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[interview.] John Givez talks little engines, Kings Dream and penetrating culture

Published on October 8, 2012

When I heard about Kings Dream, the new venture from theBREAX camp, I was immediately intrigued by their progressive vision for art,culture and faith. So then I went on their site and found out about John Givez. and his mixtape The Little Engine That Could. Then I was like, “I should talk to him cause his music is dope.” And then I did….and this is what happened:

BWD: Tell Holy Culture about yourself!

JG: You know, my name’s John. Preachers kid! Turned left… became the black sheep. Realized a lot of my friends and people I surrounded myself were hurting me. THEN I met Beleaf. He ended up marrying my sis. Ruslan became a mentor as well. Of course, got a praying mother. Ended up catching a case–in jail for a few days. God really hit me hard around that time. One day I was hoping to try and write…total writers block. I was prompted to read the Bible instead. While I read, I heard an audible voice, like the one in my spirit from the Spirit, and he said “Come and read me.” I continued to read Scripture and prayed throughout the night. I came as I was to Jesus giving him all I had.

BWD: Incredible story man! I’m always psyched to learn the diverse ways God reaches us all. How did you get into music?

JG: My mom had me in the church chior as a youngin. I developed a passion for singing there. I also watched BET all the time. Watching Puff Daddy’s fashion plus hearingUsher’s music definitely had an impact on me. In 7th grade I had a chance to record and ever since then I took off with the music pursuit! Started rapping later on– around 10th grade. Dudes like Tupac, Andre 3000, Mos Def was what I came up listening to with my older brother. They definitely influence how I articulate while emcee’n. Moving along…there was a wild incident when theBREAX were recording Never ArriveI came through to do a verse and a hook. I layed the verse first and soon after attempted to lay the hook. I ended up getting stuck in the booth somehow waiting for them to get the door open. Totally out of whack after spending hours and hours in the booth, I didn’t have a good studio time and it resulted in the song I did for the album not making the cut. Ruslan told me something like “you need to work on your singing, but yo… you can rap!” That got me a bit discouraged, but I told myself I would beat on my craft like never before after that. It gave me a new drive!

BWD: OUCH. But hey, I see providence all over that. What drew you to Kings Dream?

JG: Just working and hanging with theBREAX. Beyond the music, those guys are my bros! But realized, I can’t piggyback on them, so I set up my own studio. Well, laundry room studio. I ended up teaching myself how to engineer enough to get a quality sound coming out of what I was working with. theBREAX recognized I was getting serious with my craft. Ruslan, who is the mastermind behind a lot of the biz stuff, told me about his ideas for KD. Here’s an analogy for his thinking:  The predominately black baptist church may be a culture shock to the white person who came from a contemperary setting. That means the white guy  which has to assimilate to the sub-culture in that church. Same thing often  happens with blacks in white churches. Basically, people fail to include those that our outsiders to their culture.  KD is about accomodating the culture and its diversities in an urban and fresh way.  Plus, it’s way more than a label, its a lifestyle brand.  I vibed with the idea of being a common man with a King’s Dream.

BWD: Let’s talk about The Little Engine That Could. My first question–why that title?

JG: First, after all my criminal stuff, I had a great chat with my dad. Pops gave me a dope quote: “a grown man is just a little kid that accepts responsibility for himself first and then those entrusted to his care” Soon after getting my head on straight I applied for a job with the local school district. I had almost gotten a permanent position, but I failed a drug test. I was still struggling with weed and drinking. It was really upsetting, mostly because I knew it wasn’t what God had for me. The district gave me another shot long-term subbing at another school. There, I met a kid named Landon. He needed a lot of attention because of some behavior disablities. He needed a 2-on-1 because his behavior was so off the richter. As difficult as it was to stay with him, we’d slowly see growth in his behavior. His female aide was working so tirelessly to help him each step of the way.  I did a lot to help him follow instructions, and if he failed, being the one to put him discipline him. I saw a lot of myself in Landon…I realized my relationship with him was like my relationship with God. The Holy Spirit had been tirelessly trying to help me each step of the way as I kept on disobeying. It definitely spooked me once I realized the similarities.  The message God was telling me finally clicked when the kid wore a shirt that read LITTLE ENGINES CAN DO BIG THINGS.  I fall short, I’m a “little engine”, but God continues to work with me and through him I’ll do big things. I want my work to reach the world, and use my music as a positive influence.

BWD: Who is John when he steps out the booth?

JG: I’m a son and I’m a brother! I see myself as a brother’s keeper. I wanna give all that I have to people that need it. I mean, that’s my name… John Givez! Don’t got all the money, but I have time, and I have heart. It’s dangerous at times and people take advantage. But it’s cool– I’m sealed by the Spirit, and anything I do for others is directed by him!

“I fall short, I’m a “little engine”, but God continues to work with me and through him I’ll do big things. I want my work to reach the world, and use my music as a positive influence.”
BWD: What’s next for John Givez?

JG: Well, just got signed to KD! Working on a side project called Mind Over Matter. It will be a FREE EP. Just living and maintaining! I’m sociology major in college–hoping to position myself as a social worker or high school counselor. Also hoping to do music full time. Both careers are attractive to me because they allow me to be with people and be an impact in our culture. I’m inspired by Jesus to pursue both because he masterfully penetrated the culture!


You can keep up with John Givez on Twitter (@JohnGivez). Be sure to download The Little Engine That Could, right here. It’s free, y’all.

Kings Dream can also be followed on Twitter (@KingsDreamENT). Be on the lookout for new exciting things from John and the Kings Dream family.

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