Jadon Woodard is a rapper based in NYC who has sprouted in fame rooted in the D.I.Y. rap scene. From handing out mixtapes on the streets to rapping on subways, Jadon found a break when becoming more prominent with big-name performers and spoken word poetry. As a part of Arts Connection’s Teen Reviewers and Critics program here, in NYC, we had the chance to interview Jadon about his career, personal life and creative process.
I know that you are not from the city originally, so how do you think subway performances helped you understand NYC?
I think that the trains prepped me to have thick skin. Now, I don’t take shit from anybody but, I used to be so timid like “Oh my god, you don’t like me” and “I’m so sorry” but now I’m just- “Get out of my face. You don’t like me? No? I don’t really care. Gimme a dollar? No? Cool, I‘m gonna continue rapping.” It made me tougher; it gave me style; it gave me confidence. It made me not as afraid to talk to people because I was very socially awkward. And, I come from a rough background so I was a super introvert. And at one point, I was always like “Please give me some swagger, man. Gimme some sauce!”
What is the most impactful audience that you have had—to your confidence and to your career?
Whenever I get people who react in a crazy way. I played this show with J.Cole over the summer in Long Island for the Billboard Music Festival and someone from the crowd came up like “Hey, I know you from the 4 train. I see you on the train all of the time rapping!” and I was like “Oh, man! Thats crazy!”
I had this dude give me four-thousand dollar Tiffany watch off of his wrist and said “I don’t got any money, but you got it man.” I had people buy CDs for a hundred dollars. I met so many famous rappers and actors on the train. And I’ve been doing this since I was 17, and I’m 26 now, so I’ve been doing this for eight years.
Many young artists are concerned with entering creative fields and industries. What advice do you have for them and how do you deal with this thought?
Research. Whatever fills your end, just do all the research that you can and follow sites that follow that specific realm of art that you are in. I read Pigeons and Planes everyday and now are my friends and they are putting me on their stuff, but I was already avidly reading their content all the time. They are always giving out free gems. I’m always on Rolling Stone and Billboard and Billboard Biz because that is the business side of this industry. Just as well as knowing about Drake selling 5 hundred thousand copies, and Chance winning Grammy Awards, Billboard Biz shows you the other side- the booking agent that got Chance to do all of these things. It keeps me well versed and I have been like that since I was nineteen.
How did the D.I.Y. community help you?
It taught me to do it myself—literally. My mentor got me a CD burner for about six hundred dollars, and a bunch of CDs. Or being a person who volunteers for Live Nation and in turn volunteering to pass out fliers, and ending up doing opening acts and shows for them. It taught me no [I’m] not afraid to go shake some hands. When I met Keenan, I either met him on the train or at a random album release party, and we’ve been friends since; he’s watch my come up. I met him at CMJ when I was a nobody, and I’m still a nobody but I mean it when I say that I was a nobody. God is funny like that and when you have the door open, you just have to kick it open.
How do you think that social media affected your hand-to-hand business?
A lot of people have followed me online from the come-up. All the people who know me from the streets now follow me online and I have a lot more attention than I thought.
You have a lot of freedom with your work and a lot of people, when they grow up, begin to associate growing up with being tied down to something. How would you mark adulthood or mark growing up?
I didn’t really grow up until I made a little bit of money and I was what I was doing where my focuses were. I put it towards my family, my art and my career, so I guess that means that I’m an adult. My mom is ill so I live half of the week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and half of the week here. So steps like that, and also my differences. I not trying to go out all the time to party- I’m trying to hit the crib today, I’m going to go write today, I’m going to go read today, I’m going to go the movies. It’s just when you get to that light. My sister is nineteen-years-old right now and she is going through adulthood. So control your stress, your decisions and who you are hanging around with because you aren’t a kid anymore.