When you look up the word “vigilante” in the dictionary, it defines the word as “a member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate.”
Vigilante is a Flint-born, Ann Arbor-raised actor and recording artist who’s here to make a lasting impact on the industry as a whole. Being the dynamic person he is, Vigilante was the only moniker that could encompass who he is as a person and what he plans to mean to the industry.
Vigilante explains, “I feel like there’s a gap right now, between the talented artists, untalented artists. The people who are here for the money, the people who do it for the passion. There’s a whole split. We live in this new PC culture where you can’t really give your actual opinion on anything, and just being the bridge between that gap right there. To let everyone know it’s okay to have your opinion on everything and still be supportive of that.”
Most recently, Vigilante unleashed his newest single titled “FLY AWAY,” tapping So So Def recording artist Dondria Nicole best known for her Platinum-selling hit single “You’re The One.”
AllHipHop: You’re from Michigan, how was that growing up?
Vigilante: Growing up in Michigan, whew man. Every “hood” has the same conditions they go through in order for you to be able to harden yourself to survive for real life. There, I was sheltered myself as far as my family trying to keep me away from gangs, drinking, smoking, violence, stuff like that. I never fell victim to any of that stuff early, but everything was around. I had to figure out how to navigate through all that, and not get shot by the police at the same time.
AllHipHop: When’d you fall in love with music?
Vigilante: I fell in love with music early. My stepdad had a MIDI board, my mom gifted it to him. He started letting my uncle, who was the lead of ministry at our church, use it. I found it so interesting how the same MIDI board that my stepdad didn’t know how to play, my uncle would take to church and master. Lead a whole choir with it, make a whole production with it. That’s how I learned how to make beats. That’s how I learned how to hear strings and chords, and how to do a choir. I learned how to be Kanye, up here, and started to do that with all my music. I started to hone in on the instruments, and really redirect the craft. Not just try to make a hit song, but actually loving music. The notes, the strings, the orchestra, how everything comes together.
AllHipHop: When did you realize you could do music for a living? Was there a turning point?
Vigilante: I honestly never thought I was going to be an actual musician that made money from doing music. It wasn’t until Lil Wayne released No Ceilings, I did a remix to “Ice Cream Paint Job,” “Watch My Shoes,” and “Wasted” — because he did it. Lil Wayne was so poppin’ that I didn’t even realize that “Watch My Shoes” was somebody else’s song. That’s how you know you know you’re poppin, when the remix is the biggest out of the songs. I put it on YouTube, back when YouTube had first started, when going viral actually meant something.
I started going viral from Facebook when people were posting on each other’s walls, then it started going viral on YouTube. This was before YouTube was even monetized. I’m like “Wow okay, they’re about to start making money from YouTube. I can really hone in on this craft. I can start putting these out annually, put them on the schedule.” Started dropping mixtapes, started getting money from it. My stepdad wanted us to keep on selling CDs hand to hand at Walmart, but I didn’t want to do it. I went into the metaverse early. So when you look at my following now, that’s everything coming into fruition from what I told him was going to happen back then. He wanted us to do things hand to hand, I wanted to go online.
AllHipHop: You released “That’s How We Do It “4 years ago, how was that experience?
Vigilante: I don’t have a lot of club bangers so when I made that beat, it was something so special about it. It crossed over because I made it for a TV Show. The instrumental was going to be the intro and outro for the TV show, he said, “yo this is a dope track.” Then behind-the-scenes, I recorded a full song to it but never told him.
So when I recorded “That’s How We Do It” the full song, he’s like “bro do you have any words to this?” I said “well I did just make a whole track out of it.” I sent it to him. He said “this is perfect for the intro and outro,” and that’s what it became. I said “since this is going to be the intro and outro, I might as well put the song out so people can find it everywhere.” I can make money from my residuals from the show, and from it being a hot ass song. That’s how it came about.
AllHipHop: I love how positive and motivating “Fly Away” is. What inspires you to create such an uplifting song?
Vigilante: Man, I might’ve created “That’s How We Do It” and “Fly Away” at the same time. I sat on it. Have you watched the Kanye West documentary? Essentially what he did with “All Falls Down,” how he had that song for so many years and knew he didn’t want to put it out until a certain time, I did the same exact thing with “Fly Away.” When the pandemic hit, because I’m predominantly a model, an actor, and an influencer, the industry never seen it take that kind of hit in modern day. I’m like “you know what? There’s only one thing in my career I can control, and that’s my music.” I decided to put Dondria on that hook, then put it out as my first official mainstream crossover song.
AllHipHop: How’d you link with Dondria?
Vigilante: I just shot her an email. Her team responded very promptly, they were really impressed with the track. They were ready to work ASAP. [snaps] We put out a rollout together. It was like a big sister, little brother thing immediately, as soon as we linked up.
AllHipHop: How was it like working with her? She’s obviously super talented, signed to So So Def.
