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Hip-hop is primarily a young man’s game, according to KJ-52. Christian rap has even fewer pioneers than its mainstream counterparts, but that hasn’t stopped the veteran Floridian from staying the course. KJ-52 has an incredible sixteen years under his belt, but even his latest—the very personal Jonah (buy)—landed at No. 7 on the iTunes hip-hop charts and features killer collaborations with Derek Minor, Curt Anderson, Pete Stewart and more. We recently asked the mainstay about the vulnerable new album and what it’s like to be a considered a pioneer.

CCM Magazine: We’ve heard you say that the new album was called Jonah because it’s personal. Is that personal approach part of being older and having more experience, to have said a certain amount of things, before now?
Literally everything you just said is a, “Yes.” It’s exactly right. It’s a move of experience and it’s a move of the nature of where I am at right now. I’m not trying to say this like an old, wise, Jedi-thing, but there is some of that where you feel like, “Dang, I have the music of a young man, but the experience of a grown man.” Those two things are usually not working together, but I guess it’s because I am the last man standing in some regards.

CCM: What do you mean by that?
A lot of the guys that I came in with are not around anymore. There are only a handful of my peers left from when I started. Hip-hop by nature is a young man’s music, so you don’t have people that have been around for a while. It’s a relatively new musical genre, but for whatever reason, most of the guys that [came in with me] are not here anymore. So you go, “What happened? How did I wind up here?”

CCM: Are you surprised by your longevity?
I wasn’t even aware of it. Most of my conversations these days start with, “Oh man, I used to listen to you when I was thirteen.” And I’m like, “Yeah, you’re an adult!” For me, 16 or 17 years went by like that. It doesn’t feel like that much time has passed. Maybe that’s because when your life changes from 25-42, while it is a life change, it is not the same significance of going from 15 to 30, you know? I went from adulthood to more adulthood, not adolescence to adulthood.

Am I surprised by my longevity? Absolutely. But it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. I feel like a brand new artist in so many ways because I have always approached my music and my career as a brand new artist. I’ve approached every album as if it is a new chance to hit the reset button. I make every album as if you’ve never heard me. I also design my live performances as if you’ve never seen me.


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