Your first introduction to Jason Derulo may have been through smash hits like “Whatcha Say” and “In My Head,” but it wasn’t until the advent of TikTok that his career took another life. In a revealing interview with OZY’s CEO and co-founder on the latest episode of The Carlos Watson Show, he tells how. The following are some of the best cuts from the full conversation, which you can find on the show’s podcast feed.
Getting Into TikTok
Carlos Watson: Were you on TikTok before COVID or no?
Jason Derulo: Nah. No, not at all. So I started in March and started by doing one challenge and I was like, “Oh, this is fun. Let me try it again.” And then I just caught the bug, man. It was one of the things that kind of got me through this whole situation.
CW: Now, how did you know that it was going to take off, or did you not know, you literally were just having fun? Because when I got on TikTok, you were one of the first people I started seeing a lot, and I felt like you were one of those people who was at the gold rush early before everybody else.
JD: You know what? Definitely, that’s the case. I did have a feeling that it was next up, I had a feeling that it was going to be the next big thing, so I’d be lying if I said that. But I didn’t know that I was going to blow up the way I did.
And I think it has a lot to do with it being a very level playing field. It’s an app where if you got good content, you’re going to be lit, you know what I’m saying? It’s just that simple. No matter if you’re somebody that’s known or somebody that’s unknown, anybody can be popping on the app.
CW: Now, how big a business is it compared to something like YouTube or Instagram or what have you? Because I’ve talked to folks in the Kardashian family before who make a ton of money on Instagram, on Twitter, on all the other platforms, but what about on TikTok? Is TikTok as good a business yet as those other ones?
JD: I think it’s a bigger business right now. Because it’s the hottest new kid in town, right? It’s the newest, it’s the wave, it’s what everybody is talking about. And the viewership can be so high. I mean, I have videos that have hundreds of millions of views. Right?
If you’re a big brand in the world and you want your brand to be seen, TikTok is where you’re going, because it’s the new hot shit. You can either put on a commercial and you get like 3 million views or you can give a young kid on TikTok that money and you can get 40-50 million views. It depends on where you want to put your money, but I think most brands are betting on TikTok, and you can see why.
CW: Hey, Jason, tell me about your parents. What do your parents do? Were they into music and you’re like the second generation, or were you the first one to break through and really set this path?
JD: So my uncle was James Brown… Nah, just playing. Nah, no music in my family, man. I just kind of came out of nowhere and I was just instantly obsessed with music at a very early age. My mom was an immigration officer.
My dad was in import/export business so he had his own business. And yeah, it was not really a musical environment at all. They would play music in the house, but that’s as far as it went.
CW: It’s funny, I feel like there’s a little quiet Haitian sensation thing going on in the country right now, whether it’s in sports, whether it’s in music, etc., I feel like quietly you’re seeing … Even in politics. I don’t know if you saw the woman who got elected to congress out in Utah, her family, Mia Love, was Haitian.
JD: I have, man. Even from Kodak Black, you know the rapper. It’s kind of like we’re popping up all over the place, man. I think it’s a beautiful thing to see obviously, that being my roots, my upbringing.
Being Haitian is … I’m just so proud of who I’ve become and I’m so proud of my country. So to see other Haitians doing it in a major way is always a beautiful thing to watch.
Career Post TikTok
CW: Yeah. Tell me about the last year, because interesting to me, I felt like you were maybe in not as good a spot in your career a year ago. And it felt like maybe the limelight had gotten away from you, and all of a sudden it feels like fresh air has come at you. A, Is that right? And B, Given that, how do you treat the people that were walking away from you a year ago, like Warner Brothers in 2020 when they probably have a different point of view on the opportunities around Jason Derulo?
JD: Yeah, man. I was definitely in a totally different place. I was on Warner Brothers for 12 years. And through that process I’ve gone through four different regimes. And what I mean when I say that, for viewers, is basically four different staffs have come in throughout my career.
So I’m talking from CEO down to the mailing room, everybody’s gone, everybody’s fired, whole new staff. Four different times in my career. How the hell am I supposed to catch a groove when it’s somebody new in my face every couple of months? It’s crazy.