For most of his life, Johan Lenox has worked with classical music. He taught himself how to play the piano when he was in second or third grade. Johan mentioned, “I got interested in how to write for an orchestra because I used to go to the Boston Pops and see John Williams conduct film scores. I thought that stuff was cool. It was a pretty weird interest to have at that age, but I wanted to do whatever he was doing.” He then attended a music school in his hometown of Winchester, where he would take lessons in composing. As he got older, he would continue to do the same thing at a higher level at the New England Conservatory in Boston. Johan was never really into hip-hop or pop music at the time. That was until he was on acid at a party, and somebody played him that album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” by Kanye West. Johan said, “I thought that the album was insane, and I started getting into that type of music.”
Through years of hard work, Johan was able to work with Kanye West, the man whose music got him into hip-hop. He first worked with Kanye at Yeethoven, which was “an orchestra playing Beethoven and Kanye music mashed up together.” The concert played at large venues in both New York and LA. After that, Johan got to work with and meet Kanye while he was working on the Teyana Taylor and Nas albums. When discussing how Kanye has impacted his career, Johan said, “I feel like his overall existence has been critical at every stage of my development. It was brief, but I paid attention to the stuff he did, and I have applied that into my work.” Johan then elaborated how he has applied it to his work by saying “Coming from string arranging, most people, especially in pop music, tend to think of strings as something you are going to add to build up the last chorus of a song, like any part that's loud you add it to make it even bigger on top, he was pretty much the exact opposite. Like for the Teyana album, he just wanted the strings to be their own section of the song with nothing else happening. I feel like what I got from that has been very critical with my music because I use a lot of strings in my music. I really want people to get that from me. I think the reality is if you are just trying to stick that behind the chorus in the song when there are already five other things happening like a big vocal and all the drums and everything, that’s not a good way to get people to notice something; I feel like the idea to take an element like that and give it its own space and have nothing else happening to make people really pay attention to it, I feel like that has changed my entire producing philosophy.”
When it comes to his music, Johan’s hip-hop approach is different than most. Since he initially started with classical music, he makes sure that element is included in all of his music. Johan described the orchestral part of his music as “ pretty unique, and people use those sounds on their songs, and I do a lot of strings and that type of shit for other people, so I know how they are used, but I don’t know other people who use it as such a central element. It's like its own character in the story.” There is also always a certain mood in the lyrics in his music. He explained that “lyrically I try to talk about the same shit that everybody is on like I don’t want to be at a party right now or my life is directionless, but I try to frame it with a little bit more awareness of the fact the world is falling apart, or the American dream isn’t really a real thing anymore. Even if it's in a sarcastic way like the whole world is falling apart, and that is why we are digging around aimlessly. I feel that a bigger context is something I am trying to speak to.”
Johan’s music journey has allowed him to live in New York and LA. He lived in New York for a year as he said, “ that seemed like the nearest big city to do music stuff at,” he continued to say, “but honestly, there wasn’t a ton of shit happening in New York. A lot of the really big music people who used to be in New York have moved out here (LA). When I was living in New York.” That inspired Johan to visit LA; he took three trips out there to get a feel of it before having to commit to living there full time. While Johan was out there, he would network as much as he could. Describing his trips in LA, Johan says, “ I didn’t know that many people in music, so I was blindly just trying to think of anybody I knew.” Johan then moved to LA, where he had to continue to hustle for the next couple of years. He said, “Even after moving to LA, it took a while to get into rooms with big people.”
Since Johan has got into the rooms with prominent people, he has taken full advantage of his opportunities. He has signed with Island Records and produced for artists such as Travis Scott, Big Sean, Lil Nas X, Teyana Taylor, Travis Barker, Selena Gomez, and John Legend just to name a few. He has also released songs with Yung Pinch, Landon Cube, Wifisfuneral, and Vic Mensa. Johan has over 160,000 monthly Spotify listeners and has released two singles with over one million streams. They are titled “everybody’s cool but me” and “High in the Woods.” Since 2017, Johan has been able to release three EP’s. They are titled “WIlds,” “everybody’s cool but me,” and “cancel the party.”
On his most recent EP “cancel the party,” Johan had features from Yung Pinch, Landon Cube, and Wifisfuneral. The EP has totaled over one million streams. Johan described the making of saying "cancel the party," saying “the EP was really like compiled from the six songs that felt like they went together as a group, from a group of about 150 songs that I had done. There were a couple of phases, initially a shorter version of it before I did the song “nobody wants to dance anymore,” the EP was done, and then we added it because it felt good. There's also an extended classical song titled “alone in the theme park part 2,” which is entirely instrumental. I just added that after the fact because I just wanted to make sure that I had enough of that aspect of my musical approach in there, it feels like a more interesting decision.” Along with the EP, Johan featured a twenty-one-minute music video. It was a low budget video that Johan was able to film it at spots he used to hang out when he was growing up. Johan said he used the video to “Capture feelings on directionlessness and community in the face that doesn’t feel very stable.”
Johan plans to release a new album in early 2021, however, before that, he plans to release a “Made in Quarantine classical album.” He described it as “Getting a bunch of classical composers and making music together. They all contribute pieces of audio together and finish it into this classical album.” He continued with, “it is not going to stream like crazy and make me famous, but I do think that stuff like that is unique and no one else would ever do it. I want to do it, and I feel like doing those projects when I can will pay off. The people that are invested in what I am creating will think it is cool because it is unique shit nobody else will do, so I am going to do that in a few months.” Going back to his upcoming album, you should expect several singles to be released leading up to it, including one in a couple of weeks titled “Throwback Thursday.” Johan is one of Massachusetts's most talented people, so whatever he does in the future should be outstanding and expect to see his name a lot more.