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Shannon Livewell

Jonny Empire – Today’s Talent with Yesterday’s Soul

If you love real hip-hop, I’m talking Tupac and Nas, then you may feel when you listen to the radio today, that hip-hop is dead.

Jhonny EmpireThere are artists out now who call themselves rappers, but have very little clue of what it means to actually tell a story in their verses. If you’re looking for true hip-hop, the kind that speaks to you, you may not have to look as far as you think.

Jonny Empire (John Farber), is New Haven’s very own hip-hop artist with a style of his own that is undeniably refreshing.

I am lucky enough to not only know his music, but also call him a friend, and I thought there to be no better way for more people to fall in love with his music, then do an interview and get his voice heard.

“I would say I got into hip-hop at around 10 or 11 years old,” said Empire when asked how his passion for hip-hop came about. “My older brother was always a huge fan of hip-hop music, so I used to hang around him and listen. As the years went on, he began producing and rapping as well, so I started writing and rapping around 12 years old and haven’t stopped since.”

Our family’s musical influence always seems to be the strongest on our lives. We either merge with them and like entirely the same thing, or completely rebel to a style that is the exact opposite, but whether we notice it or not, that pattern tends to repeat itself.

I asked Empire who his biggest influences were both personally and in his musical career and I have to say that I was not at all surprised by his answer.

“Right away I’d say my family. My mom and dad raised a household of being the best at whatever you wanted to pursue in life, so I try adapting that to my music. They are my number one supporters in everything I do.”

“My older brother is the reason I love hip-hop, so I can say he influenced me musically and continues to mentor me everyday. My friends, my brothers, and supporters have been influential as well. They’re everything to me. As far as musical influences go, I’d say Big L, Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, Dilated Peoples and many more played a huge role in creating my overall sound.”

Empire’s musical influences shine through when you take a listen to his work. It is very clear to see that he has been inclined to work with the sounds of old-school greats who were the founding fathers of hip-hop.

“As funny as it sounds,” said Empire when asked what inspires him to write, “it doesn’t take music to inspire me to write. I’m always willing to, because it’s something that I love doing. I try to write something new everyday, whether it be a new verse or a freestyle in the car. Always keeping the pencil sharp to the best of my ability.”

“A certain track that comes to mind at the moment is a song off of my new album Change For The Better called “I Love Beats.” This is a song that truly defines the hip-hop I love and hate in the same track. Having that gritty 90’s vibe to the beat made it easier to speak my mind on the genre of hip-hop. The song truly is a story on why I love the hip-hop culture. “

As a fellow artist myself, it is hard not to admire Empire for sticking to his beliefs in classic hip-hop. Sometimes as an artist today, it is easy to get persuaded one way or another when starting your career. Opinions are always coming from every corner and it is up to you to shut them out and focus on what you truly believe you can make it as. Most people have an easier time conforming than sticking to what they are passionate about, and I think it takes a lot of courage to stand behind something you know can change the world of music if people remember what it used to be.

“Since freshman year I’ve had amazing opportunities of performing at campus wide events such as Sigma Chi’s Sig Suit Competition, Derby Days, Delta Phi Epsilon’s Deepher Dude, St. Judes: Up ‘til Dawn, numerous events with BSU, WNHU 88.7FM, MIC (Music Industry Club) and Pep Ralley’s,” said Empire when I asked if UNH has facilitated his career in any way.

“Being exposed to the live music section of New Haven has been so beneficial, not to mention meeting other artists at the school, developing relationships that will have us working together on music for a while.”

I am a huge hi-hop fan myself, and though I do love some artists today such as Drake and J-Cole, it is hard to find rappers of our generation who compare to those of the late 80s and early 90s. I was very excited to hear Empire say that his favorite song of all time was “The World is Yours,” by Nas, because that is one of my personal favorites as well.

“This song made me realize that everyone has the potential to be the best they can be in whatever they do. The world is in your hands, do what makes you happy and enjoy every second of it. When it comes to an artist who truly paints a picture with their lyrics, Nas takes the crown. “The World Is Yours” is still being played through my speakers or headphones everyday.”

Only someone who truly loves hip-hop for what it was, is or could be, would be so majorly influenced by someone from a time when they were only in elementary school.

Empire’s fourth solo project, “Change For The Better,” is dropping on September 30, 2013 via Bandcamp &

“This full length project has been in the works over the past year while facing the challenges of an everyday student, artist and human being,” he says. “A lot of emotion and positive reinforcement was conveyed in these songs. This project features collaborations from Anabolic, Bryan Blox, K-Woody (UNH Student), Duzzo Dave, Catalina Gonzalez (UNH Student), Big IKE (Former UNH Student), D3 and Luke D (UNH Student). My objective for this project was to create hip-hop music that speaks to people from every background. Every culture is different and as an artist I try to create an overall sound that brings everyone together.”

If you haven’t heard Jonny Empire yet, then I suggest you plug some headphones into your phone and start YouTubeing right now.

Actually, scratch the headphones and start playing it out loud while you walk down the hallway. Go home, sit in the living room with your roommates, and start playing some of his music, and I promise wherever you are, people are going to listen.

This is the kind of hip-hop the world needs more of, the kind that has a message behind reaching out of the realm of sex and drugs. This is the kind of music where you know the man rapping is just as genuine as the topics he is rapping about.

Be sure to check out “Change for the Better,” as soon as it drops on September 30, 2013, and support Jonny Empire plus some other amazingly talented UNH students.

For more information on Jonny Empire, Visit:

Twitter: @JonnyEmpire203

Facebook: @JonnyEmpire203

Instagram: @JonnyEmpire203