Rapzilla Freshmen JXHN PVUL: From Salsa, Worship, Metal, & Classical Band, All His Music Points to Christ

There’s not a style of music that JXHN PVUL hasn’t dabbled in. He uses this music knowledge to craft his own unique blend of Christian rap. He was named a Rapzilla Freshmen this year and despite the victory, there’s been a lot going on behind the scenes.

Aside from his own musical career, he’s had the joy of having a child but also dealing with crippling depression and anxiety. We had the chance to speak with him about the highs and lows of 2020.

What’s life like for you these days?

It’s been busy man. My son just turned one in May, so he’s walking, talking, trying to talk anyway. I’ve been pretty busy. I got my hands full. Even though he’s only one kid, you don’t know until you know, right?

Our first baby, we lost and then we were blessed with a healthy thriving baby. So praise God for that. It definitely was a process. God gets the glory every time because moving forward now the number of people that we’ve been able to tell our story to… the impact has been real.

Talk about your last year with COVID, having a kid, then you know like the super exciting things like getting named a Rapzilla freshmen and getting some pretty cool collaborations. What has that been like for you?

During the 2020 COVID season, believe it or not, we thrived. My business took off mainly because everybody was locked up, they were making a quarantine EP and stuff like that. So I did have a lot of work come in as an engineer for the entire year. 

Man, I’m an extrovert, so I actually get fueled by being around people. So imagine like I’m indoors for a whole year just working on music and my son up with my wife because she’s a stay-at-home mom. So it’s been me, her, and him for a whole year. But I’m an extrovert and she’s introverted as heck. So it took a toll on me that I really didn’t realize it until this year, because it was like all this build-up.

I need to see people, but for a whole year, there weren’t really any events going on. I never have been an artist who survived off of shows. So if I’m honest, the last show I did was just before COVID and wasn’t really much of a show. It was a date I had that a church just asked me to come through, and that’s kinda been how I go with stuff like that.

Then I hit a deep depression…

I don’t think I’ve ever been this depressed in my life ever. Even when terrible stuff has gone on, I’ve never felt so unmotivated, so like lacking the desire to do anything, even stuff that I like. People who know me know I’m really into cars, I’m into sneakers and I’m into music. And dude, I just couldn’t do any of it. I just didn’t care about it. I just didn’t care. A lot of friendships took a toll because it was like people would reach out and they didn’t know if I was dead or not. But in that time it’s just hard for me to even conjure up any type of enthusiasm for anything and then follow that with the anxiety that comes with it…

It’s like it comes in pairs. Almost like a brother and sister thing, I’m like, y’all, can’t just attack me with depression. You gotta come with anxiety too. It really came from that hard year and me being enclosed. I want to say a lot of times you hear “oh, well put your faith and trust in Jesus bro.” And I’m like “100%. I always do.” But as a human being with human emotions, that happens. I’ll never put it past anyone to have those moments.

The one thing that we truly need to hear when we’re in those moments is like, let me share some time with you let’s go eat or let’s go do something that’s not related to what you usually do for work, or fun, without strings, attached. It’s really easy to not realize that’s what people are trying to do when they’re reaching out.

But yeah after going through that bad season of depression I now feel like I’m in a better place mentally, spiritually, but physically not so much.

How long have you been with OVA? And what’s it like to have a support system in place like that?

It was in 2019 that we’ve like made it official. Didn’t announce it until the early start of 2020. So we’re going on two years.

Creatively I can’t even complain. They have given me the freedom to create whatever the heck kind of music I want. Which is dope. That’s one of the biggest things that an artist would want and would need coming out of a collective or a label or something like that.

I’ve heard of other places where a lot of times they have like A&R’s that are like, “nope, that’s not it,” or “nope we’re not doing that.” Then that’s the frustrating thing for an artist. Because as an artist we are creative. So to be told don’t be creative. It’s like a slap in the face.

There’s a lot of creative people on there too. You, and Nic D, Datin, Kurtis Hoppie…But all of you guys have your own facets too. What was it like for you, crafting that unique sound? Was this the goal to be like someone that sounds so unique from everyone else?

It was never the goal to sound different. As a matter of fact, I grew up just listening to a slew of different types of music. Obviously, I’m Puerto Rican, so growing up in a Spanish household, all I used to listen to is like old-time worship music. Like when I say worship I mean some worship bangers from back then, or also Spanish hip hop. My father grew up on that stuff he raised us up on that and salsa, merengue, bachata, all that type of music was always played in my household.

The other day I was just talking with my wife about how I should write a book about this crap.  I was really into hip-hop. When I was in middle school it was the pinnacle of 50 Cent & G Unit. I loved Lloyd Banks, all of them, and I would wear the South Pole baggy jeans b-boots, and the whole nine. I remember going to this middle school after coming out of an elementary school that was predominantly Hispanic and African-American people. So it was like the culture of style, fashion, even though it was like elementary and middle school, what we call Intermediate school. 

