5ive Says Being Honest About Struggles Gives People Hope

Two weeks ago we sat down with 5ive and he shared all about the creative process behind his latest project Family Business. In this final installment, he dives deeper into his testimony and shares how his salvation story reverberates throughout his life on and off the mic. 

Let’s talk about the personal side of your music now. In the video testimony you put out, you became very raw and honest about the struggles you faced growing up, such as getting involved with drugs really early at 10 years old. Where you are at now in life is such an amazing testimony to God’s grace and mercy. As you write and talk about these experiences, what does it look like to talk candidly about your past life but not glorify those actions? For you, is it hard to be honest on the microphone?

For me, I have to be fully transparent and authentic. At least in secular rap, it seems like people don’t want to talk about their lowest of lows and are hesitant. They’ll talk about the “cool sins” or “acceptable vices” in a sense. Likewise in CHH, a lot of artists will talk about their struggles in the past tense. That’s great if they really have overcome certain sins and vices but they should also know that it is okay to still struggle and have doubts and to be open about those things. 

For me, I have to share everything. I want people to know that it doesn’t matter how bad you get or how low you go. You won’t love God until you know what he delivered you from. Looking at where I was before, being addicted to everything from drugs to drinking to pornography…knowing what God delivered me from, makes me love Him that much more.

I hear a lot of people come up and say “man I don’t got a testimony like yours” and to that, I say “Praise God!” You not having a testimony like mine is proof that God will keep you. The fact that someone is not struggling with certain sins can and will be an encouragement to those who are because for the struggling person, they can have hope. They know what the finish line of their fight looks like. I always tell people to not underestimate the power their life has on others because while God could just change people’s hearts without using human beings, he graciously chooses to use us in his mission. God is using us to be His laborers for the harvest. 

I hope that answered your question bro. (Laughing) I’m sorry when I get a thought, the words just start flowing from my mind. 

Ah no I appreciate it! That’s encouraging to hear. Artists can often be elevated to a high platform where they feel trapped and isolated because they can’t share or open up. You make a really good point about using music as a way for ministry. What is your approach as you make music to reach out to people and share the good news in a way that is not too alienating? (a la using too much “Christianese”) In that same vein too, how do you love people who maybe came from the place where you were at but haven’t quite gotten free from those cycles yet? What does being in the world but not of the world look like for you? 

Yeah, so I try to write songs with certain friends in mind. I had a song I wrote for my brother called “The Evidence” which was on the first volume of Me and Against the World. I have some lyrics there where I say:

“I was the only father figure my brother had / It makes me mad that growing up all I taught him was bad / Forgive me bro I should have been a better dad / But I was just a lad Needing the same thing”

That was really cool to do that song for my brother. But I’m also spitting hard truth too. The world thinks that love is just affirming and letting people do whatever they want. But if I love you, I wanna save your life and I’ll want to speak candidly. At the same time, I never want to be overbearing or shoving stuff down people’s throats either. So I need to be in tune with the Holy Spirit to know when those moments are to speak the truth and when it is best to present. The more you understand that life is about sacrifice and try to look like Jesus, the more people will be around you. We have to learn how to navigate and be led by the Spirit to talk with people. But you have to have communication with the Spirit in order for that to happen. 

You’re right. And when people see Jesus in you they can’t help but call attention to that and be drawn to it. 

Yeah! It’s funny because everyone at my barbershop knows that I’m a Christian rapper and when my album debuted at #10 on Itunes, my barber began to tell everybody in the shop about that. I was sandwiched literally between DJ Khaled, Logic, and NF on the charts. One of the guys really liked NF and so we went ahead and just started talking. It was a cool conversation to have. 

Another big part of your testimony is when you felt God audibly tell you to “go to church.” It’s a powerful testament to the body of Christ and how God speaks not only in our alone time with him but also in community. We are in a cultural moment where going to church is more taboo though. What keeps you going every Sunday and what encouragement do you have to those who maybe have become jaded with the church?

I used to say that “hey I’ll go to church when I get myself right first or I can’t go to church when I’m drunk or high that’s crazy.” But if you look at my testimony, on the day I received salvation, I had just been smoking. I felt God tell me “Go to church” and I couldn’t ignore it even as I tried to shake it off. But when I walked in the church building, I met my aunt and she said: “you’re tired huh?” And I said “I’m so tired” and right then I lost the urge to drink, smoke, etc. I knew everyone was gonna be looking at me funny but at that moment I didn’t care because God showed up and when He shows up and you meet Him, the other things don’t become as important. 

I think people need to get to a place where they go to church to meet Jesus. This should be what’s exciting. It doesn’t matter what others say and what everybody else was doing. 

There should be that excitement of “I get to spend time with Jesus on Sunday and get in his presence.” 

There’s this story of a pastor who told a member of his congregation to walk around the church with a full cup of water and not spill a single drop. The member did it, and the pastor asked: “did you spill a drop?” She said “No.” The pastor asked, “Did you notice anyone looking at you, pointing at you, etc.” She said “No…I was too focused on not spilling the water.” That level of focus is what we ought to have when we step into the church. 

A miracle happens when you get to the end of yourself. And when you come to the end of yourself, that’s right where God is too.

It ain’t even Sunday but I feel like I’m getting a sermon! Thanks so much for your time.

Of course. Thank you.

Thanks to 5ive for the interview. Be sure to read part one here and listen to 5ive below:


Written by Zachary

Zachary Lee is a student at Cornell University studying English, creative writing, and Spanish. When he is not writing poetry or performing it at open mics, you can find him critically analyzing Summer blockbusters or hopelessly catching up on his ever-expanding reading list. He hopes to retire in Jerusalem where he can eat falafel and swim in the Dead Sea to his heart's desire.

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