“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment you own it, you better never let it go… .”
These lyrics by the rapper, Eminem, have rung loud and clear in 22-year-old, Caleb Johnson’s head since his older brother introduced him to rap music when he was 7-years-old.
It has been this mindset and drive that has caused Johnson to pursue his own rap music career — even performing as an opener for a popular rapper on his national tour.
But it isn’t just the words of famous rap artists that fill his mind with rhymes and beats. The Mapleton resident has his own words he has to say — his own rhymes methodically spoken, the beats he creates as a rap artist.
“My older brother, Zach introduced me to rap music when I was really little,” Johnson said. “I loved listening to it with him, and I remember wanting to learn how to do what they did.”
It was in junior high when Johnson started to write his own lyrics and beats, and began performing in front of small audiences. “CJSleeves” is what he called himself. “CJ” are his initials, and “Sleeves,” he said came from a nickname he earned as a basketball player for Maple Mountain High School.
“CJSleeve came as sort of a joke when I told my friends I made music,” Johnson said. “I went by CJ, and I also played basketball. Under my basketball jersey I would always wear a T-shirt. I was the only one on the team who had sleeves under the jersey, so one of my friends randomly called me ‘CJSleeves,’ and it stuck!”
Despite minor teasing from friends, and perhaps even as motivation, Johnson continued to do his thing in the music world, building a YouTube and Instagram following, and even booking concerts. Then came the decision to leave music behind for a couple years so he could serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Houston, Texas. This decision, Johnson said, was a good one, while also a sacrifice.
“I know that there are many missionaries who use their talents like mine out on the mission field, which is fine,” Johnson said.
“I decided that going on a mission was a sacrifice, so I was going to leave rap music behind for two years to make sure I was focused on the Lord’s work.”
Upon returning, CJSleeves wasted little time getting back to what he loved, and took to writing the words that were in his mind and turning them into verses, and then into music.
In January 2019, not long after returning home, Johnson released his first song in two years, “Alright,” explaining to listeners what it was like dealing with expectations as a young adult.
You can know me if you take the time
I put my life on the internet and make it rhyme …
My friends are married. I hardly date.
They’re off in college. I chose to wait.
I get nauseous when I think of all I’ve got on my plate
But I’ve been doin’ what I love, so I’m gonna be alright.
I can’t claim to be all right, all right
But I think I’m doin’ alright.
Just like any artist, art changes with life, and Johnson has found his dating groove, and had even collaborated with girlfriend, Marissa Gonzales, in one of his newest releases, “Away,” that talks about having a long distance relationship, and taking time to get away.
With inspiration and drive on his side, Johnson’s music career looks to be on the right track.
“I just love being on stage,” he said. “I would love to make a living off of this, and share what I love with the world.”
For updates on upcoming shows, new releases and more, find Johnson on Instagram @CJSleeves, “CJSleeves” on YouTube and Facebook. (Brown is a Serve Daily contributor.)