Beat Street: RJ Brings R&B back to L.A.
By Shontel Horne —
The music industry can be a tough road to maneuver, filled with confusing signs, unexpected roadblocks
and others trying to get to the same place as you. L.A.-native Ronald Hodge (RJ) has braved the traffic by
carving out his own lane, with a soulful sound and pop appeal that is sure to lead him down the road to
CM: How would you describe your sound?
RJ: My sound is pop and R&B, but as far as my personal sound, it’s very passionate. Whether it’s an up-
tempo song or a love ballad, there’s definitely passion behind anything that I do.
CM: Where does that passion come from?
RJ: Just life experiences. I’m young, but I honestly think that I’ve seen a lot and been through a lot, and
I’ve learned a lot. And it comes across in my music. Everything that I’ve been through has lead me to
where I’m at in this moment, and that comes across in my music when I’m recording and performing or
at a photo shoot or a video shoot.
CM: Why do you think it’s important for artists to work from this place of passion?
RJ: It’s a lot of hard work, and the audience can tell if something is real or not. If you’re not real with
yourself and love what you do, and coming from a sincere place, your time will run out fast. Longevity is
something that is important to me.
CM: When did you realize that you wanted to be in music?
RJ: I knew that this was for me because my whole life I was that shy kid on the wall. In the fifth grade I
entered a talent show and something came over me: I went from a nobody in my school to Mr. Popular.
I thought one of my teachers hated me, and after he saw me in the talent show, we became best
friends. I remember what song it was; it was Soul For Real “Candy Rain.” That was the one that started
CM: So who have been some of your influences?
RJ: Definitely Michael Jackson. I love Beyoncé, I love Usher, I love Ne-Yo and R. Kelly. I like these people
because they’re great at what they do. I remember as a young kid I saw a Whitney Houston interview
and she said “In order to be great you have to study the greats” and I didn’t know any better at the time,
but that stuck out to me. I always study greats like Michael and Beyoncé, Usher and Ne-Yo, and I aspire
to be like them one day.
CM: Would you ever want to experiment with projects outside of music?
RJ: I would like to do something in fashion. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it would be clothes, but I’m getting a bug.
CM: So you’re based in L.A., how has the city influenced you as an artist?
RJ: First of all I’m from LA. L.A. has a big influence as far as my artistry and creativity because there are
so many people out here that are artists. Style is so big out here. Silver Lake, Hollywood you can go to
Inglewood. I was in North Hollywood today. You can see how other people get down. It’s nice. It inspires
me when I go in the studio.
CM: So you take the diversity of L.A. and apply it toward your music?
RJ: I do. Being from L.A., I definitely want to represent where I come from and put my own stamp on it.
I’m proud of where I’m from. I love Los Angeles. I’ll definitely have property here forever.
CM: Where are some of your favorite places to go to in L.A.?
RJ: Silver Lake. There’s something about the artistry over there that drives me. Santa Monica is
beautiful; it’s definitely a nice place to be on a Friday or Sunday. The sun shines differently over there.
And Hollywood when you need your Hollywood fix. There’s a lot of variety here, I love it.
CM: Where do you like to go to hear music in the city?
RJ: R&B Live. I don’t know where they hold it now, they change locations so much. They take a lot of
unsigned R&B artists around L.A. and put them on stage with this grand band and they let them cover
classic R&B songs. The people that get on stage can really, really sing so. I auditioned there, but it didn’t
go through well, but I got to go to one of their venues when they were in North Hollywood and I had
a great time there. Celebrities come out to support, too. Brandy was there, Brian McKnight was there.
They go to support unsigned R&B artists in L.A., which I think is awesome.
CM: What would you like people to take away from your music when they hear a song or watch a
RJ: I want people to connect with me and feel like they can know me because I’m real. When I’m on
stage, sometimes I feel like I’m singing to the person that’s quiet in the corner. I connect with that
person for some reason. When people listen to my music, I want them to feel like it’s just me and them
in a conversation. It’s so important because that’s how I feel when I listen to my favorite artists.
CM: What are you working on now?
RJ: I have a single I just released called “Last Time” with Qwote and Flo Rida, and the video was just
released. I’m doing a lot of promo for that to hopefully make it a success. The previous single “You Know
It Ain’t Love” just reached number one on the R&B iTunes charts in Japan. That completely blew me
away. It’s in the Top 20 overall on iTunes in Japan which is great. Japan is a tough market, so that’s an
honor. Representing Los Angeles.
CM: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
RJ: Hopefully a couple albums in, and I’ll have a better grasp of what my fashion idea is. I see myself
happy, which is the main thing. Just staying in that moment and doing the best I can do. I know in my
heart that it’s going to be music. And giving back was given to me to the next generation, so that I can
be someone’s Michael, someone’s Beyoncé, someone’s Whitney. That’s the goal.
Watch on YouTube:
“RJ Feat PITBULL – U Know It Ain’t Love” (Official Music Video)