The Prelude highlights local hip hop talent
Ever since he was nine years old, Calgary’s Grady Welbourn, a.k.a. Johnny Active, has been inspired by music. Specifically the genre of rap and hip hop.
Growing up, Welbourn’s parents had a major role introducing him to classic rock and pop but it was his older brother that exposed him to rap music. Welbourn has been inspired ever since.
“My family was always into music so growing up I was exposed to a lot of different types of music; a lot of Bob Marley, Elton John, Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Eagles, classic stuff,” Welbourn said.
“My older brother irresponsibly showed me Eminem and Dr. Dre and that basically flipped my world upside down.
“I was amazed that music like that existed,” Welbourn added. “I think it was the lyrics that really caught my attention. I was around 10 years old when I wrote my first rap, I was hesitant to try it out at first but after I heard that there was other local emcees in Calgary rapping, I was like, ‘OK, I can do this.’
“It’s been a ride since then.”
Welbourn’s new album, The Prelude, features songs about dealing with relationships, dreams, goals and hopes of future success.
“I’m trying to solidify myself and show people that I mean business,” he said. “I think The Prelude achieves that, I also think I did a good job of making an album that balances the new school of hip hop with the more traditional style.”
Johnny Active’s The Prelude not only highlights Welbourn’s vocals and artistic style but also features some of Calgary’s other rap artists.
Teekay from Dragon Fli Empire and Tru-ly are both on the track “Night Sky” and artist Ciele can been heard in multiple songs as a featured guest.
Welbourn’s top three favourites from his new album include
“The Prelude” featuring Ciele, which explains the greater purpose of the album.
“It’s a warm-up to the big game, it explains my aspirations,” he said. “That song talks a lot about how I feel things are going to finally start popping off and how I’m on the rise, essentially.”
Another favourite is “Light Locked In It”, also featuring Ciele. Welbourn calls it a “tight summer jam.”
“It’s about meeting a girl but being too awkward to talk to her and not being sure what to say. There’s a warm feel to it,” he added.
“Michael Cera” is Welbourn’s overall third favourite from the album, stating the song sounds like something which belongs in a night club until you pay attention to the comical lyrics.
“That song is hilarious because of its irony, the song sort of draws some parallels and comparisons between me and the actor but in a skillful funny way,” he said. “At first listen you just think it’s some hardcore club song but when you really listen to the lyrics and hear what I’m saying, it’s ridiculous. That’s also the first song I wrote for the album.”
Outside the album, Welbourn has worked with local artists such as Transit, King Dylan, The Blue and Jaynovaa. Welbourn noted he is looking forward to working with more artists in the future.
Calgary music scene
Welbourn has been an avid participant in Calgary’s hip hop music scene for many years now and maintains there is a lot of positive aspects but wishes other artists would have each other’s backs when it comes to performing.
“The only thing I would change is the attitude that local artists carry towards one another,” he stated.
“I think they don’t realize that if one of us eats, it’s good for the rest of us, if not right away then in the long run. There needs to be a bit more internal support. That being said though, competition is necessary but you can still have competition with support, that will come with time though.”
However, Welbourn maintains that there is a handful of solid artists that are creating good music and being creative which is a key point in Calgary’s growing hip hop community.
“I remember when I was just starting out years ago, there wasn’t that many shows going on and there was a small core group of rappers doing their thing but now there’s a lot more opportunity for locals and artists,” he said. “It’s great, it’s on the up for sure.”