In Conversation With: TJ Atoms
Trailblazing a path for many young Black creatives across music and film, TJ Atoms is rapidly growing as one of the most radiant voices out of North Philadelphia. Amongst various achievements like playing Ol’ Dirty Bastard in Wu-Tang: An American Saga and Hulu’s Iron Mike, TJ is carving out a music catalog that any hip-hop fan would enjoy. With songs like “Potato Chips” and “How It Is,” TJ is leaving a major imprint behind through his career as a musician, something he’s been pursuing since the early age of 16.
Atoms began writing and recording music, as well as actively auditioning for film and TV projects, early on. With tons of hard work and grind, TJ Atoms has shown to be a natural in the profession, starring back-to-back in roles across television and streaming platforms despite the odds placed against him growing up. Now, inspiring young creatives to keep breaking barriers, Atoms continues to excel on and off the stage.
In our latest interview, TJ Atoms chops it up with us about “Potato Chips,” his new role in Hulu’s Mike Tyson series, inspiring the youth, and much more! Check it out below.
Congrats on your new single, what was the inspiration behind “Potato Chips” and how did you come up with the name?
So I recorded it during the pandemic and I was just transitioning from rapping and saying rhymes to storytelling and talking about substance-worthy stuff. It came from a place where I wanted to really reach the people. I had a whole completely different name for it and one of my homies had called it the potato chips song because I said potato chips in the hook. I was like, “yo that’s not even the name of the song,” but lowkey it made sense and I figured more people would connect to this more than the original name
How do you balance music and acting?
The balance is evidence by itself. I really just get inspired. I go through waves of music when I’m inspired. So I really might not write music for a couple of months at times. Sometimes I can write music for six months straight and other times I can’t so it really just comes in waves at times.
Take me back to your childhood, what age did you realize you wanted to pursue acting?
I wanted to be a superstar since I was a kid and I always felt like I was a superstar in my mind. It was pretty far-fetched for me so I took a creative route. Around the age of fifteen, I started skateboarding and I met with these other kids who would skateboard and rap too. We started rapping together and we made some really cool music.
So that’s when I started rapping but when that was kind of dying down. I realized I didn’t go to college so I realized I need something to do. I got into the acting world but it kind of found me and I shifted my energy towards that. Here we are today!
Philly is such a unique place from music to culture—how did growing up there shape the person you are today?
If you are from Philly or spent some time there, it just gives you a certain character and certain grit. It is such a tough city to make it from and it’s way smaller than New York so it has way fewer opportunities and money to be made. It gives you that grit and that grind. I would say Philly is like the perfect arena to train and we are underdogs so that makes it better.
Being an underdog gives you a lot of tenacity and it makes you a certain type of way. So that’s what Philly did for me. When they won the championship, I was there when they won I was on the streets. Me and my homies watched the game then we went on broad street and I drove my car through the parade like a fool. Then I lost a mirror and some random white girl kissed me. Shout out to Philadelphia!
What was it like working on season two of Wu-Tang: An American Saga and can you give any insight of what to expect for the final season?
We are currently working in the writer’s room. I love how Wu-Tang is a real story and people act like they don’t know what’s going to happen. But it was amazing working on season two, it’s everything you think a Wu-Tang set is like it is. We are all hard-working but it’s a lot of fun and it’s been a pleasure to work with the top black actors on television.
Mike Tyson is such a major icon for young Black men, why is this series and most importantly your role special to you?
The Mike Tyson show is really important because it depicts an icon black man. I love being a part of stories that depict black men, you know where they came from and how they managed to be great. I came from North Philly and didn’t really have too many resources. I just believed in myself and that is a core theme with the roles that I play. I like to bring those characters to light those similar beings.
Back to music, talk to me about your songwriting process and what inspires you these days.
It depends, I am a real artist so I get inspired by a lot of things. You know different atmospheres and traveling. So I get inspired by the simplest things. I grew up on that classic hip-hop, and my mom was a hugehip-hop fan. You know… Jay-Z, Biggie. As I grew older I started to get into my own sounds, I listened to The Beatles, Jimmy Hendrix, The Temptations.
With that in the rearview, what are you most excited about next year?
I’m excited to be living and be a role model to these young black kids who don’t have much to look up to. I’m also excited to inspire kids like me.
As someone who loves film and movies and aspires to be an actor like yourself what advice would you give to someone trying to follow in your footsteps?
The advice I would give would be to really go inside yourself and you know become a balanced person and to get your energy right. A lot of things out in the world are designed to destroy your energy. Live your truth now, Follow your dreams or die trying because what else is there to do so try until you die and all that rhymes haha.
If you enjoyed our interview with TJ Atoms, check out our chat with New York rapper B-Lovee!