TJ Atoms EXCLUSIVE: The North Philly native talks about his style, his role as “ODB” and his music
By Joye Pruitt
TJ Atoms propelled his career with a raw portrayal of Ol’Dirty Bastard in Hulu’s “Wu-Tang: An American Saga”, yet his ambitions in hip-hop help him stand out amongst a young generation of shining stars.
TJ Atoms has stormed center stage as Ol’ Dirty Bastard in Hulu’s “Wu-Tang: An American Saga”. Period. The show is primarily focused on RZA’s journey of self-realization and accompanied by the stories of his fellow Wu-Tang Clan members as they build towards recognizing their value to music. But, it’s Atoms’ classical ODB performance that grabs audiences anytime he enters a shot.
“I feel like I’m able to be authentic ODB because I studied, but I didn’t take initial acting classes before I took this role,” he explains. “I think it takes someone really raw to do that, you know what I mean? Like if I had classes, I’d be boxed in trying to figure a way to act. Since I didn’t (have that), I was free to replicate what I felt and like really make it an art form.”
His lack of training serves as his strength in a role that requires his dialect to be almost unintelligible in certain scenes. The authenticity seems groomed into the North Philly native’s background. He’s light-hearted and fun. Characteristics that exude in his Youtube webisodes titled, “Atoms in Motion”. Perhaps the most engaging feature of the series is the lack of dialogue.
Scattered conversations and an impromptu cypher define the overall voice of the show, but Atoms’ presence is felt – almost understood in these moments. “I’m just a fun guy. I just want to show that in between sets, in between movies and TV that I really just have fun. I’m just a kid living the dream,” he relays. “I feel like the goal as it grows, I’ll start talking more, I want people to get the feel of who I am.”
TJ Atoms has an embracing personality, but his eclectic style often serves as a key to understanding how the rapper approaches self-expression. Misconstrued to have Asian semblance, he flaunts an African-cultured hat that allows him to educate the people around him as he maintains an unparalleled lane of self-assuredness. It’s just who he is.
The former Bakery Boys member has an effortless aura that surrounds him as he captivates on television and in movies, as he has been cast in the Lena Waithe-produced, “40-Year Old Version”, about a teacher who attempts a career in hip-hop at the age of 40. The music is only another corner of his potential.
Inspired to join the hip-hop community after he was encouraged by friends who realized how catchy his school table-produced flows were, Atoms has been working at his craft for some time now. The Bakery Boys were one of the initial propellants for his love of music. Throughout the years, the mc has since evolved from tracks like “Recognize”, originally released in 2013, and has a new theme for his future sound.
“Stay Down, the single, is really hip-hop ish, but the s&$! I’m about to release now has all different sounds. Like I got some rock songs, I got some pop songs,” he conveys. “Sometimes I want to sing, sometimes I want to harmonize. You feel me? Sometimes I don’t want to say nothing. I just want to sound cool. I have definitely evolved from “Recognize”.” And the growth is obvious.
A preview of an upcoming track titled, “OTW” followed an “Atoms in Motion” episode and the texture of the track is more refined than his earlier releases. Unfortunately for fans, it’s a single that is set to be released on Atoms’ next project which will be one of two drops in 2020.
A handler of multiple passions, TJ Atoms has begun to pave a golden walkway for his future and the potential that his music carries is a large part of that. The purpose of his participation in hip-hop is more than just a clout-chase for his own brand.
Steered by the community from which he was bred, his goals are served when his lyrics inspire the next generation of believers. “My goals in music is just to inspire kids similar to myself from environments that I grew up in,” he convincingly states as he speaks of the youth. “I feel like I just want to be the inspiration to really dream and really accomplish a dream.” Because that’s who TJ Atoms is.
With dreams of lyrical engagement in political and societal conversations, Atoms’ is just a guy living out his wildest aspirations. In a fly hat. On a fly show. Making dope music.