“Gave you the best of this. I need the best of that. I need that energy back.” Three lines, seventeen words, one bold statement from his single Energy Back. That’s something I feel like helps encapsulate who Retro P is as a man. Someone who can hit you heavily with a few lines all while putting everything he has into every word he speaks. Coming off a performance at Oklahoma City’s Fassler Hall, we sat down with Retro P to talk about his inspiration and creative process.
AJ: “So we’re in early 2022, let me ask you this: How did ‘21 end for you and what does ‘22 have in store?”
Retro P: “It ended really well. I feel like I rested a lot this year. I had a stretch from October to November where I shared a lot of projects I worked on but something about 2020 made 2021 feel like rest was needed.”
AJ: “So rest was a key for you this last year?”
Retro: “Right. And you still work though within that. You’re still resting and working but you may not be doing as much as before. I felt like 2019, I was freshly moved to Texas and it felt like every weekend it was something. Going out, a new shoot, some project…I was always going. And then the pandemic hit, things slowed down, and I felt like my soul and body were telling me to just rest.”
AJ: “So in that time, did you find another path of creativity?
Retro: “Yeah, you always have to. If you’re a creative person, you’re always going to find a way to create. Whatever form it may be. For me, it’s cooking. I’m spending a lot of time at home now and not doing much on the weekends anymore so I’m in a phase where I’m diving into it.”
I know Retro P as many do, simply as MJ Porter. A kindhearted, gentle human who just looks for new ways to make his ideas come to life and knows that he’s gifted enough to stay himself and be great in his own light. “Man, I’m just a normal person, man. *laughs* I’m a normal person that just has ideas and wants to make ideas come to life. Being me sets me apart. I feel like anytime you’re just yourself…no one else can be you. Just being ME is setting me apart. I don’t try to be anyone else. I just do what I like. That makes me special.”
One of the most refreshing things about Retro P as a person is how self-aware he is. Knowing that his lane of greatness is where he excels and he focuses on his strengths there knowing that learning about himself is a key component to his growth. “You always have to take time to figure yourself out. It takes time to sit and say ‘maybe I don’t like this.’ Or ‘maybe I don’t like that.’ People always say ‘trust the process’ but it’s a process just learning yourself. You’ll always continue learning about yourself, even at 80 years old, you’ll be growing and hopefully learning.”
AJ: “Bro, I love that. That’s really good. Let me ask you, when it comes to the music side of things, what got you started?”
Retro: “Literally just me and my friends thought it was cool when we were kids. We would record music on a karaoke machine. We’d put a mixed CD in the machine and then put a tape in and record it because we thought it was cool. Then I saw this Bow Wow concert when I was a kid and thought I could do that. I love making music and everything about it.”
AJ: “And what age was that?”
Retro: “Seven. But I played football, basketball, and ran track growing up and played football in college, so it was never a thought of I’m going to only be a musician. I thought I was going pro.”
AJ: “I dig it. So when it comes to your creative process, what does that look like? Whether it’s a song, photoshoot, any piece of art. What goes into that and what pushes you towards that?”
Retro: “For me, I just daydream about shit all day. So there is always an idea floating in my head. Sometimes I hone in on that idea, sometimes it just goes away. Sometimes it doesn’t come to anything. I have hundreds of songs just sitting, photosets that are sitting on my computer that I haven’t touched. I’m constantly fading in and out of that? Having been an athlete, I’m always wanting to execute what I’ve started. It may not happen in three or six months, or even a year. But it’s finished.”
For MJ, music at times is the hardest part of his creative process. “Being an overthinker, sometimes I’ll make something and be like ‘this sucks’ but then I come back and year later and I’m like ‘yo this is hard!’ And then I work on it some more and put it out.” Even in receiving admiration for his music, sometimes, MJ isn’t sure if he doesn’t feel good about what he put out.
AJ: “I remember one of the last times we hung out, it was when I was living in Texas and you had just released Energy back. I told you how much I was feeling that track and how I liked the music of yours that I had heard and in all seriousness, you looked at me and said, ‘bro, I don’t even fucking like all the music put out.’ And that’s when it clicked for me on how much of a perfectionist you can be when it comes to this.”
Retro: *laughs* “Bro that’s because sometimes I feel like people just cap sometimes. But I also like throwing awkward situations in just to see how people react in that situation.”
Twice in the last month, Retro P has taken the stage at Fassler Hall and rocked the crowd with his energy. However, this most recent time, there was a moment that will forever stand out to him. “There was this random lady at this last show who I looked out and she was rapping every single word to my song Ice Cream. That moment was just really surreal. I was stunned. I felt like I paused for a minute because it was so surreal. I’ve always wanted a moment like that and for it to be some random lady in Oklahoma, just enjoying the show was so cool to see. Music is so universal.” – Side Note: If you haven’t, listen to Ice Cream…it’s a heater – What I found very interesting was how he described the music he creates: “Honestly, it’s whatever I’m feeling in the moment. It may be over a trap beat or something like that but I do my best to put my life into it and be as transparent as possible in my music. That’s what makes me different.”
Music, photography, art. Three things that make up but don’t define MJ “Retro P” Porter but they don’t define him. In fact, if he wasn’t doing those things, his career of choice would be just as fun. “If I wasn’t doing any of this I’d be coaching. And that’s just from the grind from being in sports my whole life. That was how I knew I could stay in the passion after I was finished playing.”
In 2021, Retro P released a slew of singles , (some of which will be featured on our quarterly playlist coming March 2022) that he confidently says “if people actually listen to what I’m saying, they’ll fuck with my music.” And he’s not wrong. Dusk in the Designer District is a personal favorite of mine and the bars are hard hitting. The talent stretches beyond the music though. His photography and artistic direction are what helps make anyone see the whole picture of who Retro is as a man and a creative person. If I had to describe my friend MJ, it would be a one of a kind, gentle soul that hits hard with his passions. And it’s because of that, that he’s our centerpiece this month.