reintroducing the regular

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Home Reckoning w/ JGivens

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Words by Rayneutron

Photos by Christian Padron


I'm a photographer by trade. Fortunately enough, I'm able to travel doing this work. For the first time ever, a client flew me out first class. It looked like Trump's cabinet-- except there were more women and two Ben Carson's.

In seat 2A, while reading James Baldwin and enjoying a complimentary light lunch consisting of 3 cheeses of which I'm unfamiliar with the names, apricots, just sour enough green grapes, and the fluffiest crackers of all time, I watch. I watch a white woman in her mid-fifties gingerly spread her hummus across pita bread while the meniscus shifts in the glass of water resting to her left. All the while, her male counterpart with what I assumed to be his initials threaded across his shirt's cuff seated directly behind her did the same.  "K-G-L".

This is the comfort from which many JGivens critics lob willful ignorance and unfounded criticisms— not a macro view from which one may behold the bigger picture but one of catered tranquility.


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Ray: Yo! You there?

JGivens: Yea I'm here, totally forgot about this interview so this is great. Was totally just out here shooting the shit.

*Both laugh*

J: How you doing? Good morning.

R: Good morning, man. How was the flight?

J: The flight was cool but it wasn’t. I didn’t really sleep that much. The people next to me didn’t file out properly and everyone was bumping around. It felt like I was flying Wal-Mart.

R: Was it a middle seat?

J: *places us on hold and can be heard ordering a burrito bowl*

J: I had an aisle seat, which is worse than a middle seat.

R: Ahh, yea, cuz if you lean over too far to the left or right towards the aisle, the stewardess will bump you.

J: On a red-eye flight when you're trying to sleep... it was over.

R: So you couldn't even do your Good Morning America thing today then?

J: Nah, I just landed a few hours ago. I missed the last 3 days. But I've been up writing this album, too. I finished writing everything so...

R: You must keep a tab on current events, is that what sparked you watching GMA and giving your commentary on Instagram Live?

J: It was all reaction. I was just watching Good Morning America anyway. As much as I fan out on the Instagram stories, me and my family, that’s our tradition— we watch GMA. One day I was watching and I was doing all this banter and was like "Man, I'ma put this on Instagram". So I just did an IG story one day and then I was getting all these laugh emojis in my DMs. And I'm like, oh, this stuff is funny? ‘Cause I'm just talking. I didn't realize it was funny. Then I just kept doing it. And you know me, I like typography and Instagram had that update with all the typefaces and I was having a blast! And people kept watching it and then they began to tweet about it. But it was definitely not intentional, it was just "Hey, let's crack some jokes on Instagram real quick." And what I’ve seen in my evolution of watching it pretty regularly is the cynicism of the commentary. It's making me look at Good Morning America like "Y'all will tell us anything. This is bullshit!"

*laughs*

You're just telling us stuff and giving us drugs. What's going on?

I was watching BBC when I was in London and their news in the morning was way different. "Oh, these birds are coming and migrating this way". That's cool news. That's what's actually going on outside.

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R: I was just there in London recently and didn't watch much news. But I did watch their version of "Cops" which was very different because the police didn't have guns. What differences did you notice between UK news and American news?

J: The first thing I noticed was the lack of music. They were just giving the news. It felt like I was watching PBS News. It was much more informative— even in discussing the circus that was Brexit. The stories were similar to ours, they just handled them differently. It wasn't *mimics dramatic American news anchor voice over*, "Trump's Twitter tirade dun dun dun". Much less Will Ferrell in Anchorman. There I was actually getting my information. It was calmed down. It's so fast here, they fly stuff by and you wind up buying everything. It was good but being from the States it was also kind of boring. And then I thought, am I brainwashed in the sunken place right now?

By the way, Get Out is the best movie of all time! This is the “wokest” 2 years for black art.

R: I know there have been a million hot takes and think pieces regarding the film. But what are some of your takeaways?

J: I loved how I couldn't put a genre on the movie. Jordan Peele went through every aesthetic of every genre. It wasn't plastic. Lots of hilarious moments that were really not. The moments that were intense...it felt weird being an African American man watching it. It was written where I was on the edge of my seat, but also I was seated back in my seat while others are stressed wondering what's going to happen, "OMG THIS IS SCARY! The police are coming but he didn't do it!

All those emotions, I had them but then they all went away because I didn't wanna get all extra about what my life is every day. And then I realized how horrible it is to identify in my day-to-day with the film's protagonist. It being shot like a horror film and the acting depicting regular life, it just showed what we have to go through is like a horror film to other people that they didn't even know existed.

Don't tell me to be quiet or that I'm tripping. Don't tell me that because I'm in a horror film right now and you're so blind that you don't even know. That was my first takeaway.

WHITE PEOPLE CRAZY BRO. And when I say that I say it with a little more empathy to how they have been affected. Specifically white millennials. How the daughter and the son were affected by something they didn't even sign up for. Even when she's doing that fake phone call that her dad put her up to. It looks like she's doing what she's programmed to do but she's miserable as hell.

R: I've never heard anyone describe the Armitage family in that way. Particularly how people use their children as a means to an end. Although, their children are adults with agency. I can acknowledge the tension of the son being an alcoholic, not receiving attention from his father due to him being so hellbent on this mission.

J: I watched it twice. The first time, of course, I see it as black man— all the innuendo that only black folks would understand. Then I watched a second time and tried to watch it from the lens of someone else.

The thought occurred to me that white millennials aren't themselves or truly flourishing because they're a part of this big 400 year agenda— a cog in the matrix to keep this country afloat.

