Joe Ayinde is as deadly an emcee as they come. The Long Island born and current Ohio transplant encompasses that “real, authentic New York” hip-hop sound. He’s a beast with the bars, has a burden for souls, and most likely the next big thing in Christian hip-hop. This 2018 Rapzilla Freshmen chatted with us about how questioning God made his best music and ultimately brought him closer. 

“Joe Ayinde is, for one, a child of God for sure. A person that is recognizing his identity. I’m a husband. I am a father. I am a connoisseur of sounds, per se – that’s been my things since I could remember. I’ve been into sound and into music; seeing sounds, synesthesia…in that shell, I am just there for people,” he said in his own words.

As of right now, the rapper’s goal is to be able to impact at least 10,000 people consistently.

“I know it’s going to take work,” he admitted. “I know it’s going to take consistency. It’s going to take the funds, but realistically that’s where I want to be. That will be a nice start.”

He continued, “I’m definitely going to be doing more movie work and TV shows. My videographer and other folks were working on a network, so there’s a lot of video content coming out. Just really being able to impact a core group of people consistently that I interact with.”

He shot a film, has a role in a musical and is filming a bunch of videos for his upcoming project.

As mentioned above, Ayinde has that raw sound that can be formed with careful cultivation in New York City. He knows how important it is for every syllable and bar to land.

“It’s the competitive aspect of course. Coming up, it was all about who was the best lyricist and getting in cyphers, really being able to spit,” he explained. “You got to have a foundation, and I think that’s what New York did for me. I have a basis to stand on. I build with the building blocks and then I can throw in the different flows, melodies, and the catchy hooks – But I’m going to rap. You’re not going to get around it, and I will out rap you too, so there’s that competitive nature. I’m going to make a dope song because I love you all. That energy that pushes, that’s what New York is. It’s that hunger, that strive, it’s that competitive edge I have. Not saying other regions don’t have that, but there’s a certain grit and a certain – I don’t want to say it – but like an arrogance when you’re from New York. I’m not going to slack, I’m not going to, ‘Ok, my melody was good enough.’ No, you going to get hit with these lyrics.”

That’s what makes Joe’s blend of music so special. He writes to speak to your soul. He wants to go to places that are unspoken about by Christians, and these places aren’t necessarily bad. A good example of this is the song “Hello.” It’s “risqué” for the traditional Christian market, but he’s talking about his wife, so what’s the big deal?

It’s also why Rapzilla named Joe Ayinde a Freshman for 2018. His music is authentic and he can rap his brains out.

“I was shocked,” Ayinde said of making the list. “It was the biggest shocker to me because I wasn’t aiming for it. I’m a person that’s like ‘I feel like I got to pay dues’. I understand it’s a Freshmen list, but I just put out a couple of pieces here and there because I let life get in the way, and then I stick it out. I put out this project Penny Fore My Thoughts and God’s directing me like ‘Yo, just work on it, it doesn’t matter’ because I was drained, close to suicidal thoughts and things like that you hear in the project. When it dropped and to get that kind of response at that level was just like, ‘Ok, glad you all listening. You all are looking out.’ It was overwhelming, for real, I’m at a loss for words.”

Penny Fore My Thoughts was Joe’s really impressive entrance into being a CHH contender. Rapzilla nominated it for Best EP of 2017. It was immersive enough to be a concept, but according to Ayinde, it wasn’t.

“There’s actually no concept. It’s like a side concept because I was going to put out a project called Random Thoughts. Funny thing is, like 2015, I went by the name Seph Young, and I actually had like a little mixtape called Random Thoughts Vol. 1. So I was going to do Random Thoughts as an album original piece and everything. But I fell into an extreme state of depression and anxiety,” he shared. “I had lost my job. Some things were going on with my family and with my wife. She had gotten arrested, and so we were trying to recover from that, to rebuild and repair our relationship. It was me really searching for a personal relationship with God because I had felt like I had grown up under my mom’s God, my dad’s God, my grandmom’s God.”

Ayinde grew up in the church because he’s a preacher’s kid. He never really made the conscious decision to follow God, it was just ingrained in him. He said he could defend the faith as good as anyone, recite scripture at the drop of a hat, and do that thing a lot of Christians do ‘hear someone, but not listen’.

“[I’m] defending the faith and really not listening to the issues at hand or why people be asking the questions that they’re asking. It was like, ‘I’m hearing you just to retort’,” he exclaimed. “So during that depressive state and anxiety, I heard the spirit speaking to me so clear at that point. It was like, ‘Listen, I’m going to peel back everything. You’re going to unlearn, you’re going to learn again, you’re going to spend quality time. It’s going to be unorthodox in a way that you do it, talk to me regularly’.”

He continued, “Communication is key, communication is everything. As I began to talk with God, that started to heal my marriage, and my wife and I got closer. Then my kids start to see how a man should love a woman. Through that, my venting started to be Penny Fore My Thoughts. It was me trying to overcome feeling stale, feeling helpless. It was me getting my feelings out and setting a goal to complete something. I put it out on my youngest son’s birthday because he’s my biggest fan. He was like ‘Daddy, I want some music,’ so I was like, ‘Alright, I got you.’ I don’t want you to see me down like this, but I got to get you something. So it really came down together like that as a way to overcome. It’s me trying to be vulnerable with where I was.”

Joe Ayinde

During that time frame, Joe said, he stopped going to church. The rapper had valid questions, and no one could answer them.

“It wasn’t me questioning as a cynic, and it wasn’t even me questioning as a sceptic. It’s more like, I was open more to the questions people were asking, and I know my God is big enough to answer these questions, so I am going to be bold enough to ask,” he said. “It has to start with me, and then if He delivers and answers through me, he gave me a gift to throw it back at His people, like that is what I want to do. During that time period, He had me between Genesis and Romans, and one of the people I fell in love with and really admired was Abraham. The fact that he walked away from everything that was normal to him, everything that was customary, everything that was cultured. He had trust, faith, and obedience, then the courage to listen to the voice of God. You see what that turned into? It was stepping out on that kind of faith and I felt like that was like a rite of passage for me, even as a man. It was a series.”

The father of three said he wants to have these open and honest conversations with his kids too. He wants them to understand the importance of having an actual relationship with God.

“There are certain conversations that I will have had with them individually, and then there are other conversations I will have as a group. There are certain things I know one child can handle and can get away with that another can’t,” said Ayinde. “So it’s realizing we are talking about ‘Abba, Father.’ If you look at the relationship Jesus had, it was unique, it was different, it was set apart. It’s a realization that we all have access to that unique relationship. He’s going to talk to us and reach us in specific ways. We just got to be open and allow ourselves to be reached.” 

It’s clear that Penny Fore My Thoughts isn’t the only thinking Ayinde is doing. As someone who takes the art of rhyme very seriously, he shapes and molds his ideas the same way. Stay tuned for part two of this interview next week, where the emcee talks more about what he’s working on and the project he has coming.

Watch Joe Ayinde Below:

Special thanks to Ed Boice for transcribing the audio of this interview to be used for the story.