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Johnny Dilemma [Prolific Profile]

Vancouver, B.C. – Growing up in Scarborough and later moving to Vancouver, Johnny Dilemma feels like he’s found his home. A life-changing brain surgery as a teen gave him a new stance on life, and this is apparent in the way he interacts with those around him and by the fact that his mixtape proceeds are going straight to the BC Childrens Hospital. After touring with big names like Black Eyed Peas, Snoop Dogg and Kardinal, Dilemma is ready to take centre stage, and with his mixtape Dilemmanade available online, Johnny is already getting ready to drop his debut album while taking his talents Canada-wide. Check him out after the jump.


HipHopCanada: How do you define hip-hop, and where do you feel you fit into that definition?

Johnny Dilemma: I’m assuming you weren’t asking me to give you the urban dictionary definition or literal meaning of a music and lifestyle incorporating graffiti, DJing, MCing and Breaking. I think it’s safe to say it’s grown past that and that’s not a bad thing.  Hip-hop is an adjective used to describe music, life, or anything. Steve Jobs was hip-hop but he just didn’t know it. He was given up for adoption at birth, dropped out of college, and BAM look what he did. That’s hip-hop. It’s the struggle, but it’s more the success now, by whatever your definition is. You’re not going to hear Talib braggin about how much he makes. I myself faced death and overcame that but everyone’s struggle is relative to their upbringing. There’s always someone worse off but the focus should really just be the greatest growth. You just happen to have more potential for said growth when you grow up with less. But I don’t know, I read that all on a bathroom wall once anyway. Or maybe I wrote it there, I forget.

HipHopCanada: What drives you to stay in a business that is rarely profitable and highly competitive?

Johnny Dilemma: I ask myself everyday. Just kidding, I don’t. This loaded question assumes that I make music for profit in terms of money, which is very incorrect. To refer to my last answer and clarify, success doesn’t have to be in music. Someone can discover personal success in life and relationships and rap about that. I guarantee you more people are gonna relate to THAT real struggle over pushin guns and crack and hoes OR hearing about your rags to riches rap fame story. The fact I’m able to make music is enough to drive me. A skilled painter who don’t paint is a sin. Money is great and it’s real cool to make it off something you love, but it’s up to you to love or not love what you’re doing so figure it out. Happiness is the journey, not the destination.

HipHopCanada: Where are you based specifically?

Johnny Dilemma: Downtown Vancouver. I was born and raised in Scarborough though, but from the time I was 7 and went out to visit my dad who lived in Vancouver, I knew that’s where I wanted to live. I spent 18 years of my life though in the borough so do the math. Toronto is just a hungrier city. It was good to grow up in that and then move and apply that hustle on the West Coast where people are a bit more laid back to say the least. I’m now the balance of both but Vancouver is my home and it’s definitely one of the most beautiful cities I’ve come across in all my travels. Cool when your favorite place to go is home. You can’t spend a summer here and not want to stay.

HipHopCanada: How has living there influenced your sound?

Johnny Dilemma: Slowed it down. Weed culture is way bigger here. Less intertwined with crime than in Toronto and that’s big for me. The lifestyle pace is noticeably different here and I like that. Just take the TTC in the morning and you’ll see what I don’t miss about T-dot.  Don’t get me wrong, T-dot is my birth place and place I was raised and it’s a beautiful city with beautiful people. I enjoy my time back there. It’s just the West Coast is much more me. However, I’m much more influenced by my roots than where I reside in terms of lyrics.  Crooked I and a couple others were the only ones I ever heard of growing up that were droppin metaphors on the West Coast. So I was more on the lyrical stylings of people I grew up listening to which was East Coast all day. I miss a lot of the Jamaican cultural influence I grew up loving in Scarborough. The Mishie Mee, Nefarius and Kardi style. There ain’t too many Jamaicans in Vancouver.

HipHopCanada: Who is your primary fan base?

