Shaping Johnny Polygon
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because resisting categorization is good for more than just international conflicts.
“If you’re trying to put me in a box, you’re probably someone I don’t wanna know,” says 29-year-old rapper-singer Johnny Polygon, as he swills whiskey from a plastic cup, rocking a slick, freshly permed coif.
Which is exactly why Polygon — born Johnny Armour — named himself after the multisided geometric figure. Not quite R&B, not quite hip-hop, his style is hard to categorize, often labeled “quirky” and “out there” by critics. The same goes for his latest album, The Nothing, released last March, a kaleidoscope of psychedelic soundscapes laden with darkly personal rhymes, a laid-back flow — and an unexpectedly soulful, haunting falsetto.
Polygon’s music might be hard to define, but there’s no disputing his work ethic. His long-awaited follow-up album, Pussy Gun, is scheduled to drop in the next three months, right on the heels of a U.S. tour kicking off in June. And did we mention he’s worked with Kid Cudi and Nas?
Not quite R&B, not quite hip-hop, his style is hard to categorize, often labeled ‘quirky’ and ‘out there’ by critics.
But before you size him up as a music artist, Polygon also has TV and film projects in the works — and even a children’s book. And this summer he plans to release something he mysteriously refers to as “much more than an album.”
Polygon never quite fit the mold. As a kid in Tulsa, Okla., he lived in the hood but attended a mostly white private school. He listened to Nirvana, Elton John, Tupac and Norah Jones. A stoner among squeaky-clean theater geeks, he got kicked out of a Christian stage play when he wouldn’t stop ad-libbing his dialogue. Then he broke into the hip-hop scene by accident, when he snuck into a nightclub with his breakdance crew and watched an MC battle. He entered the next battle — and won.
After dropping out of high school, he headed to Los Angeles with $300 and a thousand copies of his first CD, Leggo My Ego. He sold them to strangers on Hollywood Boulevard, hustling a couple hundred people a day; eventually catching the attention of music exec DJ Green Lantern, who signed him to Invasion Music Group in 2008.
But Polygon’s guerrilla tactics didn’t gel with the label, so he decided to release music independently.
“The best songs are already written,” he says. “My job as an artist is to be a vessel for that idea… My creative process is just on my couch, smoking weed or walking down the street, and I’ll hear something in a sentence.” Often he’ll start by humming melodies to the beats people email him.
The result? The Nothing, a surreal yet cohesive album. Must-listen-to tracks include the mournful opener, “Purple Mess”; the sultry, dreamy “Whoa Is Me”; and “The Other F Word,” a gritty musing on the perils of fame. The album’s dark aesthetic seeps into Polygon’s music videos, like the aforementioned postapocalyptic, Tarantino-esque “Purple Mess.”
Polygon says his new album will sound even darker — more expressive and melodic.
A sensitive, soulful album called Pussy Gun. We can’t wait until he pulls the trigger.