As a D.C. artist with a specific niche and loyal following among hip-hop enthusiasts within and beyond the Beltway, AnkhleJohn has drummed up a healthy social media following and replays on streaming platforms. Within the span of five years and more than a dozen projects, he has not only managed to mesmerize listeners with his witty wordplay, but open their eyes to the knowledge of ancient Kemet (Egypt) he credits with awakening his true sense of self.
At this juncture in his burgeoning career, AnkhleJohn says he has his sights set on the release of another solo album and two collaborative works. As he revealed to WI Bridge, he’s also thinking about his future and that of some of D.C.’s most popular up-and-coming rappers.
What’s the state of the music industry for D.C. artists?
A lot of young n*ggas been gettin’ the views, but they don’t have mentors and they don’t have the value of an artist. They have shock value. It’s based on whose block they’re spinnin’ That’s what [the] Chicago [music] scene is based off. It’s beef rap, but it doesn’t guarantee you have a real fan. We don’t have an artist that has all those elements.
What part do the fans play in the violence?
The influence of rap is undeniable. We can blame the police [but] don’t got sht to do with it. The politicians too. These nggas ain’t outside like that. It’s the rappers. We got a lot more of a hold. We got to be able to work with each other [but] rappers don’t trust politicians. It’s just a bunch of fcked up sht. I think that rap and hip-hop has a chance to fix sh*t. I’ve seen rap do wonderful things for people’s lives and in their lives.
Are there any artists with a real fan base?
I got that but I don’t have the numbers to prove it. I can drop a project and sell out a vinyl and hoodie in one or two days. I’m able to build a cult fanbase. There’s not too many gatekeepers in D.C. that want to push out an artist of the J. Cole and Kendrick realm. Just seems like there’s not a lot of interest. We don’t have a rapper [with longevity] other than Wale. On the industry tip, you put me on, I’m going to represent D.C. well. Let’s get some brothers up there who represent. I don’t gotta prove I’m a street n*gga.
What’s your vision for younger rappers?
I want to be a big homie. If you can reach thousands of kids before I do, let me reach you. These kids are 17 and 18 with 50,000 followers. That’s a lot of people. [Sometimes], it’s a simple message about how to carry yourself during interviews. I’m always a believer that It’s cool to be smaart. I just want some young nggas who are listening. I give myself about 10 or 15 years in this sht. I get out a little quicker and flip into other endeavors. If a young n*gga is doing his thing and we can reach more people,, We gotta be responsible for him.
How has mentorship changed your life?
In high school, when I’m finding the knowledge in myself, I had a mentor who helped me get into a program. I took advantage of the program about [the relationship between] Blacks and jews. And now I got questions. I’m going to Sankofa [Video Books & Cafe] and [now shuttered] Children of the Sun buying a plethora of books. Every paycheck, I’m going to Sankofa buying books, and getting to the origins of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. I probably wouldn’t have been interested if my mentor looked for some resume sh*t.
What part does literacy play?
The power of words and literacy is A-1. It’s able to grant you anything in life. It’s the Alpha and the Omega. I’m a new father, and out of the gate I’m gonna implement vocabulary routines for my child. We’re going through an hour or two a night of vocabulary. I need my child to be sharp at a young age and get a grasp of what’s going on. I’m not the best, but I got enough words to get my point across.
Why do people need to know about the importance of your name?
My name AnkhleJohn is a play on my alter ego name Uncle John. It came during high school. I was infatuated with the ankh symbol. People familiar with it thought it was genius, but I never knew there’s a group of people who still don’t know what it is. That’s a pet peeve [but[ it enables me to teach. There are many African symbols. You have to know yourself and the journey we’ve been on as people. If you look at my album work, you might not see symbols at all. That’s not my main message, but if I am kicking knowledge, it’s about eternal life. I’ll give you enough of a gem.