“J. Crum is first and foremost a man of God. I’m a husband and a Christian hip-hop artist.”
Omaha, Nebraska artist J. Crum started listening to Christian hip-hop in his youth back in the 90s. Artists and groups such as Gospel Gangstaz, The Cross Movement, and T-Bone were among his favorites back then.
He wrote his first rap at age fifteen. Due to a severe illness, J. Crum missed a lot of school and had a teacher visit his home to help him keep from falling behind. “I got ahead, so when I went back to school, I had three study halls. I was like, ‘I need to figure out what to do with my time.'” Being a huge fan of hip-hop, he had the idea of writing his own raps. “I downloaded a bunch of beats off of Soundclick back in the day and started writing to beats in my study halls.” He then received help from a member of his church to record his raps for the first time.
Last month, J. Crum released a new album, VIGILANTES VOL. 1, the first out of three planned editions. The message acts as a sequel to his January album, Villians. Villians discussed what comes next after a person living in a villainous manner decides to follow Christ.
“Now this is the process of, ‘God, I’m being used, and I’m navigating this thing. I know I’m not perfect, but I’m trusting you.'”
Perhaps the most fitting definition of vigilante in accord with the album is a self-appointed doer of justice. “You think of superheroes and comic books and stuff like that especially, like with Marvel. They’re very imperfect. They’ve got their own issues and problems, but they’re [still] trying to help lead other people.”
Overall, J. Crum wants listeners to “understand that you never arrive, but that God can use you anyways.”
J. Crum collaborated with nobigdyl. on “MADE FOR THIS,” a song explaining how people are made to follow God’s call on their lives. “I think sometimes we have doubts, and we don’t believe that we are cut out for what God has said we are supposed to be doing.” He believes that if God has called a person to do something, God will equip them with the ability and strength to do so.
“UNFAMILIAR” speaks on how the music industry, in particular, but also society, attempts to place individuals in boxes of how a person is supposed to act, look, etc. J. Crum notes the case of the rapper Future, who confessed in an interview, “I don’t do drugs. I don’t pop pills. I don’t do any of those things, but I have to keep talking about it in my music because the label tells me I have to.” The song’s chorus addresses the need to find identity and worth in God, saying, “Who You say I am is who I am.”
“There are people who need to know that there is hope in Christ, and we’re the ones that have gotta do it. If we’re not the ones who do it, who will?”
The fifth of VIGILANTES VOL. 1‘s nine songs is titled “LIL BIRD.” J. Crum feels called to plant a church and kept receiving advice against doing so. “They were saying, ‘Nah, you shouldn’t do that. Just pursue music. That’s best for you.'” These individuals were not only criticizing his ambitions but also taking advantage of J. Crum’s musical talents for their own benefit, continually expecting him to work for free. From this experience, Crum learned to “serve, but don’t allow overcontrolling leaders and churches to cripple you. If God has a purpose or plan for you, pursue those things.”
“ELEVATE” sought to encourage the listener with a message about rising above obstacles and adversity by trusting in God. For the past year, J. Crum has experienced countless instances of people and circumstances attempting to bring him down. He endeavors to always seek the high road when tempted to retaliate.
“As long as you set your eyes on Him, you’re going to rise above all that stuff.”
The following track, “ALRIGHT,” is a celebration of J. Crum’s marriage to his wife Jessica, who is featured on the song. They were hoping that the song would be fun, energetic, and one that listeners would want to play at their weddings. He first met her at an event at which they were both performing “and when I saw her, I was like, ‘Yo, I need to find out who she is.'” They have been married for three years, and J. Crum values “that we’re both there for each other. It’s the most accurate view of what Christ’s relationship is for us.”
VIGILANTES VOL. 1’s second-to-last song, “CHASE ME,” is a worship song reminding the listener about how God is always pursuing a relationship with them. “So many people think that we’re the ones who chase after God, but really he’s the one who chases after us.”
The album concludes with “ODD (OVERCOME THE WORLD).” The lyrics were provoked by J. Crum’s emotional highs and lows in his relationship with Christ. “It felt like I was living in a time where it was a very work [oriented] space for me.” Working for his church, he became so overwhelmed with his job responsibilities, feeling like Jesus would only be happy with him if he worked his hardest. “I felt like the harder that I tried, the farther that I fell from God. It was all a performance for me. I realized it was not all about performance, it’s about realizing that I’m a child of God.” He hopes that listeners will be encouraged to find rest in God, regardless of whatever pressure they undergo.
“We never can get it all together, but just because you don’t have it all together doesn’t mean you can’t lead.”
Outside of music, J. Crum enjoys serving at his church, mentoring teens in the juvenile justice system, playing video games, and spending time with his wife.