Interview with Japhia Life
Published on June 2, 2010
If there does exist an unwritten (religious) protocol in Christian hip hop today that says you must do it a certain way or you’re not following “The Rules,” then Japhia Life is not bound by it. Col. 2:20 says that we have been set “free from the spiritual powers of this world.” So why do you keep following the rules of the world such as don’t…” Not moved by public opinion, I got a chance to kick it with someone who is definitely confident in his Christianity.
Shine: What’s good sir?
Japhia Life: What’s up homie, what’s good with you?
Shine: You sir…(laughs) Like stated before, I want to personally thank you for taking this time out to speak with Holyculture.net and what we want to do is just chop it up and find out who is Japhia Life. So for starters how did this current project “Nazareth” come about?
Japhia Life: Nazareth pretty much came about (for a lack of a better way to put it) it kind of came out of nowhere. I wasn’t even thinking about putting Nazareth out. Like, I was focused on putting out the actual new album which is called “Westside Pharmacy.” Nazareth was something to where I said, “You know what, I need to give people something to hold them over until Westside Pharmacy is done cooking.” It initially started by me being in the studio with one of my producers by the name of “Saint Man.” We were just going through my hard drive and we found so much material that had never been released.
Japhia Life: I was kind of apprehensive about putting it out, but Saint kind of gave me the confidence to just go ahead and do it along with other artists I kind of bounce ideas off of. I had a couple new records recorded too, so I let one of those be the actual single to give as an incentive to people to go and get the previously recorded material. Surprisingly, it generated a lot more attention than I thought it would. A lot of times the songs that you think may not work, usually do work for a lot of artists.
Shine: Now why the title “Nazareth?” How did that come about?
Japhia Life: Those songs that were previously recorded were done at a time when I was really locating who I was creatively. I was kind of just coming into my own and finding a place where I could just express myself and express my faith in my own unique way. The depiction of Nazareth is actually a young man looking for a place where real faith existed. Every place he went to where people told him that he should find it, he went to those places and didn’t find it there. Then after a while people were kind of like, “You know what? You might want to go to this town called Nazareth. There’s this Guy there…” So that’s pretty much how it came about.
Shine: That’s hot. So let me just put this out there. I’ve heard the whole thing, but I’ve got my favs (laughs). I’m loving “Desperado” and “Does Anybody Know.”
Shine: Now the video for “Does Anybody Know”, how did that come about?
Japhia Life: Well the video was actually shot and directed by a guy named Adam Tillman Young who’s from Philadelphia as well. I think he actually graduated from Temple film school and relocated to Los Angeles. We had been talking about working on something and I had just so happened to be on the west coast around the San Diego area. I told him I would be coming to L.A. to hang out with Tina Jones from 4th Avenue Jones who’s like my sister who’s working on a new project as well. I wanted to get some time to work on her record with her. He was like, “If you’re going to be in town, why don’t we try to get some video work done.” So I ended up catching a train from San Diego to L.A. and stayed there for about a week.
Japhia Life: Eventually what ended up as us doing some minor video work, he was like, “Yo, let’s just do the whole video.” He came up with the whole concept of the video from beginning to end, so I give him all the credit creatively. I think it came out hot.
Shine: Yes sir. Now who are some of your influences?
Japhia Life: Aww man, that’s a good question. (Laughs) Musically I’d have to say early in my life would be my mother who’s a gospel pianist. Being with her at choir rehearsals and different groups, they would do the songs over and over and over again (laughs) and I’d be like, “Why do we have to stay here so long, they just did the song perfect. I don’t get it.” But that early on in my life, that put something in me musically as a young child that would never go away. I believe that it planted a musical seed. Not a rap seed or a genre seed but a musical seed in me that just kind of grew. I wish I could record a song everyday (laugh).
Japhia Life: But from a hip hop perspective, early on it was Boogie Down Productions. One of my favorite hip hop songs of all time is “Loves Gonna Get Ya” by KRS One, and then songs like “Mahogany” by Eric B and Rakim. Slick Rick and songs like “Teenage Love” and “Hey Young World,” L.L. Cool J, Run DMC. In terms of hip hop those were the types of artist and songs that shaped my style to this day. Outside of hip hop, Groups like U2 and Jimmy Hendricks. I was never the dude to make songs based on the parameters of Christian hip hop. I’ve always felt secure enough in my Christianity to where as long as the songs I make don’t push outside of me being a Christian, I’m good.
