Name: Bryan Sledge
Stage Name: BJ The Chicago Kid
Astrological Sign: November 23rd, Sagittarius
Born & Raised: Chicago, IL
Currently Residing: LA
So tell us a little about yourself….
I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago. The youngest of three. I grew up with both parents in the home. Mom would drag me to church on Sundays. Monday’s, I was dragging myself to the streets with friends. Knuckleheads. So I had the cross and the corner if I can say that. It’s been one of my best attributes in my life, honestly. I say that with the utmost truth. It taught me when to stay, taught me when to shut up, it taught me when to leave, all that. Taught me when to talk. Most of all god’s probably one of the reasons why I’m here. I have a lot of friends that definitely have this opportunity to see me sing outside my hood. You know what I mean? So it’s a blessing but I’ve always loved music it’s always been in my family.
My uncle used to sing background and play percussion with Smokey Robinson. Music was just always around. My grandmother played guitar better than my grandfather and he was a guitar player. So it was always the weirdest energy coming from them and not just like the typical. Me understanding that, I began to understand myself. Why I couldn’t leave it alone, why it didn’t leave me alone. I tried to play basketball, of course. Now I play that every day of my life but music never faded but actually got stronger than that.
I moved to LA, my first job was singing background for Mary Mary. Moving here with a job was just a blessing itself because most people that move to another city, you do not have a check waiting for you. So I realized how amazing I was and I just really wanted to utilize that to make the best of what it could be. At that time, I was focused on being a great song writer. I wasn’t really focused on being an artist. I knew it would come but it wasn’t the first thing. I utilized songwriting. Along with the uniqueness of Mary Mary’s career and where they were at the time…like they would get on a show with Busta Rhymes and I would pass out CD’s and a few artists ended up liking the records and I got placements through double hustlin’.
I always see a gap where I can fill in or something I can do that’s led me to other people from Jamie Foxx to Jill Scott, Anthony Hamilton, Usher, Diddy…it’s been a lot of really amazing people that I’ve learned from. All these people who have their own different recipes in making amazing product. I think it was best for me to be like “alright, I’m learning from all you chefs to open my own restaurant and everyone gonna come eat with me one day.” I just believe it’s that time. I think this is the beginning of my restaurant. It’s cool as s***, man.
So, music has always been in your family and that’s fascinating because music was not in my family whatsoever. So, at what age did you notice you could sing? And then what age did you realize that you could do something professional with it or that you were really good?
All my cousins can sing. Whether they want to or not but they wanna work at AT&T when they can actually sing and I realized that from the church side. Seeing reactions and understanding who did what like “Okay he beat me up but my big cousin can sing.” So, I began to understand like my bloodline.
The time that I knew that I wanted to sing…I don’t remember the age but I remember sitting there doing my homework and daydreaming like it was a movie. Daydreaming hearing the screams in my head and seeing the whole thing. So when I live this, I still get chills. I still look back at my homies “Like yo that is crazy” because I never allow it to get to me like that.
I always understand where I come from. I love Chicago before I came here. I will never forget man. Even times like when I moved to LA…I knew that was my time. I was the youngest of three, when I moved from Chicago I got my own place. So, moving on my own that’s when I learned everything. I learned how to pay a phone bill on my own, learned to pay the gas bill on my own in LA. I was straight from my mom house so I grew up as a man through music. Music has always been a part of my growth and I must continue to grow outside of it too.
You know what’s so interesting people always say when you look up to the left that you are lying but the truth of that is when people look up to the left they are using their imagination, you do that a lot but it just means you are looking for the right words to say. When you look to your upper right it means you are recalling from memory, right, but when you look down and to the left, it’s auditory. You’re looking down and to the right, recalling memories and it’s triggering like audio things. So you are remembering things that have attachments to audio sounds and visuals.
I visualize a lot. I’m a very detailed person. Like I didn’t just tie your shoe. I will try to tuck it back like you had it. My homie would’ve just tied it back up but no, I pay attention to detail. I’m the guy that goes to a restaurant and everyone’s food is right but mine is always messed up. God is always testing my patience and I think that I have been passing very good lately, extremely well. So, you know it’s a give and take.
