Interview – Thi’sl
‘Chronicles of an X-Hustler’ dropped in August of 2009. The album received critical acclaim and debuted Number 4 on the iTunes Hip Hop chart between Fabolous ‘Loso’s Way’ and Lil Waynes ‘The Carter III.’ This was quite an achievement for an independent artist but Thisl isnt done yet. It is certain to be another hot summer as he gets ready to hit the road with k-Drama, Pro, and Json on the Urban Missionary Tour. Rapzilla recently caught up with Thisl after his video shoot for Youre the One to talk record sales, inner-city outreach, and how monopoly can help build Christian community.
Rapzilla: Yes sir, so right now Im here with Thisl, fresh off of a dope video shoot, how you feeling man?
Thisl: Man, excited excited, happy. I had my concerns at first when they told me about the shots and Im like Aw we gonna be in one place? But then I saw what they were doing and it dont seem like we in one place. So Im excited man. Cant wait to see whats gonna be done with it.
Rapzilla: Thats whats up man. I was definitely excited when I heard you were doing a new video because you seem to be pretty big on the videos, especially the Windows Down joint. That was official, definitely one of the more official Christian rap videos Ive seen.
Thisl: And the crazy thing is that, I thank God for this, a lot of people may or may not have tripped off of, but a lot of Christian artists dont have videos before their albums come out. “Windows Down” was out like a month before my album came out. My boy Mike Johnson, St Louis, M. Johnson Productions came through. We had a dope shoot, collab’d put some stuff together and the Lord has been killing me ever since man.
Rapzilla: Thats whats up man. So as far as the video shoot today, as far as the song goes I was like really blown away. When I first heard that song (Youre the One) I [was thinking] its kinda like second nature, because were Christian, [to] love being intimate with God and all that good stuff, but especially with your background, when you first came to Christ, was that kind of a hard concept to grasp? Like Im supposed to be here lifting up my hands to God, saying God, I love you. Cause I know on the streets, that really doesnt fly, we aren’t taught to be intimate like that.
Thisl: For me its funny it was more like a natural thing from being broken hearted. Like when I came off the street my heart was so broke from all of the stuff that was happening in my life, that man when I fell in love with God it was like every time God moved on my heart I was weeping. You know what Im saying? Im at home by myself just reading the Bible, just in the face of God and going through the Scriptures and being confirmed through His word and just at my table weeping, crying out to the Lord in my kitchen just crying out to the Lord, lifting my hands up, praying on my face, so, it was more of a I always had a heart for worship. One of my favorite genres of music is contemporary worship [Contemporary Christian Music]. I listen to that more than I listen to rap music. So its more like the opposite with me. Rap and doing grimy stuff come first nature as well as worship to God because my heart was so broke because Im like man, how could God love a person like me? I knew all the horrible stuff I had done in my life. So Im like how could God straight love me? Thats crazy. So yeah it was just a reaction of love, it was the natural thing.
Rapzilla: Thats whats up man. [When] I was talking to AD3 earlier he said you called him and was like yo I was looking for someone to get on this song man, I think you can do it, etc…’ was there anything in particular that made you think ‘this guy is the person to get on the song?’
Thisl: Yeah, he has a sound, like I love dude music. He has a sound that you seldom hear in Christian music or in music period. Like to me he sings like a rapper would do. So when I heard a couple of his songs online, one of my boys hit me up and they was like ‘Hey you gotta hear this dude 83.’ My boys in Kansas City where he live so Im like, let me check dude out and he sent me his MySpace link. And I was like, man this dude write like a rapper. The first song I actually got him on was actually a track on my album called Baby Girl which we gonna do a video for it later on this year in the summer. But that was the first track. So when he did Baby Girl I was so blown away by what he did. That track came up [You’re the One] and I was like, now Im gonna need somebody on this. So I hit him up and I was like, man I dont wanna use you up (laugh), you know what I m saying, I dont wanna put you on two or three songs but I think you can nail this. So, he came through again for me and it worked so well that I was just in awe man.
Rapzilla: Thats whats up. Praise God for that! It was this certain moment when we were in there and yall were on stage and people were just getting it in with God. Was there like a special feeling there because I know this song you made is kinda like your cry out to God and just to see so any people connect with that how does that feel?
Thisl: Man its a wonderful feeling. The crazy thing is one of my friends named Darnell Dub Junior, me and him started out writing Youre the One together. When we stared out writing the song, we were both sitting there vibing, and I heard the beat and he heard the beat, and both of us kinda at the same time was like aayyyy
Rapzilla: Ohhh, okay okay.
Thisl: So we looking at each other like, Yeah we gotta put that, we gotta put that! (laughter) So we were all excited like we gotta put that. And the crazy thing was when I heard the beat, the kind of song it was, I was like, yo, if people love this, I was like they gonna sing that. And I remember the first time I done it, I was somewhere where I has never been. And when the song came on after the first couple of aayyys they caught on and was singing. It was crazy just looking at people listening to the song, seeing they faces, dudes straight going into worship. And thats what actually made the producer, Veronica Kirkland want to do the song. She saw me perform it somewhere and she was just like, man I was in awe of all of the young dudes and girls worshipping the Lord. She [was] like, its dudes with braids in their hair, like you have on jeans and Timberlands … yall straight worshipping God. She said, I want to capture that in the video for you. So thats how the video even came about. She saw me at a concert and saw us do the song.
Rapzilla: And where was this concert at, do you remember?
Thisl: It was in Joliet, Illinois last year on Halloween.
Rapzilla: Okay, exact date and time! Thats whats up man. And I know with the ‘Chronicles of an X-Hustler’ [album], that has been doing really well as far as sales go. I know its not all about sales. But just to know that your music is getting into the hands of people [how does that feel]? Didnt you debut at number 4?
Thisl: Yeah it debuted number 4 on iTunes Hip Hop secular music and it actually reached number one on Apple.com for top US album sales and it was crazy like I had dudes hit me up on iTunes, that saw it just on iTunes and saw the title in the top ten and was like ‘man I just browsed and saw this album and I loved it … why havent I never heard stuff like this before?’ Even the dude when I went to go get my iPhone [I] got my iPhone in my company name and dude was like so what do you do? I was like, ‘I do music.’ So he was like ‘we need proof that you actually do.’ So I was like ‘well, they call me Thi’sl, bla blah blah, you can check this out I was like, my albums on iTunes’ (laughter.) So dude was like, ‘oh Im on there right now, you gotta song called “I Hate You” and I was like ‘yeah’ so he was like, man, ‘Im finna buy your album.’ So it was just a random dude at the Apple Store. Its just been beautiful man just seeing the people and the churches just pulling in together and buying bulks of them, passing them out in the hood. But Ive just having people after people hitting me up that are just non-Christians, just saying man, we love this album, this what we need in the hood, its just been crazy.
Rapzilla: Praise God for that! See, Ive never been in St. Louis, but I love St Louis so much, just because anytime I see yall cats, yall are just so tight in community. How did that come about? Was that something that was intentional or just something that God did?
Thisl: Yeah, it started out unintentional. It was just like me, JR, Flame like I met J.R. and Flame in the hood, like while they were at a church doing an event in my neighborhood. So then I met them and then Nab came to our church, so me, Flame, JR and Nab we all started hanging together. And they was doing music. I wasn’t even doing music at that point I was just learning the Lord. So we hanging together, growing together and then we ended meeting J’son. We met J’son, we hanging together, and at that point, that’s when it became intentional. Because we intentionally got involved in J’son’s life started getting it in with him, going, to his house hanging out, bowling, whatever, we doing together. Then Future. We make it and a lot of people think that we so close because of Bible but it is is because of Bible because of the fellowship, the random for Christians, but we getting together doing stuff, like play games, play monopoly, watch movies, go bowling. We hang together so much
Rapzilla: Ya’ll play Monopoly together though?
Thisl: Yes. (laughter) Like Religiously. Religiously. Look it up on youtube, and see us on there, over monopoly. But yeah we hang together, our families get together on Sundays to eat together. Out kids play together our wives hang together. It’s an intentional community to say, let’s get in each other’s lives. And it just you saw love in that because I’m love the fact that I got a dude like Json or my boy Kenny, that’s really in my face if I’m doing something wrong. Like if I’m wildin’ out, they gonna get in my face about it. Like it’s a hard thing but you learn to love that cause you see your brothers love you and that’s why we roll like that cause we got each other’s back. We gonna be the first person to say, you trippin’, we gonna be the first person to say man, that’s dope, I love what you doin’. So that we just click like that because we’re always in each other’s lives, like all the time.
Rapzilla: Praise God for that, man! And it’s definitely encouraging for people who don’t have that community [to see] it can be built.
Thisl: Yeah, it could be built from one or two people. Like at first it was just me Flame and JR. You know what I mean? It was just me, Flame and JR. Then Nab came and then it’s Json and then it’s Future and then it’s Chozen, Born 2 Die then it’s dudes we got that don’t even rap, don’t do music, don’t do nothing but they a part of our community, like girls that don’t rap, don’t do music, or nothing they a part of our community. We just all come together, get together and just hang out and do stuff.
Rapzilla: Ah, that’s what’s up man. So I know that you’re an independent artist – has that been really difficult because I know other people have somebody oh, okay, well this is the guy who writes the checks, this is the guy who does the promotion. I’m assuming that as an independent artist, most of that falls on your shoulders.
