“Jon James is a positive person that feels like he knows his calling. He’s using his gift to show love and encourage others.”
When Jon James grew up, his mother listened to Gospel music. “All the singing just never caught me, but rhyming, that’s what caught me.” Loving hip-hop growing up, “it influenced my life to live out certain ways that I didn’t even think I would live myself.” Hearing artists rapping about women, money, and cars, he always wanted to be like them.
As a teenager he started rapping in a group with his friends called The Alumni. “I didn’t curse until I was in tenth or eleventh grade. The only reason why I started cursing was music. What I listened to started to put a little bit in my rhymes and then it became a habit of talking.” Recognizing that this went against who he wanted to be, he stopped cursing in his 20s.
“That’s how powerful music is.” Once when he was rapping “for the world,” James was performing at a concert and “saw this little kid. He couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old. He was singing one of my songs that was big around my area. It was a song called Choppers and Ks, so you know what that song is about.”
At that moment, James saw the cycle of music influencing youth in negative ways.
“What the music was putting in me, I was about to put into the next generation. I was like ‘Nah, man.’ I wasn’t even living that life.”
When he met his now-wife in 2003, he knew he needed to change his life. When he was in high school, seeing other “believers in Christ influenced me that I ain’t gotta be nobody else. I can be myself.” At that time, he decided to start reading the bible. To read what the bible said on his own instead of only listening to what other people told him about it made a big difference.
“Something just feels right. When you read the bible, its talking about love. Its talking about different testimonies of other people’s stories of what they went through.”
In 2006 he heard Trip Lee’s debut album If They Only Knew. Before then he hadn’t heard any Christian hip-hop that he enjoyed. “With me being a Southern dude, I heard his Southern swag and it just did something to me.” For a while James had wanted to change his life, to devote himself to God. Hearing If They Only Knew got him over the edge. After devoting his life to Christ, he was inspired to use his gift to do the same thing.
Perseverance is James’ newest album.
“No matter how tough it gets, no matter the struggles or whatever you may be going through, keep pushing forward. Not just yourself pushing forward, but the strength of God pushing you.”
In the recording process, after hearing a beat, “I feel like God speaks to me through that beat itself and I already know what to talk about. It just comes to me automatically.” When writing his lyrics that come to mind on a paper notebook, “it just flows real smoothly.”
In “Lord Knows,” James wants to encourage people facing challenges in their lives to take comfort in prayer and God’s plan. “If it wasn’t for God working in mysterious ways to get me back focused on Him, there’s no telling where I’d be.” Though many of his childhood friends have taken paths that have lead them into death, prison or other negative consequences, he was never one to give into peer pressure.
James believes he was protected from that life because of his “praying mother always looking out for me, showing me the best ways to do things and seeing someone have to overcome it.” Knowing that he could not overcome his obstacles alone, he wants to encourage listeners to ask God for help in their lives.
“When you read the bible there’s a lot of stuff that’s unanswered. That’s where faith steps in.” In “Free My Mind,” James is expressing seeing the turmoil of the modern world in the light of knowing that God is real.
“In the end I know somebody made all of this. It’s just too organized from the galaxy, all of the planets ain’t crashing into each other, the sun ain’t burning up everything.”
“1st Things 1st” is a motivational song to encourage people to work for what they want. “You can ask God for a lot of things, but He ain’t Houdini.” James certainly encourages prayer but reminds people that if they want something to happen, they have to put effort into it. “If you want it that bad you’ve gotta show God. The bible says faith without works is dead.”
“Show ‘Em” is a song where he portrays that “I wanna be the same person on stage that I am off stage.” When James is off-stage, he is not talking to everyone with whom he speaks about Jesus. “That’s never been me.” He seeks to be an example of a holy life following Jesus.
“When people see my lifestyle and see how I am and how I talk, when they get to know me they’re like ‘You’re really down to Earth…’” When people ask James why he acts the way he does, he then speaks about his faith. “I let my actions speak louder than words.”
“I love family. That’s one of my biggest things. Chilling with them.” He also loves playing basketball, watching action or comedy movies and being around friends from his church.
“I want people to see that I’m definitely working hard. I’m staying focused and I know that God will make a way to get me to the next level.”
From where he was in the past, not just in his music but in his life overall, he is pleased in where he is at and always seeks to stay positive and do better.