Saturday's Freestyle Explosion features some of the biggest names in the genre, and Crossfade's own columnist, Jose El Rey, interviewed most of them. We'll be publishing one or two interviews a day in celebration of the show, which takes place this Saturday night at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables. Here's Jose's conversation with Johnny O.
Johnny O is the most passionate man in freestyle. He has the moves of a full-on arena rock star and the soul of poet. He is the singer of the freestyle classics "Fantasy Girl" and "Dream Boy/Dream Girl."
José el Rey: Johnny O! Where are you?
Johnny O: I'm in North Carolina. My neighbors have cows and chickens.
Some of my neighbors in Miami are chickens. But you're from New York, right?
Born and raised in Brooklyn, then I moved to Ft. Lauderdale for 16 years, then Orlando.
Please tell me you're still singing.
Still making new music, no doubt. I'm working on a new song called "Silent Lucidity." It's a new version on the 1993 Queensryche hit. In the original version he talks about dreams. That didn't touch my core. I kept the melody, but I sing about child abuse. I'm sick and tired of turning on CNN and finding out that family's are hurting. It's got a trance/house beat. I did it as a community thing. I want to help people.
That's intense, I've seen some videos of you in the internet. Bro! On stage you are super intense!
Yeah, that's the heart of me. I'm gonna give my whole. Give all my heart. All of my emotions. I don't wanna get up there and just sing. You wanna see me dance and live out the song.
Some of your moves are pretty rocking!
I grew up on rock and roll, soft rock and metal, then I grew into R & B. People see me up there acting like Led Zeppelin. Like a knuckle head. Ha! I like it when people say, "Johnny took a chance." Sometimes I hit a homerun. Sometimes I struck out. But I keep swinging! A homerun is coming, "Silent Lucidity" is coming!
I can't wait to hear it! I hope it makes an impact.
Oh yeah, it's gonna get everyone all the actors in L.A., even Mr. Obama is going to know who Johnny O is.
What do you think Johnny O's legacy will be?
I wanna have a Grammy. I wanna be in the rock and roll hall of fame. Today, 22 years later, people tell me Freestyle is dying out.. No way! Johnny O's never gonna stop!
Freestyle Invasion. Featuring Taylor Dayne, Debbie Deb, Johnny O, Judy Torres, Erotic Exotic, David of Nice & Wild, Company B, Reinaldo, Freestyle Evolution, Timmy T, Corina, Sa-fire, Rockell, Sequal, and Voice in Fashion. Saturday, May 30. BankUnited Center, 1245 Dauer Dr., Coral Gables. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., tickets cost $28 to $58. 305-284-8244; bankunitedcenter.com