Jon Connor Interview
If the name Jon Connor rings a bell, you may be thinking of the fictional character in the Terminator series. But that's John Connor. In Hip-Hop circles, Flint, Michigan rapper Jon Connor has been tearing up the indie circuit and terminating the likes of wack rappers across the nation in 2011.
Hip-Hop Wired caught up the rap newcomer for an exclusive Q&A that should help fans get familiar with one of rap's best kept secrets.
Check out our interview after the jump!!! [More]
Hip-Hop Wired: Over the last year, it's seems like your following has been picking up. How does it feel to get a positive response from your music?
Jon Connor: For one, I've been on this grind for so long. I've been wanting to be an artist, and I've known what I've wanted to do since I was like 11.
So it's so gratifying to finally start getting notoriety and just being able to put my music out there and my message out there.
And being from Flint, Michigan, where the type of stuff that's happening to me, I'm so thankful for because it doesn't happen to us often.
Being from a small city and coming from the poverty that's in my city, it's like I'm probably the most thankful person in the world.
It's a beautiful feeling. The main message is hard work pays off.
Hip-Hop Wired: You mentioned that you're from Flint, MI. People don't know a lot about Flint.
They are familiar with Detroit Hip-Hop and Detroit has artists like Eminem and Big Sean that have made it mainstream. How do you feel when you see them, while rappers from Flint haven't made it yet?
Jon Connor: I root for them dudes, man. That's the thing with Michigan, we show that love. When we see one of our own on TV or making it or doing it, we support that.
I'm from Flint, MI, I carry that on my back but I'm from Michigan also.
So I think when I see Big Sean or when I see Eminem or when I see D-12 or cats from the D or Willie The Kid from Grand Rapids, I'm rooting for them cats, cause it's a Michigan thing.
It's us putting our state on the map. And I'm just another piece of the puzzle. I'm happy [for them], just as I'm sure they feel the same why when they see me.
Me and the boy Sean linked up on several occasions and he definitely showed love. I just kicked it with Royce Da 5'9'' a couple days ago and he show love and support.
It's a mutual respect thing, so when I see them, I'm rooting for them, but actually it makes me want to go harder too. Because it's like I want to do my part to put on for the state just like they're doing.
That's what we do it for, to put on for Michigan. So when they mention Michigan and Hip-Hop, it'll be up their with Compton and Dre, and LBC with Snoop and Queens with Nas, Brooklyn with Jay and Big.
Michigan will be one of them spots that produce great Hip-Hop artists. Not just Hip-Hop artists, but great artists, period.
Hip-Hop Wired: You've already received a lot of great co-signs. You got co-signed by Nas, Scarface, Busta Rhymes. Can you speak on getting co-signs from them?
Jon Connor: Talking to Nas, that was the first big co-sign that I got. When you're in situations like that, it's kinda surreal because, these are legends---Busta Rhymes, Nas, Scarface.
These are cats that I grew up listening to and that I learned from and studied from.
When I decided to do Hip-Hop and became serious about my craft, it's like Nas was one of guys that I studied, as far as wordplay and cadences.
The same with Busta Rhymes and Jay-Z and Eminem. I studied all of the greats. So it's kinda a surreal feeling when you sit down and they tell you that they respect what you do.
All I can say about them types of situations…like for them cats to say, “we respect what you do, keep doing it.” That's what I do it for.
Because when I was 11, 12 years old, I was striving to make the mark that they made in the world and I'm still on that path trying to do that.
So for them to tell me that I'm on the right path is just surreal. I'm humbled by getting those co-signs, cause those are guys that I have unlimited respect for.
Hip-Hop Wired: Now, you're working with Mateen Cleaves, who is a former NBA player. What's your relationship with him?
Jon Connor: That's my brother. We co-own the company, All Varsity Music with other partners, shout out to J-Rich, shout out to my homie Young Sav.
And how it all came about was crazy. I was doing my thing, and as Moe always tells the story, we were at The Loft, that's the spot that I hang out at in Flint, and I was performing.
I never want to cheat the fans. Anytime you see me at a live show I'm going to leave the stage sweating, my voice will be gone, it's gonna be an event.
Whether it's 5 people there or 5,000, I think that those 5 people deserve a good show.
It was probably only about 30 people in The Loft that night and I was going in cause I wanted to give them a good show. And one of those 30 people happened to be Moe Cleaves.
His brother Ali Cleaves came and got me like, you need to meet my brother. When I met Moe, he was like, “you're Jon Connor?”
Turns out that he had been listening to my music for like a year prior to that but could never get a hold of me. And then after that he was like, “I see it in you.
You got it in you to be successful and to be on that platform with the greats.”
