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"Return To Sender"
interviews Johnny Simple

“Return to Sender”… Indie insight from Johnny Simple

“True story… I was at a club called Showcase on the corner of St. Bernard and Broad on a Monday night. My boy was, you know, jettin out to the car every couple of minutes to get his own beer. And he comes in one time like, ‘you gotta come outside! You gotta come outside! They got these dudes freestyling in a circle on the neutral ground!’ And I kept telling him, ‘man I’m not worried about that’. They had strippers in the club on Mondays, you know, I was chillin in the club. So he’s draggin me out the club now, runnin to this cat telling me ‘spit for em! spit for em!’. So, I went ahead and spit something, and the dude in the circle, Millitant, was feelin it. He was like, ‘dude I need you to do a song with me! ‘I’m goin to the studio tomorrow, meet me there’. He gave me directions and his phone number, and that was actually the first time I had ever done a studio recording. I guess you could say that gave me my shot.”
And so ‘Johnny Simple’ was born. A man that, today, has a strong following of thousands of New Orleaneans, countless radio plays, and a staff of managers, lawyers, and publicists behind him. He insists that he’s an artist, not a rapper. He creates his lyrics around a song much like a sculptor brings form to solid rock. When asked of his style, he is reluctant to reply. “I don’t want to say I have a style. My style is different; I shouldn’t be thrown into a category”. met up with J. Simple at Jus-Five Productions headquarters in Metairie. And this is what he had to say.

NOM: N.O.M. represents independent artists. So I think it’s important to include, in all of our interviews, this question. What issues do you face, as an indie artist, that you would like changed?
JS: “Major labels, and certain radio stations, don’t want to speak to you or hear your music if you’re not what’s called solicited material. And you gotta understand I’m blessed, you know. I got a couple cats with me that have enough money to get lawyers, and to get publishing. But not everyone has that money. If your music isn’t coming from an entertainment lawyer, you’re not considered solicited material and they throw it in the garbage. And that needs to be changed. There’s a lot of cats that are unsolicited and don’t have deals, that I know personally, that could do a lot of damage in the industry. They could do better than some of these cats with deals. And they just don’t get the chance to be heard because they don’t have the funds to access lawyers. That shit ain’t cheap man. In the beginning we had people send back packages saying ‘return to sender’. A couple cats we called didn’t give us call backs or answers. And then finally we broke into it. A couple guys told us… they were like look you’re unsolicited. We’re only paying
interviews J. Simple

“Return to Sender”… Indie insight from J. Simple

attention to things coming from entertainment lawyers or managers that have some credibility. We had to go get an entertainment lawyer. And I think that needs to change. Because like I said, especially us independent artists… we’re coming out our own pockets for this music. We’re busting our ass! I mean, half of these cats got jobs on top of music, which is a job in itself if you’re serious about it. And for somebody to just take this music and throw it in the can, or return to sender because it ain’t coming from a lawyer, I think, is bullshit, period.”
NOM: Well I’m sure many indie artists consider labels to be generally unapproachable. But you had mentioned radio stations. Without spoiling your current working relationships, could you tell us about your experiences with radio?
JS: “Yeah, um, I’ll give you a little bit on that. I don’t want to get too much into that. I’ve found that this goes on with many radio stations across the south. They’re in it for self. They’re not in it to support musicians in the city that they’re broadcasting. And basically I got a spot on local radio, they did my plugs and my interview, ran the song a couple of times while I was hot and getting requests, and then nothing. They were still getting plenty of requests. That was information given to me by someone at the station. And you know, they had a different agenda once the song became hot. I’ll leave it at that right now. It’s who you know to a certain extent. If you don’t know the HMFIC at the station then you don’t know anybody. It comes down to the P.D., the program director.”
NOM: Good enough. Do you think that an indie artist should shoot for nation recognition and bring it home, or go for local popularity first?
JS: “I think you could go both routes. The route I’m trying to take is to go for the local popularity first because I feel you need to have your city behind you. I mean, I’ll put myself in the A&R’s shoes from another state. If an artist is sending me demos or catching my attention with their music and they don’t have a fan base in their own home town, I’m thinking, well what are you really doin? You know, because at the end of the day, big labels base business on numbers. If you don’t have a good local fan base, are you a good business decision for them? So I would go at it like lock up your home market and get your city behind you. And then the national attention is gonna come. But I’ve seen rappers and producers do it the other way and it works. Me personally, I would go for home first.”
NOM: Do you take that stance from a business stand point, or a personal one?
JS: “A little bit of both. I mean, personally, I love New Orleans. Business wise, it could be better. I’ve seen people from New Orleans, that have deals, turn their backs on New Orleans.
interviews J. Simple

