“I call myself a trapstar because I live in the hood and that’s just who I am. I’m a rockstar and I love to turn up.”
Rockstar JT is still young at age 19, but in his youth he said, “I was doing so much things that I know did not glorify God. I punched my sister in the face my eight-grade year. Got in a fight in school my eight-grade year.”
Before moving to Montgomery, Alabama in high school, JT grew up in New York. His grandmother forced him to go to the family’s missionary Baptist church where he sang in the choir. “One thing that the people always said is ‘Man, you’re mom always got y’all dressed nice when y’all come to church.’ I’m like, me dressing nice doesn’t mean my soul’s nice.” JT said though he went to church, he did not know the Lord.
One summer during high school, JT attended a boot camp for youth who got in trouble at school.
“It just took a lot out of me, because I’m like ‘God, who am I?’ I didn’t know who I was.”
In 2015, he had a life-changing experience at the Impact Conference. “I had to surrender to Him because if I hadn’t surrendered to Him, I wouldn’t have had no hope now… Through the midst of this I have a hope that I can depend on and that’s my hope in Christ.”
Though he loves the church, “The type of music I do, a lot of people won’t understand it in the church.” One of his songs, “Bricks for tha Low,” is an example of this. “Bricks is drugs, crack cocaine… a lot of people just hear them by the beat, but I’ve really got a message in there.
The song comes from the perspective of a drug dealer who is desperate and sees no other option than selling crack cocaine to feed his family.
“When I’m doing my shows, doing my music, and people [are] looking at me, like ‘How are you a Christian?’ I’m like ‘Bro, I don’t have to rap about Jesus on every single song. I have a biblical worldview on these situations and these struggles that I’m going through and I’m seeing in my hood.”
“I love Jesus, but I don’t have to get embracement from the church. Let the streets sign me. Honestly I do a lot of secular events and the streets respect it more than the church.” JT says that without a record deal and without support from the church, the streets are who signed him and support his music, hence the name of his new project Streets Signed Me: The Mixtape.
Despite this frustration from not being accepted by some people in the church, he wants people from the church to listen to and support his music so that they can understand the problems facing people in the hood and their perspectives.
“I’mma say it man, a lot of people when they look at my friends and the people I bring to my shows they are like ‘This thug,’ and I really feel disrespected by it because I’m like, ‘Man, we’re not thugs.’”
JT says that often stereotypes placed on young black men are retained and accepted by the people of God, “so I need them to hear what’s going on and the reason this dude is selling drugs, and the reason why these people are doing this or that… Cats aren’t selling drugs just to have fun. Dudes trying to make ends meet so that’s how they make ends meet by selling drugs. If I tell you to quit your nine-to-five and let your family starve you’re gonna look at me like I’m crazy. If you tell the drug dealer, this is the only place they’re getting their funds from to quit your job, which is selling drugs, and trust in the Lord, they’re gonna look at us like we’re crazy too because this is all they get to support their family.”
The title track of the mixtape introduces the project. “I believe that when people do intros, that mug has gotta be rockin’ if they’re a trap artist.” In the first verse, he introduces the listener to life in Montgomery. JT is having a hypothetical conversation with someone in his community who has a “red beam,” a pistol with laser targeting. “He sees his momma struggling so he has that [gun,] robbing people so he can try to make ends meet.”
In the second song, “Bricks for Tha Low,” he says,
“’I got the bricks for the low, whole team selling dope.’ All you see is there rappers glorifying dope, money, drugs women, you see that. I’m talking about how these dudes be doing that but at the same time they feel empty.”
He says that in Montgomery, Alabama, “When you’re riding down the street all you hear is hip-hop, but you hear a certain type of hip-hop. You’re not gonna hear dudes riding down the street bumping Kendrick Lamar or bumping J. Cole. You’re gonna dudes bumping Gucci Mane, you gone hear dudes bumping 21 Savage, you gone hear dudes bumping Lil Yachty and Yo Gotti.”
JT believes that hip-hop in itself is not a bad influence and wants to use his music to give people a positive message, a different perspective, in the same sound that they love. “You can bump it and still feel real when you listen to it.”
“Getcha Weight Up” is a motivational song. “When people sin against God, and I struggle with this too, when they sin they just walk around like ‘Oh, dirty me,’ you know, but I’m like ‘Man, get your weight up bro. Put that cross on your back bro and get it.’”
He wanted to get a variety of people’s perspectives the song. One of JT’s features, CBM Muley, is a Montgomery-based rapper who was formerly in a group with the late Doe B. “He’s reach 100k on YouTube and he has a good influence locally in the city. I’m like ‘Look, he’s got a good influence and I’ve already got a connection with him, that’s my brother. Let me give you a verse on this song so the listener can hear how your perspective of life is.’”
“He’s got a video with him holding an AK[-47 machine gun] with money all on the table, but at least he can even reference God in a verse. He was like, this street life isn’t gon’ get you nothing man. It’s time to wisen up.”
“I had a double cup in the video, “Getcha Weight Up,” two cups, it was like ‘Man, is he sipping codeine.’ I’m like ‘Bro, come on man, I love the Lord. Why would I be sipping codeine? It was apple juice.’”
“All I Ever Wanted” is a very personal song for JT. He says that for his whole life, he just wanted to be who he said he would be, not who other people judged him to be. “A lot of people hate on me bro. For some reason people don’t like me, you feel me? Not everybody. Some people do like me, but there’s a few people who don’t respect, don’t like me for some reason and there’s a few people who said I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
In the song, he prays for his haters while he is living his dream. “I’mma just pray for you. I’m not gonna hate you back.”
“Whippin’ Dat Work” features Surf Gvng. To whip work means to cook crack cocaine. “I threw them on the song because they’re Christians, but they’ve been through the same thing.” JT says it’s a really fun song and encourages people to work hard to share the gospel.
“We whippin’ that work in the sense of evangelism and the fruits of the spirit. We’re doing things that glorify the Lord.”
“I’m a rapper but I’m a rockstar. The reason I’m a rockstar is because I rock out… Rockstar in my perspective means young, wild, and free from sin, standing on the solid rock shining for the Lord’s glory.” He says that Jesus is our rock, but also like a star in that He brings light to the world. “I want to be something extra.”
The final song of Streets Signed Me, “Hey, God,” features Big Yae and Montell Fish; each verse features an artist crying out to God. “Sometimes I drift away and [think,] ‘God, do you really love me?’” JT says though sometimes he doubts Jesus’ love for him, he knows that he must always run to the Lord for all the good things He brings to life. “I’m running back because I want You back,” he says in the song.
He is not afraid to shout out cries to God, noting that Jesus did so when He was being crucified. “Come here Lord, I’m in my last leg and really need your grace,” said JT about the song.
Outside of music, JT works with youth at an after-school program and loves to hang out with his friends.
“I believe the Lord is using me to bring hope to a lot of lives that I’m involved with in my hood and just in the community period.”
You can follow Rockstar JT on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
You can get Streets Signed Me: The Mixtape on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. You can listen on Spotify.