Racism makes everyone in the movie a victim.

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R: You mentioned there being a renaissance taking place in black art. Where do you feel your place in this is and what do you think that will look like in the coming years?

J: If I were to pick a counterpart I'd say the '60s or 70s. Hopefully I would be like Marvin Gaye. Black people talking about what's going on around them. We've got a lot of that happening right now. I feel my place in that, with my opportunities to speak to students, instead of being all didactic and giving a lecture, I like to approach it with a comedic style. Yes, woke as hell, but not accusatory. Because we have the internet, the African American is a different person. The oldest of the millennial class remembers what it was like before the internet but we also grew up in the development of the internet. We have much more information now, more exposure to other cultures. And because these other cultures have more exposure to Blacks, I think that people are listening to us more. And we're not as dependent on the resources of the majority as we had to be back in the day. So we could easily be like "forget this record label, I'm finna make a black ass album because I got the internet". There's less a fear of failure.

With the whole independent thing once artists lock in distribution deals they can produce content like Solange's "A Seat at the Table" and Childish Gambino. The entertainment industry is so small that if you get to a certain point, I mean nobody knows me unless they know me, but I've had opportunities to meet Kendrick Lamar– shaking his hand in a studio. And that's when it hit me how small it really is. I'm thinking the distance was greater.

The black folks that are aware of this resurgence have a lot more stake in it and influence than they realize. And especially if you're dope. What's my place in it? I'm a dope artist. That's what I lean on. I'm done with the comment threads. Well, I'm not done with the comment threads, but I'm done with how I was doing it before. It's ok to leave a question unanswered. Someone else will answer it or that question is an uninformed, waste of time question.

R; I've notice you do that too.

J: Yeah dude! I was answering before because I wanted to acknowledge that someone spoke to me. I think it's rude if someone talks to you and you don’t say anything back. But then come trolls. They made it hard because you're pouring your heart out not realizing that you're talking to a 14-year-old kid who has the mindset, "if I talk this way maybe he'll talk to me" or people that don't care. Now I want to speak to my art and reiterate with everything that I'm saying in the art. I don't want social media and our ability to comment and influence with words to be outside of my art. You and I spoke so much about Get Out, someone's art work, that told a whole bunch more than some TED Talk symposium.

R: From what I've seen the last few years, I'm assuming what you're referring to as far as comment threads go, are your Instagram posts or Twitter threads that simply state "Black Lives Matter".

J: Trolls come in different breeds. Sometimes those types of trolls come out. Other times it's just the ones that want attention by being extra. They're just. . . there. They don't mean to waste your time but they're wasting your time because they want to be entertained by you. They'll ask questions just to ask questions simply because you're talking to them. Then some people are just awkward, you think they're being malicious, but they're not, they're just socially awkward. If I got a dead horse question I used to get upset. But I realized that it's the first time some of them are having this question and unbeknownst to them that question has been asked for 20 years. With all that said, what kept me at peace is I believe what I say, so when I tweet it, I don’t need to explain it.

"Can you expound on what you said?"

No, just read.

"Sorry are you saying ...?"

No, I'm saying what I said. Read it again. Get an understanding of what I said before asking follow up questions. Otherwise you're wasting both of our time.

R: Reminds me of that Nene Real Housewives gif. Where she's like, "I said what I said!"

J: EXACTLY. That answer has been great for me as of recent.

R: There's freedom in withholding further explanation where it's not needed.

J: And especially when it's coming from a community where there's a lot of comfort in things being explained. It's actually the motive of why you said something is more scrutinized than what you said.

And it's an imaginary motive because they're sitting there trying to figure out, "Why did you say this? What are you leading to, bro? What are you saying there?"

You didn't read what I said because all I said was the sky is blue.

"Well I don’t get you man. I don’t get what you're saying half the time?"

I just said the sky is blue.

"No but it's gotta mean something."

I only said the sky is blue. Isn't it? Don’t you agree?

"Well yea I guess but I don’t wanna agree with you because I don’t know where you're coming from. I don’t know if I agree with your ideology all the way."

Fool, look up, is the sky blue or not?!

Those are the breed of trolls that I encounter most frequently and irritate me the most.

R: The trolls that fail to realize that truth is truth no matter where it comes from.

J: YES! YES! YES! There's a Bible story where an animal talks. The donkey was talking saying, "Bro, don't you see this angel right here?!",  to show us that the truth can come from anything that God made. You're not gonna say, "Wait, donkeys don't talk, there's no angel here." You're gonna be like, "Oh shit! A DONKEY’S TALKING!"

R: If God had a Twitter, the trolls would be next level.

J: If God had a Twitter the trolls would crucify him in the third year of his ministry. I'm finna tweet that.

R: Let's explore some of the questions coming your way from fans of your sub-genre. Define "genre" for us.

J: I love this question. A music genre is formed because of particular attributes of music theory that are within that genre. Whether that be your choice of instruments, time signature, and your standard plate of progressions. Major, minor, blah blah blah what have you. When jazz came out it had crazy combined time signatures and improvisation and just all these aesthetics that were based on some sort of theory. I don’t like to call a genre of music a genre simply because of content or ideology. But I think there are sects of any genre. Like, horrorcore, christian hip hop, etc. I guess the sub sects are based on content. But I don't think those are genres. Those are just sections of a genre. Which in this case are categorized by 4/4 time and a kick/snare combination and jazz scatting. But then remember that there are genres for art and genres for commerce. The genres for commerce were designed so consumers can go to whatever style they want to consume. It just so happens that most the genres for commerce are based on the fact that genres for commerce are based on genres for art. To champion a genre and say "We're doing this! We're taking over" and there's not a lick of anything original in this genre having to do with MUSIC.... just your content...

