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From Classical to Hip-Hop, Meet: Johan Lenox

We have come to the conclusion that this is someone to keep on the radar. Johan Lenox, a producer and artist, was born and raised in Winchester, Massachusetts. He has grounded himself in the music industry by using his versatility and skill to collaborate with names like Kanye West, Ant Clemons, and SAINt JHN. Continue to dive into the mind of Johan Lenox by reading what he has to say about his music career.

Boston Culture: Which part of Boston did you grow up in? What was that like?

Johan Lenox: I grew up in the suburbs, in Winchester. I really liked growing up in Mass, our town was really small and you could basically walk across it in a couple hours, so a lot of times I would walk home from parties. We had a lot of parties in the woods if no one had a house available. The whole town shut down at like 8pm also so you could just kinda wander around the town center with your friends if you wanted and not run into anyone. It was just really quiet and nice. Also you could take the Lowell line commuter rail into Boston and be in the city in 15 minutes. So it was really convenient for that.

Boston Culture: Talk to us about the creation of WDYWTBWYGU. What inspired you to make this album?

Johan Lenox: I really wanted an album that focused on what it feels like trying to grow up right now in America. Lots of songs about feeling aimless or partying to try to avoid thinking about the future too much. The big question in the album is, do I feel this way cuz of some lack of personal responsibility on my part to take control of my life? Or are these feelings unavoidable given the state of the world right now. The new single, You Up? feat. Ant Clemons, is about both of us texting girls to try to take our mind off this stuff while the world is descending into chaos behind us. Phases ft. Cousin Stizz, which came out earlier this year, is also on the album and sorta takes a look at people who I feel like are making big and sorta pointless changes in their lives to try to solve these issues for themselves.

Boston Culture: After working with so many well-known artists like Kanye West and Travis Scott, did it change how you were going forward in your career?

Johan Lenox: Yea honestly my favorite part about working with other artists on their music is just learning from them how they do things and sorta letting some of their taste rub off on me. Lately I work with 070 Shake a lot and just being forced to figure out what she really wants to do musically has taught me a ton about my own music. I'm such a big fan of her work and seeing how she does things helps me understand what I like about it.

Boston Culture: What are some influences that have shaped the way you produce your music? And because of that, what is your typical creative process?

Johan Lenox: My classical background is probably the biggest influence on me. Even though this project really isn't classical at all it seems clear that the stuff I studied about composition and voice leading is affecting everything I write, along with the string arrangements and stuff, how I do those. Beyond that I think it really goes back to hearing Kanye's MBDTF album for the first time a few years ago, which is what got me into hip hop and pop, and trying to capture the feeling of that album in my own way, as a vocalist instead of a rapper. That's been a hard thing to translate and I've tried a lot of different approaches along the way, but like I said I think the closer I get to some of my musical idols the more their taste rubs off on me and I start to really learn from what I like about their music.

Boston Culture: Starting from classical music, you went through many genres like pop and hip-hop. How has that challenged you to make the music you make today? What has it taught you from going back and forth between these genres?

Johan Lenox: It's a great question. I think it would surprise people how little there is that translates across these genres haha. Like you really have to kinda start from scratch to learn pop production, hip hop production, lyric writing, all of that stuff is pretty much completely unrelated to what I studied in classical. I do think that the classical stuff informs how I write chords and melodies a bit so it definitely helped me with that. And now when I go back to classical music I think the work I've done with pop and hip hop music, where the structure of stuff has to be extremely clear and simple, actually has made me a better classical composer too. So going back and forth, despite how hard it was initially, has really paid off I think in terms of making me an all around better musician.

Boston Culture: It is definitely a big jump from classical to hip-hop. What attracted you to the world of rap and R&B?

Johan Lenox: I've always been interested in imagining a world where classical music has as big a cultural impact in America today as it did in Europe a century or two ago. So I've had a lot of projects where I've been trying to figure out how to make that happen, and I think I was really drawn to Kanye's music when I first got into it with MBDTF and Yeezus, because it felt like he was an artist who was doing things on such a monumental level that really connected to how I see classical music functioning in our culture one day. I work with a wide range of artists now in addition to making my own music, but the ones that excite me the most are the ones thinking on that really monumental scale with both their music and visuals.

Boston Culture: From what you have produced, what is your favorite piece of work?

Johan Lenox: Well my own stuff for sure but as far as outside artists I think the work I'm doing with 070 Shake right now on her upcoming album is probably some of my fav stuff I've done, as well as what I've been doing for the Metro Boomin album. So stay tuned for both of those. Also got to work on the SAINt JHN album last year which was one of my faves.

Boston Culture: WDYWBWYGU, your debut album, comes out in just a couple months. What are your feelings nearing the release date of such a big feat? Are you nervous at all?

Johan Lenox: Yea definitely haha. This is really the culmination of everything I've been trying to do the past couple years. Some of these songs are actually like 3 years old or more, but have been reproduced and rewritten over and over again until they were perfect and fit the final aesthetic of the album. I'll probably come back with something not that long after the album but I still want this to go well and am putting everything I can into trying to make sure people find it and hear it. I hope anyone reading this will follow me and listen to it when it drops!

Boston Culture: Is there anything else you would like to tell your fans? Anything we should be looking out for in the future?

Johan Lenox: Yea tons haha. I have so many ideas. I have some other projects coming that are more classical leaning albums that have rappers and singers featured on them which I think will be a good counterpart to this more song-driven album. But yea in the meantime stay tuned for a couple more singles off this album and the final project this March. I'm really grateful to have fans who are as excited as I am for it to be out!

Check out Johan's music:

Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/johan-lenox/1472797392

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/1KuV6xtFnLPsneN3yBrjFj?si=ZzF8emcdSq-J6-8KkXKCVg

Follow Johan's socials:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/johanlenox/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/johanlenox

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