The Solo series on making remarkable friends continues with today’s episode featuring Ryan Malcolm-Campbell, professionally known as MR. KOA, and Zamour Johnson, known in the world of media as TOPB0Y, two friends who are living remarkable lives. Besides learning about the origins of their monikers, Peter McGraw talks to them about their transition from athletes to artists and entrepreneurs. You will also learn about how their friendship developed, how they use their joint podcast as therapy, and what would be the only thing that would break up their friendship.
Listen to Episode #64 here:
We Need to Talk
Our series on Making Remarkable Friends continues with this episode featuring Mr. KOA and Topboy, two friends living remarkable lives. Besides talking about the origins of their monikers, we talked about their transition from athletes to artists and entrepreneurs. Make sure you stick around to learn about how their friendship developed, how they used their joint podcast as therapy and what would be the only thing that would break them apart. As an aside, I met them on Clubhouse, the new hot social media app that features real-time conversations. If you find yourself on the app, look for Solo, The Club For Singles on Clubhouse. Solo has already nearly 10,000 members and is only a few months old. The future is bright for single people. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.
My guests are two black Millennials navigating entrepreneurial spaces in the world of dating in their podcast, WNTT, We Need To Talk. They’d bring business expertise, relationship advice and the love of media into engaging conversations with their guests or sometimes simply between the two. My first guest is Ryan Malcolm-Campbell, known professionally as Mr. KOA. Ryan’s dream of professional basketball was derailed when he was injured on his university basketball team. He went on to finish his Business degree and lives in Toronto where he works in photography, video, animation and a host of other entrepreneurial endeavors. Welcome, Ryan.
Thank you. This is going to be quite the show. I’m glad to be here.
My second guest is Zamour Johnson. Zamour is known in the world of media as Topboy. After quitting his 9:00 to 5:00, he turned his hobby of being a certified drone pilot into a business, and now works full-time as an entrepreneur. Born in London, England, he lives in Toronto, Canada. Welcome, Zamour.
Thank you for having me. We’re looking forward to this.
We are here to talk about friendship. This conversation is part of a series on Making Remarkable Friends. I have a saying that solos need a team, a wide interdependent group of personal and professional connections to support you and you support them. Friends are the most notable of these connections. In this series, I’ve been talking mainly to experts but I met the two of you in a room in Clubhouse. Clubhouse is the new hot social media app. It’s a conversation-based app. In that room, I was impressed by your comradery. I want to talk to you about your aliases or nicknames.
I’ve never called it anything. You can say alias. Alias works, a brand alias.
It’s like a superhero moniker. Mr. KOA and Topboy, where are their origins? Why do you use it? I have to say I’m a little jealous.
You could be PM. Mr. KOA is an acronym for my company, King of Arts, which started in university after I got injured from a university basketball team and got cut from that same team while I was recovering and rehabbing. As a result of that, it was a blessing in disguise. Being an athlete, as most athletes know especially if you’re playing for a university team or a high level, you eat, breathe and sleep your sport. I never had free time ever like that before. It is as frustrating as it was to not be on a team anymore and not be with my guys, playing on the team and having games, I now have an unlimited amount of time that I’ve never experienced before.
I’ve always been into creation, artists and designing stuff but because basketball is such a priority, I never dove into it. With the time away from it, I had the time to try it. I started to sketch, draw and design things, which snowballed into me starting my first company, King of Arts, which is a clothing brand at that time when it first started like hats and shirts and stuff like that. The name King of Arts came because I had the ability to pick up different things so quickly. I would draw and sketch. I used to sing for fun. I could cut my own hair. I could do all these different artistic things. The game of basketball in itself is an art form as well.
I was going to name my brand or the company Jack of All Trades because people always say, “You’re Jack of all trades.” I was like, “That’s not original enough.” I know what it means and people know what it means. I want something unique and something that I have to explain. From a business perspective, I have a business mind. I like the act of explaining things because that means someone is interested. Even the fact that you’re like, “What’s KOA?” Every time someone does that, I have the opportunity to explain myself, better educate you and then also build my brand that way. I like that people don’t know.
I get annoyed that people say KOA, but I get it because there are no dots between them so you’re not going to notice it’s an acronym. Even that conversation where I’m like, “It’s KOA and this is why.” It’s another way for me to lead into branding. I came up with the name King of Arts as a result of my desire to be good at many different things, not only myself or my brand, to be the King at multiple different art forms. That has been the vision and the creative direction of my brand. It speaks to everything I do that anyone who supports my brand, part of my brand or any of my brand is working at being the best or being the King at whatever potential art that they are pursuing. That’s how KOA came up and then I became Mr. KOA. I am not the King of Arts. King of Arts is the brand itself. Mr. KOA is I am part of my brand. I kept it very short, five letters, it’s easy to remember.
If I remember correctly, you started to use this moniker before you were King of Arts so to speak. You were still Ryan.
It was before I was a photographer, doing animation and podcast. All I was doing was sketching faces and making some clothes. I knew it could be something larger than what it was. I didn’t know what it was going to be, but my goal is to make it bigger than whatever it was at that time when they created it. Now we’re eight years later since 2012 when I launched it and I can truthfully say the KOA brand is now a conglomerate. I have small businesses I work with, creatives that are under my brand, models, clothing and podcast. There are many different branches now. It has become a hub of everything I do now, which we couldn’t have been something I could have imagined. I didn’t plan it to be like that but I knew we could be something bigger than what it was at that time. I’m happy at the progression of where I am now.