Vigilante: It was confirmation that I was doing the right thing. Certain people are scared to do things because they don’t want to put themselves in a position to be ridiculed. I put myself in a position to be ridiculed so I could elevate. I knew that if I stood next to her, I could only get better. She was going to tighten me up, because she has so many years of experience on me. That’s exactly what happened. I was touring a stage play called Go Back and Get God, and we didn’t have a song at the end. Now “Fly Away” is going to be the song when we go back on tour for Go Back and Get God. That song came about completely unrelated to the stage play.
AllHipHop: How was it shooting the music video? The waterfall was beautiful.
Vigilante: Thank you, well we shot a video before that. The video we shot didn’t come out the way we planned for it to come out. I spent a couple thousand on that, and I was a little frustrated because she didn’t like it. I didn’t want to put out anything that someone I’m working with doesn’t like. A song needs a visual to match it in quality and expectation, because it’s going to be out forever.
One of my friends was in town. He offered to shoot the music video, but Dondria’s schedule was so tight that we couldn’t just do it on the fly. I asked “Do you know any waterfalls?” He said “yeah, there’s a place called Victory Creek.” He told me what street it was on. I’d been down that street, but never down the end of that street. I went to the end of the street and that beautiful waterfall from the video was right at the end. “Fly Away” needed to have something flying in the video, that’s where the doves came in. From me being an actor for so many years, I said “let’s create a storyline around it.” That’s how you get the bucket, all that. I did the treatment on the spot.
AllHipHop: Talk about wanting to sign with Dame Dash and Master P? You still want to sign with them?
Vigilante: Oh yeah, for sure! And if I don’t sign, I want to do some really good business with them. Just pick at their brain, because they have such intimate knowledge. They’re the only two that are vocal, that people can still believe in. If we’re in a deal together and you don’t like the deal, just walk away. Instead of keeping you locked in this deal, you owe me this money and you need to go to court for that. I can’t see either of them really being two people that do that. With the type of music that I make, I know I can make a label millions and billions. Put into the right arenas and right movies. With a person like Master P, Dame Dash, or both working together for the first time if they never worked together, this can be something that’s monumental. Life-changing.
AllHipHop: Why haven’t you dropped your album Flawless Recovery?
Vigilante: I haven’t dropped that for the same thing Kanye felt. It needs to be the perfect timing, and the perfect situation for me to release this body of work. Because I can’t re-release it. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. I already have it done. I’d love to be in a situation where a label’s like “Listen, we love what you got. Here’s however much, finalize it, fine tune it, then we’re going to put it out to this many stations. To this many this, this many that. We work in tangent as a partnership rather than me doing all the groundwork and legwork myself for 15 to 17 tracks, which is exhausting. I’d have to have the right partnership for me to do that.
AllHipHop: Why did you turn a song down from Lil Bow Wow?
Vigilante: Oh man, that hurt too. It was around the same time I did a song with Dondria. Bow invited me to do an Instagram live with him, so I did the Live. After the Live, I woke up the next morning to 300 DMs.
AllHipHop: He asked you to go on Live?
Vigilante: Yeah, I guess he was seeing the work that was going on. Bow lives in Atlanta. Here it’s big, but it’s small. When you’re moving around, people hear. His ear is very much to the streets. He stays in the club every week, he loves the strip club so much. He invited me to come on, we did the Live. It was so dope. After the Live, I woke up the next morning to all the DMs. I dedicated the whole day to answering all those DMs. The day after that, he hit me back saying “bro that was such a dope Live, I want to do this track with you.” We started talking about the numbers and the business situation, behind-the-scenes stuff. This could be so dope, but it just doesn’t make sense right now. It was right during the middle of the pandemic.
AllHipHop: Why didn’t it make sense?
Vigilante: He wanted to do a club record. At that time, every club in Atlanta was closed. Every radio station was quarantined. We’d be strictly going off social media, there was no place for me to do any legwork. I was leaning on him like “Okay if we do this, your social media is going to predominantly be the one we have to use. Even if I have to up the business arrangement for us to do that.” He didn’t want to go that route. It didn’t make sense because I wouldn’t recoup fast enough, or in time for the record to still mean something to people because we don’t know how long the quarantine’s going to last. Any other artist might’ve jumped on that, they would’ve been in a hole because they wouldn’t have known they had to work the record in order to recoup the money.
AllHipHop: How did Trevor Jackson Start your acting career?
Vigilante: Oh man, huge shoutout to Trevor Jackson. Huge shoutout to you as well, that was such a dope interview y’all did. What happened was in 2015, I was chillin’ at home. I saw a flier on my Instagram saying Trevor Jackson would be at this church downtown. I know where this church was. I take this bus, I take this train, I take this bus and I’ll be there. That’s what I did, freezing cold in January. I walked past security, hair and makeup, crafting, everybody. I walked to where him and his mom were in the back dressing room. At this time, I had never been in any movies, so I didn’t know what I was walking past. People probably felt like I should’ve been there because of how comfortably I was walking.
