W’sup, my name is Terrell Johnson. I am an Editor-in-Chief for Chicago-based magazine SWGRUS and freelance art director.
How was life growing up?
Growing up was kind of weird. I have an identical twin brother, so I was always trying to find my identity outside of that because I felt as if I was always part of a group. My brother and I are different but very similar. As a kid, I always knew that I wanted to be a part of something cultural.
When did you begin to witness you had creative talents?
Watching music videos at a young age, I was drawn to artists like Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, Usher, and Michael Jackson. I was attracted to how they were able to captivate an audience. My mother also subscribed to every magazine, from XXL, Source, Vibe, and ever since I could comprehend sentences, I was reading magazines, interviews, and learning information about my favorite artists. With watching music videos constantly, my brother and I ended up getting into dancing and choreography as well. Dancing always intrigued me.
When did you first get into blogging?
Blogging started for me back on MySpace. I would write little notes and posts on Myspace. Next, I got into Imeem, which was a website where you could interact with others by streaming, uploading, and sharing music videos. Imeem was my first real blog. I posted all new music, videos, and curated content for that site. Next, I started writing for a blog called Thinktwice and that’s when I knew I wanted to do something that was Internet based on my own. The most memorable story I wrote on that site was when Janet Jackson was going on tour in 2008 and I reached out to Jermaine Dupree to say thank you for documenting Janet Jackson’s birthday, and he ended up making a response video and shouting me out on video. That moment was so crazy to me because that’s when I figured out just how powerful the Internet is. I could just reach out to my favorite artists and they could respond.
How important is blogging to a company’s success?
Blogging generates a ton of attention and money to brands. Blogging is essential and is now a part of the marketing scheme.
Say Yo! Not Hello
When I graduated I knew if I was going to work for an agency, I wanted to work for clients I cared about. Brands like Adidas, Beats By Dre, and other brands that are relevant to our culture. Unfortunately, most agencies here aren’t working with those brands. I knew that I needed to brand myself in the light of what I seek to represent. Say Yo! Not Hello is an urban niche marketing initiative and portfolio of my work. Created from the inspiring perspective of city culture and the urbanite’s innate expressions of greeting and how millennials communicate.
I started SWGRUS in High School. It was an idea that birthed from the song Swagger Like Us by TI, ft Kanye, Jay-z, and Lil Wayne. I created SWGRUS to showcase musicality and culture. SWGRUS transformed over time. It was appealing to a lot of kids at first, but I wanted to evolve the brand to a much larger audience.
Vol. 001 / 002
SWGRUS Print issue: Vol 001 came about because I knew I wanted to create a physical magazine. Even though that art was dying, I wanted to make something that was tangible. Print gives you something that the Internet can’t and I want that to still be appreciated amongst our culture.
SWGRUS means so much more than music-based content. I want people like Elliott Wilson, Melina Matsoukas, and Joseph Khan to have an outlet that they can aspire to be on the cover of. You rarely see stylists and stage production designers on the cover of magazines.
Vol 001: At the time of Vol 001, Kehlani was one of my favorite artists at the time. I appreciated her voice and what she was bringing to R&B. I reached out to her photographer, David Camarena, for imagery for Vol 001. I also had stories on Elise Swopes, Tink, Kehlani, David Camarena, Rita Ora, Ugly Brandon, Edo, Bebe O’Hare, and a bunch of other artists.
Vol 002: Vol 2 was another extension of what I wanted to do with SWGRUS. Vol 002 changed but was similar in a lot of ways. We wrote on Kith, Tinashe, Hebru Brantley.
Vol 003 is your one-year anniversary issue. What could we expect?
I based the one-year anniversary on creatives here in Chicago. You’ll get influencers from New York as well, but I wanted to appreciate what we have here. There are more editorials; content based solely on photographers, and a lot of big name interviews. I’m working with Havas, which will be fun. I don’t have an exact date yet for when the issue is coming, but be on the lookout soon.
3 artists you would love to work with
I would love to sit down and have a conversation with Melina Matsoukas. Second, I would love to sit with Kanye. Being able to be in Kanye’s presence and talk to him 1 on 1 on why he does the things he does, would be life changing. Lastly, I would love to meet Beyonce. She is a pivotal figure in pop culture. Her voice is sometimes muted, but she always tells her story through her music.
When it’s all said and done how would you like to be remembered?
At the end of it all, I want to be remembered as a content curator in the highest form. I want people to remember me as someone who was able to spotlight cool ass people that are contributing at a high level but are in the background. I just want those people to know that they can be apart of this industry. You don’t always have to be the star to be appreciated in this culture.
Written By: Nicholas Rud