Ron Johnson wants you to come his studio. The 25-year-old Sparks resident is looking to expand Sparks’ hip-hop community by offering his sound mixing and recording services for aspiring artists all over the Truckee Meadows.
“Sparks really doesn’t have a hip-hop scene. It’s disappointing,” said Johnson. “There is a lot of talent here but people haven’t been that receptive to the local stuff being put out there.”
For the past several weeks, Johnson has advertised his studio space, hoping to connect artists together, giving them an affordable opportunity to get their music out to the local masses.
“You should come down and record here because I don’t charge much. I charge $60 per song. Most studios charge you for each hour you spend recording. You can spend all day here, perfecting one song,” said Johnson. “I offer a really relaxed environment where it could just be you and me.”
Johnson doesn’t focus on recording hip-hop and R&B artists.
“Anyone can come down and record,” he said. “Right now I don’t have the space for a full band but you can come down and record something acoustically with your guitar.”
Johnson started his hip-hop career as a student at Hug High School.
“My cousin did music out of Oakland,” said Johnson. “We would have tapes of his performances and I’d listen to them all the time. That’s how I was introduced to the production side of music.”
Listening to ‘gangsta’ rap since the age of 9, Johnson left behind a past of playing high school sports and focused on making music. He drew his inspiration from West Coast rappers, like Tupac, Too $hort and E-40. He chose the moniker, Young Duse (“duce”) meaning second in Italian and he was the second Ron Johnson in his family.
“I really got into music in 2004 when I was sophomore at school,” said Johnson. “My dad bought a mixer that I hooked up to the computer. I’d grab the mic, record some lines and edit everything in the computer program.”
Johnson also taught himself how to make his own beats and began rapping over them.
“I first started rapping about school and girls,” laughed Johnson. “My first couple lyrics were terrible. I was more focused on making sure that everything rhymed. Nothing made any sense. Now, I’m better at telling a story. I’m better at putting rhymes together. And I still rap about girls.”
Johnson went to Recording Connections, a digital recording and mixing school in Los Angeles and received his degree as a musical engineer. Afterward, he moved back to Nevada where he was mentored by Doug Vaughn, owner of Sierra Sonic Recording Mansion. Johnson’s father, who constantly supported his son’s career, invited Johnson to put a recording studio in his garage. Johnson bought the recording booth from a friend and fashioned it with brand new equipment– a Digi0034 mixer that hooked to an iMac, which was equipped with ProTools10, a musical editing and recording software.
“I know a lot of people who write rhymes and beats but don’t have anywhere to perform,” said Johnson. “I’ve been lucky, performing places like the Knitting Factory. But the scene seems dead here. They used to have these big hip-hop shows at Lawlor up at UNR that they don’t have anymore. A lot of the casinos don’t open themselves to local artists even though there is a demand for it.”
Despite the lack of performance spaces, Johnson feels hopeful about the growth of the hip-hop community.
“There are definitely possibilities,” he said. “I know the Nugget has a new owner. Maybe something will happen there. The Alley is being sold but I’m sure that something else is going to go there where we can perform. I know that some of the hip-hop radio stations have events around town. Maybe they have more this upcoming year. If things go well with my studio, I could host my own events. Fingers are crossed, but you never know.”
For more information about Johnson’s studio and music, call (775) 354-9925 or visit soundcloud.com/youngduse33.