It's like saying "Slaughterhouse is a genre!" No it's not. Slaughterhouse wouldn’t say that. Like take Nintendocore for example. It's probably more of a genre than others but let's use it because it's using the actual SOUND BITES.

They have a cult following.

Let's say Nintendocore all of a sudden is like, "You know what, we're taking over Hip-Hop."

How can you take over Hip-Hop when you're IN it?

"Nah, we're not.  We're Nintendocore."

Ok, whatever.

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R: I don’t know if it's this weird culture war politic that has infiltrated music but it comes across that way. An “us versus them” mentality.

J: I'll be candid. My opinion may change in five years or next year. I'm okay if my mind changes and admitting at one point I thought something and have since shifted. But when it comes to that, on a macro level it could be a culture war mentality, but I believe it comes down to control and money. Any time you have politics it's because of money and power. The power in our country is capitalism. I grew up in a situation where I didn't grow up on Christian hip-hop but I grew up around it. When I first came into CHH, I wasn't unfamiliar with it, I just knew I didn't listen to it. I also knew that I went through a ton of different things as a teenager, kind of being convicted and religiously hating myself because someone told me that if I listened to the Black Album that demons were going to be chasing me because of Jay-Z and the Illuminati. Then I get to this point where I'm looking back and I'm like, "you just wanted me to buy Da’ T.R.U.T.H.'s cd! You just wanted to fuel the machine of the knock-off brand."

Equate doesn’t get mad at Scope like "Scope isn’t even real mouthwash, you need to use Equate!" Yea, but you're copying Scope. What makes you think you're original? I think it's money and control— doing the same thing that religion does— controlling people for money. Penance. The reason that the Protestant church left and came over here to put this crazy system together, it was money. Where is Jesus at? Then Jesus' identity is morphed in every generation. "Yea Jesus is about this now. We're reforming our theology.." You're just changing to control people. Jesus been cool this whole time. You did it for slavery, for the genocide of Native Americans, you did it for colonization..and now you're doing it to get Jamal:

"We're doing our outreach to get Jamal off the street." Then Jamal gets out of the crip gang, he comes to the church, he cries because he was in that sunken place and probably just needed counseling, got a better start. But he still wears wears his sagging skinny jeans, but as time goes on and he gets more involved in the ministry, you nudge him and say, "Hey man, wear these khakis. Throw on this button up, clean up a little bit.” Dude, you're completely stomping all over something as silly as clothes because he doesn't look like a white guy that shops at H&M.

Or, I heard this, this isn't even hypothetical. I've heard someone say, "We had our urban kids come in and they've been developing, getting closer to the Lord, pulling their pants up more.”

What does that have to do with Jesus? Are you sure they’re not just growing up? Because when you get older you pull your pants up...sometimes.

I don't want to go on forever about this, but the whole race thing in Hip Hop. Hip Hop is about 40 years old. So it shouldn't be 2017 and I go to an event and the guy who's my age, 30, is like "Don't ask me about Hip-Hop, I don't know anything, I'm just a 30 year-old white guy." What does your race have to do with it? That's so old. Hip Hop has been white. Why are you still talking about that? You'll notice the white guys that are rappers when they're young and at that point they're down, woke as hell and then hit a certain age, get married, back assimilated into the white community where hip hop isn't as prevalent and all of a sudden they start down playing their hip hop roots casting it as something that kids do. "Yea I was in that hip hop phase but I'm grown up now, I've got my family and my coffee..." But I'm here like, bro, I can't turn off my skin color. If I say "dope" that's just how I talk, that's not a phase. I'm pretty sure they get shaded by their own like, "There's Matt, he had his little hip hop phase." I went all over the place with that but you asked me about genre so....and that was from the one I was just in.

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R: You touched on how people come into cultures and are expected to code switch. What were some of the expectations placed on you? And what are the expectations now that you're no longer on a label with pressures of the sub-genre on you?

J: I sit in an interesting space. I always juxtaposed the space I'm in with my cousin's (John Givez). There weren't expectations that I felt were on me, there may have been some that I adopted because I was assimilating on a particular label or I was assimilating at a particular event. I knew from what I observed about them and I respected that. When I got to Humble Beast, an implicit expectation, was if you were on the label you're probably a Calvinist, which wasn't true. It was a diverse label actually. The expectations on me from HB was "we're gonna get your theology together". I don't want this to come across as they were trying to brainwash. But they suggested things like "check this framework out on how to read the Bible, this is reformed theology, this is liturgy, etc". On my song  "March 10th and a Third", one of the most honest lines that took a lot of courage for me to say in their studio was "How I’m gon' live up to Humble Beast?" I don't want to say it like this but it seemed to me like they were so perfect. No I take that back. It was difficult to relate to their imperfections. Because they were never stated, just generalized in terms like "pride" or "greed" or "lust". Even something as specific as "porn" but it was usually all these overarching ideals that they were trying to go against. But I'm like, "I'M ON METH! Can someone talk to me about their drug addiction? Pills? An affair? Can we be more specific?" Me trying to be as perfect as I think you guys are is not helping me with this dope that I'm doing. Once I got to the point where I was fine with my imperfection and inability to be them, realizing I can't go out there and preach and use all these concepts, or make an album out of someone else's book, I could just tell my story. With the agenda of theology and ideology, I believe that was the bulk of the expectation. Which I feel l lived up to because I believe the Gospel, but when it came to me doing the first track, "Ignorantro"— the reason I did the song was I wanted to do a battle rap to shrug off this whole genre crap. Not even to kill off people. But to show that THIS is actually Hip-Hop. And Humble Beast IS Hip-Hop. Championing Hip-Hop and the art form was huge for me at Humble Beast in my development and I'm so glad I came through that route. They were the option that was the most artistic, best aesthetic, etc.

