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Former track athlete finds passion in music after injury

Former track athlete finds passion in music after injury

Former track athlete finds passion in music after injury
October 05
12:28 2019

From running track one day at UNT and getting injured, to going viral on Twitter for playing on the piano, Norman Johnson, better known to his peers as “Ralph Norman,” has been on a roll with producing some hits despite hitting a bump in the road.

Johnson has worked with a few rappers, his biggest hit being when he produced “Stay on Your Toes” by Lil 2z. The song currently has more than 5 million views on YouTube.

Johnson’s original plan to run track was sidetracked when he was injured his sophomore year. During his downtime, he told himself he needed to find something else he was great at. He had taught himself to play the piano his freshman year and started seeing progress in his craft, so he decided to start taking it seriously.

“I started progressing … really, really fast, so I started posting little videos on Facebook and stuff,” Johnson said.

Posting to Facebook helped Johnson successfully gain a following.

“I applied like six different songs, mixed it and blended it with the piano,” Johnson said. “The one that really took off was when I played ‘Cut It’ on the piano.”

When Johnson went viral on Twitter, producers began reaching out to him and wanted to start working with him. He recently signed a distribution deal with Universal Records. Artists like Asian Doll, who is currently signed to 1017 Records, Gucci Mane’s label, retweeted some of his work. Asian Doll was one of the first major celebrities that noticed his work.

“When you go viral, people start looking at you like you’re some kind of celebrity,” Johnson said. “I went all the way to Atlanta and people noticed me from that video.”

Last year, Johnson met with Lil 2z.

“[We] linked up in the studio through social media,” Johnson said. “The first day we dropped the video, we [got] 100,000 [views] and went viral on Facebook.”

Johnson started working with other well-known YouTube stars such as Chris Sails, Jordan Lacey and more. Johnson likes working with people who already have a following because he said it makes things much easier when trying to get introduced to labels.

“It’s all about numbers,” Johnson said. “The labels want people with numbers. They don’t care too much for talent.”

Out of the different hobbies Johnson could have chosen, he chose music, specifically piano, because he liked the reaction his friend received when he played the piano for people, so he decided to try it out too.

“I [saw] my friend play the piano [and I saw] the reaction from other people and I said ‘Man, I gotta learn to play this,’” Johnson said.

Being a full-time student close to graduation, Johnson makes sure he puts school first. In the summer, he travels to different states, but mostly to Atlanta, Georgia because he has several connections there.

“The first time I went to Atlanta, I linked up with one of Lil Yachty’s partners,” Johnson said. “I went to their studio and they all liked my sound. Anytime I go back now, that’s my home studio.”

Johnson works with trap artists mostly, but wants to expand his music genre. He said he believes rap is saturated because there are so many people doing it. Johnson wants to make music that will last a long time. One of his goals is to eventually work with The Weeknd.

Integrative studies junior Eshella Anderson is a friend and classmate of Johnson’s.

“He has a kind heart, a great personality [and is] very strong and independent,” Anderson said. “Norman is a very talented young man with a good head on his shoulders.”

Kenyah Abdul-Aleem, a senior and a close friend of Johnson, said that Johnson is full of charisma and is the funniest man in every room he enters.

“He is extremely passionate and serious in whatever he puts his mind too,” Abdul-Aleem said. “He’s never afraid to talk to anyone. I often wish that I could network like him at times. Ever since he started making beats after his career-ending foot injury, he never stopped and I know he won’t stop until he reaches the success he has in his mind. But even then, he will keep working due to his ‘that’s cool, but I want more’ demeanor.”

This charismatic personality has proved to be an important factor in Johnson’s rise to success, especially considering the role social media has played in his journey thus far.  Johnson believes social media is a major key when it comes to promoting because “nobody is going to promote you better than you promote yourself.” He also feels that patience and consistency are important and that talent will always speak for itself.

“You gotta have patience and [understand] it takes time,” Johnson said. “You don’t want to blow up super fast. If you blow super fast, you go super fast.”

Featured ImageUNT senior Norman Johnson plays the piano on campus. Johnson, 22, went from track and field athlete to music producer after a video of himself playing piano went viral. Image by Paige Bruneman

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Shakala Dorsey

Shakala Dorsey

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