t.Jay is an up and coming Hip-Hop artist that is set to take the world by storm. A former secular rapper t.Jay is taking over the airwaves, with a recently concluded tour with Level 3:16 and a new album coming out, he is not withholding any longer. Harry Itie, got a chance to interview him. Enjoy
YADA: You are recently on tour with Level 3:16. How does that feel?
The whole experience was absolutely remarkable! They’re an amazing group of young men and women who have hearts for ministry and for God’s people. As full time music missionaries who rely on monthly financial support, they’re an excellent example to me of what walking by faith every single day looks like. I’ve known the DJ in the group personally for the past two years through both urban youth ministry and music ministry. This experience allowed me to come together with the other five members of the group and the Lord blessed me with the opportunity to be discipled by them and fellowship with them for eight weeks. They’re like family to me now! It was truly a unique experience that I’ll never forget!
YADA: Before we go any further, talk to us about your transition from secular music to hip hop music?
I started writing music as a secular artist back in 2005. As the years progressed I began to develop a pretty decent sized fan base, and in 2008 I released my first and only secular album. After I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ in January of 2009, secular music was one of the hardest things for me to submit to the Lord. I professed with my tongue, “Lord, I want to live for you! I give you my life,” but deep inside I was still fearful and hesitant of the idea of giving the Lord my music. God made it very clear to me though. He said “TJ, you say you want to turn from your wicked ways and live for me. You say that you want to surrender your life to me, but you really don’t. If you won’t give me the ONE THING (writing music) that you’re most passionate about; the one thing that I’ve blessed you in, then you aren’t giving me ANYTHING at all.” That was the point where I realized how much God deserved my EVERYTHING. If it meant that I would lose fans or money, then I needed to be content with that because it was ultimately for God’s glory and the advancement of the Gospel. After that, I recorded my first ever Christian Hip Hop song entitled “Through Christ” in April of 2009. From that point on, I kept writing music that expressed how Jesus had transformed my heart and I also began to get involved with D.U.R.A.G. (Divine Unity Righteously Applying God) Ministries here in my hometown. They blessed me with a community of brothers and sisters in Christ who were committed to helping me grow in the faith and helping me grow as an artist. My first ever live performance was at one of their bible studies, and after that I began to pray that God would fill up my calendar with ministry opportunities, and sure enough He answered that prayer and MORE!
YADA: What are the initial challenges you faced as an indie Christian artist?
One of the initial challenges that I faced as an indie artist was not having any kind of financial assistance. Any artist who is signed to any kind of record label is able to get some sort of financial support from that record label to help pay for things like recording time, music video production, promotion, marketing, manufacturing, etc. Regardless of whether that amount of money is large or small, it’s still support and it’s a way to get your music out there to a larger audience who needs to hear the Gospel. As an independent artist, that’s more of a struggle. I do know of some independent artists who are successful without ever being backed by a record label, but it’s definitely rare to find and hard to achieve. In my case, I prayed that the Lord would provide the finances for me to do such things as upgrade my recording equipment, do mission work and go on tour this summer. To say the least, the Lord answered those prayers way beyond my expectations! I have to trust Him every day for the finances to put food on my plate and keep doing what I’m pursuing musically. Another one of the challenges that I face as an indie artist is promotion and marketing. Like I stated above, as an indie artist you don’t have any kind of record label aiding you in promotion and marketing, so the majority of “t.Jay” promotion is done by me and my street team. I will say this though: as the Lord has begun to open up more and more doors for me, I’ve definitely noticed that I don’t have to spend as much time, focus and energy on promoting myself as I used to. That’s a true blessing because it allows me to have more time for writing and producing.
YADA: What are your plans for your music?