So what I will say, is when I went on tour and did panel discussions with Beautiful Eulogy and someone asked me, "So bro, about "Ignorantro", what's that about, what are you saying in that?". My response was, I was saying I'm the dopest rapper and I'm better than everybody. They chuckled and I left it at that. [Odd] Thomas tried to clean it up, "there's a narrative, there's more". I looked at him and said, "Nah that's it, it's a battle rap." Of course there’s more, but I didn't want to have to explain that. I wanted people to listen and feel why I was popping off on the track, why it was super outlandish. By the time I said "I am God" I crashed. I didn't wanna have to explain that. The over explanation of everything and the call to teach, makes you over explain things and seem like you know everything. You're just teaching everything. I didn't know if there was room for any mistakes or human moments. That's why I came to my realization now where I gotta be myself in front of everybody. Don't try to clean yourself up to show what you think the good you is. Show the real you so it can be refined properly by the people that are observing you.

R: This reminds me of what you were saying about how many fans of the ideological subgenre usually want things tied in bow and explained to them where any ounce of imagination is drained from the art, where art cannot stand alone and be art for art's sake. Were there any other challenges you faced along those lines? I remember a story you told me about an incident in Texas. I'm not sure if you want to go on record about it.

J: We were in west Texas. I had a bottle of Jameson in my bag. So I guess what happened was, we were pulling our bags out of the trailer and I went to get a shirt, opening up my suitcase. One of the greeters who was showing us around was pretty shifty to be honest, so I didn’t trust him to not tell on me. But at that point in my life I didn't care. Anybody who knows me or has been around me for at least an hour, knows I'm gonna step outside 2 times because I smoke. I spent so much time trying to hide it while on the road doing shows. I remember one time, me and John Givez did our first show together and had a moment where it was like, "you smoke, too?!" and it became a ritual to walk about a half mile away from the venue to smoke a cigarette. That is ridiculous.

So at this point, back in west Texas, I didn't care. I just moved my jacket over and grabbed my shirt. The bottle was partially visible, not all the way exposed. It was just the burgundy handle that was out. This guy would have had to have been over my shoulder looking into my bag. I zip it up and go do the show.

Fast forward to the end of the night. Thi'sl comes up to me "Hey bro, don't flip out," because he knew I had already been going through it anyway, "but I guess word got around town that you had some alcohol in your luggage". I repeat, "word got around town." It was a town of maybe 2,500 people. Word got around that we were in the convenience store buying alcohol during one of the other artists performances. The word that [should’ve] gotten around town was that me and other tour mates J. Monty and Ty Brasel had walked to the store and I had gotten cigarettes and Ty got orange juice. This'l was like, "Yo bro, apparently that pastor had an alcohol addiction so just don't do that at his house". And I was thinking in my head "What makes you think that I would do that at someone's house. We're on tour. I have EVERYTHING in my bag." And even for someone to be so fragile— at that point I was just 40 days off of slamming dope! So I'm like, "okay, and?..." What am I gonna do, "Hey, man drink this." No. If he sees a handle of Jameson in my bag and that triggers him, he needs to go back to rehab. Maybe that's a little harsh but I get it. But I know that wasn't the case with him and he probably would agree with me on that, is what I'm saying. It was all blown out of proportion.

R: Given that you're a person who's faced their own bout with addiction and have written about it, you do speak from a place of empathy. But also, tough love.

J: Yea because I was there. I don't think a recovering addict is gonna make a big deal about what's going on. They're gonna tell where they came from but they're not gonna be a victim after they've already overcome. It's people that are trying to help who's opinions are based on legend that get in the way." Their story is they were addicted to alcohol and from now on I'm gonna make a big deal anytime I see it in their vicinity even though they appear to be unfazed." Unless that person is very close to the recovering addict it can be overdone. Now if my sister tells you not to do something around me then listen to her. She knows me better than I do.

Once again, it's just something to control a culture. First off, the whole situation was based on a lie. Whoever gave the eyewitness testimony, well gossip, about the liquor I had, the story was wrong. So what was your intent?

And then we were one of two black people in the whole city. The lady at the Family Dollar where I was listening to music—we were playing around dancing and I had ‘hit them folk’ or something and then opened the door for a woman. "Here, you go first" and she looked me in the face and told me, "You are crazy people" and proceeded to her car.

R: WHAT?

J: I stood there and I was just like, "Did you just say that to me?” And then a flood of emotions hit me. Remember that scene in Get Out where the maid she went from anger to crying to the "no, no, no" and pulled it back?

R: YES!

J: And then she smiled? I feel like I went through that standing in the doorway at Family Dollar. It was what it was because I knew it was like that but because it happened to me. And the first thing I thought when she got in her car and put her keys in the ignition was "I should go rob her right now.” Not even rob her, but just scare the crap out of her– embody the stereotype just because I'm pissed.

R: It's weird how a micro-aggression can trigger such emotion when people aren't even aware of what's happening internally to the person on the receiving end. There are so many things swirling around in our minds. So many thoughts coming at such a rapid pace. Those thoughts aren't even thoughts of our own, I believe some of them to be passed down through the genes of our ancestors. We're just aware. We hear the dog whistle.

