Johnny Active
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Johnny Active

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF | AFM

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2012
Solo Hip Hop Hip Hop


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Johnny Active @ Sneaky Dee's

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto, Ontario, Canada



Coming from last year's release of his first mixtape The Grady Bunch, Johnny Active has an immediate mature sound with his new release of The Prelude. The entire album is produce by Sunny Norway, and does not disappoint. From the sultry beginning of the title track featuring Ciele, Johnny Active has flow that you immediately want to vibe to. If you liked Baby Bash back in the day, then you will especially love the sample on "Won't Ever Know". The entire album has something for everyone as Johnny Active showcases his deep lyrics with playful beats that keep you wanting to listen and sets the pace for his scene on the up and comers in Toronto. Be sure to give The Prelude some love on iTunes. - Infinity Beats

Johnny Active is about to introduce an overture. Born Grady Welbourn sometime in the early ‘90s, the Calgary hip hop artist draws upon the rapport of both local and international influences to crescendo the movement on The Prelude. It’s worthy to note that the effort came 11thon the iTunes Hip Hop Chart next to indie rapper Hoodie Allen at the end of the summer.

On album opener “The Prelude,” Welbourn borders on being monotonous at points, but establishes an accomplished kind of diction that adds the ideal dose of ivory tower to the ivories – filamented piano layers evenly over a slightly fuzzed and warped beat. “Act like you know,” croons vocal accompaniment Ciele with a conviction that compels you to play along. But with the next track, Welbourn reminds us that we “Won’t Ever Know,” a contradiction that is a harbinger of the characteristic complexity that is uniquely Active.

One isn’t sure whether or not to take the rolling snares on standout “Michael Cera” reminiscent of Southern trap as irony or misguided appropriation, but Welbourn handles it with exceptional kaleidoscopic depth and steps it up with AK-47 delivery. The funny thing is that the artist initially told Chicago producer Sunny Norway that he was “way too white” for the “Michael Cera” instrumental, but Norway proves to be an excellent collaborative choice – elsewhere on the album, Norway adds Ill-a-noise credibility with deftly sampled soul. Cloudy synths set up “Night Sky,” a joint effort with Dragon Fli Empire’s Teekay and local rapper Tru-ly. It’s a dreamy cruising jam that benefits from the synchronicity of three distinctly different flows.

The Prelude can’t be anything but the opener. Johnny Active shows promise. - Beatroute Magazine

It’s nearing the end of the interview, and Calgary hip-hop artist Grady Welbourn (a.k.a. Johnny Active) has just been handed a gift: His Kendrick Lamar moment.

He’s being offered the opportunity to do, on a local level, what the American rapper recently did to insane industry, media and public response — call out all of the top MCs by name and let them know he was not only coming for them, but one of them.

Welbourn laughs and politely declines.

Let’s assume it’s self-preservation and, more likely, that polite Canadian thing of not wanting to stir the pot and create any misunderstandings in a community that’s small but growing all the time. It’s certainly not due to a lack of confidence in his abilities or his place in the city’s scene.

“I definitely want people to start considering me in the top conversation in Calgary, at least,” Welbourn says while taking in the sights and sounds of 17th Ave.

And, just so they know he’s coming for them, can we get it on the record who those artists are?

He laughs again, “Oh, no, that’s going to be too much controversy. They know who they are, I don’t need to say it, they know, they know.”

And, if they or the rest of the city didn’t know he was throwing his mic and rhymes in the ring to be one of the better rappers to emerge from the land of Chinooks, they will when they hear the latest Johnny Active release The Prelude. The album, his followup to last year’s the Grady Bunch, shows someone who’s stepped his game up and is ready for bigger and better things.

“This one is 10 songs and they’re all tight and they all are unified,” he says. “There are some different sounds but it flows nicer and it’s smoother.”

Produced by Chicago beat and sample provider Sunny Norway, it’s a suburban, summer sprinkler jump that spends more time on the melody and positivity than it does attempting to antagonize or be something it or he isn’t.

Hell, for proof of that, you can look no further than the first single Michael Cera, which Welbourn loved because of the note of irony it strikes, a “hardcore club” bed that was sent to him by his producer early into the recording.

“I was like, ‘Sunny, I’m way too white for this. I can’t do this.’ ” he says with a laugh, admitting he then decided to flip it and have some fun with it at his own expense.

The rest of the record contains other worthy fare that, again, should further establish Welbourn as one of the ones-to-watch in Calgary’s burgeoning community, such as: the spectacular, insta-hit Light Locked In It featuring the gorgeous vocals of West Coast singer Ciele; and Night Sky, which contains contributions from two other local MCs, newcomer Tru-ly, and Teekay from vet legends Dragon Fli Empire, a collaboration which he calls “waaaay overdue.”

