That same year, she graduated high school.
“My life is different than a lot people’s,” HillaryJane told Rapzilla.
She needed rent money. After working at Jumpalooza and Walgreens for the next two years, friends and family advised her to attend college.
HillaryJane chose music instead. Or, as she believes, God chose music.
“I had an overwhelming feeling in my heart that I was going to be an artist,” said HillaryJane. “The Lord put on my heart that he’s going to use these talents that he gave me full-time—that my ministry is going to be my career.”
Despite growing up in church, HillaryJane started living out her faith at the age of 15. By then, she had joined the church choir. A friend recruited HillaryJane not for her singing, but to increase her minimal church involvement.
“I couldn’t sing,” said HillaryJane. “I never desired to sing.”
When she became a Christian, her apathy toward singing vanished.
“It’s almost as if, when I gave my life to Christ, he multiplied my talent 30 fold,” she said. “All of a sudden, I could sing way better. All of a sudden, I desired to lead worship, sing and lead music for him.”
Within a week, the church choir approached her to lead worship for its preteens. Soon after, she started to serve in youth ministry. Her faith was stronger than ever.
It was tested. Her mother underwent chemotherapy for cancer, and HillaryJane’s hectic schedule stressed her mother.
“I was so highly involved in church … always going, going, going, and that stressed my mom out,” said HillaryJane. “She wanted me to be home more. At the time, I thought it was more important to serve in ministry than be home with my sick mother. My priorities were a little bit messed up.”
Doctors told HillaryJane's mother, if she didn’t get stress-free, she could die. She kicked HillaryJane out of the house. They had left HillaryJane’s father over a decade earlier, so she moved in with a church member.
HillaryJane completed her senior year of classes in the summer following her junior year. She wanted to start working early to pay rent. Work didn’t interrupt her ministry, though.
HillaryJane had joined the hip-hop group Second her senior year. Battle rapping friends over the phone was her only prior experience. But the first verse she ever wrote impressed her friend Archie enough to feature her three times on his mixtape I Am Second.
They performed frequently at orphanages, youth groups, car shows and clubs around Houston. The ovation they received even at clubs told HillaryJane, despite her skeptics, this is what she’s supposed to do.
“It’s not normal for a Christian artist to go in a club and talk against everything that everybody came in there to do and they love it,” she said. “That has to be God.”
This wasn’t enough to convince those close to HillaryJane that she should forego college for music. It was for Rapzilla’s senior contributor Steven Solis. He heard HillaryJane’s entry in a Slingshot Movement feature contest and showed the co-owner of a new label looking for talent, Chad Horton of Infiltrate Music.
HillaryJane had primarily rapped for Second, not sang. But her voice is what won Horton over.
“When I heard her sing, I thought, ‘Wow, she has the full package,’” said Horton.
Infiltrate offered to sign HillaryJane, which she admitted her resume didn’t warrant. But Infiltrate prefers to sign unknown artists who are a platform and access away from excelling (see: Skrip and KIDD).
“We like to work with young artists to help develop them,” said Horton. “I just saw the potential in her.”
In some of the most crucial years of her life, she lived away from her parents. With her new platform, HJ plans to mentor teenage girls facing similar situations as her own.
HillaryJane also desires to boost their confidence, which is the goal of her debut EP Stix and Stones. The EP dropped on July 29 and epitomizes the confidence HillaryJane showed two years ago to trust God, decline college and pursue music.
“I’ve had so many reasons to question my life,” said HillaryJane. “But it pushed me to write. I just want other people to be confident.”
Listen to Stix and Stones or buy it on iTunes or Amazon Musicnow.
David Daniels writes for Rapzilla.com. He graduated from Geneva College and lives in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter.