Sitting at Luna Coffee & Roastery in De Pere on a sunny, but freezing January morning, Jonathan “Cujo” Mojock takes the pen from my hand and scribbles a few notes to himself in my notebook. The notes are topics he wants to be sure to discuss during our interview.
“I’ve always needed to pare down my thoughts and make them concrete and measurable, something I can look at and reflect on rather than the swirl of chaos that’s going on in there,” he says, pointing to his head.
For a hip hop artist and spoken word poet like Cujo whose art medium is words, this makes total sense. Cujo first found inspiration in the work of “conscious hip hop” artists, whose lyrics address social issues. While Cujo’s early lyricism focused mainly on activism and politics, his recent work addresses more personal issues.
“In my early work, I was more broadcasting a message rather than letting people into my experience and I think good artists do that,” Cujo says. “I think my older work was more like a textbook and my newer work is more like a journal.”
The Florida native moved to Green Bay in 2016 and quickly became immersed in the local art scene. He connected with a group of visual and musical artists who formed The Art-Hop Collective, a collaborative arts group that pairs live painting with musical performances.
“Part of my mission in Green Bay has been to get more people to realize hip hop is viable, it’s real and they are enjoyable shows to go to,” Cujo says. “Through The Art-Hop Collective, we’ve tricked thousands of people into listening to hip hop.”
Tricked may be a strong word, but Cujo explains by performing hip hop in familiar settings (like Green Bay’s Art Garage) with respected local artists (like painters Andrew Linskens and Gregory Frederic), more viewers are open to experiencing the art form without bias. Cujo also hosts Spoken Word Nights every other Thursday at Pepper in Green Bay and these have proven to be a gateway to hip hop for many attendees.
“When I do spoken word poetry in the public space, I make sure people know spoken word poetry is hip hop,” Cujo says. “I think it’s important that people associate hip hop with not just negativity.”
In 2020, Cujo plans to widen his audience further through partnerships with The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Green Bay and Aldo Leopold Elementary School where he will mentor students on writing lyrics and poetry.
“One of the biggest things I want students to get out of it is that everyone has artistic skills,” he says. “Everyone has the ability to use their brain to create something unique that didn’t exist before.”
On April 2 Cujo will be performing at Music Matters: A Show About Mental Health at The Richard Mauthe Center on the UW-Green Bay campus. The free event begins at 5 p.m. and will address how music can help individuals cope with mental health issues.