BG: When is your birthday?
J.Kwest Its Real Hip Hop!
By: Jessica Lashawn
JL: May 14th, 1983
JL: How many siblings do you have?
JK: Siblings: 4 (1 older and 3 younger)
JL: How were you introduced to rap?
JK: Well, I was 10 and like all 10 year olds, I was stuck to the radio. First off, it was Kris Kross “Jump”, Da Brat, and Bone Thugs (n Harmony). My uncle was a [hip hop] head so he put me on to Ice Cube, Dre, and the whole West Coast vibe. I fell in love with the freedom of expression and the fact that they just WEREN'T SCARED. Then, I found Tribe, and that sealed the deal. Hip hop is my first love and we haven't broken up since.
JL: When did you decide to pursue it professionally?
JK: I was writing and performing since 15, but once I got into college, I got really nice and started discovering who I am as a man and musician. I never stopped working on it, and when I graduated I knew that this would be my life. I was 21.
JL: What aided you in your decision to be a gospel rap artist?
JK: Well I've always felt like hip hop should express what the artist truly believes. NWA hated the police and you knew that. Bone loved smoking. I love God and am truly appreciative of the second chances along the way and opportunities to grow out of my circumstances to become a better man. I want to give that same opportunity to young people, so I pay my experiences forward. Its only “gospel” because I talk about life from a spiritual perspective. We all have spirit, so it’s good to speak to that sometimes. My life and my music have one purpose: to inspire.
JL: What sets you apart from other artists?
JK: Well the message obviously sets me apart from secular artists. I'm talking about something real and the listener can feel that. I'm also different from typical gospel cats because I don't beat anybody over the head with the Bible or anything. I like to talk to people where they ARE, and then encourage them to BE better. I don't preach and I don't praise the streets. The only person who sounds like J.Kwest is J.Kwest.
JL: What are the specific messages you like to relay to your listening body?
JK: My music affirms the beauty in everyone; lets them know that they can do anything, and challenges us to follow our dreams. We have a higher power and we can use that to do anything, including become better people.
JL: What inspires you to write your lyrics?
JK: Life inspires me. Everything I experience finds it way into a song. I love hearing stories and finding a way to tell those stories to help others. I just pay attention to everything, and I'm always ready to write. Short answer: the spirit inspires me.
JL: Is there pressure to pursue a more secular approach for your music in order
to reach a larger fan base?
JK: If by “secular approach” you mean music that the streets listen to, then YES. We try to make our beats sick so you can ride to it, then after you get past the beat; you get hit with the message. I NEVER compromise lyrics, and you can hear that, but we've got to make it hot, too. Most gospel rap is NOT hot. Folks are scared to play it outside. Those days are over now. I’ll make u proud to claim J.Kwest, because it’s hot.
JL: What is your favorite thing to do in your past time?
JK: I play video games for therapy. I play Basketball, I love to work out, keep myself healthy. What else? Cards…a good game of Bid Whist never hurt anybody.
JL: How do you feel about the current state of hip hop?
JK: I want to say its wack, but there is a lot of good music submersed by mediocrity. It’s just not serious anymore. Rappers write for sales now, they want money. The expression has been lost. But we can bring it back. All is not lost.
JL: How would you define religion or spirituality?
JK: Religion is what people follow; the ritual of it: rosaries and crosses, ankhs and such. Spirituality is how you feel, and the rules we create for ourselves. It’s how we govern our lives outside the mosque or church. Our spirit is what makes us better. That's what I want to speak to, the spirit in us all.
JL: What type of family environment did you grow up in and how did that effect
JK: I was in a Single-mother home, and my mother gave me my drive. I know that. We had a lot of drama in our house, but none of it ruined me. I learned from it and grew from it.
JL: How would you define your musical style?
JK: I've been told I'm in the same musical family as Common or Nas, and it’s definitely Chicago represented in the music. At the end of the day, it’s “PureMusic”; music to live a better life to. At least try. Soul Music for the soul.
JL: What's your favorite number and why?
JK: My favorite # is 12 because that's the age I went through the most drama. That's also the age I fell in love with hip hop, and I hit my first homerun when I was 12. The number just stuck with me.
JL: What's your real name?
JL: Where do you plan on being in your career ten years from now?
JK: Like 5 albums deep, reputable in the streets and the church, standing next to the best in the game. I want to be known as one of the most influential, not just as “that gospel dude”. I think the music can be heard right along with Kanye and Jay-Z. Cube or Dre. J.Kwest. Sales are cool. Of course I want to support my family. But what I want most is a career that is known for changing lives through music.
JL: What are three things that you are grateful for and why?
JK: 1. My mother. She went through so much to raise me and put me in the right situation to grow. She was a DJ, too.
2. The 70's. The age of creation that destroyed the box. Stevie, MJ, Marvin, Donny. They all paved the way for hip hops glorious age. They kept me company when I was alone and still do to this day. Our generation owes it to the late 60s/70s for their creativity and willingness to put it all on the line for their kids. We're those kids.
3. College. I got alone, made some mistakes, and became a man. Shouts to Morehouse for making strong black men, and for challenging me to be a leader and creator for the people. College was priceless.
JL: Who are a few artists that inspired you to pursue this as a career?
JK: Tribe Called Quest, Ice Cube, Pac of course. This cat BreevEazie is my favorite and took me under his wings. He never let me quit and I'm inspired by him everyday.
JL: What motivates you daily to continue thriving after what you love?
JK: Just imagining what is possible keeps me going. Seeing the youth today and how their brains are wired definitely drives me to work harder. They need this music. Watching the news motivates me. That makes me say “God, we gotta do this”
JL: Did you go to college and if so what was your major and why?
JK: I went to Morehouse College (class of 2005). I majored in Sociology. I wanted to understand more about society and why people act the way they do. A lot of it has to do with our group interaction, and I learned that in my major.
JL: What's one of your favorite songs you've done and why?
JK: This song “Startin’ Something” was fun for me because the track was so challenging. I had to stretch my lyricism and that was the first step in becoming a monster (I'm on my way). Startin’ something was serious for me. That's why we put it first on the last album. Every song is special to me though. I can go through them all, but we don't have enough time.
JL: What's the best thing about being in the industry?
JK: Wait, the industry is good? Naw, for real, I love meeting other artists who have good hearts. We encourage each other. Also, the shows…I love the people I meet. Everything else is a grind.
JL: If you have another job, what do you do? Why did you choose to pursue a job
in that field?
JK: I'm also a youth minister at Covenant UCC in Chicago. I love kids and God definitely has given me a message and charisma that is for young people. I can't run from my call. They don't call me Rev. J or nothin’ though. It’s J.Kwest.
J Kwest is on a mission to save the life of Hip-Hop by bringing the original meaning of soul to the art form. Known as the gospel rapper of Chicago that is taking the industry by storm, he expands beyond such a barricading title. Born and raised in Chicago this Morehouse graduate has a lot more to offer the game than a keen sense of style. His bright personality, catchy lyrics, and genuine heart are easily felt through each and every ounce of his material. J. Kwest is a natural born star that is rising faster than heat to the top of this cold and semantic industry. After watching him perform, I knew an interview was in order. Be among the first to be introduced to the ultimate quest of Hip-Hop’s rebirth.
BG: Are there any websites you want to inform the viewers of?
J. Kwest is certainly the people’s champ by gaining familiarity across the country at an unheard of rate. His performance is full of energy; his message breathes that of life. His passion is almost overpowering but his lyrics aid in the sharing of many testimonies. If you are not afraid to see how hip hop can embody the positive side of an M.C. travel down the road less seen, allow J. Kwest to guide you!