon as you start spitting your either wack or your not, nobody really gives a fuck, I don’t think. I don’t really feel sympathy for kids that feel, “oh I’m a white rapper and their shitting on our race,” man come on dogs.