►Cool guy turns gospel rapper
Jay Ess is a gospel rapper from Bow in East London. Oddly, he's a Christian rapper who talks about aliens, comes from a past of getting high off weed and a heritage conflicted by Islamic faith. At first, it seems odd, to hear the words 'rap' and 'gospel' juxtaposed against one another. It's not a genre you hear about often. What's more familiar are the sounds of gangster rap, hip-hop or UK Rap. "Before I was doing gospel rap I was doing all the other types of rap, everyone else is doing. It wasn't religious or spiritual in its context. Once I got saved, I became a Christian, my whole belief system changed" he says.
What's more controversial, is that this is a guy, who's comes from a background ridden with crime, a guy that had once found solace with being the 'cool guy' on the streets. Jay Ess says, "Out of all of my friends I was the cool mellow guy. When they would rob people I would be the one to tell them to leave it. But we would get into fights, and as a young boy you can't just stand there and look. I would have to jump in. Put it this way, I was going to hell."
It's questioned whether people take him on board as a genuine gospel rapper, or whether his past is just too delinquent for him to be taken seriously. "Some don't believe me. Some people are sceptical, whereas others don't believe I came from that background. I am not trying to be this saint; I'm just doing me." With a father of Muslim faith everything seems as though it is pointing in the opposite direction, and credibility of his entire career seems to be perishing. But the rapper assures that this is not the case as he explains, "My dad is a Muslim. But he's not an extreme Muslim guy, to be politically correct. He doesn't want to kill me or anything, but he would prefer that I was Muslim."
Coming from Christianity, however, his lyrics are a succession of verses influenced from the bible, but unlike many traditional gospel musicians, Jay Ess doesn't always rap about your usual holy messages. He's a guy that if given three choices to describe himself would say 'controversial' 'out of the box' and 'knows how to rap.' He talks about his take on aliens, and surprisingly expresses his belief in them. "I say things that are not orthodox. I talk about aliens and flying saucers. I have my reasons biblically" Says Jay Ess, as he looks up to correct the look of bewilderment he has just witnessed. "When I say I believe in aliens I don't believe in the media's idea of aliens, green with big eyes. But I say to people, angels are aliens are they not? They are out of this world."
Despite the controversial narratives of his background, he has managed to get a name for himself in the gospel circuit. In the five years he has performed as a gospel rapper, he's toured America, where the gospel scene has a huge following, opened at a concert for Grammy award-winner Fantasia Burrino, as well as been nominated for one of the biggest Gospel awards in the world. "I was nominated for a Dove award, for best rap song of the year. It's massive; some other acts nominated are Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary." He shows all signs of nervousness as he continues "LeCrae is the biggest gospel rap artist in the world; he's had two number one albums so it's scary. I'm flying out in April and I'm just excited to be nominated."
Jay Ess is looking forward to a career filled with longevity with plans to release two forthcoming mix tapes, as well as a remix album of his debut album, 'Genesis Snapshots'. He is highly confident that in the mist of all the controversy, his music will convey his desired message. He says "Jesus is the solution to mans' problems. Jesus is the only way, he brings about salvation to the body soul a spirit, I think I've conveyed that message well, and if I didn't then I'll try again."
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