There's something extraordinary about J-Elijah. In fact, this talented, suave, and dapper rarity, has a unique sense of style which transcends that of the guy's next door, catapulting him into a league of his own. J-Elijah is a Brooklyn transplant who hails originally from Virginia. You know you're in for some intense mental stimulation when you chat with this Howard grad, who is also a Christian Hip-hop poet, lyricist, rapper, and published author. Through his message of deliverance, J-Elijah shares why the "enemy" attacks through sexuality, and how he uses hip-hop as a medium to target lost souls.
Describe yourself using one word Dreamer, like Joseph the dreamer (Genesis 37-50)
Tell us: Who is J-Elijah? How was this name coined? J-Elijah is a Son of God, a Christian who is blessed with the gift of poetry from the Lord. It's my pseudonym or stage name which was given to me by God. The "J" comes from John the Baptist of the New Testament, while "Elijah" is the name of a prophet in the Old Testament. John the Baptist had the same spirit and the same message as Elijah, hence the name J-Elijah. I use hip-hop as an effective way to reach young people, because sometimes, in church, the message may not speak to them. I want to spread the "Word" from the streets to colleges and universities.
The many faces of J-Elijah. Some pensive, some smiling.
You are a Brooklyn transplant, originally from Virginia. What do you love most about living in NYC, and does your heart still belong in VA?
What I love most about living in New York and Brooklyn? It seems like Brooklyn is becoming the actual place to be all of a sudden. From the Barclays center opening up here, to just so many celebrities like Solange and Anne Hathaway who are literally moving here, to even Beyoncé & Jay Z who are now hanging out in Brooklyn. It seems like Brooklyn is the place where the world is looking at us for some reason. God is doing something in Brooklyn. What I love about NYC is that I love diversity. I went to Howard University for college, and that's where I was exposed to people from different cultures from all around the world. It really just inspired me. So ever since going there, I've always wanted to be in an environment where diversity and different cultures were appreciated. So from living in LA to moving to New York, I just love the mixture of people from Jamaicans to Puerto Ricans to Filipinos. I love NY too because it is a very RAW place. The difference between LA and NY is that LA is almost like a fantasy world. It's very beautiful; it's very gorgeous with the palms trees and the sunshine but NY is very raw. There is so much character in it. You can find inspiration and sometimes life can be ugly. You see the struggle of life more in NY than in LA because LA is more entertainment based. In NY you see so many people from a Black man to an Asian man and every person is struggling. They are struggling to survive, so your heart goes out to these people. You see that struggle for yourself, every single day when you are on the subway. I love NY because of that; because of the STRUGGLE, because of CHARACTER, and because of the RAWNESS. I love NY especially in the summertime when you have all of those festivals and parades, from the West Indian Day parade celebration which is world renowned, to the Brazilian festival. One last thing, NY is also the birth place of hip-hop, so with God giving me the gift of poetry... hip-hop is poetry. It just seems like it is natural for me to be in this place at this point in my life because hip-hop was birthed here. It's really the landmark of the origin of hip-hop.
J- Elijah at The Brazilian Day Parade.
The title of your first book states "I got the revelation that liberation through sexuality leads to bondage, but repentance leads to freedom." What inspired you to write this book, and why do you feel the need to illuminate subjects like adultery, fornication, promiscuity, sexual degradation and pornography?
I wanted to write the ultimate hip hop-poetry book that dealt with every sexual topic you could think of. The title of the book means that society, through the media, usually promotes the idea that a woman, or a man, is liberated when they are free in their sexuality, becoming worldly and uninhibited. In today's slang, that means becoming a "freak", "pimp", or a "hoe." But looking with spiritual eyes, when you become sexually promiscuous, you become oppressed and weighed down internally because of the spiritual bondage that you attain. When you repent from sexual looseness, immorality, and promiscuity, you become free in your spirit. Andrew Cominskey's book "Pursuing Sexual Wholeness" and Juanita Bynum's work "No More Sheets" inspired me to write my own book. I wanted to give the same message of repentance from sexual immorality that Andrew and Juanita gave in their books, but through poetry and hip-hop to reach my generation. Hip-hop literally influences the world, from America to South Africa, and since hip-hop is so influential with the 18 - 40 market, I wanted to use it to reach my peers. Unfortunately, in a lot of hip-hop, promiscuous sex is glorified in music and rap videos, but they never speak about the consequences. So some hip-hop artists are presenting a fantasy with no mention of reality. Those graphic pornographic lyrics can get into your subconscious and affect the way you live. I have dealt with the topics that I rhyme about in the book and I am still overcoming. Ain't none of us made it yet. I got to walk this thing out day by day like everyone else. These poems are to empower anyone who may be dealing with these issues. Hopefully, these poems will help someone overcome sexual immorality.