“Return to Sender”… Indie insight from J. Simple

And when they’re in the industry, they black ball people like the money’s gonna run out or something. Like, oh, that cat’s hot, let’s make sure nobody gets to him. Let’s keep all the shine for ourselves. I’m the type of dude, if I get a deal off of this, I’m bringing it all home. We gonna open up the doors.”
NOM: Well you’re signing local artists right now, aren’t you? “I actually have a local artist signed to my label, Jus-Five Productions. We signed a young cat out of Kenner by the name of EKO. We’re giving him the same kinds of opportunities I was given. We’re putting him in the studio, footing the tab for that, letting him do his thing. Hopefully we’ll be putting out some records on him in the near future.”
NOM: Word on the street right now is that you’re dropping an album right now. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
JS: “Yeah, it’s my first commercial release. This album is called ‘You’re Welcome’, subtitled ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’. It’s actually finished right now and in post production. We hope to get it out real soon, a month at the latest. I’ve been working on it for the past year, and they’ve got a lot of flavor on there. I’ve dealt with my in house producer, of course, DJ Five Grand. I got a few nation wide producers on there, Smitty and Crack Tracks. There’s a lot of variety on there… a lil something for everybody”.
NOM: Tell us where fans can find Simple’s CDs and merchandise right now.
JS: “Right now I have a There’s a few things up there including a link to my Myspace page, hats, t-shirts, CDs, and ringtones. And there’s a website coming, Jus-Five Productions, real soon too.
NOM: Coke or Pepsi man?
JS: “Coke”
NOM: Haha, is Coke payin to say that?
JS: “Yes”
NOM: Alright. Finally, are there any shout outs you’d like to give?
JS: “Definitely. We got the big homie Crack Tracks. He’s one of those cats that shows love to independent artists. My team at Just Five Productions… my in house producer DJ Five Grand, JD, my management, for this interview, and the city of New Orleans. I show love; I’ve got a bunch of New Orleans artists on my album. I’ve got my lil homie EKO, J. Lyric, Rizzle from New Orleans East, JDawg and Insane formerly of Black Menace, DJ Precise, Mike Levy with Too Deep Music, Impulss over at the Rats Nest;
interviews J. Simple

“Return to Sender”… Indie insight from J. Simple

everybody that’s had a hand in on this album man. I appreciate the help and support. And I’m definitely going to return the favors.”

Article by: David Trahan


"SkIlLz" Mixtape - 2004
"Johnny Simpleton Soprano" Mixtape - 2006
"You Welcome" Vol.1 Album - 2008



Johnny Simple came onto the New Orleans music scene in the late 90's as an underground sensation. Simple made his name from local battle rap contest and the release of mixtapes such as "SkIlLz" and "Johnny Simpleton Soprano" which were sold on the streets and through local "mom & pop" record shops. Johnny has networked with numerous artist, some from the N.O. and other places. Looking to ride this wave J. Simple is in the process of recording his first commercial record. So be on the lookout for Simpleton's album coming soon! Production credits include D.J. 5Grand of Jus Five Productions, CrackTracks, & Trackbangas.