I did check out your stuff and I encourage people to check out both of your websites and Instagram in particular. There is something about this idea of curiosity. Mr. KOA creates a curiosity. The way your website works is not exactly clear what’s happening. It is a distinct feel and look. It doesn’t look or feel like every other website in a sense. I congratulate you on that idea because it can, for the right person and curious person, get them to lean in and learn more.
Thank you. I structured it in a way that forces you to dig if you want to. It’s also very linear if you’re there for a particular reason as well. If you don’t want to dig into my shit and you want to get a photoshoot, find my work or my shop, it’s right there. You can click through there and you might not go on any other pages. They can still facilitate through the website without you having to find anything. If you do want to dig for more, there are a lot of different options. You can be on the website for a while if you care to be.
It’s like an onion. You can keep peeling back as much as you like. Zamour, what’s the story behind Topboy? It has an international element to it.
A lot of people think that I got the name from the shell tabloid off of Instagram, which gained popularity once Drake helps the new season come out. It was around for years before that. It’s basically a cult following in England. I got the name long before the show even existed when I created my Instagram because I grew up in England but I moved to Mississauga, which is outside of Toronto when I was seven years old. I’m a super young child but I was still very in touch with my British roots, family, cousins and all that type of stuff. Topboy is slang in England for a leader of your crew or whatever affiliation it may be.
The show was dealing more so with narcotics, I should say. In general, it means if you’re the best player on your team, you’re the Topboy or in anything like that. I thought at the time, based on things that I was doing, I was always the leader in my little crew. That’s going to be my moniker from that point. It worked out because once I entered the freelance world and started doing drone work, I had a lot of people saying like, “Your name makes sense because you do a lot of aerial photography and footage.” Even though that wasn’t my intention whatsoever, I let it stick and it transitioned to other things as well because I’m involved in the film and television industry. I do video work like Ryan. On top of that, I’m doing stuff in the fitness industry. I would like to say I’m near the top and always willing to learn in multiple industries. Therefore, no matter which one I’m in, I’m always going to be near the top. That’s where I’m at.
This is a digression, forgive me. I’m a big fan of British gangster films. Have you been watching Gangs of London?
We destroyed that show.
In the middle of quarantine, I remember one of our friends, Shane Sterling, had told me about the show. My cousin is in England. He told me about the show and I watched the first episode. It was two hours long. I was like, “This is a movie. I thought they said it was a show.” Every episode was an hour after that. We binge-watched it. It was incredible.
I’m afraid to start watching it for that reason. You two are friends. Do you consider yourself business partners?
All of the above.
Everything except competition. I’ve never viewed Zamour as a competition. We’re both athletes in our own rights for different sports. Because of that, we view things similar to an athletic perspective. If I’m doing well and you’re on my team, you win too. If you’re doing well and I’m on your team, I also win. I don’t care if I score 40, Zamour scores 40 or Zamour has six goals, I have one goal. If we win the game, that’s all I care about. More people need to view things that way when it comes to their friends rather than trying to fight their friends for scraps or climb all their friends, they would throw their friends out of the bus to get ahead.
I literally look at it in the simplest form as if I get famous or rich or whatever comes first, Zamour is going to be right there. I’m not going to be like, “It’s my fame.” I hope Zamour is exactly where I am. I think the exact same thing as Zamour blows up for whatever reason, he’ll be like, “These are the guys that’s going to lift me up anyways.” It’s more of a race to who gets there first. The competitiveness is us against everybody else. We both have that competitive edge of like, “Whoever gets there first, I don’t give a fuck if it’s me or you, but one of us is going to get there.” It’s going to happen.
I’ve never viewed him as competition. In fact, I bring him on projects. He brings me on his projects. We’ve done stuff together. We’ve been hired for stuff together. We do our own thing separately. We do similar things but very different styles. It’s interesting because I have a few more followers than Zamour does, but we also still have the same type of network for the most part. I’ve had situations where people have worked with me and then work with him after. It hasn’t created a “Who am I going to choose?” dynamic with the people in our networks. That shows that people appreciate both our work for different things. That’s very rare especially in this environment and industry where people can work with both people and not have to feel they have to pick somebody.
You don’t make anybody’s pick either.
Zamour, do you want to add to that?
I agree with a lot of what Ryan is saying because one of the things that we’ve talked about quite a bit on the podcast in relation to things that happen in the freelance industry, I don’t know what it’s like in other cities but there have been times where we’ve run into people who feel like, “If I’m doing work or I get a gig, I’m there for taking money out of your pocket.” They think it’s hyper-competitive and we’ve always lived by this mentality that there’s enough food to go around especially if you know where to look. For me, we’ve never had that level of competition with each other. If anything, it is more so a healthy competition where I learned a new skill, Ryan learns a new skill.
Nine times out of ten, it’s never the exact same skill. I might learn a new lighting technique or something in the lighting world, Ryan will learn motion graphics. These are things that years ago, I assume if people looked at us, they wouldn’t say that would be in our wheelhouse of tools. It’s a case of the cream rises to the top mentality. When you see people in your circle doing things that are elevating their own level of success, it should force you to want to do the same thing. Some people can get caught up and be like, “This person is doing this. I’ve got to compete.” It takes a negative connotation, and I’ve never felt that way with Ryan. That’s the major difference between us than most people in our field.
I have three observations hearing you two speak. The first one is something that’s come upon the show is a term I’m stealing from the poly community and the term is called compersion. It’s anti-jealousy. That’s an important element of a remarkable friendship. That is the person has some appeal, trustworthy, reliable and anti-jealous. They are going to celebrate your successes and they’re going to commiserate your failures. Bad friends don’t do that. Bad friends try to diminish your successes and on your failures.