R: I don't want to beat a dead horse, you've spoken about addiction in past interviews and I do not want to spend the entirety of our time together discussing it. But something came to mind. How do you approach honesty in your music? Not just regarding addiction, but anything. You seem to be incredibly transparent, although abstract because you're a rapper's rapper.

J: As of recent, I've been a lot more specific. I've still got my metaphors. I don't want to take the color out of the writing. Making more honest music is what makes it timeless. Even when people don't agree with you they're gonna rock with you because you're authentic. They KNOW what you're saying is true, that the account that you're giving actually happened. I'm not afraid anymore. Whenever I'd ask Propaganda advice about writing his answer was always the same, "Be fearless." Once you're not afraid then you're able to tell the truth. Take Peter for example, he lied because he was a coward. The second he got the Holy Spirit and rid of fear he went to the people that killed Jesus and scolded them, pointing them out in their court room. So he went from being a coward which made him lie and deny Christ three times, and he changed, not because he was telling the truth more but because he wasn't afraid anymore. When you're not afraid what else do you have to tell but the truth?

R: I listen to an artist's music, especially in hip hop, an artist’s’ first album takes their entire life to make. After the first record, I would like to think the product we're hearing is what happened between albums. Some songs take life happening to you. What's happened since Fly Exam?

J: Since September 2015. Around the year anniversary of Fly Exam I released "Understand." Right after Fly Exam dropped, I started to check out my options. Humble Beast was beginning to move on to distribution deal with Columbia and I was assessing whether I wanted to stay on the ship with them while they went in that direction— which to me felt like a very contemporary Christian direction.

I was on a one album deal so reassessment was definitely where my mind was. I was talking to labels, major labels– getting my feet wet just in how that works, learning as I went, getting flown out etc. Then I decided to not sign the Humble Beast contract which was a learning experience in itself. I had the biggest show of my career at the Roxy Theatre where it sold out.

At the same time with the business stuff, I was jumping back and forth between Vegas and LA...I think Fly Exam was cool, writing that album in Portland was probably the only time that I wasn't on dope. So those periods where I was in Portland for 2/3 months I was clean. So when I would go back home I would struggle. By 2016 I wasn't struggling anymore, I was just on dope. I was in it. My life was reversed— my regular time was using and my get away time was doing shows and touring. After May 2016, it was dry, no money aside from an occasional check from Fly Exam sales which helped with bills. But by summer it was hell. The only time I was sober was Legacy conference or flew out for something. Most of the time I was out in the street. Well not even in the street. My addiction wasn't in the alley ways, it was in Hollywood, in regular people's houses who had jobs and stuff who were also addicted. Then it was in alleyways, honestly it was everywhere. I was looking for the dope. So 2016 was on an incline as far as my career but definitely on a decline as far as what my “sin” was. Then came August 2016. On the 26th, I remember it was a Saturday. It was one of my best friend's wedding and I missed it because I was in the dope spot the night before. I was like, "I gotta go to Duvie's wedding in a couple days", but when you're out there a "couple days" turns into five minutes. Then you're like, "Ahh man, the wedding's in the morning!", but I'm already tweaked out and needing to go home. By the time I got home I was detoxing heavy. I went to the reception brunch the next day and told my friend I need to sit in the car because I was having panic attack as I was coming down off of that stuff. I excused myself, got to the car, crying and wailing and shaking and sweating and going through withdrawals.

A few days later, I met up with Christon Gray who flew into LA. By that time I had gone to the doctor. I was fully sick and tired of being sick and tired but still going through withdrawals and needed some form of rehab. Mine was informal but still, accountability-- people literally babysitting me. One of the people happen to be Christon Gray. They babysat me for the whole Fall. We were all going through our stuff. He was like "Yo, I'm finna meet up with Shabby in Las Vegas. I have a rental car, you want me to pick you up and go to Vegas?" At this point he didn't know what was going on because I was maybe 4 days clean. So I'm still having the shakes. I agreed to the road trip and on the drive there I told him everything that I went through, the dope, medical scares, everything. He took me to my mom in Vegas and was able to talk to her face to face. That's when we started the process of My Brother and Me. We gelled, ended up going to Toronto about a month later, recording there. And that's how the Tom Drawer thing happened. That was definitely my rehabilitation-- through art and community.

R: That's powerful.

J: And not community like, (raises voice a pitch and says melodically) "community". No, I went home to my family. I call my brother everyday, I call my auntie.

I wasn't paying attention to my family. And I was putting other people that weren't my family before them, calling them "family" and I didn't even call my brother everyday. I'd be taking calls with such and such artists for 3 hours about their problems and not speaking to my brother who's about to graduate high school. What the hell is wrong with you?

R: That's true. I've seen you write and say repeatedly on Instagram and Twitter, "Call your family". Those are such down to earth and sobering directives coming from an artist that makes a living from their art. Most often it's, "Click the link in my bio! Buy my record! Cop this merch!" but you're like, "Call someone who has the same blood in their veins as you".

J: You know what that really came from? When things hit the fan for me, people will show their true colors when you're in the gutter dying. You'll either lose friends or they really.... I got to see who was who in my circle. I was blessed to have my family who supported me. Some people don't have supportive families in cases like mine. But they loved me through all of it. I came to the conclusion that I want to focus on my family and my friends that my family knows.

*Pauses*

J: That helped me to look back at the people who are my real friends. The people that don't call me JGivens.

