by Tracy Darlington
"I think there needs to be a lot of rappers who need to grow up in the industry and learn a degree of spiritual maturity. Then we’ll see it take off." --KJ-52
KJ-52 is the first to admit that his gig doesn't make much sense.
"A white dude from the suburbs and inner city of Florida doing Christian rap and driving a minivan?" KJ says. "None of that makes sense. No one says, 'That's the formula, right there!' But at the end of the day, it just proves that God did it."
The absurdity of his situation hasn't stopped him from becoming one of the hottest rappers on the Christian hiphop scene, as evidenced by his appearance with the massive Festival Con Dios & Winter Jam Tours, his 2004 Dove Award for Rap/Hip Hop Album of the Year (for "It's Pronounced Five-Two") and his 2005 Dove Award nominations for Rap/Hip Hop Recorded Song of the Year (for "Back in the Day") and Rap/Hip Hop Album of the Year (for "Soul Purpose"). In fact, KJ wears it as a badge of honor. It just proves that God can do great things with small things that are surrendered to His purpose.
Tracy: Has music always been a big part of your life? If so, what music would you say influenced you most as a child?
KJ: Yes, it has. In my home growing up we always had music playing, be it top 40 (80s music), reggae, Bob Dylan. Even though we weren’t a musical family per se (I never learned any instrument growing up), there was always an appreciation for music---all types and forms. I went through a few phases growing up, but the biggest influence was obviously hip hop.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a musician?
Probably when I was around 12. I started messing around with scratching records (and breaking them) on my turntable in my house. However, I wasn’t just into the idea of music. I wanted to know how it was put together.
What can people expect at a KJ-52 concert?
Fun, energy and a good time coupled with (hopefully) relevant ministry.
Can you tell me a story someone’s shared with you about how one of your songs affected their life?
All the time kids are sending me letters, emails etc. Those are the things that keep me going. Usually it’s anywhere from kids being encouraged to actual salvations.
What process do you take in writing a song?
Usually I get a hook idea, or a concept, and try to build it from there in relation to the track. Then I try to flesh it out lyrically.
Where do you do most of your song writing?
Lately at a Starbucks downtown in my hometown area of Southwest Florida.
What kind of music would you love to write, but haven’t yet?
Probably rock music. It’s a whole different area for me that I wish I could do.
How does your faith come into play in your writing and performing?
It’s the basis and foundation of everything I do and will do.
Music can be a powerful influence in a person’s life. Could you talk about some of the bands and songs that have impacted your life?
Early 90’s hip hop, early 80’s music. Too many to list! (Laughs.) A lot of the mid 90s Christian music had a big impact on my early walk with Christ.
Out of all your albums which would you say is your favorite and why?
Behind the Musik because I said exactly what I wanted to say in the way I wanted to say it.
Christian music has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years. Do you have any thoughts on the future of Christian music, especially hip-hop?
I think there needs to be a lot of rappers who need to grow up in the industry and learn a degree of spiritual maturity. Then we’ll see it take off.
Your songs talk a lot about pop culture. Is that a conscious decision on your part or do the pop culture references come organically as you write a song?
It’s a little of both. I love pop culture, but I also reference it in order to connect with fans, people etc.
Have you ever had any unusual or embarrassing moments while you were performing on stage?
The usual falling down, falling off the stage and/or falling down off the stage.
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
That I wear glasses and that I’m relatively tall (6’2”).
Do you have any new projects planned for down the road?
Working on the new KJ record right now
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you pick and why?
Jesus, for obvious reasons. Other than that, probably one of the disciples . . . just to see what it was like.
What are three items always found in your refrigerator?
Redbull, water and bread.
When you’re not playing music, what do you enjoy doing?
NOTHING!!! I enjoy decompressing from my insane life and doing nada.
Besides the Bible, what book are you reading now?
A book on music theory.
What’s currently in your iPod?
A TON of music. Plus a lot of DVDs I’ve ripped down to watch.
Is there anything you do to beat stress and keep yourself in shape while you’re on the road?
Running and working out. I work out about 4 times a week.
You’re in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
Tall quad vanilla latte. I have one every day. Sometimes two to three times. It’s like pure espresso with a hint of vanilla.
Anything else you’d like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers?
www.kj52.com (Check it out!)
Tracy Darlington is a freelance writer, and her work has appeared in Brio, Breakaway, YS, CCM Magazine, Insight, Susie Magazine, and other publications. She has interviewed countless Christian musicians including Rebecca St. James, Delirious, Newsboys, Leigh Nash, Barlowgirl, Krystal Meyers, Joy Williams, Pillar, Michelle Tumes, and many others. In her spare time she can be found riding horses or listening to music and sipping a Venti 3-shot sugar-free vanilla latte. Visit her online at her blog where she talks about Music, God, dogs and coffee. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.