The second one is, as an athlete, the two of you can appreciate this. Zamour, you’re a boxer. You don’t want to fight someone who’s not a worthy opponent. As a basketball player, not only do you want to have a worthy opponent, you want worthy players on your team because when you play with someone good, they make you better. They inspire you, teach you new techniques and so on. The last thing is, and this is to your point, Zamour, is I have this big belief that too many people think that there’s a fixed pie. When someone takes a slice of the pie, that’s one less slice available to everyone else, versus the idea of growing a pie. When you’re bringing a lot of value, to use a Clubhouse term, to the world and suddenly people recognize, “This is a worthwhile thing. It creates more business, not less business as a result of it.” I could see how this comradery brings out the best in you. It’s supportive.
To add to that, you brought up the fact that we’re both athletes in our own rights. We talk about this all the time, the fact that we come from an athletic background. I think people underestimate how big of a deal that is transitioning to what we do in terms of business. By nature, when you’re an athlete, you are competitive. If you want to be the best, you’re going to be competitive with certain people. Typically, when you’re on a good team or you’re surrounded by other good people in your craft that you’re constantly around, the competition becomes different. In my experience, it doesn’t become a thing of envy where you look at these people that you’re around and you’re saying, “I hate this guy. I hate to see the success that he’s getting.” It turns into, “He’s doing this thing. I’ve got to step my shit up too.” It’s more positive. That is what makes our relationship dynamic work so well.
I had the same experience as a young academic. Someone gave me this piece of advice and said, “Pick someone in the field that you respect who’s 3 or 5 years ahead of you, and pay attention to what he or she is doing. Look at their curriculum vitae. What’s on there? Use that for inspiration because they’re where you want to be in five years in that sense.” Nothing good comes of diminishing that person. Let’s talk about the physical part of your lives. I have lots of sayings and one of those is “To live on your edge.” That is, you want to be challenging yourself so much that you’re growing but you’re not overcome with anxiety and stress, but you’re not pulling back so much that you’re bored and listless. That notion of living on your edge can happen in a variety of domains. It sounds like nowadays, you’re living on your edge as artists and entrepreneurs. Talk a little bit about living on your edge as an athlete, as a boxer and as a basketball player.
Living on my edge in what sense directly?
It sounds to me, Ryan, that when you were a basketball player, you put everything you had into it. I get crowded out everything else and you push yourself hard enough that you had a devastating injury, but I’m curious about your experience as an athlete. Zamour has already alluded to some of the benefits that have come as you had pivoted out of that.
The most important thing that I’ve noticed growing up as an athlete is that I am different. My experience and a regular student’s experience are not the same experiences. University for me as a university athlete and university for someone who’s a student are not the same experiences. I got to experience both sides of that in the same career of my university program. That’s weird. The athletes I go to university with are athletes for their whole career and they graduate as athletes. I started as an athlete and I graduated as a student.
I witnessed the transition. I had some spillover because people knew me as an athlete. I’m still a little bit more advanced than most students because people still knew I was on the team. As the years went on and I got further away from the team and away from the program and I’m showing up to classes as a student, no one knows I’m not wearing the hoodie anymore and not wearing basketball gear. Teachers aren’t looking into me and treating me like an athlete. I’m literally a student now. I noticed the shift and it’s very interesting, the respect that changes when you’re an athlete, the access that is granted to you, the leniency that we do get as an athlete sometimes. To be completely frank, getting girls was super easy. That’s what it was like. When you dedicate that much of your life to your sport, my weekends were gone. I had no weekends, I didn’t see family. I saw my teammates more than I saw my own family.
When you do that, you look to your teammate for guidance. You look to them as your new all-seeing eye, new leaders and new peers. I didn’t even listen to anyone when I was in university. It came to how I should do things. I would talk to the older players on my team. I think it’s similar to the workforce where it’s like, “How are you going to tell me how to be a millionaire if you’re not a millionaire yourself?” In that same breath, it’s like, “How can someone tell me how to be a student-athlete if they’re not student-athletes?” I wouldn’t even listen to people that are like, “You do this.” I’m like, “You don’t even know this life.”
That translates and it has translated into my personal life and my career where I’ve had to break some of those concepts and mentalities. It’s still accurate to an extent. One example I can give you is, as an entrepreneur, I would meet people, women specifically. If they weren’t also entrepreneurs, I would assume that they don’t understand what I have to go through or what type of life I live. That’s not necessarily true. Just because someone else is not an entrepreneur, it doesn’t mean they can’t understand or can’t navigate with someone who is, but I would shut that down entirely. That came from my athlete mentality where it’s like, “If you’re not a basketball player, I don’t hear from you.” Even coaches will tell you stuff and it’s like, “You never even played professionally, how are you even the coach?” There is truth to it sometimes and a form of a lack of willingness to learn from people outside of your comfort zone.
That’s a good development in the following ways. There are these adjacent sets of experiences that science can inform art or someone who may work in fashion can help with regard to media and so on. They’re not totally overlapping but there are some overlapping experiences or skills in that sense. I can appreciate your change. I remember I was a junior in college, I was playing Club Lacrosse and I picked it up late. I was one of the better players on the Club team but it’s Club, it’s meant to be fun and relaxed. We didn’t even have a real coach. We had a player-coach.
I contemplated walking on to the varsity team, which was very competitive. I eventually decided not to do it because I thought I had a shot to make it, but then I was going to go from being someone who played for fun and played the entire game, to the guy who was a scab squad as we call it in football, the guys who were played against the first team. I knew it would have crowded out everything else in my college career. I made a rational decision. The only regret is I’ll never know if I would have been able to make it. It wasn’t regret in terms of because I wasn’t willing to give up all those other things that very rich campus life is there. It’s cool you got to see both. Zamour, what about you with boxing? You still box and you coach.
I coach. I was supposed to compete in 2020 but COVID came and we never went to fights.
I thought of you a little bit more for this question than Ryan. There’s a saying but I’m not sure who wrote it. I read it back in the ‘90s in Esquire, it talked about boxing as a metaphor for life in the following way. It said that the best punch is closest to the worst. For someone who’s never boxed, can you explain why the best punch is closest to the worst?
The way I interpret it, everyone probably heard the best punch is the one you don’t see coming. The one you don’t see coming is typically the worst punch from a technical standpoint in boxing. This is something that I go over a lot with my personal training clients. A lot of people when they get into it, they’re super tense all the time when they’re punching. They’re flexing the entire way through. I can see it on their faces. Their faces are scrunched when they’re throwing a punch. What my coaches taught me is, “You need to be relaxed all the time until the point of impact because you’re at your quickest, you’re at your most fluid. When you need to execute, that’s when you apply the pressure.”
The problem is a lot of people walk in with this mentality that they need to force their way through everything by applying pressure from the beginning to the end. What ends up happening is your moves are then telegraphed, and then you don’t see the punch coming that is going to put you on your ass. The reason why that’s relative to real life is that nothing that Ryan and I have done since we’ve entered the freelance world wasn’t calculated. There have been things that have happened in our career so far that we didn’t necessarily plan for in terms of opportunities that have come up.
There are some opportunities you can’t plan for. Ryan talked earlier about the reason why he named his brand the way that he did. A lot of people will create an Instagram account with some username just because it sounds cool, but they’re not thinking further than that. I told Ryan ages ago that he’s the only photographer in this city that I know that has a clothing brand and all that too. I’m pretty sure you are. It goes back to everything being calculated. I specifically started with drone stuff first instead of photography because I want it to be a little bit different than most people in my industry at that time. For me, it’s all cyclical even with boxing as well.
Every day when I do it, it’s reminding me of different aspects of my life one way or another. There’s this person in front of me that I’m supposed to be and it’s a constant chess match. They’re trying to think of things two steps ahead of me. I’m trying to think of things four steps ahead of them. We’re waiting until someone messes up. That’s relative to everything that I do in this freelance world. It is because every interaction that you have with someone while you’re freelance is a lot more vital than it is someone that works a 9:00 to 5:00. It does the instability side of it.
Every interaction you have with someone is literally one step away from them introducing you to someone else or introducing you to another opportunity. Ryan and I share plenty of stories where you’ll do a gig for that random brand. A year later, that person says to you, “My husband’s cousin works for Nike or something that I recommended to you in passing this conversation. They want your email. Can I have it?” Now that I’ve been in it for long enough, I think of these things. I’m very calculated with which opportunities I take on and which ones I don’t, “Is it worth my time? Is the time worth the money? Is the juice worth the squeeze?” These are all things that I think about. I do know that everything is related. I’m thinking about every single step. I love boxing. I’ve been doing it forever. As I get older, I understand more why these old guys stay in the sport forever when it comes to coaching because there are many life lessons in there. I’ll be one of those guys on the side too but that’s pretty much it.
One of my early episodes was with a boxer and a boxing coach. It’s one of my favorite episodes because it broke down some mythology. I thought of the boxer as a lone athlete but I didn’t realize how much coaching matters in boxing. Even a boxer needs a team in order to excel even though you are the final performer decision-maker. I like this idea about the best punch being closest to the worst in the following way. This relates to a quote by Steven Pressfield in The War of Art. He says, “It’s better to be in the arena being stumped by the bull than it is to be in the stands or in the parking lot.” If you want a box and you want to win, you have to put yourself in harm’s way. You have to risk getting knocked out in order to knock out. If you’re running, dodging and keeping far away, you’ll never accomplish anything. I like that idea. To me, it feels like when you box well, you’re on your edge naturally.
We can use Mayweather as an example. He’s the best defensive boxer of all time. They tell you in boxing, “You want to hit and not get hit.” If you ever watch highlights of Floyd Mayweather’s fight, the random average fan wasn’t a fan of him because he wasn’t knocking people’s blocks off all the time. Athletes understand the dedication and time it takes into your craft. It’s one thing to constantly avoid punches. It’s another to make someone barely miss it. Sometimes, it’s literally by a couple of centimeters. He knows I’m going to make you miss by enough that will make you think that if you try harder next time, you’re going to be able to hit me. I’m going to keep repeating this process and you’re never going to hit me. I’ll tell you from personal experience, the most exhausting thing in boxing is trying to hit someone and missing.
You need the connection. If you’d miss that, that’s useless energy.
Think about how that applies to real life. How many times have we all done something where you’ve put in so much time and energy? For some unknown factor, the mark has been missed and you feel like you wasted a whole bunch of time. You’re like, “Why don’t I even do this?”
That’s why I was talking about having this artist approach which is you’re not working for the outcome, you’re working with the process knowing time and time again. I want to jump into your friendship. How did you two become friends? How did you two end up launching WNTT, We Need To Talk? What’s the story behind the evolution of your remarkable friendship?
