For an aspiring hip-hop artist, Fort McMurray might seem like the last place you’d want to be. Hundreds ofkilometers from the nearest major urban centre and with performing arts venues available in a very limitedcapacity, young up-and-coming artists might be forgiven for pulling up stakes and heading to Calgary orEdmonton, or even further afield. But 18-year old artist John Ohelo is living proof that you don’t need to live in the big city to get your start in hip-hop. In only eight short months, Ohelo has released four music videos which have garnered thousands of views online, including more than 150,000 hits in a single week on YouTube.
His music, made available through the iTunes store, has sold over 30,000 singles, and his followers on Twitternumber over 50,000. It’s an amazing debut for the homegrown Fort McMurray boy, who graduated from Holy Trinity High School in 2011. Ohelo says he was inspired by the work of such rap heavyweights as 2Pac, 50 Cent and G-Unit. “2Pac inspired me in many ways,” Ohelo says. “No matter what image you’re presenting, you’ll always be able to make a change. He also inspired me to follow my dreams, because one day everything will pay off. He really influenced me emotionally.”
Ohelo comes from a musical background, but says that in his family, the women were the more musicallytalented. “I’m the first one on the male side of the family, so it feels good to be the first one to start a newfamily trend,” he says. Ohelo has performed at several venues in Fort McMurray, including the Canada Rocks concert at MacDonald Island, the Justin Slade Youth Foundation and the Friendship Centre. He says that the growing recognition he receives from his fans is gratifying.
“When I go onstage, it’s a great feeling, having so many people there to watch me perform something that I’ve made. Some of them even know the words to my songs. It shows me that my music is influencing people in a good way,” Ohelo says.
While Ohelo’s music is most easily classified as hiphop or rap, he describes his sound as more all-encompassing.
“My music is different from most rappers,” he says. “I don’t only focus on the hip-hop/rap genre. I can do any type. That’s why I think my music reaches out to a wide range of people, because I do different types of instrumentals.”
“The way I present myself inspires people to follow their dreams,” he adds.