The song, titled “Camera Tricks” (embedded above), is a dramatic meditation on what it means to be a TV reporter–working long hours for little pay and covering stories that often linger in a person’s mind long after the cameras have turned off.
Johnson, who goes by the stage name Mattafact, told TVSpy recently that he began recording the song after “becoming disillusioned from all the robbery, shooting, and other crime stories” that he was covering.
Johnson has been rapping since high school and he says that his longtime hobby has not only offered catharsis, it’s actually made him a better reporter.
“I can honestly say I would not have become successful at broadcasting if it were not for my days dabbling in rap music,” Johnson told TVSpy via email. “Recording songs helped me develop a confident broadcast voice and taught me how and when to emphasize words. Also, performing at random LA venues in college (Cal State Northridge) helped me overcome nerves when I first started to report live. On top of all that, I think I’ve become a decent ad-libber because of my days freestyling in high school where I’d have to come up with rhymes on the fly.”
Johnson began recording “Camera Tricks” two weeks ago and then completed the song’s final, redemptive verse last Thursday after a sweeps piece he did on local puppy mills aired.
“I recorded it at home for like 2 hours at 2 a.m.,” Johnson said of the song’s final verse, in which he emphasizes the positive aspects of the job. He says that it’s stories like the puppy mills piece–the one’s that make a difference in the community–that are the reason TV reporters put up “with sad pay, bad hours, and self-deprecating newsroom humor.”
Even though he comes across as a serious-minded lyricist on the song, Johnson understands that people may have a negative reaction when they learn that he raps. (He asked his news director for permission before speaking to TVSpy about “Camera Tricks”).
“I know negative connotations come up instantly and red flags go up and all that,” Johnson said, “and I can’t help that. My songs have helped me battle personal demons and it’s helped me professionally but it’s hard explaining that to people without seeming like I’m taking myself too seriously. I always said if I were to make a song about journalism it wouldn’t be some gimmicky joke, it would be honest and cathartic. I think I’ve accomplished that with this song.”
You can download “Camera Tricks” here.