I apologize for the late start but in honor of Black History Month, I’ll be highlighting Black Women in the industry, writers, publicists, event managers and everything in between. Today’s interview is with South Carolina standout Candice Johnson who runs BINACT. Through her “BINACT: Brings The Beats” Candice is introducing the area to more independent hip-hop artists. I had the chance to sit down with her to talk about her journey, BINACT, The Grammys and much more.
Dead End Hip Hop: This honestly is a long time coming and it’s an honor to be able to interview you, for those who don’t know who is Candice Johnson?
Candice Johnson: I’m honored! You’re one of my favorite influencers. I’m happy to be able to do this.
I’m an accountant by day and a civil servant by night. I’m a loving daughter and a caring friend to my tribe. I’m a lighthearted soul that adores cats and playing The Sims. I’ve earned a few nicknames: Candiiboo, Faerie Tigress, Young Pikachu, the list goes on. But, most of all, I’m a creative and I’m still getting used to that title and what comes with it.
DEHH: Before we get into the nitty gritty, tell me how got into writing about music?
Candice Johnson: Honestly, I’m not one of those people with a pretty story about their journey to writing. I got a “C” in my 6th grade English class that still burns me up to this day thinking about it, considering I was a straight “A” student until then. I loved reading, but at the time, I didn’t think writing was a skill I possessed. Fast forward a few grades and English classes later, I’m writing heartfelt love letters to crushes and Shakespearian play parodies. By my senior year of high school, I completed a short story that would later transform into a novel idea. (I’m getting to the music, I promise.) I went to college and for my first two years, I was dedicated to working towards my Finance degree. I told myself I wanted to be a stockbroker. I finished up the degree, but those last two years showed me that while my career dreams were important, my writing dreams were just as significant and valid. My co-worker at the time (now my graphic designer) and I would converse about our favorite artists during our shifts. Once we re-connected after graduation, she inspired me to organize my thoughts about music and start a blog to keep regularly writing.
DEHH: What’s #BINACT?
Candice Johnson: First things first: BINACT stands for But I’m Not A Critic Though. BINACT is an multi-genre music blog dedicated to providing positive perspectives to an evolving music society. BINACT prides itself on highlighting talented mainstream and independent artists. A one-stop shop for young music consumers, ranging from casual listener to crate digging connoisseur, it also serves as a safe space for independent artists to openly ask questions, learn, and grow from someone who genuinely cares about their trajectory.
DEHH: I think one of my bigger frustrations of being a writer is some people refuse to see me as anything other than a writer, however with you, you’re wearing numerous hats, how are you able to balance everything without losing your mind?
Candice Johnson: It’s frustrating, to say the least, especially since I’m learning to accept my writer hat. I am just now arriving at a place where people are starting to respect my voice and platform. Most people don’t realize that I’m working 40 hours a week while keeping my blog updated. I am the Editor-in-Chief, the Content Coordinator, the Social Media Manager, the Accountant, all of that. Outside of these things, I volunteer my time, keep my friends and family happy, and sometimes (when I’m lucky) I take self-care moments to rest and sleep.
DEHH: Now when people think hip-hop South Carolina isn’t usually the first state that comes to mind, tell me about SC culture and how has #BINACT and the events that you’ve hosted over the years helped give more shine to SC music?
Candice Johnson: This is a heavy question. SC culture is currently in its defining stages, as far as accepting hip-hop culture is concerned. In the last decade or so, Columbia, the capital city and the city that raised me, has made some big additions to the downtown area. These changes accommodate the growing number of students that attend the public universities housed in the heart of the city and the professionals that are pouring in from new businesses. There are a number of establishments that allow music acts to perform, but they tend to look for only a certain type of sound. The prerequisite “live bands only” and similar phrasing is placed to deter hip-hop acts from getting a shot. A bar will play The Migos, Future, and 2 Chainz, but if you ask for an independent artist with a similar sound to book a show, your emails go unanswered and calls unreturned. This isn’t true of every bar or establishment in South Carolina, but there are very few that are immediately willing to allow hip-hop acts in their spaces.
My event series “BINACT Brings The Beats” (or #BINACTBTB) was created to do two things: 1) provide a comfortable space to enjoy music (functioning as an alternative to the club, if you will) and 2) give independent artists in my city a chance to shine. I generally serve as a liaison between indie artists and venue owners to help bridge the gap. In the past year, I’ve used 4 different venues to host my events. I make sure to plan and execute everything to leave the owners with a positive view of BINACT and the artists that I believe in. The more positive & beneficial we can interactions involving hip-hop culture, the more inclined they are to bring more of us into their establishment.
DEHH: I’ma stray for just a second, but be honest with me, what did you think of the Grammys last month?
Candice Johnson: *sigh* I have so many feelings about the Grammys. But, I’m tired. Donald Glover’s performance was everything I needed, but I will say that I’m sick of the Grammys pretending to reward artists for pushing the envelope and being innovative when they actually don’t.
DEHH: As someone who writes about music, promotes other artists, I’m sure you’re bombarded daily with people approaching you, what’s something artists can do to refine their approach when inquiring about their art?
Candice Johnson: Be genuine and follow instructions. Show or tell me why you love your music. That’s it. I’d like to think I’m easy to contact and get along with. I am accessible and I give all music a shot. I listen to every submission that comes in my inbox; I may take a little while to get to it but I listen. I know this is said all the time but please don’t spam. DO NOT SPAM. It’s rude and the interaction has no effort or thought behind it whatsoever. Most of the time I will forget about the tag on Twitter or Facebook and your song will get lost.
DEHH: Who are some people that have inspired you on your journey?
Candice Johnson: My parents, my friends, and my readers are people who inspire me. They’re the ones that remind me that I’m not just a number cruncher. Many of them are working on their own hustles and that’s inspiring as hell.
This may sound corny but Donald Glover has inspired me to be my truest self. I’ve been listening to his music and following his other talents since 2011. Watching his journey from a fan point of view has been nothing short of amazing. The way that he approaches everything with signature DG flavor is something I adopted into my philosophy in the past few years. I’m the only Candice Johnson that has a BINACT. No one can take that away from me.
Also Angie Martinez and Erin Ashley Simon because…duh.
DEHH: 2018 is sounding like a huge year for a lot of people, what can we expect from you and BINACT this year?
Candice Johnson: Video content is coming. I’m not fully pivoting to video but expect videos and more visuals in the upcoming months.
My monthly independent artist listening event series, BINACT Brings The Beats #BINACTBTB, is in full effect all 2018. Right now it’s only available to South Carolina artists but I’m working on going to Charlotte, NC very soon. If you want to support my cause from your city, check the merch page!
There are a few more things I’m rolling out this year pertaining to assisting artists. You can subscribe to my email list to get the deets.
DEHH: Thank you so much for stopping by, where can we find you?
Candice Johnson: Thank you for having me!
#BINACT on most social media platforms
@BINACTCJ on Facebook