The Honest Hustle interview series highlights some of the amazing artists we have listened to and had the pleasure of supporting. We ask questions that will help people like us, listeners and fans, learn about the artist and discover more about their music.
For this installment we chop it up with New Jersey artist Ron Solemn.
LFL: Tell us who Ron Solemn is: Who you are, where you grew up, and anything you feel like sharing with us.
R: I’m Ron Williamson, also known as Ron Solemn. Ron Solemn is essentially the artistic, and creative side of me, my alter ego. I’m 23 years old, and I grew up in Hillside, New Jersey, a tiny town that I’ve lived in my entire life. I’m an artist determined on being heard, telling stories and spreading messages through art. Making a living through art and music is my main goal honestly.
LFL: When did you get started creating music and why?
R: I started making music back in the summer of 2013, right after graduating High School. I always had a love for singing but only in private. After going through a pretty terrible year in school and personally, I just felt the desire to sing and record vocals – which I did on my laptop. A gift I got before going to college. Singing and recording was such an emotional release, serving essentially as art therapy for me. I felt so free, and I loved it. I realized I could use my voice in creative and artistic ways to manifest the ideas in my head, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
LFL: Almost every artist considers themselves a fan of hip hop first. Are there any influences that have stood out to you?
R: My biggest influence would actually be Motown, popular funk and soul music from the 60’s, 80’s, etc. like Stevie Wonder, The Jacksons, The Temptations. These were the first artists I ever listened to and I was/am a student of their music. I honestly didn’t get into hip hop until around 2007 – 2008, when I started listening to Kanye West and Lil Wayne. These would be my first hip hop influences, especially Kanye because I loved how he told stories with his music, and it was true art, you could feel the emotions and visualize the story, like a movie. I’m not a fan of his much anymore due to all the political nonsense, but he definitely is the reason I love hip hop and rap. I’ve pretty much had to go back and study hip hop after the fact in order to fully appreciate it and understand the roots.
LFL: Who are some of the current artists you are listening to? Thoughts on current hip hop landscape?
R: Current artists I listen to are Kendrick Lamar, Bas, J.I.D. and Travis Scott, the artist I bump the most would be Travis Scott. The energy and storytelling he brings in his music is amazing and an influence as well. In terms of the overall hip-hop landscape I think we’re in a pretty tumultuous time. I respect breaking from molds and being different but I think we’ve reached rock bottom; a point where rap is more like a circus. There are a few standout, legendary artists, and artists with potential. Unfortunately, with that the game is now oversaturated, too many people want to be rappers just for the sake of it, – they lack originality and they can’t actually rap. I’m not a fan of the trendy, goofy outlandish autotune rap that’s out now. It has its time and place, at parties or for hype but it’s taking up too much of the culture in my opinion.
LFL: What do you feel is the best song you’ve ever released and why?
R: Probably “War” because it’s a great example of the sound and all the elements I want to be associated with. The beat was amazing. It bumped, had a great melody, was funky, but also had a different sound than what you usually hear. I want all my music to stand out, and to sound like actual “real” music mixed with modern rap and trap. The lyrics had the right amount of messages in them, which I always aim to include, but it’s also an upbeat song with a catchy hook that can be played in any occasion. It’s like a song made of every part of me.
LFL: How do you want to be perceived by the people who listen to your music? How can your fans get to know you better?
R: I want to be perceived as a great, revolutionary artist. One that values the art and creation and has unique ideas that can impact society for the better. I aim to make music that you can enjoy sonically but that also makes you think when you truly understand the lyrics. The goal is to create art that you can’t forget, that’s controversial and rebellious, as well as honest, and motivational. Supporters of my work could get to know me just by actually listening to my lyrics and hearing me in my songs, because I essentially tell everything in them. I’m also pretty reachable on social media like Instagram – I like conversing with others and learning about them just as much as they may want to learn about me.
LFL: As an independent artist, the struggle can be real…From school, to studio time, to work outside music, what’s a week in the life like for Ron Solemn?
R: A typical week for me is pretty average, I go to work full-time from Monday – Friday, working in customer service and dealing with annoying ass people. After I clock out I’m mostly at home working on music or art in some form, thinking of what to do next, recording a song, or trying to build my following. I also play video games like a normal dude. The social stuff like going out or chilling with friends I save for the weekend.
LFL: What are your biggest challenges as an indie artist?
R: My biggest challenge as an artist is being heard and seen. There are so many outlets now such as social media and online in general but building a fanbase of loyal supporters and getting your music noticed where it counts is the hardest obstacle of all. Everybody raps, or does music as I stated before, so it’s annoying to those outside of this interest. No one wants to give an artist a chance because it’s overwhelming having so many artists in your face trying to be heard, so when you tell someone that you do music, they laugh at you until they actually hear it. Staying motivated in these dry times, and establishing a consistent following are the hardest tasks I’ve faced.
LFL: What skills/personal attributes do you think are most important to being successful in this industry?