In all honesty, and I know this is a rather cliché answer, but the future with me and music ministry is solely in the Lord’s hands. The Lord has opened up so many doors and planted so many seeds for me and my music ministry over the past eight months, and I’m so excited and eager to see those seeds blossom and grow as they become fruit unto holiness. For right now, I’m going to keep making music and writing songs that glorify the Lord as an independent artist until he opens a door that leads to bigger opportunities. As I stated in the answer to the previous question, I would absolutely love and cherish the opportunity to be part of a major Christian record label, but if that door never opens, I’ve learned to be perfectly content with being an independent artist and exalting God’s name through whatever ministry opportunities come my way. It’s not about the fame, the notoriety or the admiration. I definitely appreciate it when people admire my music or when they think highly of my ministry, but all of that is vanity if the crowd only sees me and not Jesus in front of me. I’m just trying to play the background for the Lord; if I’m doing that, everything else will fall into place for my music as the Lord sees fit.
YADA: Talk to us about your professional recording studio?
The home studio that I own is where I record, produce, mix and master all of my music. I’m currently using a Gateway Desktop PC for all of my projects, but I’m praying for the finances to upgrade to a better computer; potentially a Mac. When it comes to recording, I use Pro Tools LE 8.0.4. with the Mbox 2. The programs that I make my beats on are Fruity Loops, Acid Pro made by Sony, and Adobe Audition. I also use a Yamaha MOTIF keyboard for making beats. The main microphone that I use for recording is the RODE NT2000. It’s a great microphone that allows tons of control for the person who is recording on it. I also have a spare MXL 2003 microphone in case I want a different feel for the recording. For speakers, I use two Samson Rubicon Active Studio Monitors. I play trumpet, so sometimes I’ll even record that in my songs. I also have a few acoustic instruments that I use in some songs if I want a more authentic, live percussion feel.
YADA: Do you produce for other artists in the industry?
I’ve helped produced songs and albums for some local artists who I know very well such as: Crimson, 3 Spikes, Demetrius Lancaster and True Worship of D.U.R.A.G. Ministries. I’ve also helped produce multiple songs for an artist in Washington State by the name of Vizzini.
YADA: Tell us about the new album dropping next year. Any collaborations?
I’m really looking forward to this new album. It really has been eye opening for me to see the Lord work in creating the foundations for it. It seems that most of the songs from the album that are already finished have a recurring theme of transparency and vulnerability. Most of my songs and projects in the past were mainly evangelically focused, which isn’t a bad thing, but I never really gave the listener much insight to t.Jay as a person. The songs that I’ve written for this album so far reveal not only my passion for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but they also reflect the struggles that you and I face on a daily basis. The struggle of maintaining your faith in a broken world; the challenge of surrendering your life to a Sovereign King when we live in a society that abuses the concept of independence and tells us that we can do this life on our own. My other songs and projects prior to this album have really only given the listener insight to “TJ the Believer.” This new album will still accomplish that, but it will also add a lot of insight to “TJ the human” who has flaws and realizes the need for transparency. It’s been great watching the first few songs for this album develop and blossom.
As far as collaborations go, I’m an artist who absolutely loves the opportunity to collaborate with other artists! So on this next album as of right now, I’ve got multiple song collaborations. There’s a song entitled “Who Am I” that features a young lady by the name of Shalyssa Mitchell. There’s also a song entitled “No One” that features a brilliant female vocalist by the name of Amanda Davis and another song called “We Go” that features three members of the band SoulSeed, whom I toured with this summer. I’m also very excited to be collaborating with Applejaxx on a song called “Money Ain’t Everything.” The song basically talks about money and how much we tend to idolize it. It continues to talk about it and then the lyrics relate the idea of money to paying debts. Paying debts was the way of Christ’s death, so now when I think of any kind of monetary value, I don’t think of money; I think of the incredible PRICE that Christ PAID on that Cross all those years ago. That’s true value! Lastly, I’m thrilled and blessed to have the opportunity of collaborating with all six members of Level 3:16 on a song entitled “Love.” This song is unique not only for the fact that we were able to fit seven people into a four minute song, but also because of the context of the song. The song talks about God’s love and how remarkable it is beyond any other form or idea of “love” that we may have. All seven people give their own take on “love” and what it means to them, so I’m very excited about this track! There are more collaborations, but I can’t give all my secrets away! J
YADA: Where do you see yourself in 15 years?
In fifteen years, I would definitely like to be a homeowner. I also want to be madly in love with my future wife and be a father of at least two children by then. In fifteen years, I could also see myself being a part of a church that specializes in ministering to the urban culture through hip hop and dance. That’s a passion of mine, and so we’ll see if the Lord allows that to come to pass as the years go by.
YADA: Do you ever plan to visit Nigeria?
Are you paying?! (LAUGHS) Just kidding! But yes, Africa has always been on my heart and I would truly relish the opportunity to come to ANY country in Africa and just experience the culture, love on the people and share my faith at the same time. I would love to come to Nigeria some day in the near future! We’ll see what the Lord has in store!
YADA: Final word for our readers.
Open Heart Surgery: God has been teaching me a lot over the past few months about the human heart and how deeply intricate it is. When you think of the human heart in a practical sense, it’s what keeps our bodies running and pumping blood. But spiritually, it can lead to our downfall. The desires of our heart can end up generating curiosity where curiosity shouldn’t be generated and our heart can quickly become a hindrance rather than a blessing. My Bible defines the word “heart” as “that which gives direction to a person.” My Bible Dictionary has a similar definition, stating that the “heart” is “the inner self that thinks, feels and decides.” If you look at the first definition, the word “gives” implies something conditional. Any time we give a gift to somebody else, we’re not forced to give them a gift. It’s conditional, meaning that we do it of our desire to give them that gift, not out of force or obligation to give it. It’s the same way with our heart. The heart isn’t forced to give us emotions or feelings, but it does so because that’s what we as humans use it and look to it for. We tend to lean on our heart when we “feel” something, or when we “feel” the need to make a decision. We look to it for direction as that first definition states. So often, we turn to our heart for life’s answers, and we trust it! The Word says otherwise though. Jeremiah 17:9, a very popular verse states that “The heart is deceitful above all things… who can understand it?” In a blog I wrote back in January, God opened my eyes to this verse and He really broke it down to me. I wrote, “God has shown me that ONLY HE can understand my heart. Why? Because He created it! If I built and fashioned a computer from the ground up, I would understand it a whole lot better than the consumer who would eventually purchase it. In the same way, I’m that consumer. We all are. God created and formed our hearts so intricately, so He would know them best. A manufacturer of a car is going to understand the workings of the engine a whole lot better than person behind the wheel. This is why we end up going either to the local mechanic or to the manufacturer if our car needs to be repaired. So often, I try to be behind the wheel of my heart… my engine. I take the keys away from my manufacturer, but honestly, often times I can’t even find the ignition. I HAVE TO give the keys back to God, my manufacturer, because only He knows the depths and inner-workings of my heart.” Every single day, we have to hand the keys over to God and make sure that our hearts are consistent with His. Proverbs 3:5-6 states, “Trust in the Lord with all your HEART and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.” Let’s wake up every morning with the attitude of, “Lord, I’m ready and willing to submit my heart to You!” We literally have to have our hearts open to Open Heart Surgery on a daily basis, allowing the Lord to come in and transform the internal workings of our core. That’s my challenge for you today as you read this. Hand your keys over to the Lord and submit every single thought, feeling, emotion, action, word and deed before His throne.
Current songs on your playlist
“Awakening” by Brian Reeves, “Sound the Alarm” by t.Jay, “Surrender” by FLAME, “Divine Intervention” by Lecrae, “Most High” by Level 3:16, “No Worries” by Trip Lee, “That Will Be the Day” by Tedashii, “No One” by t.Jay, “The Return” and “Know Him” by Level 3:16, “We Can Be More” by Sho Baraka, “Battle Song” by Lecrae, “Deep Blood Red” by Mali Music, and “Captured Me” by FLAME.
Last movie you saw
Book you are currently reading
My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence , What in the World is Going On? by Dr. David Jeremiah.
TV character most like you
I’ve heard that I sometimes act goofy like Steve Urkel from Family Matters. (LAUGHS)
Burger or Fries
Definitely a burger. It’s way more filling.
I love shopping! Especially for a fresh pair of kicks!
Video games or Cars
Video games, especially sports games.
Click here to like t.Jay on Facebook. Also, he will be featured in the Yada Music Project. Volume. 1 alongside Je’kob from The Washington Projects, Applejaxx, StefanOtto amongst others