For those of you that don't know me, I'd thought it would be interesting to share that I didn't even know what rap was until I was 14 years old. My mother is a U.S. diplomat, and I grew up in Russia, China, Taiwan, and Uzbekistan.
When I was 14 years-old I moved to the Washington D.C. area for a couple years, and turned on BET and heard rap for the first time. It took me all of one Ja Rule song to fall in love, and from then on HIP HOP was my drug of choice.
Whether it was Jay Z singing "H to the IZZO, V to the IZZA", or me completely empathizing with the pain Eminem felt as he talked about his childhood, I always found myself taking any beat I heard and adored, flipping it in my head, and making it my own with a new set of melodies and lyrics.
Although the gospel and specifically the atonement of Jesus Christ is what has allowed me recover from the pain of the first 17 years, as Lupe Fiasco says "HIP HOP saved my life". Because I didn't gain a testimony until I was 22, as I was growing up I looked to the comfort that rap music gave me as an escape from the constant turmoil that was my life. It wasn't until recently that I found out why I had such a connection to rap music and why it had always been a therapeutic remedy.
According to intuitionminds.com "Research indicates that engaging in rhythm producing techniques accelerates physical healing, boosts immunity, and helps people process trauma and chronic stress."
As a 17 year old in my final year of High School living in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, my little brothers friend came over one day with his computer because he had just gotten some software to record music. As I peeked into my brother's room to see what they were doing, I got invited to join in. As I listened to the beat they had created, immediately the lyrics and melody to a chorus came to mind, so I sang it for them. Feeling validated by their response, I quickly wrote some rap verses and we recorded it. From that moment on I was writing and recording.
Freshman year in 2004 the other 3 black people at BYU and I formed a rap group called ACLASS and in 2008 I even started a Hip Hop band called "James Devine". I continued to make music up until my mission. Below is a vid that will not only show you how far I've come video wise, but also to confirm that I haven't aged a day in the last 8 years.
On my mission, I had a lot of experiences where I became frustrated when members of the church were either unwilling or too afraid to share the gospel with their friends and neighbors. I even ran into members who were too scared to let anyone outside of church know they were Mormon. When I returned home from my mission I made a commitment to myself and the Lord that there would never be an opportunity for someone to question what I believed or stood for, so 2 days after I got back from my mission I changed all my social media handles to @jamesthemormon.
This leads me to the reason for the title of this blog post, and also the title of the first secular album I've ever released. "Im not a rapper". Although I love rapping as a hobby, and as I mentioned before, it is extremely therapeutic for me to create, I'm am absolutely NOT pursuing rap as a career. I have very specific motives, and that is to bring souls to Christ. Although I have released music that mentions LDS beliefs and doctrine, do not get it confused ... I am not making music for Mormons. I'm make music to be used as a tool to share the gospel. Even in the album "PMG", which outlines each lesson taught by the missionaries from the Restoration to enduring to the end, not once did I use the word Christ, God, or Joseph Smith. I wanted to bring the Sprit and talk about truth with out preaching it. I wanted members to share those songs with their non member and less active friends hopefully prompting the response "I like that, what's it about?", turning a rap song into a teaching opportunity.
4 days ago I opened up for the national act "2 chainz". Because of the nature of the show, each act before and after mine had a similar agenda, and vulgarity was a definite common thread. In my opinion, the opportunity to perform in front of the type of crowd that would typically attend a 2 chainz concert, was not by coincidence. For 20 minutes we gave them a taste of clean truth delivered with vibe that they were familiar with,and seemed to enjoy.
I'm Not a Rapper delves into topics such as my extremely abusive childhood, my issues with communication in relationships, my divorce, how I deal with contention, even what motivates me to keep going. I worked hard not only to make something entertaining, but something real. A true piece of my soul is in each lyric and I'd like to share that with you. My hope is that if you love it you'll share it with others; members and non members alike, and that indirectly, regardless of your personal beliefs or faith, the world can see that a Mormon is not always a smiling white face from Utah in a white shirt an tie, riding a bike. Rather, that we are all different with our own trials and problems. That a "Mormon" is not defined by the rules we keep, but instead by the person we turn to when misfortune comes our way.
It would greatly be appreciated if you would
- Download the album, and enjoy it; but also
- Leave a genuine iTunes review.
As the album receives more downloads and reviews, the project moves up in the iTunes ranking. Each review attached to a download puts the CD in front of more people searching for "HIP HOP/ RAP", and who knows they might even be searching for our message without knowing it ;)
Also Final Thoughts
- "I'm Not a Rapper" also available on Spotify and any music streaming service.
- if you wanted to follow me on social media (Instagram, twitter, snapchat) just search @jamesthemormon
- Feel free to email me any thoughts feelings or emotions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
K. Love you. Bye.