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Meet ... Big Cheese

Big Cheese

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Big Cheese

Also known as: Jakeem Johnson, 22, of Riverview.

Day job: Admissions rep for Everest University Online.

His sound: Feel-good rap that proudly reps the 7-2-7 — he grew up in Pinellas County. Johnson has two mix tapes under his belt and a original CD, Dead End, in the works. He describes his on-stage persona as a "complete goofball. I'm crowd motivator."

Influences: Gnarls Barkley's Cee-Lo and Andre 3000 from OutKast, for their original sounds.

Game boy: In July, the hard-core video gamer will release Game Freak, a compilation of songs that sample music from video games. On Nintendo/Xbox 360 Is the Ish, Johnson samples Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. You may recognize music from Gears of War on the song U Got Owned. "Basically, it's about video gamers who talk a lot of trash but can't back it up. It's a fun song," Johnson says. More than 1,000 people subscribe to his game-related videos on

Blacklisted from YouTube: After Johnson's Boondocks-sampling kiss-off to the U.S. judicial system, F--- Ya Court, was yanked from YouTube, he responded by uploading a weepy mock apology.

Ode to his lady love: In 2002, Johnson was arrested after attempting to hold up a pizza delivery man with a BB gun. "I was being stupid," he says. Johnson credits his girlfriend, Courtney Baldwin, for encouraging him when he had no job or direction. On the mellow, R&B-flavored track Thank You, he calls Baldwin the "beat to my heart" and the "cream in my coffee."

On the straight and narrow: Johnson gives props to the Christian ministry Young Life for helping him find Christ while he attended Largo Middle School. Youth worker Edward "BeBe" Hobson became a father figure to Johnson and nicknamed him Cheese because he was always smiling. Johnson added the Big part.

Not all smiles: In 2003, Johnson's friend was fatally shot, and his older brother was shot and paralyzed from the waist down in a dispute over a basketball game. He unleashes his anger in the song I Blame You.

Be real, get a deal: Rather than rapping about bling he doesn't have, Johnson spits about real life and believes honesty is the fastest way get to a record deal. In Homeless Thanksgiving, he recounts his family's eviction on the 2005 holiday. In I'm in My Pickup, he rhymes about getting a 2006 blue Dodge Ram. "A lot of people are gonna be like, 'Oh yeah, I'm in my pickup, too,' " Johnson says. "In my opinion, if you put out music and people understand what you're going through, they're going to like it."

Check him out: On April 24, Johnson will host and perform at the Local Artist Crunk Off, a showcase of Tampa Bay rappers with little or no stage experience. Doors open at 9 p.m. Show starts at 11:30 p.m. $5 ladies, $10 guys. Page II, 8680 Park Blvd., Seminole. For details, go to or call Johnson at (727) 520-3369.

Meet ... Big Cheese 04/17/08 [Last modified: Friday, April 18, 2008 10:07am]
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