It’s quite an interesting story. It’s always funny telling it because it’s my fault that we weren’t friends earlier. I have a history and the upbringing of moving a lot when I was a child. My mom was a single mother, so I’ve lived in many different places in GTA. I’ve been to 11 or 12 different schools and moved about ten times in my life.
GTA is Greater Toronto Area.
I moved about ten times and have been to about 10 to 11 schools since I was five years old. That’s not a normal transition for a kid. As a result of that, there’s been a negative and a positive outcome from it. The positive outcome is that I make friends very easily. I’ve never been a shy person. I was forced as a kid to meet new people all the time. I never got to get comfortable with somewhere and everybody got the opportunity to be the shy kid because I’m always new. It forced me out of my bubble. I never have a bubble, to be honest. Being an athletic kid, I’m always on a sports team. That’s the easiest way for me to make friends. I get to a school. I play some ball for a little bit and they’re like, “He’s a ball kid.” I remember, I don’t know anybody but because I’m good at basketball, that was my end.
As a result of that, I moved many times. I went to school with Zamour when I was about 5 or 6 years old. That was one of my first schools I went to when I was younger. I moved from there and went to many different schools since then. I grew up in Scarborough and Toronto and different places. When Facebook was first developed and you start adding people, you add anyone. At that time, there was no ratio. It wasn’t like, “I’m going to add people I know.” You’re adding anyone. It was cool to have more friends on Facebook. They have a max of 5,000 friends or something. People who had 5,000 max of friends were cool. They’re like, “How do you have so many friends?” It was cool to have more friends. It was the thing even if you didn’t know them.
I don’t remember when I added Zamour or he added me, I have no idea, but I knew I didn’t know everyone on my Facebook. I remember seeing Zamour there but I didn’t remember who he was. It could have been anybody. Because I hadn’t seen him since I was a kid, I didn’t even remember his name. I did YouTube for a while and I would make videos about relationships and very like-forward and blunt videos about personalities, women and men, a lot of contradictory and contracting videos. A friend of mine was like, “You should start a podcast.” This was before podcasts were popular. It was only the Joe Rogan podcasts that were popular.
No one was doing podcasts. I don’t even know what a podcast at that time. I’m like, “What’s a podcast?” He’s like, “It’s like an audio thing. The same thing you do on YouTube, just like audio version.” I’m like, “I don’t know about it but let me see if people care about it.” I made the post on my Facebook asking who would be interested if I made a relationship talk-based podcast. A lot of people are like, “That would be dope. I love YouTube videos.” Zamour was the only person who was like, “I’ll be down to do it with you.” I was like, “Think about that, I can’t do a podcast by myself. I need somebody.” I could do one by myself but then I have to have guests every episode and relying on somebody. I’m like, “I’d rather have someone I could rely on.” He messaged me and we had to talk about it. I’m like, “If you’re down.” He’s like, “I’d be down.” I’m like, “If we’re doing this, we’ve got to be committed. We can’t be like here and there.” He’s like, “I’m in.” At that time, I didn’t know who he was. I thought he was some guy on my Facebook. We never even met at that time in my brain.
I was like, “To start this, let’s do one video on my YouTube channel first to see how we vibe together.” The first video we ever did together was on my channel called Long-Distance Relationships. We literally freestyle the video about our perspectives on long distances. He talked about his relationship, I talked about mine. We had this camaraderie like you’re saying and this natural back and forth nitpicking, comedy and sarcasm between us both. That was our first time ever doing anything together. I was like, “This is dope.” I came up with the name We Need To Talk because that’s always the four words that are dreaded in a relationship when you hear it. You’re like, “What is it now?” It’s always negative. I thought because our perspectives and him being more of an emotional person and me being more of a harsh person, our energies are balancing out.
It’s a yin and yang.
Sometimes you don’t want Ryan’s perspective. He’s always like, “Tell me straight. I don’t want more soft stuff.” It was good and it felt right. It’s been years now since we’ve been doing this. That’s how we started it and even met. It was an a-ha moment when he brought up a story when we were together. He brought a mutual friend of ours and he brought a story of how we saw each other in the mall at the bus terminal. It all clicked to me and I’m like, “How do you know this guy?” He’s like, “Garthwood.” I’m like, “How do you know where Garthwood is, the school? He’s like, “We went to Garthwood together.”
Back in the day, he used to race. Racing and soccer were the cool things. Those are the most popular sports. When you’re a kid soccer and racing, that’s all we cared about. Who’s the fastest? Who could play soccer? I remember Zamour was one of the fastest kids in the school at that time but I had a blurry face to his person. It’s like a glitch. I’m like, “I don’t know who this kid is.” When he told me, I’m like, “That’s you.” It was my fault, it was crazy. We’ve had amazing friendships since then.
How much has the podcast helped develop that friendship?
Quite a bit. I was saying to Ryan like, “The podcast is the only thing that I’ve ever done this consistently.” I play sports all my life. There was a time where I played every week. You might sit out of practice or you may miss a game. For us, we did miss a few episodes before. I don’t know many people that have done the same thing for nearly five years. We do the entire thing ourselves. We shoot the whole thing, we edit the whole thing, audio and video. We don’t have producers. We do everything ourselves. I’m sure we could get someone to do this stuff but we enjoy the process of it. It’s part of the routine, so we do it. There have been plenty of times where Ryan and I will look back at earlier episodes or earlier clips and laugh, reminisce over shit that’s happened in the past. Some things that are not even close to being the same, some things that happened a few years ago and we’re like, “That’s still the same.” This pattern that we’ve been living, I definitely think it helped the friendship for sure.
Is there an example of that? Is there a bit of a way that it has helped?