R: Placing high value on family and the friends that your family knows can keep you from compartmentalizing. Think of your life as a house. If there are ways you close can doors— meaning, if there are people in your life that are VERY close to you that don't know your family, it allows you to compartmentalize and keep certain parts of yourself away from those who love you the most. But with everybody knowing one another, there's no room for compromise for you on a personal level. It's an open floor plan. Your life is a studio apartment at this point.

J: YEA! And I was living a very successful double life. Like, the people I was partying with, they didn't even know I did music. They didn't know anything about me. I just came around to party. Even when It comes to personal relationships with people, ones that I had been partying with for years, I didn't even know their last names. I didn't know if their name was their real name. I was definitely living a double life. Once I was able to confess that for real, not that (softens voice), "I'm struggling with drugs". It baffles me that I was trying to scream out from the sunken place, right? I'm telling everybody and they're just like "yea yea, your testimony....". For me to come back now and say straight up on "Understand." that "I just got off a syringe" and then people be like "Oh, I don't know where his music is going. I want the old JGivens."

The one that was on drugs? You want THAT one?

"I didn't know you were going through that."

I said it on Fly Exam, you weren't listening.

"I thought that was in the past."

Do I need to tell you that it was on a particular date? Ok, cool. Since you need to be spoon fed, I'll tell you on 16 millimeter film, August 26th, 2016.

I remember getting on stage on a Bible Belt tour and saying "I'm 42 days clean from crystal meth" And people were getting uncomfortable with me saying that because it was so little time. They suggested I tone it down but I'm like, what else am I gonna tell this 16 year old that's on heroin but you don't know because you're oblivious. Get outta here, you don't hear what these young adults email me about, cuz they're scared to tell you!

In my notebook this year it says...I don't know if you wanna put this in there but I wanna be real with you. It says, "This notebook is filled with a lot of weed and short term memory loss."

R: Man.

J: That's how I got out of it. I smoked weed when I got anxiety and mood swings and wrote honestly.

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R: I’m glad that you're ok. Not the old JGivens. I enjoyed Fly Exam. I enjoyed El v. Envy. But at the same time there's comfort in knowing that a person whose skill you admire can outright say, "I just came off a syringe." and motions in the video as if they're shooting up. It's coming from a very real place, rather than giving me some ideology that they actually cannot live up to in that moment just to make me feel better.

J: Or just to get their credentials from their superiors, ya know?

"I articulated this correctly, right?"

Right, but you don't know how to say it in five words, you have to give an exhaustive explanation.

"What if you don't have time? What five words are you gonna say?"

I'm grateful for the time I was in the Middle East in persecuted Christianity. We couldn't openly say "Jesus". What did we do to show love? Gave somebody a cup of water. Listened to them talk. And they could say anything, blaspheming Jesus and all, and what you do is listen past that and hear the person and where they're hurting and speak to that.

R: What are some of the thematic elements that compose or inform this upcoming album?

J: One, this album knocks! Working with Christon and Shabby I explored songwriting, particularly targeted to radio. I had some fun. I wanted to accomplish some things. I love Travis Scott, I love Young Thug, I love the evolution of tuning, vocoder, voice manipulation in music. I first started playing with tones on the Daft Punk side of the spectrum, then something less robotic and natural, like Frank Ocean. There was a little bit of that on Fly Exam, but this album it was me doing it, not necessarily being facilitated by the label requiring me to explain what I'm trying to do. My Brother and Me will show how musical I am. I believe Fly Exam showed a ton of musicality. Daniel Steele, all those guys, got to showcase their skill but I still think people overlook that because it's not spoon-fed to them. And as a rapper, people think that you just go and rap. They don't know that you scored all of that. This next record will have old JGivens' style, El V. Envy stuff. As far as my writing now, this album is not a metaphor. This album is indicative of what I've been doing. I watch the news and then I talk about it. How I've been tweeting is how I've been writing my music. There will be metaphors in it because it's hip-hop but it's not an extended metaphor.

R: Yea, you did a lot of that (extended metaphor) on Fly Exam. You extended metaphors much akin to a Lupe Fiasco, Kendrick, Nas. You know where you have to listen several times before it hits you. There are things you say or Lupe says, where I get it years later.

J: I'm glad you said Lupe, because he's where I got that from. Enemy of the State mixtape, that's when I started rapping I was listening to that. When he did "Yoga Flame" over Lil Wayne's "Fireman", when I first heard that I was trying to rap. And of course, when you're trying to do something that you don't know what to do you're gonna go to one of the best and try and beat them, right? I was like "I can do that", so I rapped over the track in my room. And that was part of the collection of stuff my friends heard and were like "You can spit, bro". And I was like "I been listening to Enemy of the State mixtape". So to be able to do an extended metaphor thing on my album, that Lupe effect is what I wanted and I'm so pleased that 2 years later it happened. And with the sequencing of Fly Exam, it starts at the top and you fall all the way to the bottom. By the time you get to "Jetpacks", you just got off the ground after "Hummingbird Stance", your lowest point on the bathroom floor, suicidal. At the low. "Super Lowkey" you tell people that "this is me super low-key, is this okay?" and then after that it's an articulation of how I felt right then at the moment inside of that fall with "March 10th and a Third" and after that all is vanity, God is good, let's keep pushing and that's "Jetpacks". That sequence comes from listening to "American Gangster". That's the same fall that Jay-Z did in the sequence on that album.

R: How important is sequencing to you? I personally feel it's a lost art in hip hop albums as of late. How important is sequencing to you in the process and afterwards? When are you thinking about it, When you're making the album or after everything is done?