I meet him, he started showing me stuff he can play on the piano. I show him other stuff he can play on the piano. We take the picture that’s on my Instagram. I’m leaving, then he goes “Do you want to stay and be in this movie?” I asked “this is a movie set?” He said “Yeah.” I asked the name of the movie, he said Sons 2 The Grave. I asked him what I’d do because I had never acted. I didn’t know anything about acting. He told me “go to that room over there, and you’d officially be in the movie.” I found out that room was extras holding. After I left extras holding, they took us to set. We were background for a scene he was doing. We filmed for 2 or 3 hours, then we were done. I realized this is what it’s like to be in a movie. It opened my mind to the possibility of joining the industry. 2 months later, my stepdad hit me and told me V103 had a casting for Barbershop 3 and Alvin and the Chipmunks 4. Those were my first 2 background sets. When I got paid for both of those, it was more money in one day than I had been paid in 5 years. Well, that answers that.
AllHipHop: What’s it been like being the lead role in For My Man?
Vigilante: Oh man, it has been such a journey starting from the background. I quit my 9 to 5 I was working at that time. They told me I couldn’t miss any more days, then I started working with Tyler Perry. It’s time for me to make that leap of faith, and I did it. I started getting feature roles, recurring roles, then co-lead. For My Man was when my first lead role hit national television. I filmed For My Man 3 times.
After the second time filming, I was on my way back to my hotel room. I was literally putting my key card to the hotel door when my cousin texted me “Turn the TV on.” And there I was, on national TV as the lead role for For My Man. I just knew from that point, my price went up and that my life was going to be different. There was no way I could go back to living how I was after getting a leading role on national television. That’s what was going through my mind.
AllHipHop: Talk about landing your playing cards deal?
Vigilante: Shout out to YOD Cards. I was on set for Shaft when I was doing background, there was a Grand Hustle artist there as well. They were playing spades, I was watching. I didn’t know how to play at that time. I didn’t grow up playing spades. They were kicking everybody’s ass. I couldn’t figure out why everybody was losing. I didn’t get it, but once I did, I’d beat everybody here. It seemed simple enough for me to get it. I started practicing on my phone, downloading some apps.
Once I got better, I came back to the table. I wanted to make this something they’re going to remember. I went to Zazzle and got a custom deck made of my face on the back of some playing cards. I didn’t think anything of it, I just thought it was something to do. We were at Domani Harris’s video shoot for his song “Still Got Love.” We had some downtime because they had to do a set design. Everybody pulled out their regular spades cards, I pulled out mine with my face on it. I started passing them out. Everybody was staring at them, nobody was even looking at their hand. I said “you know what, this might be a good promotion tactic right here.” Everybody was blown away by this, and I did it by accident. I went to You’re On Deck, showed them the custom deck from Zazzle and they cut me a deal the same day.
AllHipHop: What’s your crazy Tank story?
Vigilante: Tank has a dope record called “Lion” that never got released. When it does come out I want you to do one of those flashbacks that Vlad does. This is one of those moments right here. We were filming, we were upstairs and they’re talking about somebody I looked like at the time. They said “he looks like him, I wonder if he can sing like him.” So they’re waiting for me to sing, right there on the spot on set of Saints & Sinners. My friend from the last story was on set, he’s an actual singer. I told him “yo, just stay close to me. I guarantee a big opportunity will present itself.” At that time, he was on the other side of the set where I told him not to be. That would’ve been his moment right there to sing in front of Tank. I guarantee how talented he was, that Tank definitely would sign him.
AllHipHop: You were cosigned by Ms. Deb?
Vigilante: Yes, shout out to Ms Deb. She gave me a dope interview on V100 radio. The year before, I was there interviewing with her sons. I didn’t even know her. She just walked right in during my interview and started talking over the interview with no mic and walked out. A year later, me and her were doing an interview on her same radio station and I was the guest on her show. I spit my verse “Chiraq” for her. She said “you got the bars, just perform ’em.” I spit the whole verse again and perform it this time. She told me “Yeah, you got it. That’s it, keep doing what you doing. You got it.”
AllHipHop: What can we expect next from you?
Vigilante: I just started working with a new director named Q, she has a new show coming out called Substance Abuse. I’m definitely going to be the lead character on that series as well. Shoutout to Q, shot out to Substance Abuse. We’re going to be continuing to tour the state play Go back and Get God with me, Dondria, and the rest of the cast. I recommend y’all getting ticket relay, it’s going to sell out in every single city. I guarantee it. I’m in the process of renewing my shoe deal with MLO Shoes, so definitely go tap in with them. YOD cards as well. follow me @Vigilantelom to see everything I have coming up!