There was a time when Nhojj didn't think he was talented enough. And now the out neo-soul recording artist and songwriter boasts a number one MTV video for the hit song, 'Love'. MTV picked up his video from LOGO. BET hailed him as a pioneer in music. Now, with his melodic pride anthem "The Gay Warrior Song", indie sensation Nhojj is the artist to watch this year.
Ramon Johnson: Hi Nhojj, thanks for joining me. Where does your name, Nhojj, come from?
Nhojj: Nhojj is actually my given name, John, in reverse. It’s an anagram of John.
RJ: When did you start using Nhojj?
Nhojj: It’s been almost ten years. A good friend actually came up with it. He was always playing with letters and words, and one day he was like, 'You know, this would be really cool for you. It’s your name!" It sounds like [my] music, it feels like the music, and it communicates and looks like my sound. I thought it was a really good match.
RJ: Well, your music is beautiful. Tell me about it.
Nhojj: Thank you, by the way, for saying that. When I’m writing music, I try to be uplifting and positive. I work on being honest with myself by honoring who I am and the things I believe. Lyrically, I work on trying to uplift or affirm whoever’s listening. In terms of harmonies, I could spend an entire day adding layers and layers of harmony. It makes me feel good—those chords—and I go with what feels good.
RJ: So, how long have you been 'feeling good'?
Nhojj: [laughs] I’ve been feeling good for a long time. I started singing when I was a kid, when I was in school, and on the balcony of our home. I’d just sing and sing and sing and sing for hours and hours. And then they decided to let me sing in church and put me on a platform where people could enjoy it. It started at the very beginning for me.
RJ: You were born in Guyana and raised in Trinidad, then made your way here to the States. Has being a Caribbean-American influenced your music?
Nhojj: Yes, it has. Especially being in New York. New York is so different from Guyana and Trinidad. It’s so huge, and there are so many people. The energy is just different. It has such a different vitality than from everywhere else. In the Caribbean, everything’s laid back. Things move at a calmer, slower pace. In New York, there’s a rhythm that moves fast. There’s a vitality, like an energy. Especially now. I’m incorporating more of that vitality and energy into my music, and still working, you know, on keeping the calmness. But it’s interesting combining those two elements. I think that’s what makes me who I am and gives my music the sound that it has.
RJ: So, we can expect something different on your next album?
Nhojj: I’ve always explored new things on all of my CDs. This time I want to explore rhythm and how it relates. There will be new elements in there, but there will always be the beautiful harmonies and melodies from before.
RJ: Did you watch MTV as a kid?
Nhojj: No. I was eighteen when I moved to New York. That’s when I started looking at MTV and BET.
RJ: Did you ever think you'd have a number one video on the MTV charts?
Nhojj: Absolutely not! Even up to a couple of years ago, I never thought it would happen. It came as a complete shock.
RJ: And there you were watching your single climb the charts...