Even though at the time I’m heavily influenced by Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, I kind of felt like I should play the guitar. My mom always talked about how when she was younger she had a guitar but she never really learned how to play it.

I fell in love with the instrument. So I went to the strings class director and asked if I could be part of the class. Of course, he said “yeah sure.” But then he said  “This is your choice of instruments. You have a violin, viola, a cello, or a bass.” And I was like, where’s the guitar? This is strings class. Right, sir. It’s classical strings. So I thought…okay which one of those is closest to guitar? So I picked the cello in the sixth grade. So now I’m still wearing the baggy pants, looking like a thug, but I’m in the orchestra, you know? I’ll never forget this man because the director fought to keep me in this class because this is at the point where everyone is bullying me. I had moments of discouragement at this time.

They’re calling me a dork because I’m in this class and I have to haul around this big instrument. Like this is frustrating. The director was like, “look, what more do you want from this class? I’m teaching you everything that you need to know.” So then I said “I kind of want to learn how to play the snare drum. That’s a cool instrument.” I told him the band instructor is ready to give me a position on the drums. So you know what this dude does? He gets a snare drum for the class to learn rhythm. This man really wanted to keep me around. I don’t really know for what reason, but I’m over here thugged out playing orchestra.

When we’d do the solo and ensembles, I would not change for anybody, my baggy clothes, the South Pole, and I’d be playing these solo and ensemble sets with them. Then just before, we left middle school, this man ended up doing the exact thing that I wanted from the jump. He got a set of guitars for the entire class to learn. He was so supportive from the jump. Those three years were some of the most influential moments of my life that then catapulted me into learning music, the cello, the drums, and the guitar. 

It all stopped when I left middle school though because I ended up going to a military high school. I guess my parents decided that it was best for me, even though I wasn’t a bad kid. I think their motivation was trying to get a good education.

They had an orchestra there but I decided I was just gonna be there to learn, all while I was still working on playing the guitar. In my senior year, I joined my first rock band. So all of a sudden my background is hip-hop, salsa, latin music, reggaeton, orchestra too…then fast forward now I’m doing rock music.

It was actually a metal band to make it even nicer. I have some demos of that stuff too, but, moving on from high school the bands broke up, and while I was trying to record stuff into my computer, I didn’t really start getting into the studio/engineering for a little bit. It wasn’t until I turned about 18, 19 that I started getting really serious about engineering other people’s music.

It wasn’t until I was 21 that I got saved. So I didn’t really know Jesus my whole life. I kind of figured there was somebody there, but I didn’t know much. And I always thought that I was too much of a sinner to even be worthy. So that was always my thought. When I was 21 then I started playing worship music shortly after. I guess this is why I have so much variety to what I can do.

You had this huge variety of your music background that got you to this point and then you still chose hip hop. Why was it that you chose to go hip hop?

This is my roots. I was raised on this stuff. If I go back in time when I was saved, I didn’t know that there was anything like Christian Hip Hop.  I thought there was only worship music.  So I’ve only really known about CHH for like four years, five years at most. I would have even pursued doing worship music if I didn’t if I wouldn’t have known.

What are your thoughts on being a Rapzilla Freshman?

Honestly, bro. I definitely didn’t expect it. I wasn’t wishing upon a star that I’d be Rapzilla freshman. But obviously, when they asked for us to put up for people to vote, of course, I participated. But even still didn’t expect anything. So for me to end up being one was humbling. Rapzilla gave me my first platform, you know what I mean?

I’m not talking about the user playlist, it was on their review stuff. Critique Fridays and stuff. I remember submitting songs that should have never left my computer and I’m getting like sevens, sixes, and I’m like, “crap, this is terrible.” One day I sent in a song and it was just like the exact thing OB wanted to hear that night so I got a 10. After that I kinda knew what he was looking for, so decided I’m going to send another one. The very next one I submitted got a 10 again, and it was at that point that I realized how much that process helped me. When they told me it was a six back then, I could have cried about it and never came back, but I didn’t. I just sharpened my crap up and came back. Because of that, I feel like I was given my first platform there, my first voice.

I was excited about this Freshman list, I know just about every artist on the lineup, whether I’ve engineered for them or we’ve talked. Jeka is a good friend. Lundi I engineered one of their early songs. Red Tips is the man. I did a video for him a while back when he was here, he’s actually from Florida or his parents live here or something. He’s so genuine and humble. 

Hope you learned something about this rather unique artist! 

Listen to JXHN PVUL Below:

JXHN PVUL’s new EP Surface drops Friday, Dec 3

What do you think?

Luc DiMarzio

Written by Luc DiMarzio

Luc has been a fan of CHH for 30 years, and has been writing about it for just over 4 years. He has a huge passion for amplifying the underground of CHH.

When he's not bumpin hip-hop, you can catch him leading worship at his local church, rooting on the Chicago Cubs with his wife, or swimming with his kids.

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