March 31, 2021
From Snoop Dogg to Dr. Dre, Flint’s own Jon Connor has ‘been there and done that’ musically. His rise to fame in the music world was fueled by a grass roots Flint-based effort that included his hometown support coupled with talented and original beats.
Connor is part of a Flint musical roots history that is nothing short of incredible.
From the J. Dallas Dort creation of what we now know as the Flint Institute of Music, ventures like Stone’s Opera House and The Palace Theater that housed the best in opera and vaudeville, to the St, John’s neighborhood hosting the best in blues and jazz, the IMA housing the nation’s top acts, and the legendary Golden Leaf, it’s been a deep culture of music.
The stars emerging from this musical DNA have included Broadway sensation Dee Dee Bridgewater, the invention of an entire form of music with the Honolulu Conservatory of Music, Hillbilly Music sensations like Dusty Owens, Motown stars the Velvelettes, Grand Funk Railroad, deejays Casey Kasem and Peter C. Cavanaugh (both in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) and many others.
In the Rap and Hop Hop genre Flint has also played an outsized role, as well. With innovators like MC Breed and The Dayton Family leading the way, Flint attracted acts like LL Cool J and RUN DMC and at home the genre grew. Connor entered that incredible history with his new vision of where to take the music.
What started out at Flint Powers Catholic High School, morphed in to a partnership with another Flint icon, Mateen Cleaves. With the weight of Cleaves behind him and his own talent powering the gig, he swept all the way up the top of the rap and hip hop pyramid, and directly to Aftermath/Interscope Records, and a big time recording deal with Dr. Dre and company. That route also led him to being named to the superstar rap freshman class of 2014 and a cover shot on XXL Magazine.
Heady stuff for a Flint kid. Born Jon (pronounced Yon) Kevin Freeman Jr., self-proclaimed comic book nerd, and Catholic school kid, his beats were decidedly non-nerdy.
As tough and hard core as his tunes are, his personae is the exact opposite. Cerebral, quiet, almost zen-like, he exudes the quiet confidence of a man who has seen the war, fought the battles, and knows his place in the maelstrom.
That mentality brought him back to Flint where he established his studio All Varsity Music to help aspiring artists get started and avoid the pitfalls that he encountered along his route. Adding the weight of his estimable talent and resume is a significant plus for a community with the kind of musical history Flint enjoys.
His ‘Jon Connor’ handle is based on the character of the same name in “The Terminator” series; Connor was after all, all a guy focused on the future, and so it is with our own Jon Connor. They don’t call him the ‘People’s Rapper’ for nothing.
Join Fish and Jon as they discuss the past, present and future of music in Flint