8 Things You Need To Succeed: Interview with KJ-52
Isaac Newton once said that “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” In the Christian Rap/Hip-Hop scene, KJ-52 is a gargantuan. KJ has been making hits since Tamagotchi’s were a thing and even has a Guiness Book of World Records in his name. He’s made christian music professionally for his entire adult life and has been a professional Christian rapper in an impressive, scandal-free manner. Seriously, his biggest controversy was evangelizing to Eminem through the song Dear Slim. In his 20+ years of being a public figure, that’s all that they could get him on. Good Job KJ.
With the experience of a notable veteran, we’re lucky enough to climb up on his shoulders and see how to make it as a Christian Rap artist. Here’s the amazing things KJ-52 had to say:
Make Sure It’s God’s Will
“Ultimately you need to sit back and ask if this is the will of God for your life. Pray about it. Consult with God. To make it as a Christian musician, you need to take the role of a missionary. If you were a missionary in a foreign land, would you know the language? You have to learn your mission field to make an impact.”
Hone Your Craft
“What is it going to take to make you more effective? You must be committed to being excellent at what you do. Hone your craft. Being a professional Christian Hip-Hop artist is no different than any other profession. You have to work hard and continually improve. Make no mistake- there is no substitute for repetition. If you want to improve, keep at it until you’re happy with it. That’s even more true today. When I first started out, the best way to succeed was to hit up all the labels until you signed a deal. Once you were signed then you could do it on a big scale. Back then, the music industry was like a big government like the USSR and they could pick and choose the hits you listened to. Today, labels cannot predict a successful artist. You have to prove yourself as a successful musician before you get noticed. You have to gain your fans. When you get enough influence, then and only then do labels notice you.”
Understand It’s a Process
“Don’t try to skip steps. You can’t go from start to the fifth step. Nope- not at all. You gotta go through steps one through four first. Today especially, you’re not going to launch a multi-state tour if you have never performed before.
“First and foremost you need goals. And goals come from a clear vision of what you want to do. Don’t be so hyper- focused on your goals and lose your vision. Rather you need to have vision to create short-term and long-term good goals. Start with the end goal and work backwards. Keep working backwards until you get to right now. What is it that you want to do? What can you do right now? Let’s say you want to perform concerts on a tour. Take that bigger picture and make it into a written goal. ‘I want to be on the road doing tours by (insert date)’ and then work backwards. What do you need in place before you can hit the road on your Christian Hip-Hop tour? Work on some short-term goals like ‘I am going to complete (X) amount of songs by this date’. Overall, the best advice is to set a large goal and then work backwards into bite-size pieces.”
Define your audience
“In today’s environment, you are better off finding a smaller platform and a smaller audience. They will propel you. Labels can no longer predict the new hit song- the people determine the hits. Music is now like tribal kingdoms and each tribe elects their officials. With that analogy, how do you get elected?
In order to do that, you have to get support from your tribe. Who’s your tribe? That’s for you to decide. When I started, we had fewer options than what we have today. If fans weren’t physically around me, it was hard to reach them. Nowadays you can connect with people who think like you and like what you like very easily. With that being said, get some tunnel vision with who you’re trying to hit. If you’re trying to define your audience as ‘everybody’, then nobody will connect to your music. Your fans are typically people who think like you.”
“Around my 2nd album, I decided that you as the listener will get my entire personality. Most artists give one side of themselves and that’s ok, just not me. Many artists stay within the realm of one aspect of their personality partly because of insecurity and partly because of inexperience.
Nowadays, there’s really no excuse to be inauthentic. There’s so much more artistic freedom than there was- so make music for people who think like you rather than who live next to you. I can now make the music I wanted to make 15 years ago. It’s tougher to do, but it’s better when it’s done. Everybody’s like, just be yourself! And you’re like, I don’t know who I am! Being authentic can be difficult- you’re still figuring yourself out. Life’s a journey. Read the bible and pray to God. You will find your answers.
Most people live their lives going with the herd and that’s probably why I’m still around- I’m not following the herd, I’m doing what other people decided not to do in Christian Hip Hop and that’s how I’m still here. I found my own voice and I spoke my own voice. People criticized me a lot in my early career for rapping to the church youth groups but it’s those church group demographic that’s sustaining me today. That’s the group that really like my latest project, Sons of Intellect re-release + new EP. On there, I have a song called I’m good. It’s a song that talks about what nobody talks about. Nobody’s rapping about what it’s like to be a father in your late 30’s and mid 40’s. It’s a song that I wanted to write for a while and didn’t have the outlet. Nobody’s talking to that demographic and everybody just kind of skips over the details and nuances in that time of life. My first fans are in that stage right now, it really connects with them, and they are very supportive.”
Go the Extra Mile
“In addition to being authentic, you still have to be mainstream. Of course you can always just go to the beat of your own drum, there’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t expect to become relevant and gain supporters. You have to be different and mainstream at the same time to make it. It takes more effort, it takes more time, and it definitely takes falling on your face more. Many people don’t want to put in that much effort.
In addition, We burn through music so much faster than what we used to. I benefited from fewer music selections in the beginning of my career. Since there were fewer choices, you were happier with the choices that you had. It was less of a throwaway culture back then. Now you have to do more just to stay relevant. People jam to your music for a little bit and then they are onto the next thing. That’s nothing against you as an artist, it’s just how people consume music today. Go the extra mile and again, there’s no substitute for repetition. You can do it.”
Be A King
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to search it out. Proverbs 25:2
“I live by that bible passage. God’s desire for your life is ahead of you. Be a king and discover it. The only limitations are the ones you put on yourself.”
As iron sharpens iron, Thank you KJ for all the hard work you’ve endured to stay in the Christian Hip Hop and Christian Rap Game. God Blessed KJ as an out of box thinker and that’s how he’s been able to be a professional Christian Hip Hop artist for two decades. He does what he thinks is best and he’s reaped the rewards. At Rap Remnant, we want you to develop the discernment as KJ-52 has done and show your thanks to this Christian Hip Hop veteran by supporting his latest project Sons of Intellect re-release + new EP. For every KJ-52 fan, this is one thing you don’t want to ignore. One of his favorite songs on this project was Blame It On The Hop Hop, because sometimes, as an artist, when you complete something, you can step away and admire you own work. On Blame It On The Hop Hop, KJ-52 said exactly what he wanted to say, he’s proud of his word play, and he’s proud of what he said. It’s a beautiful thing to say everything you want to say and leave nothing on the table.