Thisl: Yeah, it’s a grind man. My prayer right now is, God send a team. Like I have help, certain people that help me – my dude Big Earl from California like he help me out a lot with my album, from 90K Watts I gotta a lot of people that chip in to help me you know what I’m saying when I need certain stuff but right now I’m praying, seeking God and building my company because I went ahead and went the independent route because I didn’t really see a lane for me and I also looked at the same time and I saw like, we got Reach, we got Cross Movement, but Christian Hip Hop as a whole, we got Syntax we got other companies, but when you look at secular music you got 20, 30 companies. And then you got Christian Hip Hop, and you got like two, three companies that run everything. You know what I’m saying? So it’s like, it just can’t be the case. If Reach, Cross Movement or Syntax or Lamp Mode don’t wanna sign me, does that mean that God don’t want me to display my talent? So I just felt led to start my own thing man, Infinity got behind me with the album. Infinity Central South. …Man they pushed the album out. The album been consistently selling. Like it ain’t straight selling millions but it’s consistently selling albums to be a Christian rap album. I’m looking forward to this year; I think it’s gonna be a lot better this year. Even better than it did last year, I got a bunch of stuff lined up this year, festivals, [the] Urban Missionary Tour, stuff like that, videos, by the end of the year Lord willing we’ll have at least four more videos out for the album. And we just gonna keep pumping, pushing it, and promoting it till the end of the year. And then I’ll be working on my new album.
Rapzilla: That’s what’s up. Just two more questions for you. So you got the Urban Missionary Tour coming up. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Thisl: Man my heart behind the tour, just in the brief, was when I’m looking at church and I’m looking at community and I’m looking at the world when you look around you see our church culture like it’s impossible.. It’s a popular thing to be a missionary. But at the same time you look and organization likes the Southern Baptist Organization they raise every year like $1.7 million you know to send to missionaries overseas and I look at the statistics we had 26,000 new churches started in 2009. We have like 10 million registered church members but if you look at cities like St. Louis, my own city, we got like 3,000 violent crimes a year, 150 murders, we have at least and it’s not the point out the Southern Baptist, because you got the Methodist, Assemblies of God they raise money [for missionaries] every year too, but if you look at my city alone, we got at least 20 Southern Baptist churches, but if you look at my community, you know, around my city, you got people on that same block that don’t got food… they don’t have stuff they need on a day to day basis, but the church can go ahead and send a million dollars overseas, when Jesus told us to start in Jerusalem first. So that was the heart behind my album too, when I got the song “Urban Missionary” on there, the heart behind the album was I wanted to make the people aware of what goes on in the hood, so you can see it, so you can have compassion, but at the same time, but at the same time you’d be charged to move and help. So that’s what the Urban Missionary Tour gonna do. We want hit up cities and we want charged people to move, charge them to get involved to be strategic not just thru hit and miss evangelism where it’s like ‘we’re gonna out Saturday to pass out CDs or pass out tracks, and then it’s like on Sunday we talk to people for two three hours and then we go back to church to celebrate, like ‘yay!’ Yeah, yay, the seed was planted, God yield the increase, but at the same time, when you have people that’s in your community that you can be involved with on a day to day basis, every month. If we can send a million dollars overseas, what about the one family at my church that just lost their house because they lost their job, they about to lose their house and about to be foreclosed. Even if they not a Christian, what about my neighbor that I know on my block – the family just lost their job, mom, dad whoever, they might lose their house. They having turmoil. Why can’t I go to the pastor, if we got a church that’s bringing in million dollars a year and say, Look, they only owe $15.000 on they house, let’s go pay it off for them, with no strings attached! Here Jesus loves you, we wanna pay off your house note, we pray you get on your feet, you know what I’m saying?
Thisl: ‘Anything you need we here to help’ like imagine the impact that would have on people or for the kid that doesn’t have a mom, that’s in foster home but goes to school and you’re teaching young kid to strategically go to school and partner and find people that have issues and then meet them, befriend them get them to come over to the house you teach them about the gospel and pour into they life. That’s the kind of stuff we want to encourage people to do. Be strategic about urban missions like being involved with people.
Rapzilla: That’s what’s up. And I definitely, really appreciated that “Urban Missionary” song. I remember the first time I heard that song I was driving with my boy Webb and he threw it on, like literally second verse I got chills up and down my spine. It was really encouraging cause I definitely think we put missionaries on this pedestal like ‘look at these missionaries these brave people going to Saudi Arabia,’ but what about my block? So yeah, thank you very much for your time. Last thing I wanted to know, how can our readers be praying for you?
Thisl: Consistency, and I’m being transparent, consistency all the way around, that I just stay faithful to my family, my wife, ministry, just consistency man. Cause anybody is capable of falling short. I’m always, I keep myself aware of that and I always tell people pray for my consistency, pray for my discipline, and my life and just pray that I continue to go hard for the Lord, cause that’s what’s it’s gonna take. It’s gonna take the Lord’s power and it’s going to take discipline.
Rapzilla: Well thanks very much for your time man.
Thisl: Amen bruh!
You can follow Thi’sl on Twitter @Thisl