Before the 19th century when photography took over, art represented realism (of that time). Thanks to the holy trinity of renaissance artists, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael, their mastery of the arts produced astounding works that, even centuries later, are still considered to be the pinnacle of artistic ability.
Now, of course, the discourse about art has shifted since its days of being attributed to sculptors and painters as it noticeably covers a myriad of mediums. From its conventional and traditional styles of a brush and colours, to the use of visual elements in cinematography and the production of sound waves alluding to music – art has the power to speak in a magnitude of volumes.
Cultivating an artistic affect deep-rooted in community engagement, and a Renaissance Boy of his own nature, is a 25-year-old Scarborough-born musician who crafts his art through his truths, cultural experiences and goes by the name of Just John.
John is a Toronto-based rapper whose force lies within his energetic musical presence that is fostered through personal encounters and a flow of sentiments endured during particular moments in time. His creativity is not limited by boundaries and takes up a space that is illustrious, archival, and cinematic while upholding the dynamism of a natural leader.
“One of the most fun things about being an artist is that you create a product – but there’s still so many other variables to the roll out of it,” said John.
Community awareness is a significant factor that not only plays into the lyricism of John’s music, but it is also reflective of his perception of how he serves others in his tunes. The Sounboi rapper suggests that artists find a fulfillment when their viewers are reciprocating to their art. Whether art is here to entertain or educate, its purpose holds a value of stimulating the imagination so viewers can understand the emotions and ideas experienced by the creator. John’s merit is about contributing to a conversation that will further a movement. His fascination for creative activities dates back to being a child and absorbing the different aspects of television and magazine articles.
“I think why my stuff is naturally loud or reflects a certain story is because I want to push ideas forward and that just comes from me emulating some of my favorite artist,” said John. “They were never afraid to push their ideas and their stories forward.”
Prior to the realization of music being the leading source where he would execute his craftsmanship , the Scarborough native has always been an artist of some sort by formulating stories in movement as a breakdancer. His connection to soundtracks may have began through dance, but the rapper’s instinctive desire to share his knowledge is what lead him to transition into the music world.
“A lot of people knew me as a dancer and I was tired of telling stories through my body, I wanted to use my voice,” said John.
The pathway to becoming an artist takes more than just raw skill and talent. Creatives exercise an abundance of hard work and develop individual styles that establish their prominence. In the genesis of his journey, Just John recalls a time when he had not found his inflection or honed the skills that he now possesses.
It took a couple of years for the musical artist to learn the type of voice that he wanted to have, and meeting members of different cultural communities such as the Black, Indigenous, Queer and art communities helped him tap into his sublime gift.
Gratitude is unquestionably ingrained into Johns noble and humble characteristics. As the founder and chief creator of Blank Canvas, an art gallery that drives culture forward for marginalized groups, the entertainer further extends his appreciation to the establishment.
“That’s why I credit Blank Canvas and the galleries so much for my make now,” said John. “It really helped refine and sharpen the kind of artist I am today and the things that I care about today.”
Although the collective no longer has a space, their initiative is to continue uplifting people as well as being an example to assert one’s presence . Representing blackness unapologetically is embedded in their integrity in addition to giving the tools to artist so that they can get a feel of owning something themselves.
In this new chapter of Blank Canvas, John has a mission to uplift his community and make them feel worthy and capable of doing whatever they please, because their presence has upheld the strength and power of the art space. The Toronto-based musician describes his establishment as “the heartbeat that is always listening”. If something happens within the community, they are going to react to it by using their art.
“All my favourite artists have had this cool way of using their art and shifting the cultural landscape and inspiring the people or giving back to their hoods,” said John. “I look at cats like Tupac or Kendrick Lamar or Swizz Beatz and what he does with No Commissions – I want to be an artist that is more than just the raps. I’m embedded in the culture, I think that’s where art is going now. This kind of convergence of culture – I think I’ve naturally found myself into that way.”
The presence of Blank Canvas is what the creative song writer wants cherished into his legacy. No matter where he is around the world or when the time comes, he is determined to leave a legacy that allows Blank Canvas to be an example and opens doors for more emerging marginalized artists.
Although the rapper displays a modestly calm personality, his animated bearing is a powerful fury that captivates and moves a crowd as soon as he steps onto a stage. John uses his performances as a vehicle that drives all the things that he cares about, and his musical artistry is framed by way of discipline and perfectionism.
Once he began learning the importance of finding his cadence, he was then able to craft a sound that is undeniably just John’s. Similar to artists like DMX and JAY-Z, who have a distinctive demeanor, Just John’s music carries a recognizable resonance that is apparent to his audience.
Regardless of what is popular on today’s charts, there’s no doubt that John is set to bring his own renaissance revival into the music industry. His eagerness to master his craft, maintaining ties to his community, and producing tracks that stand the test of time are the building blocks that are paving his way to ensuring he is as remembered as Da Vinci and company.
“Seeing something that you have go from this minuscule concept and seeing how it expands into this beautifully layered story is dope,” said John. “It’s always my goal to make timeless music, music I can look back on and say ‘I remember exactly how I felt at this time.’”
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