Released on Tuesday, The Prelude is already creating a major buzz for Johnny Active, having hit No. 11 on the iTunes hip-hop chart, something that should only be given a bump after the release party Friday night at Vicious Circle.

And Welbourn is now ready to take advantage of the momentum and ride it to fulfil his dreams, noting that he won’t return in the fall to the University of Toronto where he was pursuing a history degree, only heading out east later this year to tour and network and possibly make his own history.

“I just figure now or never,” he says. “The success and the increasing support — I remember days when my friends used to laugh at me when I would show them songs and now my friends listen to my songs and they like them ...

“I figure I’m young now, university is always going to be there, I can always go back ... And this is the thing I’m most passionate about. I don’t think that there’s that many 20-year-old kids out there that can say, ‘What I wanted to do when I was 10 years old is what I still want to do.’ ...

“When I was 10 years old I said, ‘I want to be a rapper,’ and people laughed. But now I really am a rapper.”

Johnny Active

New album The Prelude is available now. He performs Friday night at Vicious Circle. - Calgary Herald

"Johnny Active is one of our favorite artists at Rupture Spot. All the songs are very well made." - Rupture Spot

"With lyrical raps and cheeky rhymes Johnny Active uses his prose to speak to the run-of-the-mill ups-and-downs of everyday life." - Hip-Hop Canada

"If Johnny keeps making music like this.... watch out world, all I have to say."

"Johnny Active is one of the best rappers in Canada" - College of Music

"The familiar and catchily melodic samples help - everything from Lily Allen and Tennis to the Brady Bunch theme song - as does Welbourn's clean, easy flow, which, at times, glides between rapping and straight pop singing." - Mike Bell - Calgary Herald

Last year, Hozier took us all to church, and now Toronto-based/Calgary-bred rapper Johnny Active is putting his own spin on the hit song with his track "Take Me to Church (Remix)."

This isn't a typical remix. Rather, it's a new track that uses Hozier's song as its foundation and inspiration. In the video, directed by Thomas Ridout, we see Johnny Active hanging around a beautiful cathedral and rapping about a dysfunctional relationship. This narrative is brought to life by scenes in which the MC has a falling-out with his female friend.

The rapper said in a statement, "I put my own twist on Hozier's concept. When I began writing the song and during the time I was writing, I ended up meeting a girl that really embodied the idea of the song. We are both sorta messed up in our own ways and the whole relationship is messed up but I still call her up. Everyone has someone like that." The track was produced by Andrew Triple A.

Check out the premiere of the video down below. Expect Johnny to release more remixes in the coming weeks, with an album in the works for later this year. - Exclaim! Magazine

You have performed at many festivals, including NXNE, Canadian Music Week and Indie Week, what was the highlight of these festivals?

I think the highlight really is meeting so many interesting people, you know? It’s a moment when there’s a lot of cool people, actively pursuing something, in one area. I met a lot of my best friends at festivals.

Is there a festival that you’d like to be included in, that you haven’t as of now?

So many. I think festivals are great because people are so open to new music. More than they normally would be. I would love to play at A3C in Atlanta. Obviously SXSW. I would love to do Pop Montreal and Manifesto here in Toronto.

You most recently released a video for your remix track, “Take Me To Church” which samples Hozier’s song, what made you do a track that samples another song?

Hip-Hop started by sampling soul and jazz records. Sampling and reinterpreting is really what all art does, whether it’s obvious or not. I remember I heard the track really late though. The first time I really listened to it was in December 2014 when I was on tour. That song really spoke to me. I liked the lyrics and sentiment a lot. I thought it would be really interesting to turn into a banger.

How has the response been so far?

Really great. In a way that song was used to introduce my new sound and direction. The fans love it.

Where do you tend to pull inspiration from?

It sounds so cliche, but life. Everything. Conversations I have with people. Girls. People I see or overhear. Fear. A beat my producer makes me. I think if you’re open to inspiration it comes fairly easy. It’s always around.

You also released a video for this track, what was the highlight of filming the video?

I think the best part was when me and Manda had to scream at each other while she is getting dressed in the bedroom. We shot that scene a couple times because we kept yelling at each other and bursting out laughing halfway through. At one point I was just yelling, “Fuck you! Fuck you!’ and she was yelling, “Yeah, well fuck you! Fuck you too!” It was kind of ridiculous.

When can fans expect tour dates?

It looks like it’s going to be early 2016. I’m itching to get back on the road again.

If you could tour with any other Canadian artist, who would you choose?

Neil Young. That would be lit. Alyssa Reid? I’ve got a real crush on that girl. Drake? Is that an allowed answer?

What’s up next for you?

I’m dropping my new single “Guest List” very soon here. Be on the lookout for that. Lyric video and music video. It’ll be on iTunes too.

