“Always be me. Why change?” is the reason rapper Derrick Johnson decided not to go a different route when it comes to choosing his stage name.
Johnson, who goes by Lil Derrick or Lil Derrick The Great as his rap name, is a senior mass communication major with four different companies and five different mobile apps including Grambling State’s official school app.
Johnson, a 26-year-old New Orleans native, has had a music career for about 16 years.
Johnson said that another rapper by the name of G-Slim greatly influenced him in his pursuit to become a music artist.
“I see he had all the cars, all the women, he had everything,” said the Westbank native. “So when I was small I just automatically knew I wanted to be like this guy.”
Johnson began his own group called Kill Tracks Entertainment in 2005.
According to Johnson, out of all the members in his group, he believed he was the most passionate person among them.
He began putting out mixtapes in only his freshmen year of high school.
He began charging his studio for other artists to record in.
Other friends of his, who are also engineers, taught him how to make beats, record, mix and master songs.
“That was a trade I basically picked up at a very young age.”
Johnson claimed he was one of the only people with a studio back in his early years of high school.
“Not many people had studios back then, and if they did, they didn’t know how to work it,” said Johnson.
He eventually signed a 2 1/2 year contract with a record deal with Project Records.
“It was a process of how I learned how to run my own record label and just get an insight of the business side and how to run my own shows and build my own fan base,” said Johnson.
While performing at many shows in New Orleans, it became a conflict with school.
He dropped out in his senior year.
“The school thing wasn’t for me at all,” said Johnson, “but I wanted to try something different.”
Upon the ending of his contract, Johnson admitted that he began selling drugs.
This was a period in his life where Johnson said that he wanted to find himself.
“…at that time, I really was hustling and selling marijuana and stuff so, I’ve got to get out of New Orleans and stop hustling and just rap.”
He decided to try high school again in 2009 and graduated in 2010.
While still pursuing a music career, he released another mixtape called Rap or Trap, which was based on his true experiences with drugs and his music career.
“Either you rap or trap,” said Johnson. “Most of the time I was doing both.”
Many of his friends inspired him to continue and stick with rapping. One of his main supporters was a friend, Ace Boogie. He lost his life after a gunshot struck him in front of their old high school.
“He was someone who let me know all the time to pursue rapping.”
Johnson said this inspired him even more as an artist.
Johnson’s latest project, “Catching Feelings,” is on YouTube.