J: Sequencing happens the moment you have more than one record done. Cause even if you have 2 demos you're asking yourself, "Which one do I play first?". Since my last album was linear with that fall, I wrote that sequence based on the content. It shapes sonically around it. You can probably predict my sequences. On all my albums/mixtapes at the beginning there's always a bar heavy opener but the beginning of the story is track 2. In El v. Envy I had "(a)bridge(d) thoughts" which was a fast paced tracked that placed you in Las Vegas, "gambling addicted, methamphetamine afflicted" all this stuff, here's the scene, here's the environment. And then boom, "Bienvenue", "Welcome to LV, NV...". On Fly Exam it was I'M DOPE I’M THE DOPEST, here's a fall,  then a crash foreshadowing everything that would happen on the album. Then "Butterfly Stance".

So the first track will be the montage. My Brother and Me wasn't written like that and it's not being sequenced like that. I was sequencing it more like what I thought of as the formula for good sequence- the radio hit is number 4 etc. But as of now, I think I'll be sequencing more based just on how it feels. There's a lot vibey stuff, so sequencing will be based on beats per minute, instruments used, etc.

J: I haven't been physically handwriting this project. I been on that other stuff.

R: On that Jay-Z...

J: All these guys. Jay, Chance, Wayne and the new generation of vibe cats that are hopping in the booth just freestyling. We used to be like "Man, Jay-Z freestyled the whole Black Album" . We heightened that and thought we needed to be able to freestyle a whole album. What we overlook is that Jay-Z spent twenty years with a thesaurus and a rhyme book in his backpack. It takes longer for him to make a song if he writes it down than if he just goes and spits it. Because he's good. He put the work in. So I got to the point where I could freestyle complete thoughts. Don't get me wrong, writing by hand is therapeutic. But sometimes, just going into the booth and freestyle from cadences works. So I'll listen to a track and the first pass I'll just go with what comes natural. So I'll scat. I'll hear a beat and *scats cadence*, record that and listen to it. Then put the words in later. That's been a blast. I've been doing a lot of melodic stuff. I'm putting a page to cadences. That works with trap. It allows you to put content on vibey stuff. If there's no vibe then you're just a battle rapper.

R: Bruh. That right there is letting people know not to try and dictate the art. Let the track tell you what to do.

J: Michael Jackson said, "You don't make up words. You let the song tell you the words and you repeat them." And then I began to zone out on songs and I would hear the words. It helped me to freestyle better. Because I was listening to the music instead of manipulating it to make it do what I wanted.

R: Do you feel this makes your music even more honest than it already has been in the past?

J: YES! Because you're honest with yourself. When you write you have time to write, cross it out, fix it in your head before you even write it down. When you just say it, you're forced to face what you said and you're like "Dang! Do I really think that?". And sometimes you'll do a whole freestyle, like the one I did the other day about how I felt and I was mad. I said all this stuff that I wouldn't put on wax— names, people, etc. But getting that out I was able to face how I felt. I need to still address this but let me say it in another way.

I've been way more honest. It's better for me. I'm not stumbling over what I feel or trying to correct myself or judging myself before I even write. I'm like, look this is what it is.

R: It's cathartic. You can't edit a tweet.

J: Not even a tweet. You can't edit Periscope.

R: Maaaaan.

J: Everything is going live now soooo....I'm hoping that people pray for me in that, I'm going into the world. People call me worldly or whatever, I don't care. I'm not going out to "infiltrate", I'm from there. And you're from there, too. Stop acting like you're a martian, you're not. Jesus infiltrated, not you.

I wanna do film. One thing Prop did for me as a mentor was he pointed out that I was just a good writer. He told me "You don't wanna be a good rapper, you wanna be a good writer."

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R: To be a better writer, who do you read? Who inspires you in that regard?

J: When I say writer, I mean more screenplay. So Donald Glover, Jordan Peele, Matt Groening, Seth MacFarlane sometimes.

I don't read that much. I've been reading a lot more James Baldwin. Christian Padron's been helping me with a lot of the academic stuff. Our text thread is pretty much him tweeting to me. A lot of articles I read are pretty much curated by him in our text thread. That's helping me to read more.

Contemporarily, as far as the blog space or the zone space, Imade Nibokun

I'm on what I'm on. So if I'm on Donald Glover, I'm on him only.

R: You gotta go deep into the rabbit hole and fully immerse yourself in someone's catalogue to better understand what makes it special. And with him, it's going to be across various mediums, so you've got some work cut out for you there.

J: These are the rappers I look up to: Queen Latifah, Will Smith, Ice Cube, Common. Any rapper that made it to the silver screen I wanna go that route.

R: So acting?

J: Yea. I'm from Los Angeles. The pinnacle of LA is Mulholland Drive. So you start out in your house in LA and got your thing that you do, mine started out as music. Everyone's pinnacle is that silver screen. That's where the impact comes from and that's where the money's at. Warren Beatty can mess up Moonlight and it be okay.

R: I've heard you talk about album rollouts from the perspective of a Disney Imagineer. That's some DONDA level creativity. Would you care to explain to those who do not know what a Disney Imagineer is and approaching your album rollouts like one?

J: A Disney Imagineer is a niche term for engineers that are at Disney. Because the engineer is a professional problem solver. If you want to build a matterhorn for a bob sled ride and you only have ample radius in Anaheim, California with possible development on both sides, you have to figure out how to fit that ride in the given space, drainage, and whatever else. Because of the Disney brand being based on art, experience, and commerce. Engineers are about cost optimization- problem solving the cheapest way possible. So when it comes to cost and commerce, you get a lot of engineers that don't have that Disney imagination-on-steroids kind of mind. So a [ride] queue experience, it's been adopted by theme parks as a staple now but before it was just Disney doing this. You know how you've got the themed line, you get on the ride and there's a movie at the beginning? There's all this stuff while you're in line. That's the stuff that makes the Disney experience. It's the ride you get while you're waiting for the ride. That's what my rollouts are. There's the experience you're getting while waiting for the album experience.

