From dancing to singing to acting, entertainers do it all. Add rapping to that mix and you’ve got Lil J. Hailing from Long Beach, CA, Lil J (real name Jonathan McDaniel) started his career at the age of five and has been working hard to make a name for himself in each of the aforementioned talents. Ladies, recognize the handsome face? Y’all probably recognize Lil J better as Devon Carter, love interest of actress Raven Symone on Disney’s hit television show, “That’s So Raven.” The WhatItDo caught up with Lil J and talked about his journey to becoming an entertainer, how he became a household name through Disney, and his current and upcoming music and film projects.
TWID: Growing up, did you always want to be an entertainer? Or were you focused in on just being a singer/dancer/actor?
Lil J: I knew that I wanted to be an entertainer. When I was about 5 or 6 years old that’s when I really started to gravitate towards music and understanding how to imitate music and rap. I just felt like I had a natural knack for it, so I began to pursue my music career. I went through a lot of ups and downs . . . but I thank God I had great parents that were behind me and supporting me and willing to back me in my dream. I got my first record deal when I was about 16 years old with Hollywood Records. We came out with my first single, “It’s the Weekend,” produced by Jermaine Dupri. The single made it big on Billboard charts and I ended up touring with Destiny’s Child and Nelly and getting a lot of exposure. That’s how I got to wanna switch into acting was getting my foot through a door in music.
TWID: So one door led to another – from music into acting. How did the acting road play out?
Lil J: Well I met a bunch of different friends throughout the business and one of the friends I ended up meeting was Raven Symone. She knew that I wanted to make the transition from music to acting because I wanted to be an entertainer. She helped me tremendously by getting me an audition on her show [“That’s So Raven”] as her boyfriend on the show and from there, things started to take off as far as acting is concerned. I got a chance to work on her show for about four seasons as her boyfriend and really getting me a household name and was faced with a lot of individuals knowing how many fans are on Disney channel. So that’s how I got my start into acting. Since then, I’ve been doing film after film, independent, some bigger than others, some guest appearances on “Entourage” and “Cougartown.” I’m pursuing both careers; music is my passion but acting has become a part of my passion because it all intertwines with me being an entertainer. I’m having fun but I’m enjoying the fact that I get to do what I love to do for a living.
TWID: What’s the latest on your music and film projects?
Lil J: I have two records out overseas right now. The first one, “London Girl,” is playing now out in the UK. The second record, “Tokyo Girl” is playing out in Japan. Both songs and their videos can be seen on my YouTube page. In America, I’ve been working on my mixtape which will be released on November 11. Another project that I’m doing is with two childhood friends, one’s our DJ while the other is the singer and I’m the rapper in the group. Our group name is Ladie Killus, which stands for “Life And Death Isn’t Enough to Kill Us.” Our first record out as a group is called “Salute Me When You See Me” and is out already for fans to listen to.
In film, I have a movie that’s coming out in the beginning of next year called In the Hive directed by Robert Townsend and costarring Vivica A. Fox and Loretta Divine. It’s gonna be one of my biggest films yet about at-risk boys in North Carolina who are not educated when it comes to the new technology used today to be able to better themselves and keep up with the education that uses this new technology.
TWID: In your opinion, what are the differences with working with music and film?
Lil J: One thing about the music business is it’s really about showing your story at the end of the day. If you do music just for the popularity or the fame, no one’s gonna relate to that. Musicians that have lasted through the times are the ones who were great storytellers about what they’ve been through and what others have been through. These are stories that people can relate to. The acting is different because you can get one TV show and the next thing you know you’re huge and no one really even has to know anything about you or your story for them to continue to watch your movies.
TWID: If you had to choose between the two, music or acting, what would it be?
Lil J: Aw, that’s hard to say! At the end of the day, I could help a lot more people with my music and the message in my music so I’d have to choose music.
Lil J is constantly creating and is anything but a one-dimensional character. He is the real definition of an entertainer and continues to do what it takes to push his work forward. Keep up with all of Lil J’s projects on his official website, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.
Article Written by: Pesi Kava
*article photo courtesy of Yaz