He was like, “I'm going to do whatever I gotta do to help you succeed.” Ever since that day, we never looked back and we ain't never gon look back.
That's my brother until the sun burns out.
Hip-Hop Wired: A lot of athletes run out and start a record label and it never works out. But it seems like it's working for you and Moe Cleaves.
What do you think is different about your situation compared to other professional athletes that have tried to be in music?
Jon Connor: I'm not going to speak on any other situation where hoopers tried to do it because I don't know what went wrong for them. I can speak on what's going right for me and Moe.
I say the first thing was me and Moe didn't grow up together, so it wasn't like I was his homeboy that he was trying to put on.
He was impressed by what I was already doing and the success that I was already having and he wanted to be a part of that.
The talent spoke. It wasn't some get rich quick thing or anything like that. Moe Cleaves has a passion for music and an ear for talent.
He knows what's good and what's bad. I think that's what works for me and Moe. Our relationship is based off of him seeing a vision and him hearing the talent.
And the thing is, he has such a belief in what I do and he believes so much in me and the music I make that he understands that I won't stop, and I understand that he won't stop until we're the #1 company and the #1 artist in the country.
That's the thing, this ain't some hobby for Moe or some play stuff that he's doing on the side.
Hip-Hop Wired: Vinnie Chase project is the one that really started getting your name out there. Can you talk to me about that release?
Jon Connor: That was my first big introduction to the world. It was crazy making it and it was crazy seeing the response to it. But like I said, I had been grinding for so long before that.
And that's when I really put my foot in the sand, so it was wild to me to see how people received “Epic” and “The Message.” It was a beautiful feeling.
When I went into Vinnie Chase, it was like I want to make a statement. I want to let people know that I'm not just a fly by night rapper. I'm not just here today and gone tomorrow, I'm gonna be here for a minute.
And that's how I go into every project, whether it's a mixtape or an album, I'm gonna put my heart and soul into it.
And Vinnie Chase: Season One was people getting a glimpse at what I do. But Vinnie Chase: Season Two is gonna be 19 original joints. Season Two is gonna be crazy.
And we're gonna pick up and we're going to enhance where Vinnie Chase: One left off. This is going to be the craziest sequel y'all ever heard.
Hip-Hop Wired: Also, you just put out The Salvation, right?
Jon Connor: Yeah. And I wanted to clear this up too, because I was seeing a lot of blogs saying “Jon Connor's debut album.”
Salvation is not my debut album. Salvation was a collaboration project between me and my man Reef, where he did all of the production and I came in and spit.
I just want to make sure my man Reef gets the credit that he deserves because dude is a phenomenal producer. Just making sure people know that.
Hip-Hop Wired: So what kind of response have you gotten from Salvation compared to Vinnie Chase?
Jon Connor: I'ma tell you like this, every step that I make is calculated. To every song I do to how I ride the beat to how my cadence is on a beat, everything with me…I'm like a perfectionist to the core.
Salvation is exactly what me and Reef wanted it to be. We wanted it to be one of those Hip-Hop albums that took you back to that ‘90's era.
We wanted to make a pure Hip-Hop album, for the Hip-Hop purist. And the response has been dope.
And I'd like to thank the people because I can't do this without the people. But the response has been good. I think it pleased the people that it was supposed to please.
We knew that going in. I'm happy. The overall response has been dope. People got out of it, what we wanted them to get out of it.
As far as Vinnie Chase: One, All Varsity Music, that's what we do.
That was our production, our mix production, that was all in house. So it was supposed to be a difference in the sound of Vinnie Chase and the sound of Salvation.
Hip-Hop Wired: Are you planning to go major? There were rumors that you were in talks with Def Jam. Are you planning to sign or are you looking to stay independent right now?
Jon Connor: You know what, we talked to a couple people, people have been showing interest, which is dope.
At the end of the day, you want your music to reach the masses.
Right now we're going to see where it takes us. The goal is for All Varsity Music to be the #1 company in the world.
To do that, you gotta link up with a major. But right now we're focused on putting our grind in.
And when we sit down and we talk to the right people, who are talking the right things, then it'll go down.
But right now we're so focused on establishing the brand of All Varsity Music, that's the main goal. And focusing on the brand of Jon Connor as an artist.
Hip-Hop Wired: Does Mateen still have it on the court? Have you been out there with J-Rich and played ball?
Jon Connor: You already know, man. That's just in their veins. Moe Cleaves, J-Rich, shout out to my brother Charlie Bell, Mo Pete.
You already know that b-ball Shyte is in them forever. It was funny, we were hooping with the boy R. Kelly and truth be told, R. Kelly got hoop game.
He got a [jumper] on him, dawg. Kells has a “J” on him. Don't let nobody tell you nothing different.