“I always want to keep it interesting, but I don’t want to have to sell sex to sell my music. That’s just not who I am,” says singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist producer Angela Johnson.
In an era of female iconography that celebrates sex tapes with fame, rewards gold-digging with television shows, and delivers lucrative endorsement deals to cat fighters rocking Jimmie Choos, Johnson is the antidote to the ceaseless media messaging of who Black women are supposed to be and presents an image of who the consummate Black woman really is. Representing bold and confident women of substance who can still have fun and command all eyes in a room with her undeniable spirit more than her undeniable cleavage, the New York native stands up for women rarely acknowledged in the media or the music. As a R&B and dance artist, Johnson has used her considerable musical gifts for nearly 20 years to elevate the status of that every day superwoman, the one holding down the home, the office, the kids, her man and their community with grace and more than a little moxie. All that talent and fierceness is on full display on her fifth solo project in a decade and seventh since her days with the Cooly’s Hot Box, Revised, Edited & Flipped, is Johnson’s first, much anticipated remix project… Read more
Long before she became an independent dance and soul music icon or a champion for positive Black women, Angela Johnson was the working class girl next door. Born a musical child prodigy in Utica, NY, Johnson was playing piano by age four and violin by nine. The eldest of four, Johnson was supported throughout her formative years by a loving family in her most evident passion. Johnson’s Baptist church family added another layer of encouragement, giving her those crucial first opportunities to rock an audience as a choir director, organist and eventual star performer. At her spiritual and musical training ground, Johnson refined her ear and skills as a musician and songwriter. Multi-hyphenated personal icons like Patrice Rushen and Angela Winbush set a path for Johnson in sound and illuminated the possible for the ambitious young performer.
Following her destiny, Johnson enrolled in the State University of New York at Purchase (SUNY) to further study violin. At SUNY, she met her future Cooly’s Hot Box bandmates and songwriting partner, Christian Urich. Together the eclectic soul and acid jazz band landed a deal with Polygram Records that ended almost before it begun. A trifecta of international dance hits (“We Don’t Have To Be Alone,” “What A Surprise,” and “Make Me Happy”) followed. In 2002, the group inked a new deal with Virgin Records, and released their critically acclaimed debut album, Take It. While honing her production and songwriting chops on the Cooly’s debut album, Johnson decided to express the woman she was becoming on her own and simultaneously recorded her solo debut, They Don’t Know (Purpose). Immediately distinguishing her sound from Cooly’s, Johnson’s solo debut, and its radio hit “Ordinary Things” loudly announced that Angela Johnson was here to stay.
The industry listened. Songs from They Don’t Know and its intimate follow-up, Got To Let It Go (Purpose), were licensed by HBO’s The Wire, UPN’s Kevin Hill, FX’s The Shield, and the WB’s Roswell. As a featured spokesperson, Johnson was also appearing in Japanese car commercials for Nissan. In 2004, Johnson briefly reunited with Cooly’s to record their sophomore album, Don’t Be Afraid-Get On (Purpose), which led to a featured spot in a 2005 national TV ad campaign for ATT. That same year Johnson departed the band who’d later become Tortured Soul. As a front woman for Cooly’s, Johnson had toured the world, now it was time to conquer it as an artistic force in her own right.
Johnson began penning hits for Conya Doss (“Emotions”), Seek (“Journey Into Day”), Laurnea (“No Shame”), Monét (“Wanna Kiss You”), Reel People (“Can’t Stop”), and Japanese R&B superstar Double, for whom Johnson landed a 2001 Top 10, gold-selling hit, “Angel.” Her achievements as a producer and songwriter earned the respect of artists like: Maysa, Frank McComb, Eric Roberson, Rahsaan Patterson, Gordon Chambers, and Marlon Saunders, among others. Each graciously performed on Johnson’s 2008 single producer compilation, A Woman’s Touch (Purpose). The much celebrated album yielded the radio hit “Let Me Know (feat. Eric Roberson)” and an “Album of the Year” nod at that year’s Soul Tracks Readers’ Choice Awards. It’s Personal (Purpose) followed in 2010 and produced yet two more radio jam with “Better” and “All in Me (feat. Darien).”
On stages from Kyoto to Briton, Johnson’s commercial success and Madison Avenue appeal helped to cultivate the alluring image of an independent Superwoman who was handling life with sass and aplomb, but Johnson was more. The secret weapon that has allowed Johnson to keep so many balls afloat for so long is her nearly 20-year marriage to her manager and Purpose Music co-founder, Russell Johnson. The duo defies every stereotype about the longevity of Black marriages and the follies of mixing marriage and business. Angela’s comic sensibilities and creative chaos are complemented by Russell’s straight man stability and orderly business savvy. The Johnson’s yin and yang work because there are no leaders, only partners. Together raising and touring with their daughter, the Johnson’s take co-parenting as seriously on the road as they do in their Newark, New Jersey home. All of these intimate experiences both ground and bring new dimensions to her work.