A lot of things that come with this industry isn’t ya know smiles and fun but what’s crazy is I think understanding my life, understanding what iv’e been through, things I’ve seen, places I don’t wanna be… yea I stay up all night. I will out work you, I will out sing you, I will out do all that. It’s just the fact that the way I see it isn’t the way that god sees it so I gotta keep doing it until it meet up. I have to have the patience that’s it. If I cry, I go in this closet, cry for two seconds, come back out here your eyes better not be red, better not be wet. That’s how life is to me. If nobody’s gonna be hard on you then who will be. I’m always going to be hard on myself. The most hard on myself. The most honest with myself, even speaking about myself. I’m not perfect but I try my best to be better every day. I think if that’s good enough for you, I love you and I appreciate you. That’s how I live. It’s a very simple way of me. I’m still learning.
It’s a very amazing thing because I think young black men haven’t had anything besides Belly or anything that intrigues them besides the streets but music. Like music is the most coolest thing that actually grabs your attention. I don’t think it’s meant for everybody but I’m not mad at you for taking your shot and doing it. But I say when you do it take it serious. If something happens, take it serious. Let every result make you take it even more serious because I fall in love with results. My shortcomings, passing the mark, hitting the mark dead on. I love seeing results because that mean I’m not sitting right there watching talking about someone else. That mean im finding out what I can do to be better, I’m finding out what my strengths are, what my weaknesses are…I’m doing my homework on me. It totally eliminates anything else beyond the focus, the tunnel vision.
I think it’s just amazing because I sing R&B. That’s the thing that everybody not trying to claim. I sing R&B, that gangster Jodeci. Now if it’s the evolution of R&B still show that connection but lets not act like we creating a whole new world and we got on Nikes while the people on Pluto got on Nikes. You aren’t making anything new up. I can even hear the inspiration and where this generation is going is amazing. I think it’s totally like insane because Marvin Gaye would have never thought it would sound like this. Al Green would have never thought it would sound like this but I think they would dig some of it I really do because they believe in evolution. I’m sure music sounded different when they were little from what they actually created that we still listen to today. I just think this industry is very cool but it could be like bad in the same point.
I feel you. It’s interesting because I feel like for the longest I was like “they don’t make music like they used to” but I was never like “yo this is awful” but now it’s like this realization where I’m in a place in my life where it’s like the past doesn’t exist. It truly is not even here. We have memories, we have reminisce, and we have what impacted what we have now that was from the past but we don’t have the past. We are here. How did we evolve? How did we go from Little Richard being a pop star to now Yachty? I’m sure there was a transition from all of them where people were like “What is this?” but we all have to evolve and it’s sad when it’s a young person of color being pushed back in a box that we all are trying to get out of. We are probably one of the last communities to be in this box. The walls are not real so why push people into this box?
It’s all true. I feel the exact same way. A small example of that is in Chicago, the south side is our White Sox fans. Any other side are Cub fans. I did a Breakfast Club interview and it was like “Aye you got on a Cubs hat ain’t you from the south side?” but people don’t understand my name is BJ The Chicago Kid. I’m representing the whole city. Yall don’t think about what section of the city I’m from. So I try to tell people from Chicago like “y’all know we the only ones that’s separating ourselves but everyone outside these walls put us in the same bag.” If we understand it, I think it will help us get over the small things.
So, I think it’s cool to have radical people that’s from my city actually get it. It like sparks my fire. It’s certain people that like really inspire me. Younger than me, older than me. People that you just see with a badge at the show that you don’t even know he’s the important behind your importance. I think that’s so amazing. I just like to stay that open to it. Being that open to it just keeps me going. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t see it for inspiration. I would probably crawl under this rug for a long time. I think creation and understanding that is part of me getting to it. I’m the youngest of three. I’ve always learned from older things, now I’m learning from myself.
So, adjust life to yourself. As a kid, they told my mom and them that they couldn’t go to church with pants on, but the bible says come as you are. So you saying if you got on pants you can’t give thanks? That’s tradition. It’s a total difference, so I totally eliminate things that I felt was just tradition verse things that really give me my full glow.