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Art with no easel: the voice of Jovonni Pharr

In the semi-rural county of Lamar one doesn’t expect to hear fresh, hip-hop sounds being created in the cinderblock walls of a small, college dorm room. But then again, few people expect to meet an artist raised in the Bronx and matured in the ATL. I recently had the opportunity to host just such a person and talk about everything from how he started out near homeless, worked his way up, and has become an oft ignored voice of the black, middle class, to the future of Internet artists. Andrew: Jovonni Pharr Jovonni: What’s up? Working. Living and loving. You? Same. Some days all I do is work. It’s a tough game and you have to stay on top of it. I’m trying to make a name. That’s what I like to hear. So you’ve recently released an album; From Then Til Now. Yeah. It dropped just before the summer. Talk to me about it. It’s hot. It’s a sample to get my voice out there. 5 cuts. I released it independently with a lot of initial help from SummerHill Music Group led by MarWon and produced by people like Kochease, Illa Jones, and MysFit. I’ve heard the cut “Don’t Snip My Wings.” It is hot. It’s fresh, for sure. I have to say though that when I first heard it I was taken back to an early Fugees time – with the acoustic guitar background track, a little spoken history, and then a solid hook. Do you find any inspiration from rap acts of the late 90s and early 00s? To be honest, I didn’t consciously do it. It might be that my subconscious mind takes influence from past acts. However, I just simply take what is in my head, bypass the writing stage, put it on a recording, and add my character to it. In doing it that way, everything my audience hears, is totally me. I have my favorite acts from back in the day, but I don’t root any of my content from them. I’m just Jovonni. Things take a turn though when you get into songs like “Ish Don’t Stink.” It is something I would hear at any club on any Saturday night. It is definitely marketable. So, as the self-proclaimed pioneer of the “Hip-Pop” genre, do you find yourself leaning more towards radio-friendly / club cuts or things that are more laid back, chillin’ in the ‘hood, kind of cuts? Honestly, it all just depends on the song and the moment in which I make the song. I don’t sit down and think, ‘Hey, maybe so and so will like this record’. I just do what I feel should be done with the song and take from my personal experiences. I don’t try to be anything that I’m not. If the song ends up coming out like a hood song, then so be it; at least it is a 100% real Jovonni song. That goes for any genre that I do. I do love making cross breeds from pop to hip-hop though. So life is busy. You’ve said as much. But where is Jovonni? Where are you right now? Physically, mentally, spiritually? Where are you? Well, one word can sum up exactly where I am in every aspect of my life – focused. I repeat the same routine everyday. I work with my promotional manager who has been in the game for a while. He and I talk about different ways in which we can reach a broader audience. Everything is coming together. My songs have currently reached 20,000 downloads in only a couple days from uploading. I am gaining a myriad of opportunities and following markets online. Combined, I have surpassed 250,000 downloads already with my own team of professionals. I am not trying to sign another record deal when my staff and I strongly feel that we can achieve a successful music career with one. I guess you can say we have tunnel vision. About this team. Tell me a bit more about your boys. You work with SummerHill and local ATL underground celebrity MarWon (who we know as an opening act for T.I.) as well as Kochease (of Young Joc fame) and Illa Jones. How are these guys guiding you?’¨ Well my team is a little different now. I recently took on a new manager, Markis Fortner, one producer, MysFit, and a promotional coach/mentor, Hank Snow. After most of the tracks were done I realized I had an individual vision that gave me the confidence to really step out on my own. Because of that I don’t work so much with Marwon or Summerhill anymore. Illa Jones is out of the picture too. ’¨You mention several times about your downloads and following you on Facebook and Twitter. How do you think the Internet is helping shape your career? Is this a good thing or do you feel it might take away from your credibility as an artist in the traditional sense? It’s a new day. Check it out. 10,000+ MySpace friends, 20,000+ downloads for “Heat Rock” in only 3 days, and a combined 275,000 audio downloads in one month alone. Honestly, it is the best thing that could have happened to the me or any underground artist. The internet social networking sites have given me a new edge. Instead of me trying to sell records at the local mall or out of my trunk I can sell them online. I have to add this though. As an artist, I don’t really like selling my music. I just want to make the music and release it to the world for free. Essentially, I just want people to enjoy my music whether it involves pay or not. I do this in order to gain loyal fans. When the time comes to sell my product for the sake of my career and my income they won’t think twice about price if I have been giving them top quality music for free beforehand. I do not want to release my secrets on the world of social networking websites (laugh) but I will say this, not enough artists are taking advantage of the resources outside; that’s just lazy (laugh). I feel as though the internet has given all celebrities the route to connect with all of their fans. That is the best thing you can do with your fan base in my opinion.’¨’¨ You are currently balancing your music career with a full-time courseload at Gordon College in Barnesville, GA? Why? What is education important to you? Honestly, college in general presents unique opportunies to you as an artist. It gives you a big fanbase just waiting to be served. It is hard balancing the two, and I know that I will have to choose very soon, but I am staying in college for the opportunity and the education it offers.’¨’¨ So where is this all going? What is next for you? ’¨Well right now I am trying to do everything with my team to reach  as many people that we can. Our goal is to reach a level of connection with millions of fans, but without a record deal. I have been offered 3 major record deals in the past few months but have declined them. I have also been offered a ringtone deal by Vio Mobile. Also, I have an upcoming radio campaign in select US cities (cities TBD) which will put my sound on traditional airwaves. However, I am really just trying to utilize my online resources as much as possible. In the midst of all of this, I will be steadily recording and releasing projects for the world to hear. Word. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I appreciate it. I look forward to new tracks as they drop. Thank you. I appreciate it. You can listen to a sample of Jovonni’s music by visiting him on the web at: or following him on Twitter – @Jovonni. You can also view his Facebook at

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