Here at Canadian Beats we like to ask a selection of questions that may help your fans learn something new about you, so here goes:

What was the first album you ever bought?

Get Rich or Die Tryin’ by 50 Cent. I accidently bought the clean version.

If you were able to travel anywhere to perform, where would you choose?


What is your favourite Autumn activity?

Drinking Pumpkin Spiced lattes with honeys.

What is your current go-to song?

What Do You Mean by Bieber is the joint.

Last but not least, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?

The continual support is amazing. Thank you. If you aren’t following me yet on Instagram or FB or Twitter, find me @JohnnyActive for the life and times. - Canadian Beats

At only 22 years of age, Canadian-born rapper Johnny Active is already gaining more buzz globally for his fast-paced rhymes/lyrics and unforgettable beats than a beehive full of honey. With his upcoming single Guest List about to be released worldwide, The Levity Ball sat down with Mr. Active to find out more…

How did you become interested in becoming a musician, and how old were you when you started writing/performing?

I was always a creative kid growing up. I would always rather be daydreaming or writing or drawing than be outside playing soccer with my brother. When I was about 9 or 10 I was introduced to hip-hop, by accident, by my older brother. I think he got into hip-hop when he was 14 and I remember hearing a Dr. Dre or Eminem song coming from his room, and I was extremely curious. He sort of put me on game. He would tell me, “this is what all your friends are going to listen to in 5 years.” I would steal his CD’s when he was out skateboarding or biking. When I was 10 or 11 I started writing my own raps with my friend Jonas. I would hide my notebooks from my parents. I took drumming lessons for a little but was really drawn to writing rhymes. I think it was the wordplay that really made me want to try rapping for myself. I haven’t looked back since.

Explain your music and the type of audience that you feel you reach?

I make honest hip-hop. Mood music, meaning music for every mood. I make music that I think most 20-somethings can relate to. I think at the root of my music is relationships, dissecting them. I want you to feel something.

Who are your biggest career influences?

That’s such a tough question. Obviously the greats like Biggie, Pac, Nas, Jay, Dr. Dre, Eminem. I was a big 50 Cent, Shady/Aftermath records fan back when they had their hay-day.. But as far as current music goes, I really like what J. Cole and Kendrick have been doing and Drake has got the midas touch and has clearly heavily influenced the entire genre. Mac Miller, KYLE, and The Weeknd have been on my playlist a lot lately these days too.

Your new hit single is called, Guest List, can you tell us what this song means to you?

It’s really the first track I ever made that is cocky and confident, which is strange because so many great hip-hop songs are based on bravado and an I’m-better-than-you mentality. I guess the timing was right. I was feeling good and felt like there was a bit of a shift in myself. It’s also the first original song I made with my producer Andrew Triple A. I wanted to make an anthem for the kids who used to be laughed at but are now out there kicking ass. The idea of the “guest list” seemed like the perfect metaphor for success and is something everyone can relate to. It’s also my favorite song to perform live. I’m really excited about it.

If you had a chance to work with any other artist in the studio, who would it be & why?

I would love to work with Tory Lanez. I think he’s doing a lot of exciting things right now. Obviously, Drake. We’d make the most ridiculous late-night-text-your-ex song. I feel like J. Cole would be able to teach me a lot. I’d love to be in the studio with Wayne, even just to witness how he works.

What are your goals in the industry and where do you see yourself in a year from now?

I want to take this as far as possible. I want one of the top spots. Takeover… In a year I’d like to be on tour selling out venues across the states and Canada. I want a house in LA and an apartment in Toronto. Supermodel girlfriend, Leonardo DiCaprio swag. The whole nine-yards. Why not?

How do you define hip-hop, and where do you feel you fit into that definition?

Hip-hop is a culture and thus ever-changing. It’s not just one single thing. It’s a way of life. It’s something you live. I am hip-hop… Anyone who has immersed themselves in the culture will know what I mean. It’s about being true to yourself and expressing yourself.

You were born in Ottawa and raised in Calgary… How has Canada as a whole influenced your sound?

When I first started making music I really dove head first into the Canadian scene and soaked up as much as I could… guys like Classified, K-OS, Sweatshop Union, Kardi, Swollen Members, Maestro, they showed me you could take this thing far. And growing up in Calgary I learned a lot from the local scene from older heads like Ricca and Virtue and Planit. Shout out to everyone who is moving the scene forward there. Now, living in Toronto, the mecca of hip-hop in Canada, everywhere I look there is another rapper. It really helps you up your game.

What are your thoughts on other Canadian artists like Drake?

Drake is undeniable. It’s an exciting time for Canadian hip-hop, particularly Toronto hip-hop. He’s really put on for the city which is great. But right now you can really tell Canada is buzzing. Everyone is out here working extra hard now. There’s a solid handful of artists that are making really good music, making professional moves, doing it right and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon.

