After determining in my heart to honor Him with my gifts, I asked Him to open the door, praying a very specific prayer in faith. I asked Him to make a way for me to create my first professional sounding rap demo… some way… somehow. I reminded Him of my desire to dedicate this area of my life to His service. Then it happened. Just a short while after this specific prayer, I received a very specific response. I was at a party with friends when two guys from Canada began to jam in the backyard. I thought to myself, “This guy can really play the guitar. MAN!” He was good! That’s the day I met David “Lucas” Filer and his “buddy, eh?” ...bassist John Hoegg.
Damascus As Filer began to play, I started to freestyle my rhymes over the riffs. These guys were almost as dazzled as I was about what had transpired, and, as a result, they welcomed me to join them in creating a blues-style rap demo in Ontario. I was excited but somewhat skeptical at first because of how specifically these events parallelled my prayers. After burying my doubts, I agreed, and we began a new band. We named ourselves “Damascus” and began working on our first project, which took two years to complete. I was so impressed that Dave and John eagerly drove all the way from Ontario, CAN, to what they referred to as “The nutty PA,” just to pick me up!
I stayed with Dave and John for about a week while we recorded the demo. I could not have been more proud of what we were able to accomplish. After we finalized the project, I made my first copies of the demo using nothing more than stacks of write-able discs and a few sharpie markers. God had answered my prayers about the demo CD, and it was time to fulfill my end of the prayerful promise from those years prior. I had one goal: Use this new demo as a tool to evangelize.
Back then, for independent artists, sharing our music meant creating physical copies with a “CD burner” on a laptop or PC, which we delivered in-person to random people on the streets... or not at all. Therefore, “burning” CDs became a lifestyle for me for quite some time, and the music became a vital part of ministering the gospel to people. I had known many young people who would never step foot in a church, but they would listen to the gospel if it came in the form of music through their headphones. As I shared each album, I sensed God using me to plant seeds in people’s hearts.
From time to time, I could be found playing basketball at the local courts, showing off my hoop skills, and handing out CDs to everyone I knew. I kept sharing the gospel with as many as I could. Young people seemed to be inspired as they heard the love of God being expressed in a fresh, new, and creative way. It thrilled me that, for some folks, I was the very first Christian rapper they had ever heard. I kept making copies, and I was determined to continue making more music. It was only the beginning.
(The blog you've just read is actually an excerpt from JJ's new book which will be released shortly.)