Interview Exclusive: Getting To Know John River

December 20, 2013

John River

If you don’t know who rapper John River is yet, you are missing out because this 19 year-old Mississauga native is one of a kind! River was born and raised in Mississauga, ON — just on the outskirts of Toronto, ON. He has definitely made a name for himself when it comes to his music due to it’s “realness” factor. John raps about his life and what he’s been through, from friends passing away, to relationships, to his family and he does a great job at relaying his thoughts and past into his music. River released his mixtape The Calm back in late 2012 and has gotten amazing reviews. The Calm features artists like Los, ANTHM and Kembe X. There is no doubt that The Calm tells a story of John’s life and it makes you want to know and hear more.

Only here, John confesses his love for Justin Bieber and Jessie J, as well as his reasoning behind his stage name, John River. He proceeds to give us exclusive information on his upcoming album that is in the works, as well as upcoming performances. John dishes about his former love and talent for soccer as well as his favourite song and collab off  The Calm!

John River

Take a look at the in depth interview I had with John himself where he gives WeKnowTheDj the most real and honest answers below:

1. I know that John River is your stage name. What made you choose to go by John River apposed to your real name?

Ahhh really good question. My name is Matthew Jonathan Derrick-Huie, and my parents decided they were going to name myself and my brother after the disciples in the Bible; Matt, Mark, Luke, and John of course. Jonathan is my middle name and in the Bible, John baptized Jesus in the river, and that’s really where John River came from. So when you listen to John River, it’s like a baptism to really dope music, not a specific religion, just the religion of real hip-hop and great music. Kinda deep I know ahah.

2. What is your personal favourite track on The Calm and why?

Ouuu this is a tough one, uhm I really really love Seasons of Love probably because I sing it in the shower more than any other song ahaha. To me it really represents the beginning of something special, a mixtape but really a career as well. I tell you who I am, where I’m from and that about to be the biggest thing in the world and I do it all in my naïve 17 year old voice aha, gotta love it.

3. As a rapper, who do you look up to the most when it comes to your style and expression?

They have to get you a raise because these are some really good questions, I may have to call Tay James myself ahah! I look up to a lot of great people, Lupe Fiasco, Selah Sue, Macklemore I love a lot as well. I think just people that were not only artist but were great message carriers and really inspired action through their music.

4. I know that you have collaborated with various artists, this being said, who was your favourite and why?

I would probably have to say Kembe X from Chicago, you may know him from his close association with Chance The Rapper. Kembe is just a really cool dude whose extremely young, talented and outspoken. To me, he brought a certain attitude to The Calm that you could only find from someone who grew up in Chicago, grateful he was a part of it.

5. Being that The Calm was released back in late 2012, do you have any new projects in the works for 2014?

I do! My second mixtape will be released in 2014 and I think you guys are the first ones to get official confirmation but it will be called The Storm. So far it sounds really good and I don’t just mean in the shower, it actually sounds great ahah.

6. If you could collaborate with any artist (dead or alive), who would it be and why?

As of right now I would probably have to say Jessie J or Justin Bieber. As a rapper I know that sounds a little weird but I am a musician first and there is simply no replacement for talent. I think those two are some of the most talented people we have in our generation regardless of their genre and I would be lucky to be a part of anything they did. So Jessie J just call me, I’ll be waiting by the phone ahah.

7. Think five years from now. What do you see yourself doing and accomplishing?

Honestly to me I have big dreams and sometimes that sounds silly but what’s the point of living without dreaming? I want to be the biggest rapper in the big wide world and I want to be surrounded by people I love. I will change the world one day for the better and I will help people who need it because I want to grow to be a generous human being. That is a lot to strive for but luckily 5 years is a long time!

8. When did you know you wanted to be a rapper and when did it start to unfold?

I’ve been rapping for as long as I can remember, maybe 8 years old but it was never the main focus. I played soccer pretty seriously and was in Europe pursuing that career; the moment I got back to Canada I think I decided I couldn’t commit to soccer without knowing what could have been with rap. One youtube video and a whole bunch of friends playing supportive roles is where everything started, the rest is history.

9. Do you have any plans in the works for upcoming shows?

Indeed I do, I will be performing December 21st at the Drake Hotel with Airplane Boys for a Philippines relief concert and I’m fortunate enough to be headlining the half time performance at the North Pole Hoops annual basketball showcase at Ryerson University on boxing day.

10. I realize the idea of “going mainstream” is tough for rappers. How do you keep your music real as well as be successful?

I think if you have to “try” to reach a mainstream audience you’re doing something wrong. Everything should come naturally in my opinion, when it comes, it comes. The most important thing is that you are always telling your story and expressing your views on the world. If by chance that leads you to the radio make sure you take the time to enjoy because you may not be there forever. Success is something we define personally and is different for everyone but I think success means getting to where you want to go in life and being you while doing it.

WAIT! Before you leave this page, be sure to download The Calm, and let us know what you think of it by tweeting John himself at @TheJohnRiver and our team at @weknowthedj!

The Calm:

– Alana K. (@alanakellyMD)

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