I had the pleasure of chatting it up with independent, R&B artist Moosh Millionz recently - all things family, love and music. He has a super intriguing background, coming from management to now pursuing his own music career. I won't spoil too much, so be sure to check out the interview below.
You won't be disappointed, and I mean that in the least cliche' way possible.
A: My very first question – how in the world did you come up with your name?
M: Lol.. Now you know I get that question EVERY time right?
Well.. Moosh is actually a nickname that my family calls me that's short for my full name, which is Mushran (pronounced Moosh-Ron). My mother and father were in the Nation of Islam when I was born, but my grandma, who was the head deaconess and organist at my hometown church, wasn't thrilled about my "Muslim" name, so she kinda shortened it to be a little more to her liking.
Lol, At least that's what I've been told.
As far as the "Millionz" part, that's a nickname that was given to me back when I first started producing records. Ruff Ryder's used to have studio that they opened in VA Beach back in the day when they were really poppin', and I had the opportunity to intern in there after I had hung around the parking lot for weeks trying to get my music heard. Anyways, there were two in-house producers that were on staff there. They were kinda like a duo - kinda like The Neptunes. One dude's name was Joe Millionz and the other dude was Justice J. Millionz. So that was kinda their shtick. So me being the newbie and all, they "annointed" me Moosh Millionz. Lol, well actually Joe was like, “nah nigga until you step your beat game up, you just gonna be Moosh Pennies”.
Lol, but yeah eventually I got better and made it to Moosh Millionz status so.. There you have it. Lol, that's where it came from. After a while it really stuck. And obviously I hoped that it would be prophetic, as far as me being worth millions at some point.
But yeah, shout out to my peeps Joseph "Knoq Harder" Wright and Justice Williams. (That's what they go by now.) I like Millionz though, I’mma keep rockin' with it.. Lol
A: Very cool! So tell us, where are you from?
M: Yo, I'm straight out of VA.. Suffolk,VA to be exact.. A little neighborhood called Holland in Suffolk, VA to be more exact. Lol, after high school I moved to neighboring Portsmouth, VA though, which is where I was born and currently live. It's always kinda tricky for people where I'm from to answer that question because where I'm from, there are 7 cities that all represent as 1 city. We call ourselves: The 7-5-7, Tidewater, Hampton Roads, or just The 7 Cities.
So basically I'm right at home in any one of these cities. Yep.. Norfolk, Portsmouth, VA Beach, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Newport News and Hampton. There are many superstar musicians, entertainers and athletes from my hometown man, it's really crazy.. We got Pharrell and The Neptunes (VA Beach), Timbaland & Magoo (VA Beach/Norfolk), Pusha-T and The Clipse (VA Beach/Norfolk) Missy Elliot (Portsmouth), Lex Luger (Suffolk), Bink! (Norfolk), Nottz (Norfolk), Jay Pharoah (Chesapeake), Allen Iverson (Newport News), Michael Vick (Newport News), Percy Harvin (VA Beach), Kam Chancellor (Norfolk). A-whole-lotta talent comes out of my area man, but y'all get the picture, Lol, I ain't gonna name nobody else right now..
A: You have an extremely interesting background - starting from management and now pursuing your own music career.
Can you tell us how you got started working in the industry and why you decided to make the switch into becoming a musician? Why now?
M: Well, I've actually always been a musician. I did the whole, prerequisite 4-man Harmony group back in the 90's, a la BoyzIIMen. Lol, (shout out to Kasual Harmony!), and then back in like the early 2000's I was blessed to get my first real taste of the music industry when I was able to link up with a major production team called Ghetto Slick Productions (Eric Williams, Wesley Hodges) who were responsible for major radio bangaz for Jaheim, Donell Jones, Blackstreet, and other major acts. They basically took me and the singing group I was in at that time, Prodizja (protege), under their wing and helped us learn how to make records.
Just by being around those guys, I was able to start absorbing everything I saw about music production and songwriting. That was a great opportunity, but me and the other two dudes from the group were still basically knuckleheads with one foot still in the streets, so we really weren't focused enough to make anything happen with that great situation.
From there I decided to go solo, figuring I could get further in the industry by myself if I cut the dead weight, so to speak. So I did a brief stint with a label down in Florida, called Finesse Records, where I started to find who I was as a solo artist.
Shout out to my big homie Skido Ortiz, who was the owner of that label. He really helped me with that process.
