Name: Chyvonne Johnson aka TrueMendous
Occupation: Rapper
Current release: TrueMendous's Misdiagnosis of Chyvonne Johnson is out now on High Focus Records.
Recommendations: As of recent 2 pieces of music I’ve enjoyed listening to are Jazmine Sullivan’s ‘Heaux Tales’ album and I’d also recommend my own debut album which I released on 1st April 2021, ‘Misdiagnosis of Chyvonne Johnson.’

if you enjoyed this interview with TrueMendous , visit her personal website for an overview of her work, including an expansive about-section. She is also on Facebook and Instagram.

When did you start writing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

Consistently, I’d say the end of 2013. It wasn’t necessarily music but more so the art of writing in general whether it be a story, poem or song. I think over time I just enjoyed writing songs the most out of the options I had.

Early influences were 90s RnB singers. However in regards to lyricism I’d say artists such as Lauryn Hill and André 3000. Outside of hip hop and RnB I enjoyed listening to the pop punk and softer rock bands that would come out. The ones that told stories in their music such as Avril Lavigne, Simple Plan, Busted and so on. A good song is a good song regardless the genre and I’ve been quite eclectic from an early age.

For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?

I’ve never really analysed other artists with the intention of emulating them I’ve always done things my own way and I don’t heavily listen to rappers in general so subconsciously I never accidentally started using someone else’s flow or melody. I’ve taken inspiration from previous rappers in ways such as mindset and freedom thinking maybe even elements of aesthetics - but never rap wise.   

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

Having the mindset of not conforming and not being pressured by society or other people’s opinions or criticisms helps a lot as I’m never writing with the intention of impressing anyone. Chances are if I like it so will you, ha.

Though certain songs are a hit or miss depending on the genre and subject matter I go down, they will always appeal to someone somewhere just not always the same kind of person. I’m fine with that.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

I use to find it difficult writing a song that didn’t follow a storytelling format. Nowadays I find it easier to write without following that format. Over time I reckon I just trained myself to be more of a freedom thinker and applied less structure to my work.

I never used to like live performances either but I think it was more the build-up and pressure of them. But when It came down to the actual moment itself, I enjoyed it. I’m not fond of any situation that generates stress or pressure so I think it would and sometimes still does override the end result.

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?

I enjoy collaborating from time to time as creatives all think differently and bring something different to the table. Lyrics and melodies I never would have thought of exist on some of my tracks thanks to the features and their mindset when coming up with what they thought would work.  

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

My life revolves around music primarily, especially these days. I don’t like structure so I don’t have a consistent routine and every day is different. I either go busking, write, have a show or commission piece to create.

That being said however for balance purpose I do take random days off during the week so I don’t overdose in the work load. On those days I’ll just hang out with friends or binge eat on Netflix or YouTube all day. Everything’s in moderation.   

Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

Managing to land 11 festival slots in 2019 was definitely an achievement. I’m from Birmingham and we don’t really have proper festival layouts like that, maybe a small stage somewhere in a park but nothing major.

When I moved to London that’s when I properly got introduced to festivals and how they work. In 2019 a lot of promoters booked me for various slots in different festivals both big and small so they varied from huge ones like Glastonbury to more intimate ones in Northumbria.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

I don’t really think about it. Lyrics and ideas come when they’re ready I don’t put pressure on my mind to come up with anything though it just works how it wants to and I execute it how I see fit.

Distractions would be conflicting ideas but there’s never a right or wrong answer in art so I just decide on what route I’d enjoy more and run with it.

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?

In general no but in situations such as a break up or the loss of someone close shortly followed by a love song or a consoling song definitely. I feel like music is most impactful when you’re vulnerable and can relate to what the artists is talking about due to you going through a similar situation. You naturally latch onto things when you can relate.

There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?

I know a lot of people aren’t fond of it however me personally I don’t have an issue with people taking an interest in other people’s culture. We’re all here to learn and be inspired by each other but if it’s a thing where you’re doing it with the intention of profiting off it solely for monetary gain then it’s wrong. I’ll probably incorporate other cultures in my work going forward for sure.

Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?

Hearing certain lyrics allows me to see the scenario play out in my eyes. I find it easier to visualise things the more detailed the lyric.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

As I mentioned earlier, art is a form of expression. I enjoy being a creative because art is never wrong - it’s just personal opinion and expression and whether or not others agree with it is their business. It shouldn’t hinder you or cause you to dilute your approach to something because you’re scared of the reception or potential backlash. I write and execute my work how I want to and not necessarily with the intention of pleasing. So I’m fortunate that a decent amount of people seem to naturally gravitate towards it.

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?

Some people find it a lot easier to express their emotions and feelings through song. I know I do. Having the time to thoroughly think about and articulate events brings a lot more detail and characteristics to the situation from that person’s perspective. Music works as a diary and outlet for a lot of musicians.