Tune into the 6:57 mark for a live freestyle and the 21:08 mark for the burning question: “Are you currently in negotiation with Shady Records?”
A few weeks ago, I traveled across my home state to Fli-City (Flint, Michigan) and caught up with one of hip-hop’s newest, most promising sensations, Jon Connor! Frequently prophesied to be a savior of his beloved craft, The People’s Rapper and I sat down for a 24-minute interview in the living room of his manager and Co-CEO of All Varsity Music, Mateen Cleaves, perhaps more commonly known—especially in my neck of the woods—as a former 14th pick in the NBA draft after leading his Michigan State Spartans to the 2000 NCAA Championship as the Final 4 MVP!
Reluctant to glorify the crime and poverty-stricken surroundings in which he grew up, Jon Connor explained his ability to overcome adversity while being raised in the hopeless environment of Civic Hood on the north side of Flint—adding that he had always seen himself living a better life. As someone who typically forked over a whopping $25 for CDs from a local record store prior to becoming an artist himself, Jon Connor described his adaptation to today’s more common procedures of music distribution as a necessary one—crediting the internet-savvy artists before him for laying out the viral marketing blueprint he now follows.
Off camera, the Flint native revealed that he suffered a flat tire during his recent eyebrow-raising, 30-hour drive to Austin, Texas to perform at the SXSW Festival. In spite of this challenge, he was ultimately able to reach his destination and referred to the event as positive reinforcement while reflecting on the overall experience. As is evident while witnessing such, his performances are admittedly a release for Jon Connor. He explained that mentally, he envisions thousands of people in the crowd during his performances and then embodies this manufactured reality. In fact, he has conditioned himself to perform this way ever since he was a kid—rehearsing in his basement in front of nobody, yet imagining a sold-out stadium crowd.
After I presented Jon Connor with a physical copy of his latest mixtape, Jon Connor As Vinnie Chase Season 1 and reminded him that he handed it to me during Willie The Kid’s in-store event this past March at All City Kicks in Grand Rapids, he proceeded to discuss the project’s significance and what it has done for his career. But music is much more than just simply a career choice for Jon Connor. As a third-generation musician, he considers music his life and became long-winded when describing his passion for the art form. As an example of how he’s able to incorporate lyricism and wordply into his music, Jon Connor broke down a portion of his recently released “I C U Lookin’” freestyle, providing a glimpse into his complex process of writing music.
The highlight of our discussion came when I sparked a flame (literally) and asked Jon Connor the burning question: “Are you currently in negotiation with Shady Records?” Did his answer extinguish the combustion, or add more fuel to the fire? Tune into the 21:08 mark of our interview to find out!
Sidenote: Special thanks goes to Jon Connor (@JonConnorMusic), Savvy Davis Jr. (@youngsavv), and Mateen Cleaves (@Mateen_Cleaves) for the opportunity! Thanks to Alex Lyle for filming and Cory Jamieson (@CoryJamo) for editing!