After the Reach Records Summer Twenty playlist dropped, I discovered Rockstar JT for the first time through his hit single “Stick” and began following him on Twitter. Reading the mass of power daily Tweets from him and sensing an incredible passion for Christ, I knew that I needed to interview him. Most importantly, I knew that he had some powerful words for CHH and the Christian music industry that needed to be spoken.
I know you already answered this on one of your Instagram stories, but for those that did not watch it, break down the meaning behind “Stick.”
JT: When I did the song, for me it was like, “Let’s pass the baton.” If you see what that is, it is a stick, you feel what I’m sayin’? It’s like a wooden cylinder. When I’m thinking about the song, it just like, “Let’s pass the baton to the next generation,” and that comes with passin’ down discipleship, passin’ down music, givin’ a co-sign or somethin’ like that. Somethin’ you see in the next generation that you can pass to them, you know? So I use the method “Stick” because I know that for me God has been calling me to just be all the way in Christian rap, God has called me to be elsewhere as well. I’m not saying that “Oh, I’ll just neglect the Christian fanbase,” but my mission is bigger than that. It’s not because of what Lecrae’s doin’ or what nobody’s doin’, but because this is what God is callin’ me to do.
When you think of “Stick” a lot of people are like, “Oh, are you talking about a gun?” The Bible tells me to be all things to all men, so it’s just like whatever you feel the need to think of it. If you a hood dude, your mindset is going to be a gun, but if you’re somebody else, it could be a gun, it could be anything in their mindset. But I know for me making the song it was about passin’ the baton.
Describe the process of how you were able to work with Reach Records and how you were connected with Scootie Wap, MainMain, and Duke Deuce.
JT: He (Ace Harris) hit me up a few months ago way before “Stick” even dropped like, ”Hey man, we want to get you on this Reach project. We love what you doin’; we love your sound.” When he hit me up, “Stick” was not even a thing. It was another song that he wanted to put on there and I was just like, “Man, I think I can come up with something better.” So Hulvey played me this beat and it came in and I slapped and I was like, “Bro! What is this!” He was like, “Yo, this is one of the beats I feel like you could use.” And when he did that, I was like, “Yeah!”
So I hit up my man Scootie Wap and he’s from South Carolina. I was going to do a song with him a long time ago. Like he was popping off. I saw him on Instagram. Everything just wasn’t right; we wasn’t like “workin’ workin’” until “Stick.” I was like, “He will eat this up!” So I hit him up and I was like, “Bro, lay this down, lay a hook down on this, and let’s see how it goes.” He laid the hook down and I was like, “Yeah bro!”
I knew MainMain for a long time, like probably a year and a half, two years, and he’s always been my friend and we’ve been talkin’ about workin’. And Ace was like, “Yo, let’s see who we can get on this mug.” So we hit up MainMain and he was like, “Yeah man! MainMain gonna eat that!” and he did.
After the song was done, I heard the song and I was just like, “Man, I feel like somethin’ is missin’. So a guy named BlocBoy JB was gonna get on the song, but he fell through, so I hit up Ace. I was like, “Bro, somethin’ missin’.” He was like, “Bro, watchu want? Who you hear on it?” I was like, “Man, honestly, righteously, I want to work with a Memphis artist out of this. I think Duke Deuce. He was like, “Man, make it happen.” When I hit up his manager, he was like, “Yeah man! Let’s get it!” He gave it two weeks and we had the verse. Then the song was done.
Was there any hesitation from Duke and his team for featuring on a song with a Christian artist?
JT: They were totally cool with it. And after the song was done, his manager hit me up and said, “This is a hit!” I feel like a lot of times they check my page out, but that’s where this is so important, to become all things to all men. I’m not gonna run my social media like a pastor. I’ll post some godly stuff a lot of times because what’s in you comes out, but actually the hood life is still in me. I have to post both because these people can feel this, but I need people in the streets and the hood who can feel somethin’ that I say too. So when they looked at that, I’m pretty sure they was like, “Oh yeah, okay, I see he got somethin’ goin’ on.” But it was no pushback. We just made it happen and they were really easy to work with.
You Tweeted this out a few weeks ago: “I’m really bringing street culture into the Christian music scene. We put Duke Deuce on a reach records song. I don’t think y’all understand how important this is for the culture.” Explain how you want to change the Christian music industry in regards to featuring Duke Deuce on “Stick.”
JT: For me, I think a lot of the Christian music industry is very cheesy. I think it’s a lot of cringiness to it, you know. I just feel like a lot of people in the Christian genre or the Christian market forget about people who don’t know the Lord. I look at the Great Commission, in Matthew 28, and I feel like we can make disciples through music. What I mean is this, somebody hears your song and it plants a seed and they want to know. That’s what happened to me. I heard Lecrae, I heard Thi’sl and when I heard these artists, I was like, “Man, like it’s cool to be a Christian!” I want to be able to relate to people who think like that.