Black & White
You are dubbed a "Christian Hip-hop poet," lyricist and rapper. How do conservative Christians respond to this radical Christian movement that you represent?
Christian hip-hop has been around for a long time now, with iconic artists like Kirk Franklin and The Cross Movement setting the standard. Even though it is embraced by the mainstream now, some conservative Christians don't support it and believe it may not be of God. I am more of a Christian hip-hop poet than a rapper, speaking mostly through books and the printed word, though I love rhyming at poetry cyphers on occasion. I believe that hip-hop and rap are poetry. Rappers are poets with a beat. How else will we reach today's generation if we don't communicate to them in way that they can understand and receive? The preacher in the pulpit may not be able to reach the teenager in Marcy Projects or the young mother in Compton. But the rapper on the streets may be able to reach them. Langston Hughes, the poet laureate of Harlem, has a legacy in poetry that has endured because he published over 500 poems. My priority is to publish the poems that the Lord has given me before I leave this earth, so that even when I am gone, my poetry will live on. This will be my legacy.
As a devout Christian male who is also a model and an actor, do your Christian values conflict with any of these roles? And how do you balance your Christian walk given some of the environments that you might be exposed to?
Yes, there may be conflict at times. I have tried to maintain control of my image making sure that I am represented with dignity and class. That's why I don't have any modeling photos that are nude or too revealing. Now, this may limit me as far as getting a lot of modeling work because many models have body shots, but being naked in magazines and on billboards just ain't me. Now, modeling a 3-piece suit, or classic Ralph Lauren all American attire, is more my style. I love the classic look from the jazz era in the 1920's, to the sophisticated look in the 1940's and 1950's, to the creative funky look of the 1970's. I balance my Christian walk by maintaining friendships with Christians in the modeling and the entertainment industry. There is a model named Kylie Bisutti who quit being a lingerie model for Victoria's Secret last year because it clashed with her Christian values. But she has stayed in the modeling industry, choosing to model more wholesome images that will honor her husband and the Lord. That is amazing!
Did someone say GQ magazine?
In your book, you write "Jesus Christ is the only food that can truly satisfy my appetite." At this point in your life, are you at a place of intense spiritual growth and maturity where it is easy to say NO and not to yield to sinful pleasures?
I’m not at the most intense moment of my life spiritually because my most intense was when I was fasting for 40 days while seeking the Lord. When I was living in LA, I had some moments of high spirituality where I would pray for hours and hours. I’m not at that moment now as far as living here, but as far as temptations, definitely. There have been a lot of temptations. I’ve had some struggles, fall down and get back up and all of that. That has really humbled me.
I’m working on my second book now, which will be available at the end of June. It is called TheHoly Possibility of Hip Hop. Now with this book, I wrote it also six years ago. This book deals with the hip-hop community. Take for instance Lil' Kim, people have a certain perception about her but I pray for Lil' Kim, I’ve interceded for her. God can use her to be an evangelist. God can do anything. Some people don't believe that's possible, and if you tell them that, they will laugh at you. 50 cent, Jay Z, and Beyoncé, God can use them too. So that’s what it deals with; it deals with the hip-hop community and it is a poem of intercession for God to reach them before it’s too late. It also deals with inspiration. For example, I have a poem called "A Dream, A Passion." It is inspired by Martin Luther King’s speech, "I have a Dream," but through poetry. It talks about how a lot of times we go to our jobs day in and day out and most of us hate our jobs. But that’s not really your purpose most times. Most times God has put something in your spirit and in your heart, that you want to do that gives you passion for life, that gives you a reason for living. And a lot of times because we work these 9-5 jobs, our dreams slip away. We don’t get to accomplish them. I shared the importance of holding on to your dream and to your passion. I explained how Martin Luther King Jr. had his dream, and at 15 years old, he went to Morehouse College, and at age 35, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Barack Obama became president; he is one of the youngest presidents ever. I talk about how they are not better than us. A lot of times, people place them on pedestals. It’s okay to honor them, to look up to them, and be inspired by them because they are my role models too. But just know that the same thing that Martin Luther King did and Barack Obama is doing now, we have the same potential for greatness. So no matter who you are, young or old, you can be great too. You can do something that is unbelievable. You can do something that can reach the nations. That’s what I want to let people know. No matter who you are, do not underestimate yourself. Don’t put yourself down.