What do you feel makes you different than other artists on the scene today?

I think I’m relentless. I’ve been doing this for a while and it’s been a very slow grind but I haven’t faltered. I see the bigger picture. I understand it’s chess, not checkers. I’m in it for the long haul. A writer once described me as the “unassuming scholar in the background” and described my delivery as “subdued swagger.” I’ve always liked that.

Do you see yourself moving out to the United States eventually like a lot of Canadians tend to do while pursuing their dreams?

Luckily for me, my mother grew up in New York so I’m blessed with dual citizenship, making the inevitable move to the U.S. a lot easier. I can’t say when I’ll be moving. People always ask when and I always just say in a years’ time. But it will be when the times right, whenever that is. But Canada will forever have my heart.

What tips would you give young artists coming up, or what do you wish someone would have told you when you first started out in the hip-hop industry?

Take it slow and do things properly. Master your craft. Write, create, play, whatever it is, every single day. Don’t be discouraged if your friends don’t love it. Sometimes you’ll make trash but you can’t have a flower without some dirt first. Network as much as you can and don’t be afraid to take chances.

Any last words for our Levity Ball readers?

Thank you for having me out and hit me up or follow me on any social media platform @JohnnyActive to stay up to date with the life and times. Bless. - The Levity Ball

1) What was it like living in Calgary and working as a developing hip hop artist? How has life changed since you moved to Toronto?

I think in a way it was a really good thing for me to begin my development as a hip-hop artist in Calgary. The scene was small back then but there was some older cats, when i was 13, 14, who told me to keep going, which was encouraging. I played some shows in Calgary but really grew into my own when I moved to Toronto. There’s just so much happening here and a lot more competition so you’re essentially forced to keep up and step your game up. I’m away from my family and i really didn’t know anyone when I made the move. It was hard at first but I feel at home here now.

2) This song was obviously inspired by Hozier’s single, “Take Me to Church,” but what made you decide to remake it yourself? What was the connection there?

Honestly, I was kind of late on that song. I was on tour in California in December and for some reason I was listening to it a lot then. I just really liked Hozier’s voice and the imagery and wordplay he used. It was really refreshing. And I liked the sentiment of being wrapped up in someones love and all the sexual and religious innuendos. The remix was actually the first song I worked on with my producer Andrew Triple A. I was in California and he sent me the first version of the beat and it went through several stages and the song probably wasn’t fully complete till the end of February. I put my own twist on it, although the theme is similar.

3) Do you have any advice for aspiring hip hop artists, especially ones like yourself who are growing up outside the “scene”?

First, build with who is around you. Then reach out to people outside of your city or town. And hone your craft. And always be a good person. That will get you far. Oh, and don’t get mad when people don’t take you seriously at first.

4) What’s coming up next?

More remixes and a long awaited original single titled “Guest List.”

5) What’s your favourite road trip song?

Road Trippin’! I bet everyone says that though. Actually, maybe [Simon & Garfunkel’s] “Mrs. Robinson.” That reminds me of car rides as a child.

Check out Johnny Active’s remake of “Take Me To Church” below: - Roadtrip Magazine

TORONTO, Sept. 30, 2015 /CNW/ - Canadian hip-hop star Johnny Active - - is excited to announce the international release of his new track, Guest List!

In a statement to the media, 22-year-old Active revealed this of the new song produced by Andrew Triple A: "It's an anthem for the kids who were once laughed at, but who are now on top and killing it. Things change and the tables turn. I'm really excited about this song… I promise it's lit!"

Watch the official lyric video:
Download the single on iTunes: - Newswire


Still working on that hot first release.



Constantly making moves, whether it’s planning tours, rocking crowds, remixing pop tunes or recording new tracks, young Toronto rapper Johnny Active truly lives up to his name. Since leaving behind a degree in history at the University of Toronto and making the official move from his hometown of Calgary, Johnny Active has clearly set out to make waves.

Within just over a year in the 6ix, he has collected cosigns from some of Toronto’s hottest acts, performed at several festivals including NXNE, CMW, Indie Week, and Pearls & Bones Fest, toured California and completed the intensive 3 month Artist Entrepreneur program at indie powerhouse Coalition Music. To top it off he was recently nominated for a 2014 Toronto Independent Music Award in the Urban category.

Though new to Toronto, Johnny is far from novice in the music world, having been creating music and penning rhymes since the age of 11. More recently, his 2013 full length album The Prelude reached #11 on iTunes hip-hop charts nestled between A$AP Rocky & Hoodie Allen. The Calgary Herald stated the album, “shows someone who’s stepped his game up and is ready for bigger and better things.”

With his genre-pushing style of hip-hop, the future looks bright for Johnny Active as he is set to release his highly anticipated remix EP titled, "I Love This Song."

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