Shine: Ok so you’ve lead me into an unwritten question (laughs). You mentioned a lot of secular artists that you came up listening to (pauses).
Shine: Do you feel like a lot of Christian hip hop artist today lack the edge, or the bite because they did come up too churchy and weren’t able to listen to a lot of secular hip hop?
Japhia Life: I would have to say (pauses). My answer to that would have to be no. Truth be told, most Christian rappers didn’t come up in the church. That’s ironic (laughs). It’s only a handful that grew up in the church. I could probably count them on one hand. Which brings me to my point, that a lot of artists lacking that edge isn’t because they grew up in church, because most of them didn’t. The reason they lack that bite is because they rap based on an unwritten protocol.
Shine: (laughs) The Rules!!!
Japhia Life: Yeah. (Laughs) It’s like an unwritten protocol that they feel that they have to abide by. There’s no right or wrong way to do what you do as long as it doesn’t go outside of the lines of you being a Christian. That being said I think they’ve been taking their cues from individuals who’ve said, “You may want to do it this way.” A lot of times as a new believer we come into a genre of music looking to leaders who have set a tone for that genre. So when you come into this genre you want to come in grounded first. I believe that was one of the great things about when I came into it because I came up in the church. That’s the irony, (laughs) I did come up in church and my music does have that bite and that edge.
Shine: So do you think your music is targeted more towards the unsaved, the church or just music period?
Japhia Life: I figure at the end of the day, its just music period. But I do think that my music has a bend on it to where I want those who know nothing about Christ or His Cross, to come in to knowledge of His cross and His resurrection and His church. I definitely think it has a strong bend on it for the unbeliever. I do know that my music ministers to believers as well though. I tend to tell people, “Don’t say that I’m not for the church and that I’m only for the street. If my music was only for non-believers then it wouldn’t penetrate church people the way that it does.” A lot of Christians may disagree with the way Japhia Life puts his songs or his albums together, from a theological perspective. They may disagree with it, but they can’t say that my music isn’t of God. So yeah man, at the end of the day I feel its music made by a Christian.
Shine: So what about the great debate? (Laughs) Do you care about the label of a rapper whose Christian or a being know as a Christian rapper?
Japhia Life: Actually I don’t care at all. I care that people get blessed by my music and that fruit comes my music. I care that people know that I’m a Christian. That’s what I care about. I would rather people know that I’m a Christian just based on what they see in my life as opposed to me going around labeling myself a Christian rapper. Either or is fine with me.
Shine: Let’s go in a little about “Westside Pharmacy.” What’s the motivation behind this project?
Japhia Life: “Westside Pharmacy” is an album that I really want to discuss the human side of Christianity that’s rarely discussed. It’s definitely my most transparent album. Content wise I think it’s my best album lyrically. For those who followed my previous album, “Hells Diary,” initially “Westside Pharmacy” was going to be called “Hells Diary Pt 2.” Part 1 was talking about the pain and struggle and Westside Pharmacy is really going to be the victor as opposed to the victim, it’s really triumphant. It’s about Christ being sent to those who needed a spiritual prescription. I’m giving people the same healing that I got.
Shine: They’re some religious cats who might understand street lingo. Are you concerned with the title? Or has it not even crossed your mind?
Japhia Life: I’ve thought about it. But it wasn’t from an aspect of me wondering, “Do I want to title my album that?” I just knew that’s how they would feel. (Laughs) I knew that some religious people would think like that so I said I’m absolutely keeping that title now. (Laughs) Because it’s for them too. They need a prescription for the virus that they have called religion. (Laughs)
Shine: How can people reach you?
Japhia Life: You can definitely hit me up on Twitter, Facebook and Myspace as well. Everything is /japhialife.
Shine: As always we want to thank you for taking this timeout to kick it with us at Holyculture.net. Continual blessings on your ministry and keep banging.
Japhia Life: I appreciate it.
Written by Shine