TrueMendous - 'Misdiagnosis of Chyvonne Johnson' Interview




After being blown away by 'Misdiagnosis of Chyvonne Johnson' and writing a subsequent review, we had to engage with the one and only 'TrueMendous' 'face to face' in order to dissect the mind-blowing album in greater detail. This is exactly what we did:


Lawrie:


The way I wanted to do things, just to set the scene, is to discuss some general observations of the project (Misdiagnosis of Chyvonne Johnson) that I've made, and then to delve into some specific, song related questions.


Misdiagnosis of Chyvonne Johnson turns one week old tomorrow, so I wanted to understand, what has the initial reaction been like?


TrueMendous:


Yeah. It's been really positive to be fair. I think people primarily appreciate the versatility of it (Misdiagnosis of Chyvonne Johnson), which was strategically done. You know, I had to differentiate this project from all my previous material. I think it's like my eighth project out now, so I had to, you know, incorporate elements that haven't really been done in my previous stuff. So I get it, I can rap, but what else can I do? So that's why with this one, I dance across different varieties of genres more than I have on my previous stuff. That’s also why this one has quite diverse production, features, subject matters, content, and patterns to make it as left as I could. And you know, so someone somewhere could relate to something; even if you don't like this, you still like that, as opposed to previous material, when it was predominantly just hip-hop or just one cohesive sound, but with this one (Misdiagnosis of Chyvonne Johnson), I think it's a bit all over the place.


Lawrie:


That's great, thank you for that. And it's interesting that you mentioned the word 'versatility'; what three words would you use to describe Misdiagnosis of Chyvonne Johnson?


TrueMendous:


I'd say 'diverse' / 'dynamic', 'unique' and 'experimental' / 'fun'. And the next project I do is going to be even more left; I just want to put that out there as well.


Lawrie:


A general observation that I've made is that there is a lot of lengthy tracks on 'Misdiagnosis of Chyvonne Johnson'. So I wanted to understand what the thought process behind releasing such extensive tracks was.


TrueMendous:

Yeah. To be fair, it was never really a thought process. And it's funny because I'm working on my new material for the next project and one of the features that I have on it, he was actually talking about song length too, but it's never really something that I put to the forefront of my mind before. He (feature) was saying the same thing, he was saying, especially in this day and age to understand like, you know, our generation in particular is very fast track; I mean very fickle and something can be popping today but then three days later no ones talking about it. But with my content, I never really thought about it like that. For me, it's a thing where regardless who you are, if you're a good enough artist, regardless how long the song is, you listen to the end.

That's just been my mindset and logic. If Drake was to put out a 40 minutes song, you're going to listen to all 40 minutes. Do you know what I mean? So when I was creating the songs it wasn't that I had certain time limits in place in my mind. It just finished where I thought we should finish. You know what I mean? So it's like with the beats and stuff, I'll get them on a loop and then I'll write to them. And then wherever my pen stops, it stops. So if it's 12 minutes, It's 12 minutes, but it's not intentionally done, it's just where it finished.

Lawrie:


What are your favourite songs from 'Misdiagnosis of Chyvonne Johnson' at present?


TrueMendous:


The ones I prefer would probably be the more melodic ones. So I prefer 'You Don't Like Me Because', 'Worst Child', and 'Selfish Behaviour'. At first, 'Selfish Behaviour' wasn't really one of my favourites, but the more I listened to it, the more it's grown on me. I'd say those three, and 'Spirit and Breanna'; as I said, it's the more melodic ones for me personally, but that's because I enjoy softer production.


Lawrie:


That's really interesting, thank you for being so honest.


What I take from listening to the whole project is that it seems to be predominantly focused on relationships, and more often than not, failed and potentially destructive relationships. So I wanted to understand from your perspective, how that affected the writing process; was it easier because these are real life scenarios that you've been through, and real life emotions that you’ve felt, or was it harder to express and to let those feelings go?


TrueMendous:


Yes. I think on this project, it is the most vulnerable I've been, but not every situation in every song is directly about me. So some concepts will be from stories friends have told me, some from documentaries, films, and articles in newspaper; I just live freely and extract different bits of information and put it in song format. So embedded in certain songs will be personal experiences, but then it's also fabricated and enhanced with more information just to make it a full song. So, yeah, but the bits that are a little more personal to me because I have directly gone through it, it makes it a lot easier to write about because I know how I felt in that moment. Whereas if it's someone else's experiences I'm writing about, I'm good at embodying how I would have felt if I was in that situation. That's why it's all believable. So yeah, I find it relatively easy to do - partly because this has been my writing style for a long time. It's kind of natural now.

