55.6 F

Davis, California

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Talking with the stars

If you go to former Davis resident David Johnson’s Twitter page, everything looks normal, apart from one thing. His occupation is listed as “Jay-Z’s Penpal,” in reference to the superstar rapper.

“People just want to be heard and understood,” Johnson said. “I just wanted validation that what I was doing was on the right track.”

After networking with various people, including his wife and celebrity photographer Jessica Johnson, Johnson found Jay’s e-mail address. Using a legal e-mail tracker, Johnson can see if and when his e-mails have been opened.

Johnson has been e-mailing the celebrity since 2010 and the tracker confirms that Jay has opened Johnson’s messages. He has not only opened the e-mails, but re-opened them, quite possibly due to the material he has sent. Johnson does not forward chain letters, send cute cat videos, or even try to ask the celebrity questions. Rather, he sends poems, song lyrics and essays on race.

“I think it’s pretty inspirational that this guy can be persistent and influence Jay-Z,” said Chris Lagrossa, a first-year law student. “[It’s] extremely impressive.”

During one of Jay’s recent tours, Johnson found poems being opened from places all over the world.

“What’s also kind of weird is that my wife and Beyoncé were pregnant at the same time,” Johnson said. “I wrote to Jay, telling him the name of my child, Aqua. A week later, they announce the name of their child, Blue. Weird coincidence? Possibly.”

Despite such a major accomplishment, and such an interesting coincidence, Johnson is more than a hardcore Jay-Z fan; he’s a prolific writer trying to reach out to someone that has the ability to influence millions of people. He not only e-mails Jay-Z, but also Oprah, Spike Lee and Tyler Perry.

“As an African American, I want to write them my thoughts on how black people should be treated,” Johnson said. “I believe that throughout black history, we are the only race that doesn’t take pride in helping each other and I think money is part of it.”

He added that Jay-Z is a prominent voice for the black community exemplified by his lyrics, which is one reason why e-mailing him and actually having his e-mails read by him is such an achievement toward the goal of open-mindedness.

“Minds are like parachutes; they only function when they’re open,” Johnson said.

One of Jay-Z’s recent songs, “Run this Town,” uses the lyrics “Pledge your allegiance/Get your fatigues on, all black everything/Black cards, black cars, all black everything.” The rapper has also been in various interviews, such as one with the Hip-Hop Cosign where he talks about racism, violence and the n-word.

Aside from being somewhat of a celebrity correspondent, Johnson created his own publishing company, Davis Boy Publishing. He has written and published six books for Davis Boy Publishing so far to help disperse his message in another medium. His first book, “Lost and Found,” is about his life in Davis.

Johnson moved 26 times while he was in Davis and lived a tough time through poverty and struggle in a town where those two words are often missing.

And while his name is attached to Jay-Z in various Google searches, the writer has made an impression on others as well. Diego Silva, a fifth-year mechanical and aerospace engineering major, commented on the magnitude of Johnson’s work and the message he tries to put across.

“It’s good to be persistent with a goal in mind,” Silva said. “I would keep going at it, especially with that message.”

DOMINICK COSTABILE can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


  1. Holly crap, this is an amazing story!! I met this guy at a book signing in the bay area while visiting my parents during break. Freaking awesome guy! He spoke with my parents and I for damn near an hour. I bought a copy of his book Lost and Found and had a chance to meet his wife and two children. Big heart, well mannered kids and a freaking hot wife! Sorry David, I had to mention that last part about your wife LMAO. You have it all.
    Bro keep up all of this phenomenal sh*t! Happy for you dude.

  2. My boyfriend and I were also approached by Mr. David Johnson. Once by him personally and a few other times by individuals that I assume worked for his company. He was very respectful and polite. He complimented me on my eyes and told my boyfriend and that he has a “great smile.” He then asked if we would like to be on the cover of a book that he was finishing up. We thought it was some kind of joke at first so we told him that we would think about it. He asked for our emails and our cell phone numbers. We. I declined to give him my number but my boyfriend was happy to give out his own information. Later that night my boyfriend asked why I chose not to give him my number? I told him it was because I was not interested in being on the cover of Mr.Johnson’s book but the real reason was simply because of his race. I feel horrible about it and after reading this article about him, I feel even worse. I think it was written all over my face because when I responded with not giving out my contact information, he looked at me and said “I’m not your enemy.”He. I figured it out later.

    My boyfriend and David met for coffee a couple of times after that. My boyfriend chose not to be on the cover because I decided not to be. Now I wish that I would have! His books are very interesting and full of unique lessons. As a history major, I applaud his work.

    To make a long story very short, if you ever read this comment David Johnson…I am so for prejudging you that day and if you ever need a cover model again please contact me KimBrownHistory@yahoo.com

    *I also wanted to respond to the comment above. I think your friend most likely you misunderstood Johnson’s approach and may have reacted out of racism without really knowing it, just as I did. Just a thought.

  3. How dare you feature this creep. This man harassed and borderline stalked a female friend of mine after approaching her in a parking lot. He then looked her up online and made unsolicited attempts to contact her and see her. She had to file police reports with UC Davis police in order to have them take action and confront him to request he cease and desist before a restraining order was filed. He then claims she was put off by him due to the color of his skin. He uses his race as an excuse and is nothing more than a predatory creep.

    And from a journalistic stand point, this is not a story. He emailed celebrities trying to advance his own agenda and for all we know they were opened by secretaries or assistants.

    Look into his criminal record and put in some due diligence before featuring such a creep on the front page. I can no longer read The Aggie with pride and will not pick it up again. Shame on you.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here