By Emily Davenport
From the time he was young, Jadon Woodard was interested in music.
When he was 7 years old, Woodard’s parents had him trying out different instruments: his mother had him trying out piano while his father wanted him to play bass.
“I got into playing trombone. My dad wanted me to play bass because I had long fingers,” said Woodard. “My music teacher saw that I was interested in it and I just kept with it.”
By the time he as 13-14, Woodard started writing his own raps after watching “Tupac: Resurrection” (“I watched it over and over on my mom’s pay-per-view,” Woodard recalled) and started to perform his raps live when he was 15.
“I believe my first performance was at a Barnes & Noble, I was rapping on poems,” said Woodard. “I loved it and I was doing ever since.”
Woodard spent many years performing his raps on subways in New York City. During his time rapping on the trains, he met a performer called gHSTS & gUITARS (James Gallagher), who he would later release his first EP “Stories For Days” with.
“I met him on the F train on Bob Marley’s birthday in 2009,” said Woodard. “[Gallagher] was playing guitar at the Smiths—Ninth Streets station and I asked if I could rap over his music. I was doing poetry in one car and he was playing guitar in another — we got a lot of money in that same car so it was a sign for me that we should stick together.”
“You’re allowed to perform on platforms legally, that’s not a problem. Somebody decided to give us a dollar, and once that happened the cops used that as an excuse for us panhandling,” said Woodard.
The cops took the two to the precinct, where Gallagher was held for 6-7 hours and ultimately released. Woodard was held for 19 hours that day and was sent to central booking and charged.
The other plaintiff in the case was Andrew Kalleen, who was arrested after performing on the Metropolitan G train platform in 2014. A video of a police officer hitting Kalleen with his own guitar went viral online.
“The lawsuit took about two to three years and we ended up winning $55,000 to split between the three of us,” said Woodard. “We were able to set some ground for being unlawfully arrested by the police and how buskers are treated.”
The funds from the lawsuit ultimately went towards producing the full “Stories For Days” LP. The story about the lawsuit was later picked up by Complex, who made a documentary about it featuring Woodard.
Recently, Woodard released his latest album “Late to the Party.” The journey behind his latest album dates back to around 2012, a time when Woodard felt that he needed to reshape his identity in music after the group he was in disbanded.
“I was in a dark place as a performer. I started interning at Live Nation, but they didn’t know that I did anything artistic,” said Woodard. “I started to rap more and put more work on stages to bring back my identity.”
Woodard ended up receiving more recognition after entering the Jack Daniels JackN’ for Beats contest. He ended up winning the contest, drawing attention from Live Nation.
“I start getting opportunities through them that I didn’t have before they knew what my artistic abilities were,” said Woodard. “I started opening for other acts and representing the Jack Daniels brand. It was amazing and the last piece of the puzzle was a session with DJ Khaled.”
Unfortunately, the session with DJ Khaled would not end up happening. Woodard watched as his friends in the music scene advance and grow until around 2018-2019, and he started to feel lost and a bit, in his words, late to the party.
“All my friends were moving on but then there’s me, I’m on the bench,” said Woodard.
Woodard released “Late to the Party” in 2020 and worked on the album while in Pittsburgh, PA. Woodard states that this album highlights his music as a studio artist rather than as a freestyle artist.
Woodard has started to dip a toe into acting professionally. Like music, theater was something that interested him when he was in school, but it was something that helped get through some difficult times in his life.
“My parents weren’t together, and during one of the stints living with my dad I was going through some tough stuff,” said Woodard. “I stop caring about school, I think that was my third high school (I went to 6 high schools). I was not influenced by classes except for my theater class. I would only show up on campus to show up for theater.”
While acting was something Woodard enjoyed, he didn’t start to take it seriously until he took part in Urban Word NYC, a nonprofit that offered youth platforms for literacy and leadership through free and uncensored writing, college prep and performance opportunities.
“They took me under their wing. I did a bunch of acting classes and poetry classes through them, so I had to be into it,” said Woodard. “I started getting picked up for commercials and stuff through them. It was just a bug that bit me.”
Most recently, Woodard appeared in the film “Late Night” starring Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson, which premiered in 2019 and gained recognition through a Golden Globe nomination. For now, Woodard is going on auditions and trying to not “get stagnant.”
“I want to be the best at it, not even in the sense of accolades, but just be trained in my craft,” said Woodard. “I think I know how to rap, I think I know how to act, but I can always be better.”
This article first appeared on our sister website, amny.com