With It’s Personal, it was important to Johnson to share her family and marriage experiences, but with her latest, Johnson is ready for a personal party all her own, with a little help from her friends. More than a dance music event, Revised Edited & Flipped represents the first Angela Johnson project largely produced by a series of guest producers, each an international superstar DJ. Featuring remixes by NYC legend, DJ Spinna (Stevie Wonder, George Michael, Mary J Blige, Sergio Mendes, Ledisi, Guru, Shirley Bassey); Pennsylvania icon, Josh “Blaze” Milan (Robyn, Sandra St. Victor); DC Go Go King’s, The Crank Brothers (Katy Perry, Whitney Houston); and, Hotlanta’s DJ Kemit & Jalon (Seek, Laurnea), MasSheen (Anthony David, Avery*Sunshine), and Ananse Scales Rebellion (India.Arie, Choklate). Europe representss with Italy’s DJ Micky More and the dynamic duo of Luca Ciotoli and Stefano De Magistris aka SoulDynamic (Bah Samba, Ann Nesby), along with French newcomer DJ Yannis (Nox). Three Japanese producers also serve behind and in front of the boards, from club jazz band Jaberloop and drum and bassist Makoto (Deeizm, MC Conrad) to the five-piece Blu-Swing (Tortured Soul, COLDFEET). Not to be outdone, Johnson takes the production helms for her early solo hit, “They Don’t Know,” rounding out this global dance party.
“After 10 years, I thought it would be nice to collectively put something together, pick some favorites from each album, and give them an extra bump of life and this was a wonderful way to do that,” says Johnson.
Each re-imagined soul gems has been carefully hand-selected from nearly every project of Johnson’s storied career as both a solo artist and the former lead vocalist of Cooly’s Hot Box. Featuring Tortured Soul’s Christian Urich and the rest of the Cooly’s Hot Box band, the jazzy “Wait 4 U” and “Don’t Be Afraid” both get a refreshing facelift from their 2004 project Don’t Be Afraid-Get On. “Rescue Me” and “They Don’t Know” from Johnson’s 2002 solo debut, They Don’t Know, gets fattened up with new instrumentation and layered vocals. The title track from 2005’s Got To Let It Go” smooth soul picks up the pace electrosoul style, DC Go-Go percussions bump “All I Need,” while “You’re Here With Me” is gifted a whole new tropical atmosphere. On parade from Johnson’s most recent triumph, 2010’s It’s Personal, are a kaleidoscope of disco, deep house, and drum and bass genre takes on “Better,” “Be Myself,” “Get Myself Together,” and “Hurts Like Hell,” with her duet hit “All In Me (feat. Darien),” getting the reggae treatment. All delivering a celebration in familiar yet new soul and R&B sounds.
While no tracks from her SoulTracks Award-winning compilation project, A Woman’s Touch, visit Revised, Edited & Flipped, the always politically conscious vegan does tackle the social issue of verbal and mental abuse with the newly penned “Don’t Take It Out On Me,” taking a powerful stand against this more subtle, but no less disturbing violence.
“Many people have been affected and don’t even know it. Even if you haven’t been punched, or kicked, the words that someone used on you a long time ago can prevent you from getting past a certain point in your life. This was something I wanted to share with people and get them to talk about it more,” explains Johnson.
Never one to publicly shy away from her evolution as an artist or a woman, the wife and mother demonstrates how to enter maturity with feisty sexiness and grown woman sensibilities without having to sell sex or her soul to get her dance on. Encouraging her devoted following to do the same, Revised, Edited & Flipped is a gift to those who’ve stuck by Johnson through the years and a reminder that they can still get up, show out, and beautifully break a sweat on the floor instead of ceding all the fun to the kids in the skinny jeans. More fully and unapologetically herself since her intimate It’s Personal release, a revitalized Johnson kicks up her heels to celebrate life, love, and growth—all under her own special groove.
Biography courtesy of Angela Johnson.
01 – Angela Johnson – Don’t Be Afraid (Jabberloop Remix) (Revised, Edited & Flipped, 2012)
02 – Cooly’s Hot Box – Friends Of Mine (Snippet) (Take It, 2002)
03 – Cooly’s Hot Box – Take It (Take It, 2002)
04 – Angela Johnson – Anything (Got To Let It Go, 2005)
05 – Angela Johnson – Got To Let Go (Snippet) (Got To Let It Go, 2005)
06 – Angela Johnson – On The Radio (It’s Personal, 2010)
07 – Angela Johnson – Hurts Like Hell (Makoto Cosmic Boogie Remix) (Revised, Edited & Flipped, 2012)
Background music during the interview:
Joey Negro & The Sunburst Band feat. Angela Johnson – In The Thick Of It (Joey Negro Endless Summer Instrumental), James Cleveland & The Angelic Choir – Peace Be Still, James Brown – The Payback, Cooly’s Hot Box – Friend Of Mine, Cooly’s Hot Box – Don’t Be Afraid, Angela Johnson – They Don’t Know, Angela Johnson – Wait On A Maybe (feat. Marlon Saunders and LeNora Jaye), Angela Johnson – For You, Angela Johnson – Got To Let Go, Angela Johnson – Should’ve Been There, Angela Johnson – Hurts Like Hell, Angela Johnson – Wait 4 U (Josh From Blaze Remix), Angela Johnson – Got To Let It Go (DJ Spinna Remix)