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Keinon Johnson explains the inspiration behind ‘Never Sold Dope’


Photo credit: @keinon.the.maven Instagram Kendrick Lamar and Keinon Johnson

Drugs have always been synonymous with music. When it comes to rap, the drug dealer has often stood as a complex figure who is able to escape poverty while selling despair.

But beyond the cliche drug dealer, there is a multitude of individuals who were raised in the “hood” and were able to escape poverty without ever selling a nickle, dime, or kilo of cocaine. Keinon Johnson sheds light on those individuals and provides inspiration for the youth with his “Never Sold Dope” campaign.

He recently spoke with rolling out to share how the brand got started.

When did you start your marketing and apparel company, The Maven Brand?

The Maven Brand idea started at the end of 2013. I sat on the idea for about a year in order to study the game and the landscape of what does and doesn’t work. Other agencies started reaching out to me for branding and once I got some successes under my belt, I felt like I could do this on my own.

How did the “Never Sold Dope” apparel come about?

I wore one of the hoodies one time, and my social media went crazy. I actually had a 48-hour cycle on social media. When I put the post up, I continued to get comments and likes within a span of 48 hours. When that happened, I knew that it was something that I needed to target and take seriously.

What is the concept behind “Never Sold Dope”?

It basically means that you can be from the ‘hood, and not celebrate the things that are traditionally celebrated in the ‘hood. I grew up in Harlem during the crack area and I didn’t do, or sell dope. There are one million people who probably haven’t either, yet it’s never talked about, so that’s where it stems from. I wanted it to be cool to say, “I Never Sold Dope,” and I wanted it to be cool to be positive, so it’s great to see people like Young Guru, Questlove, and the kids embracing it.

What’s next for your brand?

I really want to see how far I can take it, and I don’t want to just be the slogan guy when it comes to NSD. I’ve had people reach out to me for opportunities, but I just want to keep it conscious and cool at the same time.