Down from the Mountain: Jon Keith Talks Post ‘Olympus’ Reception & God’s Good Timing
2019 has been quite the year for Jon Keith. He dropped his third album Olympus in July under Kings Dream Entertainment to rave reviews and had a high-profile guest spot on Reach Record’s Summer 19 playlist. In this interview he dives into what it was like to finally release Olympus (a project years in the making) and how God’s plan is never late; we’re just impatient.
Congrats on dropping Olympus! It’s been on repeat for me ever since it came out. Reach’s Summer 19 playlist released and I was like “I could listen to it…or I could listen to Olympus again.” This one has been a long time in the making yeah?
Yeah, I was working on Olympus before Lost Boys and Honeyblonde. It’s pretty different from when I first worked on it. I didn’t always plan on being as transparent or vulnerable as the album stands now. That’s why it took so long because I realized just how much depth and vulnerability needed to be put into it. But now it’s out and I’m relieved to release it.
From the testimonies that you’re sharing on your Instagram, it was definitely worth the wait and worth its weight (in terms of its subject matter). A lot of people seem to resonate with it.
People have constantly said that this was a huge level up from my past projects. It always means more to me when someone wants to go do something after listening to my work rather than someone just telling me they liked it or it was good. This one guy DM’d me that he was going to call his brother and tell him how much he loves him after listening to “Mcs.” It’s one thing to let someone know that they are not alone in what they’re feeling or experiencing and that’s always the goal, but then when you can also push someone else to move in rectifying some relationship or something in your life, that’s huge.
Wow. That speaks to the power of your music and platform. One of the songs that has resonated with a lot of people (and a personal favorite of mine) is “One of You.” One of the lyrics that stuck out was when you said “Praying someone notices because I can’t endure / I only wrote ‘Thass God’ because I’m insecure.” You shared in one of your Making of Olympus videos that “Thass God” is ironically one of the biggest hits of your career. What’s your relationship like with that song now that you’ve had this moment of reflection?
It’s weird. That song was not what everyone thinks it was. People still bump the song and want me to perform it but for me every time I hear it it’s a reminder of how bitter and insecure I was. I still wrestle with insecurity and I was acting out of it in that song.
To be honest with you, I don’t like to really perform the song or hear it, but I’m also aware that God works all things together for our good. Even though my heart was bitter in that song, people have told me that it ministered to them and it is ultimately God who puts you in certain places and opens doors for you. So I’m grateful that people can enjoy it and have fun and maybe I’ll get there. But for me having to relieve my insecure mind state back when I made and performed the song will probably be the consequence every time I hear it.
Thanks for being willing to share that. Few artists are willing to admit a mistake but even fewer are willing to go back when a mistake or error in judgment has earned them success. It’s interesting that as an artist, despite having intentionality behind the music you make, you can’t control how the public or your audience will receive it. Did not knowing how your messages would come across to people contribute to the trepidation you had in releasing Olympus?
I was terrified to release this album and was worried not only about how people would perceive the album but how they would receive it. I was thinking “what if I drop this project where I’m being super vulnerable…and people don’t rock with it?” while also wrestling with “What if I drop this project and it is not in the same playing field and level as those of my peers?”
Two days before the album dropped I was sitting and talking about this with my girlfriend and she was like, “You just have to give this to God.” It’s not an, “okay God I’ll give this to you and expect that you’ll make these things happen” but “okay God no matter what happens I’ll do what you tell me to do.” It’s crazy because, in that time after we dropped the project, people texted me–and these people don’t really text me ever–and said: “This project is amazing.”
How do you deal with or react when you receive adulation like that? I know for a lot of Olympus you talked about the idols of success and issues of pride. Coming from me as a fan, just from the past two years alone from an objective standpoint you could be boastful about a lot, from being featured on the last two Reach Records projects to the numerous other co-signs you receive. How can you receive compliments in a way that doesn’t become idolatrous?
It’s funny because I feel like my struggle comes the opposite way in that compliments never get to my head because I’m really hard on myself. When someone comes to me and says, “Yo you’re one of my favorite rappers.” It’s tough for me to receive that compliment. I’m too focused on the failures or where a song didn’t come out the way I wanted it to. And that’s prideful and idolatrous because I’m still focusing on myself. It just looks different. It’s also hypocritical because on the flip side if someone offers negative feedback that’s when I flare up and say, “How dare you! Do you know who I am?!”
When people like Lecrae, Andy, or KB say things to me though…those things are still huge for me. I grew up as a kid listening to Christian rap…no secular music at all. So whenever I get to interact with them that’s when I have to say “Okay…don’t freak out right now.”
Look out for part two with Jon Keith next week where he talks about being on the Reach Records Summer19 Playlist and more.