Lawrie:


I now wanted to focus on some individual tracks from 'Misdiagnosis of Chyvonne Johnson’; to start at the very beginning with 'Cause a Scene'. "Run me my flowers while Im still here cos if you dont imma cause a scene” is the main punchline of the song - why do you think people only get the recognition they deserve when they're gone?

TrueMendous:

It's interesting, because I feel like it mainly speaks on artists that are either lyricists or those who produce music without displaying themselves in a sexual manner. So that's also why I appreciate the recognition that Dave has - realistically, considering how much of a lyricist he is, technically he shouldn't be getting that much love - it's abnormal. Same with Kendrick and J Cole. Like it's weird for you to be so significant and for people to acknowledge you while you're still here. You know what I mean? So props to them for being sick and also gaining all the recognition while they're still here. But for most of us it doesn’t work out like that.

I also feel like because sex, materialism and violence are always pushed to the forefront, maybe people that come through and have something else to say are not given the attention they deserve. I think all these things work against me, because I come at a different approach it's "we don't really want to hear that". So I feel like it's just embedded in the dilution of things, but you know, if I was to come out to maybe switch on my topic, external appearance, I would get pushed more to the forefront.


So, I think it's more than just topic matter and external appearance that kind of works against me in this field, but it's just due to what sells, I mean, labels and stuff, they push what sells. And that's always been the case. So I think it's just from history - it's just always been that way unfortunately, but that's why I appreciate ‘High Focus’ so much as well, because it's never been a thing where I've joined the label and they've been like, "oh, can you just kind of alter your wherever?”. They like what I do and they’ve always trusted my instincts and intuition and my creativity and whatever I think is going to work. And I mean, they've (High Focus Records) never tried to make me change aesthetically or change, you know, subject or whatever.


And that's why I appreciate them. And I'm so fortunate for that. Because I know if it was maybe a major or just a different label in general, they'd want to make money off me and might therefore push change. This said, when you're against the grain you have more longevity. So it's like when you see people after like 40, 50, 60 years still touring and being able to sell-out venues, it's because they generated a core following, you know what I mean?


It's like people that have followings that have been generated off of aesthetic appearance, once you hit, no offence, 40, 45 or whatever, grey hairs are showing, wrinkles are showing, and your fans are not checking for you no more, you know what I mean? So it's like a thing where you always make sure, from the start, you generate a core following. So that's why Lauren Hill, or Erykah Badu, or Common can put on shows now and still sell out until they're dead. So yeah, that's what I've been in it for anyway. So, you know, it sucks that you have to work twice as hard when you do go against the grain, but it's the long-term that I'm in it for.


Lawrie:


I wanted to now speak about 'Y', but firstly, what do you feel people know you best for, as an artist, whether that's lyricism, whether that's flows, etc?


TrueMendous:


I'd probably say I see the most comments on flow; I'd say flow, but there are a good amount of people that are not lyrically very aware; because of the style of my lyrics as well, it's like you either catch or you don't.


Lawrie:


That's what I thought, I've noticed your wordplay on a number of different songs, but in this one specifically (‘Y'), the line that I picked out was "why'd you rather 'Mac' than build foundations with your wife"


TrueMendous:


You get it, yeah?! It's like only certain minds will understand certain lyrics, but with flow patterns, because it's so in your face and blatant more people find it easier to catch. You have to have a sensitive ear to understand what I'm saying to get the punchline - same with punchlines that have references to certain things.


Lawrie:


You also express some of your aspirations on 'Y', you say "whyve I still not been on ‘Tiny Desk’, or done a ‘Colours’ show?" so I wanted to understand what your longterm aspirations are?


TrueMendous:

Yeah. I mean, for me, it's a thing where I don't necessarily do things for accolades. But also I'm aware that I'm good at what I do. So it's kind of me putting it out there to manifest it before it comes, I mean, I'm big on like anything that's for me, I'll get it in time. It's just time that separates me from it. So it's just a thing that I'm putting certain things out there to be fair, but I don't really do things for awards because it's all fake. And it's like, you know, I could have a following of 1,000 people and everyone in that thousand people could vote for me to win this award. Someone with a bigger following, 7,000 followers, 20% of their following could vote for them and they're still going to win that award over me, even though my entire following voted, I'm saying it's not a legit method to reward people.


And it's all subjective. Like how, what makes that the best? It's all fake. It's not real to me. So I don't necessarily do things for accolades or awards and stuff. I also know I'm good enough to receive everything long story short. So that's where the 'Tiny Desk' and 'Colors Show' affirmations come in.