Johnny Dilemma: People who appreciate metaphorical poetry which encompasses a lot more age groups and denominations than you’d think. I have university professors who love my stuff. I have teachers in Mexico who use my songs to teach English poetry to their students. Doctors perform surgery to my shit. K that last one may or may not be true. I do however know there are a lot of 15-25 year olds that love it but that is because that is who I have had the most exposure towards. I traveled with almost 20,000 teenage passengers to foreign destinations as a program director and tour guide and I’m thankful to have friends from all walks of life from all regions of Canada now that support my music.

HipHopCanada: What tips would you give young artists coming up, or what do you wish someone would have told you when you first started out in the hip-hop industry?

Johnny Dilemma: Have a solid plan of action in place. Work with people bigger than you and look to have a mentor or two who believe in you and know what it takes – as in they have a proven track record. With that said you should be helping cats smaller than you along the way when you can. Bottom line is make music because you like making music and it’ll never feel wrong.

HipHopCanada: In which ways do you interact with your community?

Johnny Dilemma: I take in shows constantly, and when I rock shows I am always offstage afterwards talking to people and interacting. I don’t hold community rallies or anything if that’s what you’re asking, but I’ll gladly support various causes if I can help. People know my name in my city from interacting if not from my music. As far as the non hip-hop community, 100% of my album’s online sales ( as well any overage donated (it has that option), goes directly to BC Children’s Hospital. That’s the least I could do for having life-saving brain surgery as a teen.

HipHopCanada: Which artists have you worked with that left an impression on you, and why?

Johnny Dilemma: Kardi taught me how to do a proper soundcheck. That was my first major show I’d say. He was mad cool and that left a huge impression on me how he carried himself. Being from Toronto I already looked up to him so it was impressive to learn he was down to earth.  Other than that I have taken notes on live performance tips from everyone I’ve had the pleasure of performing with. Chali 2na introduced me to see-through papers many moons ago and I love those to this day. I hooked him up when I opened for them at the Commodore in Van and man can he smoke. He also schooled me to the recording on the road game. He showed me his laptop and mic set up in the hotel that they had recorded most their album on while touring and it blew my mind that I was pretty much sitting in his studio. Most recently being on the road with Warren G, he introduced me to Raw papers which I never messed with before. But to say that papers is all he schooled me to would be insulting. We don’t have enough time to go over what I learned from G nor do I wanna share. He’s as real as it gets.

HipHopCanada: Which Canadian artist would you most like to collaborate with?

Johnny Dilemma: Kardi, K-OS, KO, no there isn’t a K theme, ummm, Drake because you’d be stupid if you didn’t want to work with him, Swollen Members, I did a track on a Class beat but I’d love to hit a track with Classified on it, and last but not least Maestro. Probably more but those are off the top. Oh and them dudes from Empire, Adam Bomb and Skandalis, I like their shit.

HipHopCanada: Tell us about past and present successes, as well as future projects?

Johnny Dilemma: On top of the ones I mentioned, I’ve performed with Snoop Dogg, Kardinal Offishall, The Game, Dogg Pound, Sweat Shop Union, Smif N’ Wessun, Classified and DL Incognito, Empire, Jedi Mind Tricks, Louis Logic and Pigeon John, Mike Jones, Nas, Redman and Method Man, De La Soul, Talib Kweli, Fat Joe, and the Black Eyed Peas. Some were small clubs, some were stadiums. I’ll be working on something with Warren for a track on my next album in the works. My current one is charting, I think it hit #20 on the urban charts here in Canada and I’m happy about that for my first solo project. Also I’m about to go on a Canadian tour with Bone Thugs. One of my faves and I am looking forward to that. I’m gonna look to drop my album by next summer but either way I’ll be in a town near you about 10 times before then so come check me out.

HipHopCanada: Any last words for the HipHopCanada online community?

Johnny Dilemma: Dilemmanade all day. Oh and hi Mom!


Don’t forget to check out WWW.DILEMMANADE.CA

Photo by Ryan West


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