J-Elijah enjoying a serene moment
Some of your writings are arguably controversial, for example, your poem “The Down Low is devastating, a lifestyle of devastation.” Is your view influenced by your Christian values and how do you respond to the critics?
It definitely is influenced by my Christian values because I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I have been in church all my life and I've met people who are Christian leaders; I've also met great men and women of God. I've been inspired by Juanita Bynum, TD Jakes and I've also met Creflo Dollar. I understand that it may not be "politically correct." I believe in freedom of speech so if a person doesn't agree with my message, I understand. I can hear what you have to say, you can hear what I have to say. But the thing is everybody should have their own voice. Your voice shouldn't be silent, because your voice comes from God. The "down low" refers to a particular lifestyle in the Black and Latino communities. In this lifestyle, a man may be married, or be in a committed relationship with a woman, but have a secret life on the side. I'm trying to reach those who are doing that; they are looking for a father figure. The heavenly father is our father. He can heal the wound that you've been hurting for so long, that void inside of you. You have to give it over to him. He can bless you with friends who can be like father figures to you. He can bless you with brothers who will love you and it won't be perverted. So yes, I know it may not be politically correct to say someone should turn away from that lifestyle. But I believe that God wants us to turn away from all forms of sexual immorality, promiscuity, and things of that nature. He wants us to give our bodies over to him and be purified. It's about repentance and I really believe strongly in that. That's not to say that I've made it, or that any Christian has made it, because we all deal with temptation. Nobody is 100% perfect. The top preachers, they deal with sexual temptation just like the rest of us. But it's just about saying on a daily basis, Lord give me the strength to say no to sexual temptation and to sexual immorality. It's not a popular message today but I believe that it is what God wants for us, because after this life, we all have to die one day. And when we die, where are we going? We are either going to heaven or hell. We live as though there is no eternity but there is an eternity. I think about eternity all the time. I pray that God have mercy; I pray that I make it to heaven. A lot of people live like there is no heaven or hell, like this is it. This is not it. This is not it.
J-Elijah sharply donning all white.
Describe your personal style (in terms of fashion).
Retro Vintage Swagger - My favorite colors are turquoise and neon green. I like to wear pastels and bright colors. Thrift stores and vintage shops are my favorite. Ralph Lauren, Joe Fresh, Francis Hendy, and Alexander Nash are some of my favorite designers who make classic, timeless clothes for gentlemen that last a lifetime. I am inspired by styles from the past, like The Great Gatsby film, starring Robert Redford, which featured seersucker suits, linens, all white suits and sweaters. Just like Joseph from the book of Genesis in the Bible, who had a coat of many colors, I express myself through wearing a multitude of colors to express my creativity. And I love to wear hats, fedoras, scullies, or the vintage paperboy-style apple hats on a daily basis.
Now THAT'S how you strike a pose!
J- Elijah rocking his favorite color, turquoise.
Who are your top ten influences in terms of (Role Models, Actors or Celeb friends in your mind) since you are also an avid movie, entertainment, and music buff?
Langston Hughes, Juanita Bynum, Antwone Fisher, Common, Sidney Poitier, Paul Robeson, Sade, Lauryn Hill, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, (and just one more, Jamiroquai)
Final Thoughts: J-Elijah is a Man of God who boldly proclaims the Word while exhibiting extraordinary style, character and class. He speaks with great conviction, displaying fervent passion for his faith and pursuits. A True Rarity........Be Inspired.
For business inquiries, learning more about J-Elijah or purchasing his book, he can be contacted as follows: