Smile Politely

Running to the top

One minute CJ Run is throwing out spitfire rap over smooth R&B, and in the next stanza of the song, the vocally versatile 21-year-old sounds like Chaka Khan.

The musician’s new EP, Here for Now, is a mix of musical influences, fitting for someone who was born in Germany, brought up in the UK, and eventually moved to the U.S. CJ Run (last name Seymour) says the noticeable rapping accent on the EP is “the result of a culturally diverse upbringing and assimilation,” a “British hybrid,” if you will.

Like many, Seymour came to Urbana-Champaign to attend the University of Illinois, studying broadcast journalism before dropping out of school last year. The new ambition beyond academics is to rule the world through music, and CJ Run has the talent and confidence to make a mark.

With producer Allen Xu (also known as yourbeautifulruin) at the helm, the seven-song Here for Now is a mesh of hip hop, afrobeat, electronica, and indie-rock influences. The rapping, writing, and singing is mostly all Seymour on this recording and others on Spotify, and a full-length album is in the works for next year.

Smile Politely: Some of the lyrics on Here for Now contain the angst and experiences of someone in his or her 20s who is feeling things out in the world, figuring out and experimenting with relationships, drugs, and ambition. Is that an accurate assessment?

CJ Seymour: It’s an accurate assessment, but it’s still deeper than that. It’s the angst-y 20s but told through the lens of a black, queer, gender-nonconforming person, so the syntax is different. This is an age where everything we feel is at an extreme, as if the world is always ending. There’s also glimmers of hope and light at the end of the tunnel. This EP signifies that.

SP: You have a penchant for inserting different-sounding interludes into some of the songs on this EP. A few times it almost sounds like a completely different tune. Where does that come from?

Seymour: The breakdowns were a mutually creative decision between Allen and I. We wanted to make the EP a full-course meal that showcased all of our musical tastes and abilities. There’s a lot of music that I love and want to make, so having one-minute breakdowns with other genres lets me flex that.

SP: What is the song “Mercury” about?

Seymour: “Mercury” is about a love that’s not perfect but pretty close. When you meet someone who feels too good to be true, you can sometimes let your inhibitions talk you out of fully going for it. I’m young and I want relationships that nurture me and are fun to be in. The definitions of love, being in love, and what romance means are not as difficult as we make it seem. As long as the person you’re with makes you happy, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t just go for it.

SP: Some of your songs talk about making it big. How ambitious are you musically? 

Seymour: I want to be in a position where music is my full-time job and I’m taking care of myself and my family with [it]. I want to headline tours and have fans all over the world, dip into other creative projects like managing artists, and acting as well. I want to be great and I want to be remembered as a great entertainer who told stories like no one else did.

SP: “How Many Moons” is a cool and beautiful song. Who are you singing it for?

Seymour: The song is a reminder to myself that I am capable of being great and that everything I have lived through is to prepare me for a greater good.

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