“I’m a husband. I am an artist. I create Christian hip-hop music.”
Omaha, Nebraska artist J. Crum grew up listening to hip-hop. “It intrigued me, and I think the fact that it wasn’t allowed [at home] made me want to discover more of it.” When his mom found out he was listening to hip-hop, she decided to find him some Christian hip-hop to listen to.
Growing up in an abusive household, Crum saw his father hit his mother. “It was hard to see. We were going to church every once in a while, and I remember hearing the pastor talk about how God will be your protection, God will save you, and everything like that.” That day at age 10 was the first time Crum remembers praying.
“I gave my life to the Lord, and God made a miracle happen. My dad ended up leaving the house, removing [us] from that abusive situation.”
In high school, Crum said that he was not following his faith as well as he could have. At age 15, Crum faced an extreme illness.
“I got a brain infection, and I almost died.”
He was in a comatose state for three days. “When I woke up out of it, I had a tube coming out of my head. I was strapped to a hospital bed. I realized, ‘Man, tomorrow may not be promised for me.'” At that moment, he knew he had to get serious about his walk with Christ. He had surgery on his brain, and later an MRI showed that the infection was gone.
During that time of poor health, he missed a lot of school but studied and did his schoolwork from home. He got ahead of schedule, and when he came back to school, he went to study hall without having any work to do.
“I spent my study halls writing raps. That’s how I got started.”
Last Friday, Crum released an album called Villains. “It’s really just about how even the worst of us can find redemption.” He wants listeners to understand that “there’s nothing too awful or horrible we can do that can separate us from God’s love.”
He calls Villains his most introspective and personal album; Crum speaks about his struggles with depression and suicide, “feeling not good enough,” his marriage and more.
“I really just pull the curtain behind my own struggle and my own problems, my own issues.”
The album artwork was illustrated by Eric Flacko and Odd Makes Art. “It was really cool because they tied a lot of the different elements of the songs into the cover.” Every part of the artwork corresponds to one of Villains‘ songs and the message within them.
“Underdog” was inspired by Crum’s feelings that he has been an underdog throughout his life. “In a lot of ways I think I’ve been counted out, whether that be in the natural or spiritual [sense.] It’s easy to look at someone and be like, ‘They’ll never be this. They’ll never be that.'”
Crum says that by God’s grace he has been able to silence and overcome those negative thoughts and encourages listeners to do the same.
“I think all of have moments where we might feel like underdogs.”
“No Way” is a song of perseverance. “No matter what happens, we are not gonna stop.” The song features fellow artist and friend T-Vision and Crum describes it as light-hearted and uplifting. “We’re doing it all for Jesus.”
In “Falling Skies,” Crum speaks about his faults. “It talks about how there is nowhere to run under these falling skies.” He encourages listeners to endure the difficult times of life and deal with their faults by depending on God.
“It’s easy to try to lean on your own arrogance and your own pride, but understand that you also have to trust God’s grace and trust his plan and understand that you’re not alone in this.”
“Jive Turkeys” is an honest song where Crum speaks about his feelings of jealousy and envy. For example, he sees artists whose music is not as good as his, but they have a larger platform, and he thinks that is something he deserves. “I want all of that. It’s really just a villain showing himself in that sense.” Despite his envy, Crum knows that he needs to find contentment outside of his position and prominence.
A placebo is a non-drug pill used in drug trials: some people are given the actual drug, and some are not, but patients don’t know the difference. In Crum’s song “Placebo,” he gets transparent about his battle with depression and suicidal thoughts.
“We try other things instead of God to help whatever ailments that we have… instead of me trusting God for my peace and my protection and my security, I begin to lean on different things.”
“You Are” is a song to God “where it’s like, ‘God, I know you are all [of] these things. I know that deliverance is coming. I know that peace is coming and I know all that, but I don’t feel it right now.'” Crum says that despite his hardships, he must trust that God is who He says He is. He wants listeners to know that God is always present with them.
Crum first met his wife Jessica at an event.
“As soon as I heard her singing and worshipping, I knew that I had to found out who she was.”
They have been married for two years. After he heard the beat for what would become the song “Fly,” he thought, “she has to be in this in some way. I had her try out the hook, and she killed it.”
The song speaks about how though life is hard, Christians can persevere because “we know that at the end of it we’ll fly. We know that we’ll meet God. We know how the story ends.”
In “Pitfalls,” Crum speaks honestly about his faults and sins. “I think we all have things that we have a habit of falling into.” He prays that God will help him to rise above his pitfalls and not continue to fall into sin and encourages listeners to do the same.
“Keep your head up. Keep rising. Stay encouraged. As we fall and struggle through [life], understand that God has us.”
J. Crum describes his style as diverse and seeks to show that in Villains. “The project is very diverse in my opinion. We see some rock elements. We see some old school hip-hop. There’s some lo-fi in there. We also have a little bit of soul. [I’m] just trying to dive into different genres.”
Outside of music, J. Crum works with youth and is planting a church.
“I love ministry. I’m very big on being part of the local body.”
He enjoys watching movies, playing videos, and spending time with his wife. His top three favorite movies are Dope, The Departed, and the newly released Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Get Villains here. Stream it on Spotify.