Anyways, to make a long story short, I eventually ended back up in Virginia where I landed a gig as an in-house songwriter/producer for a very well established production company/recording studio called Unique Productions Inc. It was there that I really came to understand the music industry and how to approach it from a behind-the-scenes standpoint. The owner of the company, Davel "Bo" McKenzie, had a crazy business mind. Y'know what I mean? He had like that Jay-Z type of mentality where he was a great musician, but at the same time, a great businessman. I really admired that about him and while there, I had the opportunity to sit and vibe with many artists and their management. On any given day you might see Carl Thomas, Dave Hollister, Ruff Endz, The Clipse and other great artists come through. So basically, I was around great talent all the time, but for some reason my own ship didn't seem to come in. I was able to watch others build their empires, and I learned A LOT from that, but I was getting tired of that. I had mouths to feed at home. So sitting around frontin' with celebrities but not making no paper wasn't cuttin' it!
Lol, so that was basically when I set out to get rid of the middle-man. Me and another dude that was on staff at the studio named Maurice "First" Tonia, became very close, basically because he felt the same way I did. We were tired of waiting for someone to "give us" a record deal or album placements. The cats that called themselves managers for us were not getting it done man, so we decided we would be better off starting our own management company. We felt like "hey, we can communicate with these labels better than these other dudes". Both of us are natural communicators, and we both have a hustler's mentality, so making that move was a natural progression. The plan was to get some deals, get the money, and then funnel it back into our own projects and the music we love to make as producers.
Oh yeah, I can't forget that around this time, me and First were able to partner with another great executive named Kim Lumpkin, who's been in the game for a minute, managing everyone from Groove Theory back in the day, to Rodney Jerkins and Salaam Remi, currently.
Shout out to Kim up in New York..
So basically, everything went according to plan with the deals.. We ended up with deals for Governor Washington with Grand Hustle and G-Unit, and actress Drew Sidora (White Chicks, The Game, TLC movie) with SlipNslide Records, and Jamaican-American artist Atiba, also on SlipNslide. The only problem was, this wasn't the late 90's or early 2000's. Lol, labels ain't giving out $30 million deals no more.. Not even close. Lol, so trynna make ya paper off of commission, when the money you’re getting for the deal is next to nothin'... Yeah that became a tight situation.
The takeover of digital media, YouTube and social networking really hurt the traditional record company structure, but at the same time it leveled the playing field for the independent artist! Which brought everything full circle for me. It was like, "If I’mma represent and manage somebody, it might as well be me now." If you do the independent thing right, you can really see some good bread, but more than that, I think I'm nice wit it when it comes to making records, y'know? Why put all of my time and energy into someone else's career when I'm nice wit it my damn self! Lol, knowwhatumsayin?
So in essence, I'm in the perfect position to take the game over. The ambition and rationale of an executive, with the heart, hunger and passion of an artist. I'm all of that, trust me.
A: Wow. You should totally consider making a movie about the formative part of your career. It sounds like it could be an inspiration to many.
You mentioned that you have “mouths to feed”. Does that mean kids? A wife, maybe?
M: Well Ash, when it comes to my family, that's definitely a very emotional topic for me. They are my everything. I normally don't share much of my personal life, but I'mma give bashinla.com the scoop cuz I really love this site!
Lol ,so up until a little over 3 years ago, it's just been me and my 2 oldest sons, Raekwan and Daejoun on this journey. Me and their mother were married a few years after our high school days and had a very tumultuous relationship that was even violent at times.
I'mma keep it 100 with that because there maybe somebody out there who needs to hear that and know that there is still restoration and peace waiting for you no matter what you've done or been through. I gotta shout their mom out though (wassup Kisha), because over the years and through the grace of G-d, we now have a very good relationship that centers around our sons' well-being. So anyways, that marriage was very short-lived as you could probably imagine, but I speak on that because anybody who really knows me, knows that there was no me without Rae and Dae. I cared for them, and they kept me sane. Anywhere you saw me, you saw them. Every sacrifice I ever made on this music journey, they felt it firsthand.
There were times when money was low, they felt that.
There times when lights were off, they felt that, knowwhatimean?
So yeah there's not really enough time for me to truly describe our relationship and what they mean to me, but just know that when you see me, and anything I do or may achieve, that they are not far from my thoughts.
Rae is actually featured on two songs on the album, "Doin Fine" and "Girlfriend", so yeah definitely check him out on those. He is a super-talented rapper and songwriter. You'll see him listed as 'Rae 2 X' on the album.
