“If I express how I feel, then they label me insane.”
Born in 1986 in San Bernardino, California, Cornell Johnson aka ZERO is a hip hop artist based out of Boise, Idaho. Influenced by artists such as Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Common and many other conscious artists, ZERO takes conscious artistry to a whole knew level. Capturing his fans with real life stories included in his music, his tell it all.
Over the last few years, ZERO has had the pleasure to share the stage with amazing artists such as Hopsin, Dizzy Wright, T. Mills, Myke Bogan, Illmaculate, Gonzoe, Murs, Krizz Kaliko and on multiple occasions, the one and only, Tech N9ne!
Recently, ZERO had released his first self-titled album including his powerful hit, “Suicide Letter” featuring Axiom ThaWyze & Natalie Grace. As the video released, directed by Cary Judd, it displayed his visual and conceptual vocabulary that emerged through his focus on the points of a topic most want to avoid.
Many say that music elevates them, but what does music do for you?
Music allows me to feel. I feel that music elevates my soul in a way that I can connect with others and identify with their story. I feel that everyone has a soundtrack to there lives and through music, we allow others to experience it.
Why do you think music that is raw and truthful doesn’t appeal in the same way as mainstream music?
Truthfully, I feel because people are afraid of hearing the truth. We love to live in a fantasy land where we believe we have millions of dollars, cars and everything that we want to possess. It’s what’s catchy and what everybody else is talking about – it’s the new trend. But there are a rare few, myself included, that speak about life, real stories, to be able to truly identify with others and to let the audience know, they’re not the only ones that have experienced a certain situation. At the end of the day, your music, what you truly put out, is real music, in my opinion of course.
Your latest release, ‘Suicide Letter” had a very strong message, which will resonate with many. Your aim of giving a voice to those who remain in silence on the topic, is based on your own personal experiences. There are many of us who have lost friends and family through the act of suicide but simply don’t understand how an individual reaches a point where they regard their life to be no longer worth living. Can you describe such a state of mind?
You can never truly understand someone’s story unless you have had a heart to heart with the person. A person could be wearing a nice suit and drive the nicest car and chances are they are not the happiest person in the world. Our opinions are based on what we see on the outside not on the inside. And sometimes we forget to ask a simple question, how are you doing today? I feel, people reach that point when they feel they have no other avenues, they close theirselves from the world, there’s no reasoning anymore. And sometimes the easiest move you can make in this situation is always the hardest, to open your mouth and say exactly what you were feeling at that moment.
From personal experience, I talk to my closest friends and let them know exactly what I was feeling, even though I felt so embarrassed, but the response I got definitely help push me away from the idea of suicide. I thought I was alone, but I wasn’t. They have experienced the same exact thing and been through the same exact situation. At that moment I realized I wasn’t alone.
Often people stay in silence because they feel that nobody understand them and hence are unable to talk.
For someone reading this now, and are currently sharing similar thoughts to what you once had, what message would you give to them?
Always keep fighting. Considering how much we see this situation going on, there’s no need to be silent about it anymore. Most people if not everyone in this world has experienced the idea of suicide, and unfortunately that’s what ties us together even closer. But just like there’s an idea of suicide, the idea of hope does not have to be vague, if you’re reading this, I promise you, you are not alone. There is another way, there are other options, but you have to open your eyes, you have to catch your breath first because chances are, the person right next to you while you’re reading this is going through the same exact situation but we can never know unless we speak out loud, we stop being silent. So I implore you, I dare you, to speak out loud and end the silence, light up the darkness.