The past week has been a dream come true for Andrew Johnson of Westville — or Westvilladelphia, as he’s been calling it lately.
Johnson is the voice behind Anewbis, and creator of the video that recently went viral in Pictou County.
The rap video features Johnson in Westville rapping about growing up in his hometown.
A few months ago, Johnson was living in Halifax and planning on moving back home. He knew he wanted to make an impact when he got back to Pictou County but wasn’t sure how he was going to do it. He watched The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air sitcom on TV and twisted the words of the famous theme song to come up with Westvilladelphia.
Johnson made the decision to put his other musical project on hold and focus on the song and making a music video to go with it. That led to the making of a whole mix tape that he plans to release for free to help get his name out there before he releases paid content.
Last week, Johnson released the music video on his youtube channel and Facebook and the momentum of the video quickly brought it to views all over the county from who could identify with the video.
“The response has already been phenomenal,” he said. As of press time, the video racked up more than 2,000 views on youtube and more than 88,000 views on Facebook. “These last six days have been crazy… I feel like I’m being treated like some kind of hometown celebrity,” he said.
Growing up in Westville, Johnson didn’t hide his love for hip hop as he would fool around with his friends making up rhymes for fun, but doing music for more than fun seemed like a pipe dream to him.
At the end of 2015 when he was 19, Johnson moved to British Colombia for work and ended up meeting the owner of a small hip-hop record label. After confiding what he thought was a pipe dream of being a hip-hop artist to the label owner, Johnson returned the next day with sheets of paper filled with lyrics ready to show the owner what he had. That was when the label owner told him that he believed he had what it takes to be successful in the industry.
“It took me hearing that from him to realize that it might not be a pipe dream,” said Johnson. He moved to Halifax after that experience and wrote his first song, Hometown. Although he was in the middle of putting together an album called Genesis, Johnson halted the project to work on the free mix tape.In March of this year, he wrote Westvilladelphia and decided he wanted another voice on the track. That’s when he contacted Jordan Mackie, another Pictou County hip hop artist, to write a part for the song as well.
“I heard her verse and thought oh no, her verse is so much better than mine,” laughed Johnson. “So I went back and rewrote the whole thing.”
The track was recorded in early April and they decided to wait until the weather was a bit nicer to begin shooting the video. The video shoot ended up taking place May 23 and 24 and with the help of Lauren Sweet, who worked the camera and Dane Richard who mixed and mastered the track and edited the video together in two days, Johnson released the video on May 29.
Johnson said he felt something click when he was shooting the video, the same feeling as when he completed writing his first song; it was a feeling that this is what he should be doing, it was his passion.
He noted that he had always been telling people to do what makes them happy and make a career out of it but he wasn’t following his own advice until he began seriously diving into hip hop music.
“If people can listen to my song and (it can) help them through tough times like I have with other artists, then that’s my goal; I want to help people that way,” he said. “It’s incredible because it’s me living my dream that I thought was impossible for so many years.”
Andrew Johnson stands at Acadia Park where he shot the video for his latest rap song, Westvilladelphia. (Brimicombe photo)