Ronnie Johnson, a.k.a. Grand National, is an Oklahoma City hip-hop artist, cinematographer, filmmaker, and entrepreneur emerging as one of Middle America’s most promising voices. In 2021, he was handpicked to appear alongside Oklahoma’s pre-eminent hip-hop talent on the compilation album Fire in Little Africa, a historic multimedia project produced in acknowledgement of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre on Black Wall Street. Released on Motown Records imprint Black Forum, the album was featured by NPR, Rolling Stone, Grammy.com, Variety, Essence, Complex and others. Also this year, Grand National’s fledgling career in film led to his working as a lighting technician on the set of an upcoming film by Oscar-winning director Martin Scorcese.
How did you get started, education, etc.?
I would like to think I got into music/film in my early childhood, whether it was from going to church on Sundays or staying home all weekend to watch films I had no business watching. I didn’t know at the time those were my interests but as I grew older it became more obvious. As for my official start into creating it came about while I was attending a junior college in Maryland, I started writing a ton and really haven’t looked back since.
Did you always want a career in the music industry?
I didn’t know I wanted to. I used to have dreams as a kid of me performing in front of crowds and me waking up thinking what in the world was that about. Lol. Now I just think about those dreams and know it was destined for me to be a creator.
Most Recent Successes / Placements / Accomplishments / Accolades / Projects? Career highlight?
In 2021, I was handpicked to appear alongside Oklahoma’s pre-eminent hip-hop talent on the compilation album Fire in Little Africa, a historic multimedia project produced in acknowledgment of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre on Black Wall Street. Released on Motown Records imprint Black Forum, the album was featured by NPR, Rolling Stone, Grammy.com, Variety, Essence, Complex and others. Also this year, my fledgling career in film led to working as a lighting technician on the set of an upcoming film by Oscar-winning director Martin Scorcese.
In December 2021, I released my most ambitious project to date in the form of 328i, an album and short film inspired by the car i drove in high school and its many journeys. The short film is my first self-directed work and serves as a companion piece to the album.
What is your favorite Oklahoma music venue, music store, or recording studio?
Favorite venue would have to be 89th Street Collective. Nic is a great guy and always been tapped in with the hip-hop/underground music scene here. As far as a recording studio, it would be Cardinal Song. Trep is one of the best engineers around. I also shot some of my short film there and at 89th Street Collective. Both places have a special place in my heart.
Networking and connecting with others who share your dream or vision is a vital aspect to the music industry. Can you share which Oklahoma organizations (if any) have contributed to your success and are there Oklahoma organizations you would recommend others connect with? To help further their craft or promotion?
There are a lot of great organizations in Oklahoma. The one that helped the most I would say is the Oklahoma Film & TV Academy (OFTA)! They’re doing a lot of great things over there! Shoutout to Richard and Amy!
How can we follow you? Best place to purchase and listen to your music (if applicable)?
You can follow me on all socials @GrandxNational and all my work can be found here: linktr.ee/grandxnational
Advice for someone interested in working in the music industry.
The best advice I’ve received is don’t quit.
What are some of the benefits of having a music career in Oklahoma?
Benefits of being from Oklahoma and having a career here in the arts is showing kids that look like you that they can do something they believe in and make a living off of it. You don’t have to move to be successful.