I was also married briefly a 2nd time in '04, although that situation would have probably been best if we had just remained friends. (Hey, if you want transparency, then I'm gonna share everything. Lol) But seriously, she's a wonderful person and great friend who has a heart for G-d and is an entrepreneur who you may hear big things from in the future. So shout out to Kira, Summer and Kamari. May Yah's blessings continue to be upon you.
Anyways, fast-forward to the present, and you'll find Mushran "Moosh Millionz" Johnson happily married to the love of my life, Kimya Tamil Johnson. For some reason YHWH (G-d) saw fit to bless my life with a beautiful, kind, and generous angel, in spite of all the relationship mistakes (and there were many) I've made in my life. She is truly a sweetheart, with the uncanny ability to bring balance to my thoughts and ideas, because as an artist I tend to be all over the place mentally and emotionally. (I don't think it helps that I'm a Leo. Lol) So yeah, we've been married for about a year and a half now and by our marriage I've been blessed with two "bonus" sons, Amon and Javion Edwards (6 and 8 yrs old respectively), who have given me new life, and an opportunity to raise two more black boys into strong, loving, caring black men. We also welcomed our new baby girl into the world on October 16, 2014! Her name is Madison. (Hey Maddie-poo!) It wasn't long before we all came to the realization that Maddie is the Queen of the house, and we all must be subjected to her rule. Lmao.. She is indeed the blessing that we all needed in our lives.
So after years of stumbling an bumbling, I am finally in a peaceful place with a woman who is beautiful inside and out, and I think, or at least, I hope that my music reflects that.
So yeah Ash, basically I am nothing without my family. I've learned in life that your business success will only go as far as your personal success, so I truly try my best to live by that creed.
Oh yeah Ash, I spoke briefly on my parents earlier, but I must officially recognize and honor them at this time, so I'd like to give a big “thank you” and “I love you” to my pops Myron "Bo" Johnson and my mother Gwendolyn Knight Mitchell. It hasn't always been an easy road, but our Father has preserved and kept us for such a time as this. Thank you guys for everything!
Ok I'm good now..
A: And again, wow! You had some gems in there. Thank you so much for being so candid. I hope someone who needed to hear that comes across this interview. It’s never too late to hop back on the saddle.
This is the perfect Segway into talking about your music. I absolutely love “A Lil Bit Mo”. What / who inspires your music? That particular song?
M: My inspiration comes mainly from my life experiences. In particular, my love experiences.
Most of the time; the object of love... (or disdain) in my songs, is a composite of the women I've dated, married, or had meaningful relationships with. But a lot of times, like with "A Lil Bit Mo", it's more of a fantasy realm I go to. Knowwhatumsayin?
It's like, I kinda like to deal with that space where two people first fall for each other. Y'know? That space where time stands still man.. Like you might've even been runnin' game a lil bit y'know, just going through the motions. You might be a thug, a hood dude, a playa and all that, but then all of a sudden.. Boom! You’re hooked yo.. Lol I really like to live in that moment. That's a feeling I know everybody can relate to. The way things are now, niggaz might try to front on that, but I been around too long man, like I KNOW everybody feels that way about somebody, I don't care how gangsta you are. (Or claim to be.) I mean y'all might not even know each other well enough to feel like you even owe each other anything, but something happened, when you gave her that lil kiss goodnight, you felt some kinda way.. And she might be playing hard, but she know she got right on that phone as soon as she got in the house and called her girl like "Girl, he might be the one".
Lol, see that right there? That's the heart of "A Lil Bit Mo"..
A: Very dope. And now taking a high-level look at your artistry, how would you describe your sound?
M: I would call my sound, Classic Hip-Hop/Soul with a New Millennium paint job..
When you hear my music, it'll definitely take you back to what I call the Golden Era of R&B. When everything just felt good.. You had Mary J., Dru Hill, Jodeci, Guy, Faith Evans, R. Kelly, Carl Thomas. I mean, the list goes on and on. I don't really think that vibe will ever die out. Even on the hip hop side, I was heavily influenced by Wu Tang, ATCQ, Jay-Z, Biggie, Nas.. I mean it was just a certain time when everything was real man.. Everything had soul. The only difference with my sound I believe, is that I'm also a producer and songwriter who stays current with what's poppin' and what's trending now.. So I'm always experimenting with new sounds and working with new, hungry artists, so I think that gives me an ear that's pretty balanced. Ultimately, what I want the audience to hear when they play my music is my heart. If they can just FEEL me on some level, I feel my job is done.
A: What artists (in or outside of your genre) do you identify with?
M: That's a tough one, cuz I think with me, it's a melting pot of R. Kelly, Lauryn Hill, Brandy and The-Dream. I see myself in each one of these artist.
