Who is IanJ?
That was the question many Castleton students had when they heard that the Louisville rapper was coming to perform, but by the end of the night, everyone knew the answer.
Packs of students slowly entered the Fine Arts Center and took their seats. The words IANJ pulsated against the black walls and the DJ booth in the middle of the stage was flooded with pink lighting. DJ BENNO took the stage to get the crowd ready for the main attraction of the night.
“I know there aren’t a lot of you, but get out of your seats!” he said.
The crowd rushed the front of the stage and 15 minutes later it was time.
When IanJ came out, the first thing students noticed was the 17-year-olds charming good looks and how he embraced the stage in his blue striped shirt, skinny jeans, and worn out white sneakers.
The concert, which took place on Oct. 1, was only open to Castleton students and featured the rapper, whose full name is Ian Johnson, performing songs from his mix-tapes Summer Lights and Pop Culture.
The performance drew fans, as well as students who had never heard the rapper before.
“I listen to one of his songs before every soccer game,” said Junior Zac Conlogue, who plays midfield for Castleton.
Senior Sarah Dempsey had never heard of IanJ before the concert, but was impressed. The only thing that brought down the night was the small number of students who attended.
“I think it was because there was so few people. I feel like it was a high school dance, not a concert. He was good though. He’s cute….for 17,” said Dempsey.
The Student Government Association was pleased with the performance, but noted that the low outcome impacted the night.
“Weather was definitely a part of it. He wasn’t really well known. Despite the promoting we did, I feel like it didn’t really reach students,” said SGA member Jess Lawrenson.
But even with a crowd of roughly 60 people, the rapper still felt the show was rewarding.
“It was a small crowd, but it’s good to be surrounded by true people who really like the music,” said IanJ.
IanJ emerged as an artist while still in high school, flying to Chicago on the weekends to record. He began rapping during his club soccer days where the team would “be on long bus rides and everywhere we’d go I would freestyle.”
Students witnessed the talent of the rapper during an encore freestyle performance.
“His freestyle is dirty. I love it,” said SGA member Kristina Sundin- Maheral backstage.
The rapper sampled beats on his debut mixtape, causing many wonder where he gets inspiration.
“My favorite song is one from hip-hop. “Hey Ma” by Cam-Ron. It’s old but good. It’s the coolest, catchiest song,” he said.
But his favorite artist is one that many may not suspect.
“Adele is my favorite artist right now. She’s amazing and I listen to her all the time,” said IanJ.
His manager, Kris Linney, gave a glance.
“Adele?” he said.
“Why you laughing at that? She’s amazing… her and Big Sean.” The rapper paused, smiling, “Don’t tell me who my favorite is!”
The show lasted close to an hour and IanJ knew he had big shoes to fill coming to Castleton after Sammy Adam’s performance.
“I heard he was here last year… But he had a little bit of a bigger crowd than I did, right?” His mouth slowly curled into a smile, “I know… that was a joke on my part.”
IanJ is a white rapper, but he wants fans to know that that’s one of the only similarities between Adams and himself.
“I don’t like to compare myself to Sammy Adams. I mean, he’s a great artist. But our content and lifestyles are a whole lot different. Hopefully my new music is going to show that. I don’t want to compare myself to Mac Miller or Sammy Adams or anyone,” said IanJ.