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With inspiration and drive, Mapleton rapper reaches for the stars

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Arianne Brown
Arianne Brown is a mom of nine who writes columns for many local and national publications. She currently resides in Payson, and enjoys looking for good happenings in her area and sharing them for others to read about. For more of her stories, search "A Mother's Write" on Facebook.

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“You better lose yourself in the music, thebrmoment you own it, you better never let it go… .”

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These lyrics by the rapper, Eminem, have rungbrloud and clear in 22-year-old, Caleb Johnson’s head since his older brotherbrintroduced him to rap music when he was 7-years-old.

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It has been this mindset and drive that hasbrcaused Johnson to pursue his own rap music career — even performing as anbropener for a popular rapper on his national tour.

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But it isn’t just the words of famous rap artistsbrthat fill his mind with rhymes and beats. The Mapleton resident has his ownbrwords he has to say — his own rhymes methodically spoken, the beats he createsbras a rap artist.

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“My older brother, Zach introduced me to rapbrmusic when I was really little,” Johnson said. “I loved listening to it withbrhim, and I remember wanting to learn how to do what they did.”

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It was in junior high when Johnson started tobrwrite his own lyrics and beats, and began performing in front of smallbraudiences. “CJSleeves” is what he called himself. “CJ” are his initials, andbr“Sleeves,” he said came from a nickname he earned as a basketball player for MaplebrMountain High School.

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“CJSleeve came as sort of a joke when I told mybrfriends I made music,” Johnson said. “I went by CJ, and I also playedbrbasketball. Under my basketball jersey I would always wear a T-shirt. I was thebronly one on the team who had sleeves under the jersey, so one of my friendsbrrandomly called me ‘CJSleeves,’ and it stuck!”

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Despite minor teasing from friends, and perhapsbreven as motivation, Johnson continued to do his thing in the music world,brbuilding a YouTube and Instagram following, and even booking concerts. Thenbrcame the decision to leave music behind for a couple years so he could serve abrmission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Houston, Texas.brThis decision, Johnson said, was a good one, while also a sacrifice.

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“I know that there are many missionaries who usebrtheir talents like mine out on the mission field, which is fine,” Johnson said.br

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“I decided that going on a mission was abrsacrifice, so I was going to leave rap music behind for two years to make surebrI was focused on the Lord’s work.”

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Upon returning, CJSleeves wasted little timebrgetting back to what he loved, and took to writing the words that were in hisbrmind and turning them into verses, and then into music.

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In January 2019, not long after returning home,brJohnson released his first song in two years, “Alright,” explaining tobrlisteners what it was like dealing with expectations as a young adult.

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You can know me if you take thebrtime

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I put my life on the internet andbrmake it rhyme …

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My friends are married. I hardlybrdate.

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They’re off in college. I chosebrto wait.

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I get nauseous when I think ofbrall I’ve got on my plate

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But I’ve been doin’ what I love,brso I’m gonna be alright.

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(Chorus) I can’t claim to be allbrright, all right

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But I think I’m doin’ alright.

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Just like any artist, art changes with life, andbrJohnson has found his dating groove, and had even collaborated with girlfriend,brMarissa Gonzales, in one of his newest releases, “Away,” that talks aboutbrhaving a long distance relationship, and taking time to get away.

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With inspiration and drive on his side, Johnson’sbrmusic career looks to be on the right track.

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“I just love being on stage,” he said. “I wouldbrlove to make a living off of this, and share what I love with the world.”

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For updates on upcoming shows, new releases and more, findbrJohnson on Instagram @CJSleeves, “CJSleeves” on YouTube and Facebook. (Brownbris a Serve Daily contributor.)

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