Craig Johnson grew up with nothing – except for music.
As a child in foster care, he and his foster brother would listen to songs on the radio and try to decipher rap lyrics, then see who could rap it the best.
“I learned it was a style, a technique they were doing,” he says. “I started changing the words and making up my own in that same particular style and pattern and I realized that’s rap. I can rap. I just started making my own music, creating my own style, my own cadence and delivery. It just graduated from a hobby to something I”m taking serious now.”
The Chicago-based rapper known as V.I The Boss graduated from high school while sleeping in his car and living in the streets gang banging, robbing people and “whatever you can think of.”
But when a situation forced him to move to California, everything changed. Johnson had made it out of a bad situation and gotten out of the streets.
“I escaped with my life and I’m still here right now to this day, moving a little different, growing up, realizing all of that stuff is BS,” he says. “It’s just like some kid phase you go through where you’re rebellious, got a problem with authority figures and whatever.”
He now splits his time between Chicago and Las Vegas and is once again able to focus on music. With a catalog of over a thousand songs, he decided now is the time to start dropping some music and started by releasing the six-song EP The Root of All Evil in June.
“It’s about money and the things people do for money, the things that go on,” he says. “It strays off into other topics like things that I’m upset with, what I don’t agree with … I just speak real. I just say whatever is realistic and what’s going on in my life.”
“I’m tired of seeing mommas cry, way too many homicides,” he raps in “Pain,” the fourth track on the project. An upcoming music video for the song tells the story of two men who die from gang violence – but their mothers knew each other, went to church together and at the end hold up their sons’ obituaries together.
His musical style is both eclectic and melodic and it’s a different sound than what’s currently out there, he says.
“You might be able to get a vibe from something that’s out here right now but you’ll be like, ‘That’s V.I The Boss, that’s something different,’” he says.
His music videos have garnered tens of thousands of views on YouTube and Johnson recently signed on with Sony Orchard, which will release a deluxe version of The Root of All Evil in August featuring several previously unreleased songs.
“I think I’m just scratching the surface and it’s just getting to where I want it to be,” Johnson says. “This is a real good idea of where I want my music to be but I’m still growing and evolving and getting better.”
It isn’t just music keeping him busy these days, either. Johnson owns his own clothing line and recording studio and is currently working on a short film he wrote and stars in that he calls a “comedy action movie.”
And he’s planning a return to live shows with a mini tour of college towns once he gets the “OK.”
“Just check out the music and be ready for the next step,” Johnson says. “The next step is going to get even crazier. Way crazier.”
Check out @vitheboss on Instagram or V.I The Boss on YouTube for more.