Johnny Polygon: Standing Out Too Much To Fit In Pt 1
Johnny Polygon is in interesting fellow. He’s the type of guy you’ll just stare at because he simply draws attention everywhere he goes. The Oklahoma singer/rapper has virtually come out of nowhere (figuratively and literally) to make an impact on the music industry with his offbeat personality and honest music. How else could you explain an artist whose first television performance was alongside Nasir Jones on BET’s special inauguration show for Barack Obama performing “Black President.” His career is just that much of a whirlwind and his projects “Rebel Without Applause,” “Group Hug” and “Catch-Up” all encapsulate the vibes of Johnny Polygon. With the release of his Wolf In Cheap Clothing EP, TheWellVersed decided to sit down with Johnny for a two part interview that gives some more insight on the super talented singer/rapper. In part one, Johnny discusses interacting with fans, Slug of Atmosphere and Lil Wayne haters.
TheWellVersed: Where the hell did Johnny Polygon come from and how did you end up creating the music that you make?
Johnny Polygon: I think it had to do with my upbringing because I always stood out too much to fit in. In Oklahoma there wasn’t anyone that I could look at and be like “oh look at that black weirdo over there” and say that it was okay to be me. I think my identity just came from being stuck outside.
TWV: What’s it like being from Oklahoma? In many interviews you have said that you were like the only rapper in Oklahoma.
JP: It’s not that I was the only rapper. It was that I was the one of the very few kind of good rappers. The competition was a very small club. The scene there was just hard to explain. It’s like growing up nowhere and trying to prove to everybody that it’s somewhere. So it’s like everybody there growing up would talk shit about it like “Aw man I hate this place and I can’t wait to get the fuck outta here.” But then when you leave, you don’t want anyone else talking about it like that. You don’t want people to say “You’re from where? Tulsa? Ewwww!”
Being from Oklahoma is sort of like having an asshole brother. He’s an asshole but you don’t want anyone else calling him an asshole and you love him.
TWV: What were your musical influences growing up before you started making music.
JP: Of course I was listening to whatever my parents were listening to. So a lot of gospel and soul. Other than that I was just a kid who watched MTV and listened to the radio. I didn’t discover the unbeaten path of music until I was a freshman in high school or something like that. That’s when I heard an Atmosphere song and started listening to them heavy and then I started listening to all sorts of stuff that wasn’t in the main stream. Then I completely lost myself in a world of obscurity and clear vinyl.
TWV: You bring up Atmosphere and you have said that Slug was the only rapper that would actually talk to you. How influential were those conversations when you came up and began to make music?
JP: It was incredible! I’ve kind of modeled myself and the way I interact with my own fans after him. My fans reach out to me and I holla back. I feel like it’s a necessity to reach out and let your fans know that you are a normal person. For me, this was before Facebook, Myspace and shit like that, I would email Slug and he’d email me back. I’d be like “Oh shit, my favorite rapper just hit me back!” I try to do the same thing as much as possible. Sometimes you can’t do that all the time and people expect a lot.
TWV: Do you ever get the occasional “Johnny Polygon is an asshole” email?
JP: Yeah definitely. Some people will try to bait you into a long ass conversation. They’ll send you a question, you’ll answer it and they’ll reply back with something like “So anyway, what’s been up?” or “What are you doing right now? Have you seen this movie?” It’s a little much but for the most part I try to hit everybody back. But I definitely get a lot of hate mail.
TWV: What’s the weirdest question or email you have gotten.
JP: Oh man, there’s so many and I don’t want to say one specifically because I don’t want that one person to feel special. I get all sorts of stuff. I get a lot of anti-Lil Wayne talk.
TWV: To you?
JP: Yeah! People will hit me and they’ll be like “You’re the best rapper ever, fuck Lil Wayne!” Why did you bring up Lil Wayne? I like Lil Wayne! *laughs* To some people he’s like the antithesis of me or something. It’s weird. I get that more than anything. A lot of Lil Wayne hate.
TWV: The fame is growing, how are you coping with the fact that people are beginning to know who you are?
JP: It’s not that different. I was always sort of famous in Oklahoma. For me, I’ve been famous before. This is more of a general ride. Back when I was a teenager in Oklahoma people would run up on me all the time. Now I’ll be in a city I’ve never been in and people will just come up like “Oh shit!” That’s cool. It’s amazing to see people who give a shit.
TWV: Basically you’re on the other side of where you wanted to be when you first met Slug.
JP: He also has a way with a lot of his lyrics that you’ll feel like he’s talking directly to you. It’s like “Oh shit! This is about me! He’s rapping about me right now!” I think that’s just a level of honesty and sincerity that people connect with. I try to do the same thing and become successful at it.
TWV: So let’s put it out there – a Slug and Johnny Polygon song, can that happen?
JP: *laughs* We’ll see because now that I’m on the other side I realize how much I must have really gotten on his nerves. I was definitely like “Oh shit, you hit me back so…you want to take me out to lunch?” I was like 16 and I’d send a follow up email saying “What’s up with that tour?” I would love to collaborate with Slug. If that ever happens, that would be great.