“[I’m] an artist from New Jersey who loves Jesus, who has a passion to share truth from a biblical worldview.”

YP aka Young Paul said that he grew up in a broken home and saw violence commonly from an early age. Hip-Hop was also a big part of his life growing up: he and his friends sought to emulate their favorite rappers, for good and for bad.

“When I was younger, I used to always love the idea of rhyming words together.”

YP’s dad would recite verses in front of him all the time. He became part of a rap group called GDG, short for ‘Gainst ‘Da Grain. “I was more like the goon. However, in the cut I would write rhymes and I would call my boy up like ‘Yo, here this verse.’” His friend encouraged him to pursue rapping, but YP thought “there’s too many people trying to squeeze in that little door.”

Sometimes his friends would go to Newark, the biggest city nearby, to freestyle with others. “When I came to the Lord He revealed to me that this is what He wanted me to do, it was the language that the youth understood.”

YP grew up going to church on occasion but wasn’t very familiar with a life of faith. YP became a father as a teenager, but the mother of his kids moved to Florida after some time.

“She came back from Florida and she asked to speak to me and [said] it was urgent.”

When YP went to talk to her, “she started talking to me about Jesus. She was like ‘Look, I just want you to know that I gave my life to Jesus, I love God and I’m praying for you.’”

Not taking her seriously, “I’m thinking, ‘So I can’t have sex with you or nothing like that?’” She said no. “I remember I got out of the car, felt like it was weird, it was boring, eerie, I just didn’t like it. I was just like, ‘I gotta get out of here.’”

YP remembers another time where he was hanging out with his friends on the street. “It was a situation with a rival gang at another high school. I had my shirt off. We’re young, wilding, and she [his ex] pulls up on me and she’s like ‘Yo, this is the life that you wanna live?’”

She got upset when he disregarded her warning and started crying but told him she was praying for him. Things kept getting weirder for YP.

“Everywhere I went, someone would approach me about the Gospel.”

One day when riding the train, “some dude comes up to me says ‘Look, I just feel lead by God to talk to you.’ He just starts spitting me the Gospel.”

Another day he was about to get in a fight and “this lady gets into the middle of us and she starts screaming at me that God is calling me, God is calling me.”

“I was kind of bugged out by all of this.”

He also started meeting people from his neighborhood that had given their lives to Christ. “I saw a difference in them, so I started asking them questions.” All of these encounters made YP think about God regularly. He remembers one time being on drugs, saying to himself, “Why am I high [and] thinking about God?”

“Because all of these people were just randomly preaching to me, I knew there was something more than just this weird stuff that I’m experiencing. I felt like God was calling me.”

One Halloween night, YP and his friends went to a party where they encountered members of a rival gang and got into an intense fight. After the fight, “my eyes were closed. I had imprints of Timberland boot marks on my face… I could’ve lost my life that day.”

That night after the police took him home, he was smoking a blunt with his friend and said,

“Yo, I’m tired of this life. Look at my face… God is calling me and He’s using calamity to grab my attention.”

After that, YP became open to going to church. “Now I’m eager to hear what this pastor has to say. Now I’m eager to feel the vibe of these people.” Going to a Pentecostal church that his friend invited him to, he was caught off guard by people who were shouting and speaking in tongues.

“They do altar calls and are real radical about how they do their altar calls. They pretty much pulled me to the altar… I gave my life to Jesus. I proclaimed it with my mouth, but my heart wasn’t in it.”

That same friend kept inviting him to a Tuesday evening Bible study. YP was upset that he needed to go to church on a Tuesday, and that the first day he was invited to go was a rare warm day in the winter. “I remember telling him straight up, ‘I don’t wanna be here.’” His friend said, “That’s dope that you’re being honest like that. Why don’t you talk to God about it? Right there, go to the altar and pray.”

When YP went to the altar, he got on his knees, saying in his head,

“God, if you’re real like they say You are, I’m a man that’s addicted to the world, I’m addicted to women, I’m addicted to drugs, I’m addicted to the lifestyle. If You’re real the way You say You are, You need to deliver me.”

During the Bible study that ensued, they put on a sermon from Paul Washer that made YP think hard about his life and his relationship with God. “I had to be real with myself like ‘Nah, I don’t think I’m saved.’ I feel like the Holy Spirit was revealing all that to me. I feel like that’s when the regeneration began to happen. My heart was being changed and I started thinking differently.”

Stay tuned for part two where YP talks about his new mixtape, Summer Barbarian. Check out Summer Barbarian here.

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