[Interview] Big Star Johnson On Upcoming Sophomore Album “Caesar,” Fatherhood, Entrepreneurship & More. Following a substantial break from the music scene, Big Star Johnson marked his return with a distinct comeback. He unveiled a fresh image and introduced new music, collaborating with Stino Le Thwenny & Asid on a joint “Fede Sho.”
Adding to the momentum, the rapper is poised to solidify a formidable presence in the South African hip-hop scene. His imminent release of the second album, titled “Caesar,” marks a noteworthy advancement in his musical journey.
In an exclusive interview with SA Hip Hop Mag, Big Star Johnson delved into details about the upcoming project and shared insights into how he navigated through some of the challenges encountered during the creative process.
Can you tell us about your upcoming sophomore album, “Caesar,” and the inspiration behind its creation?
“Caesar is an album about the relationship I have with my father, also understanding him now that I’ve become a father and resolving a lot of trauma through music and finding internal healing.”
As the inaugural winner of The Vuzu Hustle Season 1, how has your journey in the music industry evolved since then, and what have been the major highlights?
“The music industry has evolved immensely; we have gone from CDs still being something that we embraced to them not existing at all and we are fully in the streaming era. The landscape of music has also evolved with the birth of amapiano and hip-hop diversifying in ways we couldn’t have imagined.
“My major highlights have to be performing in France as well as being able to be in studio with an icon of mine HHP.“
After a period of silence in the music scene, what motivated your return, and how has your sound evolved over the years?
“So, the silence wasn’t a decision.. it sorts of just happened instinctually .. same with the return. This music came pouring out of me and just wanted to be released so here I am releasing the music.”
How do you balance being an artist, entrepreneur, and a father? Can you share some insights into your daily routine and how you manage these different roles?
“I focus on one thing at a time. I’m terrible at multitasking so I give each task it’s desired focus. When it’s time to hit the studio, we hit the studio, when it’s time to be with my daughter I give her all my attention and when it’s time for business, it’s time for business.
“Tuesdays Wednesdays Thursdays I focus on my company. I am always a father, so my daughter is always a priority however having her at School helps me manage my time better. Recording music is a spiritual thing so when it’s time to let it flow, we open up and hit the studio.“
We understand you’ve been involved in building a musical school. Can you tell us more about this initiative and what inspired you to venture into education within the music industry?
“Well, my foundations are based in live music and my mother is an educator, so I suppose both parts of me motivated me to start the school. Learning an instrument takes time and I value the process .. you can suck at something and with patience become a genius .. I’m in love with that process.”
Your new music is described as crossing over into different hip-hop styles. What can listeners expect from “Caesar,” and how would you define the unique lane you’re riding in?
“Mature honest authentic hip hop. I think hip-hop has become overly aspirational and the truth is undervalued. This album crosses over into every style of music that I like from deep house to African jazz to soul to gospel even to amapiano. So, listeners have a lot to eat up.”
What challenges did you face during the creation of your sophomore album, and how did you overcome them?
“It took us 3 days to record 80% of the album and a year and a half to complete the remaining 20%. Internally I was going through an awakening and anybody who knows what that’s like knows that it’s never comfortable, so this album took the most out of me but also took the best out of me. Prayer, meaningful conversations, meditation, and the right community got me through.“
How has fatherhood influenced your approach to both your music and business endeavours?
“Now it’s a lot less about impressing and it’s a lot more about legacy. My focus is no longer what can I gain now but rather what can I leave behind.”
Can you share some of the life lessons and failures you’ve experienced that have contributed to your self-discovery, and how do you hope they can inspire others?
“If you don’t know where you are going everybody will tell you where to go and if you don’t know who you are everyone else will give you your identity. Staying authentic to self is difficult in success so one has to remain honest with themselves and with those around them as well as maintain your routine. Do what gives you peace. I can only hope my story allows people the space to live and tell their stories. express yourself.”
Being an entrepreneur in the music industry, what advice would you give to aspiring artists looking to navigate the business side of their careers?
“Diversify your portfolio and equip yourself with more than just your talent. Stay kind and Humble cause you will never know who you will need when.“
Are there specific artists or musical influences that have shaped your sound and style, and how have they impacted your artistic journey?
“I have fallen in love with South African music again. Artists like Sjava , Stino Le Thwenny, Thando Zide … These artists inspire me because they remain true to who they are and remind me that we all have something to offer whether the next person understands the language or not, the music will speak.”
With the changing landscape of the music industry, how do you stay authentic to your art while adapting to new trends and technologies?
“I can only do what I can do and let the best handle the rest. I am a firm believer in keeping the right community around you and everybody having a role to play… if we’re not growing, we dying so keep people around you who grow with you. I have never claimed to know everything, so I ask for help when I need it.”
In what ways do you think your experiences and perspective as an artist in South Africa contribute to the global conversation in hip-hop?
“Hip-hop has always been about expressing oneself so I believe my contribution is the story of the 32-year-old black rapper from Johannesburg Kempton Park 1632 East Rand.”
Can you share some details about the creative process behind one of the tracks on your upcoming album that holds special significance for you?
“The intro track, Coming or going. This song has had so many versions and so many different verses asking me the same question am I coming or am I going, and it has challenged me to answer that question. It also set the tone for the album, so I hope people hear what I hear.”
Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for the future, both in your music career and as an entrepreneur in the industry?
“More expression more and more expression. I think people are only going to start getting to know Bigstar now. Therefore, a gospel album The jazz album and many more hip-hop albums maybe even a dance album.. more expression.”