Okay, so this is somebody’s mindset: You got a guy like Rockstar JT who’s from the streets, he loves the LORD, he’s from a poverty-stricken neighborhood, guns poppin’ off every night, and he still loves Jesus. If you don’t have me in this area in Christian music, CHH, anything, how will they know that you can be a Christian but still be urban at the same time? I feel like a lot of times people want us to turn into these type of pop artists and make these pop songs and these big Christian bops because they want money and bread, but I feel like man, I will sacrifice the money and bread to stay true to my culture, you know, and stay true to what I want to make.
I feel like bringin’ a guy like Duke Duece on the song, it’s just like, “Man, we have to be able to be friends with people who don’t think the same as us, be friends with people who don’t look like us, be friends with people who talk differently than us, who see the world differently than us.”
A guy like me bein’ inside of Christian culture or havin’ Christian attached to my name and still bein’ urban and still bein’ black and knowin’ who the real Jesus is, I feel like we need more of that in Christian music and CHH. We need more people who stay true to their culture. If you from the trap, make trap music and never let anybody change you. Everybody will throw you hits, it happened to me.
I want to make sure I represent you well, so let me ask you this. Would you say that the Christian music industry is a white industry that takes artists like yourself and tells you not to be who you are and who you were created to be and to keep trap music out because it doesn’t make money for their markets?
JT: Yeah, of course! K-Love, for example, is a Christian music station and they don’t play rap music. They only play contemporary Christian music. I feel power through Christian hip-hop; I feel power through trap music. For example, Thi’sl or Reconcile or Cory Paul. When I hear this music, I feel fulfilled, I feel my Spirit gettin’ lifted and there’s hard trap beat. This glorifies God the same way that contemporary glorifies God, so it’s just like this is a Christian station, I’m a Christian. I’m not sayin’ anythin’ that’s contrary to Scripture, so why won’t you play my song?
They won’t play my song because they don’t care about culture, they just care about white culture, you know what I mean? They don’t care about my culture. They can say that they do, but if they did you’ll play the music that my culture can relate to.
When have you ever seen a black, urban Christian listen to K-Love? When have you seen a person in Washington Park, Montgomery, Alabama listenin’ to K-Love? They could be that. They could be more evangelistic, but they have a certain market and they don’t want to do that. I will be on mainstream radio. I’ll be on the Realist Down South Playlist, Hip-Hop Controller playlist, two of the biggest Spotify playlists with no Christian rap on there, and I’ll be on those playlists and people can come to me and be like, “Yo, this is how you’ve helped me,” and I’m reachin’ all cultures. I’d rather be on that than K-Love because these people understand and get my culture and when they know who I am they’ll know who Christ is.
I’m glad you mentioned K-Love and there’s Air1 as well. The only type of hip-hop I’ve seen them play is Kanye West. They started using “Use This Gospel” with Pusha T and Kenny G, but that was because Kanye West is already universally popular and it wasn’t like they were trying to diversify themselves and be urban. They were just trying to just follow mainstream culture.
JT: And they tryin’ to get money. They know they can make money off Kanye so, therefore, all of the white Christians were so excited when Kanye converted, most of them. It’s just like, Okay, we’ll play Kanye because we want to be cool or something like that. Lecrae just dropped a song or one of the guys dropped a song in CHH and it goes crazy. Why won’t you play that? And it shows a lot of people be clout chasin’.
What kind of mainstream attention has “Stick” made? You mentioned the Realist Down South playlist and Hip-Hop Controller playlist, but tell us any other accolades it made.
JT: Yeah so when it dropped I seen even a mainstream DJ, I don’t know where he’s from…a station out of Chicago, mainstream, like you have them posting NLE Choppa, Kevin Gates, NBA Young Boy, and then you see Rockstar JT. She didn’t have no Christian releases on there and a Christian song came out that day and she posted that song and she was like “New artist from Montgomery AL dropped a song ‘Stick’.” It was like the mainstream radio station and I was like, “Oh wow!” That was very beautiful because I was like, “Yo, this is amazin’! I’m on mainstream radio in Chicago! I got people smokin’ weed to my stuff!” Not saying that “Oh yeah! Smoke weed to my music! Yeah! Yeah!” But it’s beautiful that I can reach people outside the body of Christ and these people are really interested in my life and can really see Christ in my life.
The mainstream attention is very well and there’s more comin’. The song just dropped so we haven’t really even started “pushin’ it, pushin’ it” yet, but we got some crazy stuff in the makin’ and I’m so excited!
Who are three mainstream artists you would dream of working with?
JT: I would love to work with him (NBA YoungBoy). He’s just amazin’ and he’s one of the top artists I want to work with. Another guy named Moneybagg Yo. I really want to work with him on some stuff because of that Memphis style! I love it! This may sound funny and really really hilarious but the last artist I would want to work with is Nicki Minaj. She’s the queen of rap! I really really want to work with her one day! I don’t know if it’s gonna happen since she’s gettin’ a little older but it’s just like, “Yo, I’ve been a fan since 2008!” so if I could work with Nicki I might retire! If I had one song with Nicki, it’s over!
Is there anything else you would like to share with Rapzilla?
JT: I just say, “Scream ‘Stick’!”