I saw this meme a while back that said, “I don’t know why guys start a podcast instead of going to therapy.” I definitely understand what they’re trying to say.
I’ve cried on my shows, I’ll tell you that.
We’ve had live shows and we both cried and all this type of stuff but here’s the thing. There’s the incident that people were talking about this thing that happened and I’m having to talk about why we do the podcast. Verbatim, my first response was like, “I’ve been doing the podcast for many years now. I do it because it is good for my mental health.” If you asked me this in year one, why I do it, I don’t even think I would have given that same answer. I would have said, “Because it’s fun. I do it with Ryan, it’s fun. We get to laugh, it’s hilarious, people watch it,” which is all still true. When you do it as long as we do, it’s honestly creating like a digital journal. Everything is documented on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
I started writing in a journal in the past year but I literally have something I can watch and hear what I said years ago and see, “Do I align with that still? Do I feel differently?” It’s good to get these thoughts out and talk to someone else, whether it’s Ryan or guests as well, and unpack things. There have been plenty of times where I’ve heard Ryan say some shit on the podcast, then after he says, “I’ve never said this before out loud or publicly.” You can see it. When you’re listening to the podcast, it’s one thing where you can hear these conversations but then we also do the video and then people can see how we change. I sent someone one of my favorite clips of me and Ryan talking about the stock guy. That was 2017.
I don’t know the stock guy. What do you mean by that?
What I said was, “This girl was trying to say that a lot of girls isn’t shit.” I said, “That may be true but there are a lot of women who give credit to men who do the absolute bare minimum because the guys that they’re used to dealing with are trash.” I may ask this girl how her day was. She’s amazed because the guys that she’s used to dealing with literally don’t care anything. We’re average.
We’re saying like, “The stuff that you guys are surprised about or wild about. We came like this. This is stock. These are the basic features of a man, no bells and whistles. This is the basic model of the vehicle.” They’re like, “There are electric windows.”
If you’re a guy living in LA and you have your own place, car and a job, you’re already ahead of 90% of dudes out there. I get it, I’ve heard this thing too. Do you cry easier than Ryan?
Probably. We haven’t cried all that much on the show but I would assume so. I’m the more emotional one.
How do we measure that?
Frequency and intensity. I asked this only because I did a room on Clubhouse, When Was Your Last Good Cry? I was surprised, first of all, by the number of men who came to the stage to talk about either how long it had been or how it had been the day before. To sit and hear men talk in the mixed company among strangers about crying, there was a lot of crying in that room as you might imagine because people talking about their reasons why they were crying. It made other people cry. It’s a great skill as a man to be able to cry. When I asked you that, it wasn’t in a negative way. It was in a positive way.
I was genuinely asking how do you measure it? For me, I know every time I have cried and they’ve all been for the same reasons. I’ve been to a lot of funerals. I always cry at funerals. There’s only one funeral I haven’t cried at, and it felt weird not to cry but I didn’t cry because I was desensitized to it. I was mad that I didn’t cry because that means I’m so far gone and upset that I’m not even crying. I’m like, “This is scary.” I’ve gone to many funerals at this point that I’m not crying and this is weird. That best applies to me because this is the place where I usually would cry. I’ve dealt with so much death now that I’m not even crying. I’m like, “What is going on?” I cried when dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, a situation that came from family members. I’m being in the middle of dealing with that and being the only person to witness this. Everyone else in my family knows about it but they only know about it through me as a story. It is me as an experience that has to witness that thing. Even explaining it to people would make me cry. I explain the situation at one of our podcast live shows, which I didn’t plan to do but it came out based on the energy in the room.
Even explaining the story, I started crying again. I can’t even talk about it. Now, I’m more comfortable talking about it. At that time, it was still so fresh that I’m in a room full of 100 of our fans. We’re talking about mental health and it happened because I was like, “Most of you guys have never seen me cry. I’m always the strong, tough, hard-ass person and Mr. KOA that you know online. No one can break him and I never get heartbreaking in all this,” which is true in most cases. Seeing me cry made a lot of people cry because they’ve never seen me like that. That was a big moment for me in terms of my growth as a man and a person.
It solidified how therapeutic the podcast is because I would never do this in any other setting ever. I felt comfortable enough around with Zamour but the strangers in that room tune in every week and paid real money to come to watch us talk on stage. I’m like, “I don’t even know most of you guys but I felt to trust them.” My cries only come from trauma. I’ve never cried for anything else. I never cried from stress or being overwhelmed but it’s something traumatic that happens. That’s the only way it breaks me.
The fact that you can do it says a lot because too many men don’t get the message that it’s okay to do it. It’s healthy and useful to do it. To be able to have two friends who can support each other and even model that behavior that you’re close enough to do it is important. I realized, Ryan, you didn’t get to weigh in on how the podcast has affected the friendship for you.
It’s very similar to what Zamour said. The fact that we were laughing about it, it shows how intertwined he is in my life now. We both have fans we’ve developed through the podcast. We’ve developed some friends through the podcast. I like to call it we break people’s cherries on the podcast. A lot of people who’ve never done podcasts before they’re like, “I’ve never done a podcast. I’m shy. I’m nervous.” They come on ours and they’re like, “I want to come back.” It’s cool to even be that catalyst for some people to even get into the podcast space, whether it’s our podcast the first time they done it. Maybe some of them start their own podcasts, some people have started their own. Some people are now comfortable doing other people’s podcasts. I feel like we even facilitated for people’s comfort, people’s safe space for each other. I make the joke all the time. It’s not even a joke but it is a joke. You know how women’s periods are synchronized like Zamour’s and my relationships?