R: I think the most important attributes to have with this are confidence, dedication, and perseverance overall. You have to believe in yourself and your goals no matter what. Even when it seems like you’re not going anywhere or no one is behind you. You also have to consistently put content out whether you want to or not – no matter how long it takes. Years come and go and we all are waiting for our time, but giving up just makes the goal a lost cause, literally.
LFL: Based on your own journey as an artist, what would you tell a young aspiring artist just getting started?
R: I’d tell a young aspiring artist to truly think about why they want to do this, what’s driving them. I feel like if you don’t really know the reason, or it’s not genuinely what you enjoy doing that your pursuits won’t last because the energy isn’t there. We all have moments when maybe making the art isn’t the only motivation, but it still has to be something you love at your core. If you have that love and dedication then you’ll always be happy in this field and your dream can never actually die.
LFL: From an artist’s perspective, what does social media mean to you? As an artist, do you think there are more pros or cons with it?
R: Social Media is a powerful tool for any artist if used correctly, it’s all about making connections, networking, and putting yourself out there 100%. At first it was just something for me to use out of boredom or to pass the time, but once I became focused on music, I realized that I could use it to spread ideas and show my art in innovative ways. You can’t just be about yourself though or your connections will be useless. You have to want to see others win as well, and truly support them, be there for them. Any artist can use social media, but the goal is to be your best “self” through it to connect with and help others. Those are the definite pros, the only con I can think of as an artist, is that you can become a slave to it overtime. There’s a pressure to always one up yourself and put out content consistently or you’ll lose your momentum and fans. t starts to feel like a race, but I guess this keeps artists active.
LFL: If you were start your own label, what are you looking for in your first artists?
R: I’d look for originality first and foremost, because originality is what transcends trends. The goal is to be successful and known as one of the greats forever, and in order to accomplish that your music has to be relevant at all times. I’d like to work with artists that have the same mindset, and that want to be remembered as legends, always, not just in the mumble rap era or whatever comes next. The next criteria would be talent. I think demanding actual talent from artists needs to be implemented – a standard set for art. We can’t let trash fly by as art. Its unacceptable and insulting to people who are truly invested.
LFL: What is your songwriting process like?
R: My songwriting process is a feeling more than anything. I often write a couple of lines randomly throughout the day, connected to a thought or emotion I may have, but I don’t fully dive into writing a song until I hear a beat that really resonates with me. The music is everything, once I hear that it fills me with an idea or an emotion, after that, I establish a flow or melody in my head. I hum how I would rap or sing over that beat, once the melody is established I write the words to fit the flow I’m using and then finish from there. That’s about it.
LFL: What does being an artist mean to you?
R: Being an artist, to me, is vowing to show your true self and the world inside your head, to the world around you. Its devotion to your emotions and your desires, and thoughts. Living life truly free from the limitations forced by society. People let their inner child die, and they abandon their dreams to live a secure and comfortable life doing what others want and tell them to do. Being an artist is allowing yourself to be in control and not letting the world suppress the potential of your mind, or heart.
LFL: Aside from music, what other things are you passionate about?
R: Aside from music, I’m very passionate about Civil Rights, and Mental Health. I’m outspoken about racial issues, ethical issues, etc. in America and as much of the world as possible. That’s actually what I aim to be involved in along with making music. I want to work in advocacy and social justice, protesting community injustices, and raising awareness for the mentally ill. So many are neglected in society and lack adequate resources for help, I want to fight for those of us in that situation and eliminate the world’s stigma on these topics, serving as a voice for the voiceless.
LFL: It says “Become Yourself” in your Instagram bio. Care to elaborate for us?
R: Yes, “Become Yourself” is a slogan I established a few years ago, it summarizes my perspective on how people can live their best life. I recall how my personal issues with anxiety and life in general made me feel lost and alone, yet they led me back to art as my way of healing and fighting back against my struggles. Through the suffering, I found my true self in art and creation, who I am, and who I have the potential to become. I carry that message into my music and spread it with others as a call to self-discovery. Life sucks many times until it’s over, but you can still make diamonds from that pressure by living true to your energy and finding out who you really are.
LFL: Shameless plug time……Tell the people what’s next, what’s coming for Ron Solemn. Where can they find your music? What you have going on? Stage is yours.
R: I plan to keep spreading and creating from here on out. I hope to continuously grow a large and loyal fanbase of listeners and get my music out to more ears around the globe. There are songs from 2018 that I plan to make videos for, and I want them to be unfiltered, controversial, as gritty and real as I can possibly make them. I like when people are uncomfortable, and I plan to confront them with real life social issues through my music and visuals. That being said, I’m going to try to dedicate these early days of 2019 to mapping out more visuals and innovative ways to be seen. I still plan to supplement that with more songs as well, hopefully more performances too, just aiming for bigger and better overall. My music is available everywhere pretty much, YouTube (Ron Solemn), Instagram and Twitter (@ronsolemn_), Apple Music, Spotify, SoundCloud, Tidal, Facebook, you name it. Search Ron Solemn on any platform and I should (hopefully) pop-up. Thank you for this interview, I appreciate it greatly.