It's like, you don't actually know who's getting what anyway, but in this generation, especially like social media, that's all at the forefront and the image thing as well. Also, I don't cater to just one person or just wherever. Like if you like my stuff, you like that one song, or if you like seven songs, I appreciate it. Go listen to it. I've only got like 12,000 / 11,000 followers on ‘Instagram’, and what, 4,000 on Facebook. And that doesn't mean anything. It doesn't mean only 4,000 people know who you are or only 4,000 people are going to buy your stuff. You know what I mean?

Lawrie:

To move on to 'Worst Child' now, one of the lines that was prominent to me when listening anyway was "don't cut off your nose to spite your face", what relevance does it have to the context of the song?

TrueMendous:


Well, in general, 'Worst Child' for me is kind of like not needing self validation in general from people and giving it to yourself prior to the world giving it to you. Knowing how important you are, not based off of numbers.

Lawrie:

To touch on 'You Don't Like Me Because', some of the lines are very focused on social media, which seems to be a theme throughout 'Misdiagnosis of Chyvonne Johnson' - what is the context behind the social media focus?


TrueMendous:

It's just things I've noticed from being on social media, you know, being in this generation and just seeing how things work and just seeing them for what they actually are just calling these things out to be fair. That's kinda what 'You Don't Like Me Because' is based on, it's got a little bit of humour in there, here and there, but yeah, it's just based on what I've been observing and just seeing it for what it is. 'You Don't Like Me Because' is going to be the next video actually...

Lawrie:

So, 'Mood Ring' - you've got the hashtag 'Mood Ring' challenge, which made me wonder what affect the rise of TikTok has had on the creative process. Do you create a project and say, actually, 'Mood Ring' is relevant to a TikTok competition for sake of example, or do you create music solely for that concept?


TrueMendous:


Yeah, so I don't create music just for TikTok, but I would create certain songs with radio in mind. So that's what I'm aiming for. And usually if I create with radio in mind, it can work on TikTok as well. I've never really been into TikTok like that, but obviously when I created 'Mood Ring', I just needed something that was a bit more ‘dancy’. And just to give the project a nice element of a bit of a crossover song on there. I had melodic songs, but I didn't have a funk / pop kind of melodic song on there. So I was thinking now what's something that I can hear on radio. So that was intentionally done when I wrote 'Mood Ring'.

When I got the finished ('Mood Ring') product I thought "I could hear this on TikTok". Because obviously, TikTok is growing and stuff, I could hear this on the TikTok app, but that was never (the thought process) when I was creating a song, it was never in the back of my head.


Lawrie:


Okay. Okay. That's interesting. There definitely is artists at the moment who are making songs specifically for TikTok or maybe moulding videos around the platform…


TrueMendous:

For sure, and I don't blame them neither. You know, it's the business man, it's a business and it's a game. So it's like, you can't knock it.


Lawrie:


The last song, which I think is really important to get your thoughts on is 'Emmett Till'. What sparked the initial creative thoughts for you to make that song and what was the motivation behind it?


TrueMendous:


Yeah, to be fair, in my catalogue, I don't really have any Black Lives Matter themed songs. Every now and then I might say a little line in a song, but like as the primary core concept, I don't really have it. And then, you know, after the past two years, it was just the increase in what was being filmed on camera and you know, the riots and the rallies and everything - the madness that's been going on. I just felt like it was right to put my thoughts on the situation out there. I'm not really active like that on Twitter, etc, and people think, ‘oh, you don't care’ where obviously I'm a black woman, you know what I mean?

So it was just mostly a thing where, you know, I have to include this in this project. So I started writing it. I think it was before the George Floyd outbreak. It was before that. I just started writing it and it was more of a police brutality song where I role play as the officer. And then when 'Masta Ace’ comes in, he's playing as the victim. It ties in with the Emmett Till case, which wasn't necessarily police brutality, but it's still the same thing. It's also playing on the timeframe of it as well. Like all this is still similar. Things are still happening to this day, but yeah, we just flipped the narrative on it really. But yeah, he just plays on police brutality and you know, just the fight for justice and equality was the meaning behind the track.


Lawrie:


Thank you so much for that. I think it's really important to touch upon that specific piece (Emmett Till) of the project. So I appreciate the context and even from a personal perspective, yeah, it's really powerful to understand, so I genuinely appreciate it.


I has been amazing to speak to you - thanks so much for your time.


TrueMendous:


Pleasure to speak to you too, man. Peace.

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