It’s a very accurate feeling.
It’s crazy like I’ll get a relationship, he’ll get one. He’ll break up, I’ll break up. I’ll get someone, he’ll find someone.
Since we’ve done the podcast, I’ve been in two relationships. Ryan has been in more but it just so happens that when I break up or I get out of the relationship, it’s literally the exact same time. It’s not like it happened to Ryan one month and it happens to me the next. In this last break up, I don’t know who said it first. I think you said you broke up and then days later, I said something in our chat. I didn’t even say broke up. It wasn’t a cryptic message. It might’ve been a GIF of the coach walking into the change room like I’m back in the game kind of thing. You were like, “Really?” I was like, “Yes.”
What’s funny is we don’t even consult each other before this happened. We’re not even manipulating the other to be like, “I want to break up.” We both get to a moment where we break up and we’re like, “You’re single too?”
Basically, your girlfriend should follow the other guy’s girlfriend on Instagram to know what’s about to happen. I want to finish up and do a little bit of rapid-fire with what comes to mind with regard to these topics. The first thing is what advice would you give your fellow men or friends about developing a remarkable friendship like the two of you have?
I’ll say don’t be afraid to be open because 9 times out of 10, you and your boys are either thinking the same thing or going through the same thing. When you’re younger, you don’t even want to talk about it because you’re afraid that it might emasculate you or make you feel less of a man. When you realize we’re all thinking the same thing, it makes things a lot easier to deal with.
I would say remove your ego. Egos are damaging in both friendships and relationships. We all have egos. There’s nothing wrong with ego in certain places, but the ego does not belong in friendships or relationships. Ego belongs in competitiveness, sports, work and anything that needs you to achieve something above somebody, whether to get a position, job or whatever. Ego is great there because it propels you. There’s no place for ego in a relationship or a friendship because you’re not trying to beat anybody.
There’s a saying in improv by Del Close, he’s the father of improv. He says, “We’re all supporting actors.” The idea is that as an improv group if everybody is trying to make everyone else into the star, then when it’s your time to shine, you’ll be able to shine. That’s well said. How do you feel about being single about your single life?
I honestly love it. My only thing is my goals are catching up to my age. What I mean by that is as much as I love being single, I do enjoy it. I also enjoy being in relationships as well. I always have but more so now, I have goals that involve a person. For those goals that happen such as having a kid, I want to have kids, that’s not even a negotiable thing. I definitely want to have kids and I don’t want to have kids with a single person. When I say single person, I mean we can both be single, we would be talking to each other but I don’t want to have kids while single like some random person. I don’t want to have a baby with some girl I’m sleeping with. Which would mean I’d have to know someone long enough, which essentially would be not some form of relationship.
I am more leaning towards meeting, knowing or being with someone in that capacity in order to have a child with them. That is a focus I have now that the next person I’m giving my time to like that, “Do you want to have kids in the next 3 to 4 years for real? If not then let’s not even because that is something I want to do.” I don’t view single as amazing as I used to because my communication and my authenticity of myself has risen. The reason I used to love being single is the fear I have of talking while in a relationship.
Single would seem it’s better because that’s the only time I was honest. I’d view single like, “I wish I was single because I could tell a girl I don’t want to see you. I could tell a girl I’m sleeping with somebody else. No one could do anything to you.” It was the freedom that came with single, not necessarily the act of being single. If I was in a relationship but felt I was single in terms of my personal behavior and my freedom, I would not mind being in a relationship.
The term solo gets used that way. It’s part of the reason I chose Solo as the title of this show and not calling it single. The idea of solo might have to do with relationship status. It more has to do with psychology. Not every single person is solo and not every married person is non-solo. It has to do a little bit with this notion of autonomy that you still are able to keep part of your identity. You don’t have to completely merge your life with this other person, as you were saying, live in fear of being your true self. Zamour, what are your feelings about being single? It sounds like you’re single less often.
I’m single way less often. I’ve been in a relationship 7 out of 9 years in my 20s so far. Being single now is very different. I live on my own, I have my own place.
You’d be very popular in LA.
I also have a car. I’m popular right now in Toronto. I will say that being single is pretty fucking great if I’m being honest with you. I’m used to being in long-term relationships. Now I have made the conscious decision that I am absolutely not getting into another relationship. I’m being very upfront about that with anyone I talk to until I am truly ready. I feel like a lot of the times I may have got in relationships because it was comfortable. I have a dog, the nickname we have is a lechein. French for dog.
I spent a lot of time in relationships. I’ve decided I’m no longer going to enter into another relationship until I know for sure that it is something that I truly want at that moment in time. I told Ryan there was a girl who was too straight up and told me she wanted to date. That’s what she wanted to do. I obviously declined. When he asked me why, I said, “I feel I’m too good for her. I felt I would be dating down,” even though aesthetically, she’s beautiful. Everything about her was amazing but I was like, “She’s not providing the things to me that I would need. If I enter that relationship knowing that I’m only being fulfilled and let’s say 5 out of 10 bangs, it’s going to cause problems down the road.” I don’t need to put myself in a situation that’s going to cause me problems. I’m now navigating life in my late twenties for the first time as a single person and try to navigate that with all the knowledge that I’ve accumulated over the past years doing this podcast where we’re constantly talking about being open with women and being very upfront. Now I know, I’m going to take everything that I talked about and put it into practice now. I enjoy being single.