In R. Kelly I can identify with his struggle. To me it's obvious that his gift had to have a lot of positive, spiritual nurturing at some point for his talent to become so immense, yet this dude is so damn good at being "bad". Lol, I mean, all jokes aside, I can really relate to that, because I've definitely walked that path as well at certain points of my life. Where you can so acutely feel the divine, and the carnal, simultaneously. And the struggle is real.. It can really leave you in a confused, or vulnerable place. But the belief that Love conquers all is what you lay your hope on, y'know?
And then you have Brandy. All I can say is "Full Moon" changed my life. I think Brandy is in her own lane vocally, and she comes from an emotional place delivery-wise, that I can really relate to, and I admire that.
I just think The-Dream's sound is fly, I mean yeah some of it is borrowed from Kellz but hey, we all borrow musically from other artists, so that doesn't bother me. In his own way I think he's soulful, even though most might say "nah, his voice is all auto-tuned” and whatnot, but to me, soul is soul. It's about how an artist expresses their self, not necessarily what tools they use, but that's just my opinion. As a singer/songwriter/producer, I really respect the lane he's in..
And when it comes to L-Boogie.. She's just everything that I want to be as an artist. I don't think anyone has ever fused Hip Hop and Love Music together as eloquently as she did.. The integrity of her content and the spiritual overtone that was perfectly weaved into everything she did, is what I truly aspire to do.
A: Man, you’re not lying. Haha, I can definitely hear a bit of each artist you named in “A Lil’ Bit Mo’ ”. It’s trendy, which is reminiscent of The-Dream, but soulful like a little bit of Kelz, and Brandy.
Let’s switch gears a bit.
In a time where first impressions come solely from our social media pages, authenticity is easily disguised. Not to say that you haven’t been authentic, but if you had the opportunity to tell the bashinla.com audience one thing about yourself that they wouldnt be able to find on the Internet, what would it be?
M: Well, one thing that you might not read about me on the Internet is that I'm a very devout follower of Christ Yeshua. (Jesus).. My relationship with Him is the end-all be-all to everything I do. Now I always like to give a disclaimer, because although I have no problem with how anybody else walks their faith out, me-myself, I'm just a regular guy, with issues and problems like errbody else. So I'm not what you would call a Holy-Roller.. I don't really do "religiousness", even though I do believe in the importance of Holiness. But if people approach me with that "super-saint" disposition, they more than likely will just get a blank stare from me. (If it's not genuine, that is). But yeah, I definitely lean more towards building others up as opposed to tearing them down. I believe in walking by faith and not by sight, and I believe all great things in life can only come through faith in what G-d can do. Hope that wasn't too deep..
A: That wasn’t “too deep” at all, and I can completely identify with that. Thanks for sharing such a spiritual part of your life with us!
Wrapping up, do you have anything else you’d like to share?
M: I really would like for everyone to go check out my album. I really believe you'll find something up there that you can relate to. It's called I'm Jus' Sayin and it's available NOW on iTunes..
Not next month... NOW
Lol, not next week.. It's available NOW..
Lol, oh yeah, on the production side of things, I'm working with a few artists, so be on the lookout for new music from Randy Sims, a great singer who will be dropping by the end of this year. I mean he's sick wit it too.. A real vocal monster. Also, Kool Cash, Rae Two Times and Mark Lindsay are all artists that will be coming out soon under my imprint, Write Now Entertainment.. You can hear all of these artists on the new album.
A: And lastly, how can we find you? Social media, websites, any shows coming up?
M: You can find me on Twitter at @mooshmilli
On Instagram at @mooshmillz74
And my Facebook Fan Page is Moosh Millionz : Facebook.com/mooshmillz
You can mail-order physical copies (cd) of the album at http://getmended.com/getmended-merchandise/#!/Hamasa-Music/c/11924534/offset=0&sort=normal
My promo tour is scheduled to start in July, but we are definitely still nailing down dates as we speak, so if you want to see Moosh Millionz holla at my management so we can come to your town! I'm doing all events, big or small. Lol,
You can contact my manager E.J. Powell at email@example.com for any business inquires. We're also looking for new members of the Moosh Millionz Fan Club, so if that's you, give us a holla!
And there you have it folks. Be sure to check him and catch up with him by using the links provided. And in the case you didn't get it the first, second or third time.. HIS ALBUM IS OUT NOW! Haha, all links provided.
Thanks to Moosh Millionz for the awesome interview! I really appreciate it.