After distributing the Damascus demo to everyone I could find, I was ready to give myself more depth as an artist. Determined to pursue the next step, I invented a new solo rap persona, “Chase N@fta,” and began crafting my rhymes with a more lyrically aggressive approach. I tried my hand at different styles, doing home recordings, using whatever tools I could find, but I struggled to create anything that was truly satisfying to me. Then one day, I crossed paths with a young man named Nelson, who had created a small but impressive sound studio in his basement. We began working on my first solo demo, which began with Chasing After Jesus and later grew to become a full-length self-titled album, “Chase N@fta.”
Stepping Stones While I was writing and producing the rap album, I kept myself busy trying other things. I had agreed to join an acoustic harmony band called Just Like David, and, as a result, my guitar and writing skills were constantly improving. We played a lot of live events and had no recordings, but the experience made a huge difference for me to be able to move forward as a musician.
The fellowship times with Just Like David helped nurture my faith in God, and playing in the band helped me grow my skills as a guitar player and performer. We took a few trips to Nashville for independent musician conferences, where we learned from other artists and industry professionals. It was a wonderful time of growth for me, which I would never trade. I am blessed to have stayed in touch with the guys from Just Like David to this day. We are all friends for life!
After a couple of years in the band, I continued the craft, professionally recording my tunes which led me through many different venues. My first demo, “The Promo EP,” received significant attention on a station in southeast PA, which opened many more doors. After my first song received airplay, I led worship for NASCAR events, began rapping at Christian Festivals, and continued to perform Live for radio programs and churches everywhere. I grew the band as a result, adding my younger sister and some former bandmates to the mix, including Brian MacLean, the founder of Just Like David. We were having tons of fun and were thrilled to share the stage with some really great people!
Radio Airplay I never expected to get radio airplay, but as I kept copying and distributing my music, the Lord continued to open doors. After a concert performance with a popular 2000’s era rap group, The Cross Movement, I was able to have a conversation with one of the station’s most prominent personalities. My song was picked up by the station and remained part of their Friday Night Rock Jam, the more edgy portion of the station’s programming. It was an incredible feeling to hear my song played on the airwaves. I felt so blessed by God as if He had parted the waters for me and supernaturally promoted me. I knew He would continually establish me and continue to use my ministry. I kept making more.
(The blog you've just read is actually an excerpt from JJ's new book which will be released shortly.)