You’re having fun with it, I can see. By the way, this is a cheat code. It’s to be able to look past someone’s physical attractiveness, see inside and recognize that may be appealing and exciting, that you adapt to looks much quicker than you adapt to someone’s intelligence, how cultured they are or how funny they are, something of that nature. That’s a step in the right direction. Related to what you two were talking about is this notion of authenticity. How do you work to be your most authentic self? This is something that I liked about you from the moment I listened to you. By virtue of having done this show for so long and for it to be such an honest, authentic representation of your views, that it now seems to be part of your personas even when WNTT is not happening. Is that fair to say?
It is 100% fair to say. When we started the podcast with guests or something, we’re like, “Pretend the camera is not on because this is just a conversation.” We record them so that they’re documented but we don’t turn anything on. There are some shows in some podcasts and stuff where people turn on the podcast voice or the podcast personality, which can be entertaining for some people because that is them when they are in the podcast. I am the same meat, Zamour is the same meat in and out of that podcast. It happens to be recorded, filmed and documented, but it’s not the same stuff I say there. It’s been relevant and crucial to my development as a person and tightly aligned with my life that women I meet that know I have a podcast, literally listened to the podcast and study me. They’re like, “I know you believe this shit.” These girls have been like, “I heard you in the podcast that you don’t like a girl that’s like this.” I’m like, “I did.” She’s like, “I heard in the podcast that you said you like girls that are like this.” I’m like, “I did.”
Ryan, didn’t we say that we’re done doing the whole dance whereas like, “I’ve got to get to know you and all this stuff?” It’s still going to happen. If a girl really wanted to get to know Zamour in 2021, she can listen to the last year’s podcast. She’ll listen to a couple of episodes and it’ll tell you quite a bit. A lot of women are always asking like, “The guy doesn’t talk about his feelings. He didn’t say all these things or tell me much.” It’s like, “Me and Ryan talk every week for two hours about everything. It’s there.”
Is the podcast a therapy for the two of you? You made that joke earlier.
I would say so.
Zamour even said, there have been numerous occasions where for the podcast, we don’t plan them but we have an idea of a topic. I’ll create a question for people to talk and discuss but the question isn’t the entirety of the podcast every week. The questions are the topic to create some discussion on their page. The podcast itself is completely freestyled. We’ve been freestyling for years. People who come to podcasts like, “This is what’s in the news. This is what’s happening, we’ve got to touch about this.” That’s fine too, I have no problem with it. There are people who literally have assigned topics this week, “We’re going to talk about this and this.” I’ve seen people who have their podcasts where they even have time slots, “From this time, we’re talking about this.” We have been freestyling for years and I don’t see it changing because that works and people love it because it’s been us. Because it’s freestyling, I say things I’ve never said for the first time on the podcast. It’s not planned. We dive into a hole about something. Someone asks me a question or Zamour asks me a question like, “Ryan, what about this? What are your thoughts on this?”
At that moment, I will give you my first-time thoughts on a topic that I’ve never talked about and now it’s public. I have many moments where I’m like, “That’s what I believe. I said it.” Because of that, it has been therapy. It’s almost like you’re talking to a shrink and they’re asking you questions. They’re not telling you anything. They’re not leading you anywhere. They’re like, “What do you think?” You’re, for the first time, being introspective and talking about something you never discussed before out loud to yourself but the thoughts are there. All that’s happening is Zamour or I are giving each other that space to try and express that.
Last question. What could break this remarkable friendship? What could break this comradery that you two have?
If I sleep at one of Zamour’s ex-girlfriends and vice versa.
I agree with Ryan, first off. I genuinely hate how straight-faced he is.
I’m not going to drop names. If I slept with the last person Zamour has a relationship with, he would hate me.
There would be no coming back from that.
That’s a line where it’s like, “That was deliberate.” Not only are these partners that we’ve had close to our hearts whether we’re with them or not.
It’s still meaningful even though the relationship has ended.
Not even that. Whoever these partners are that we’ve had, we introduced to each other. For you, there is no like, “I didn’t know. It just happened.” That’s very deliberate, “I’m going to fucking hurt this guy.” The only thing I can think of that would be no coming back from is if you deliberately went after one of his past loves, otherwise work stuff, business stuff, stupid, small fights. It had to be something where it’s like, “You’re trying to hurt me. This is crazy.”
I didn’t know what to expect by asking that question. Gentlemen, I feel lucky that I met you. I’m inspired by you. Your light-year is ahead of where I was at the same age. Part of the reason that you are is not only because you spend time talking to each other in this authentic way but also because you’ve embraced each other as friends. You’re growing and you’re making each other better people. That’s clearly obvious to me. This is part of a series on Making Remarkable Friends. What I hope in part to do is to inspire people to work on maintaining their good friendships that already exist, making them great to developing new ones. To be honest, if you have a bad relationship, bad friendship or toxic friendship, it might be time to move on from that. It’s important for people to see what a good friendship is like in order to recognize what a bad friendship is like. I thank you for your time and I will see you on Clubhouse.
I appreciate that, Peter. Thank you.
- The War of Art
About Zamour Johnson
Zamour Johnson is known in the world of media as TOPBOY. After quitting his 9 to 5, he turned his hobby of being a certified drone pilot into a business and now works full-time as an entrepreneur. Born in London England, Zamour lives in Toronto, Canada.
About Ryan Malcolm-Campbell
Known professionally as MR.KOA, Ryan Malcom-Campbell’s dreams of professional basketball were derailed when he was injured on his university basketball team. He went on to finish his business degree and lives in Toronto where he works in photography, video, animation, and a host of other entrepreneurial endeavors.
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