It's not leaking an album cover. Let me put my album cover out and show stories, not for the sake of having cool promo but to guide people into the mindset that the album is going to be. So when they get there they already know what I'm on aesthetically. Not even in words or over explaining either. Like, having a completely black and white Instagram and then suddenly jackknifing into vivid, high saturation photos. Like [in the] Wizard of Oz the color was sepia and then she got to Emerald City or whatever and it's in color. That affects the way you watch and experience the film. So I do that type of stuff on my Instagram.

R: You even use your Instagram as an Imagineer to prep people to even get their mind ready for the sequence of your album.

J: Yea. The sequence, themes, even the characters. I'll leave coded language in comments. I leak all my information before I put it out. The whole leak culture is stupid, it’s a way to manipulate people. Labels try to leak people's albums just to catch the attention of the media. So my mindset is to leak good information. Give somebody a chance to know I'm about to be into a particular type of treatment for photos. Whether I'm looking at Wes Anderson or Tarkovsky for inspiration, it'll be evident in the Instagram feed. Slowly giving it to people without them noticing. And before they know it they don't realize they're in the middle of your universe and they're like "whoa I didn't realize all of this changed". Yea now we're here, here's the album.

R: And I think that serves your fans better than getting on Genius and annotating your lyrics to those who need to be spoon-fed.

R: Last record had Christian Padron doing all of the visuals on the photography end and now directing the video for your latest song, "Understand." What part does he play in your album rollouts and is he involved in the next one?

J: The first time that we worked together was the video he did for me that got me signed to Humble Beast, "Bienvenue". He came with a two man team (laughs). He came with Rich Hawkinson and Patrick Lawler and that’s when I met those two. I had always wanted to work with Christian and at that time he was working with some other artists, Big Sean, Timbaland and I was seeing these things and thinking, "Man this fool is blowing up, I don't think I'll be able to work with him." We had always talked about my stuff because we were friends anyway. So when I finally got the opportunity for him to come out and do "Bienvenue" and the way that it killed, I knew I didn't need another photographer. Since El v. Envy, Christian and I have been mirroring our relationship to Frank Ocean and Nabil Elderkin. Me and him are a tandem. Just like me and DJ Aktual. I'm usually a two man operation. He was with me during the whole time on Humble Beast as well. So he's been able to be on this journey with me as a friend. At this point with My Brother and Me it's just us doing what we do. We just have fewer meetings to have to explain what we're trying to do. Christian's gonna be around. His aesthetic has shaped what JGivens looks like. And other photographers, yourself, you guys all capture me great. But I know what he's going for and what he wants to do and vice versa, so it just works.

R: He's shaped your visual narrative through more than one medium. He's truly shaped the way that we see you. I think a lot of times photographers can do one of two things when photographing public figures. They can make them larger than life or make them truly human. And I feel like Christian has found a way to do both. He can shoot somebody like you, with a ridiculous amount of energy but can make you appear as tranquil as a basket of bread— brings out the essence of who you are without any distraction.

J: There's definitely a sobering mood in his stuff. And I think he does a good job of capturing the up close and personal me. You know how I am when I'm chilling. I did a live Q+A last night and a girl said, "You're really fun and energetic, I thought you were gonna be all serious". Well, I am. I know because I can be gregarious, I know it can overshadow the fact that I'm very sober with what I'm saying. I say things whimsically but I'm so for real.

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R: Listening to and transcribing this conversation later, I'll likely say to myself, "I hear him laughing but I know that he's dead serious at the same time." I don't know if that's emotional intelligence, to be able to communicate in that way or...

J: It's comedy, bro. Comics are the biggest culture changers. Because no one blames a comic for preaching at them. They're either offended, confused, or on board. But these comics are often preaching these cultural ideologies by the way they're discussing something or making light of it. You'll chuckle and think, "wow, that deeply needs to change". And that's the definition of satire, I mean we learn that in English class, right? The other part of satire. People [often] interchange satire with sarcasm. That's not right. We go back to middle school, satire was making light of a situation so that people would think about it. I think that's where a lot of my humor comes from. I grew up on The Simpsons.

R: You keep freely dropping the name of the next record here, My Brother and Me...

J: I'm just trying to strip away power from the pseudo-hype. Ahh, that's what it is. I'm glad I said that out loud. Clearly I'm extroverted, I get stuff as I say it. I'm over the hype beasts. I don't wanna be one of those jaded  artists. There a lot of things that happened that I learned from and it's just how it goes. I don't blame anybody for anything. You talk to artists in the industry and these are just the stripes you have to take in order to get to greatness. You tell the greatest people your story full of "I can't believe this happened to me" and they're like, "That happened to me four times. Welcome! You're on the road, just keep going.” My response to the hype of manipulating people with social media is me just putting everything out in regular conversation to show it's not all about the hype. It's an album title. Why are we anticipating an album title? I think Kanye did that. He lied, throwing out a bunch of different titles and I think one thing that showed is what the heck is an album title announcement? "I'm gonna reveal the cover". Why? Your cover's not even that ill. It's not some amazing photo it's just you in front of a rental car over using photoshop and you're revealing this?! Just give me your album, fam. Maybe that's my “satire” on the industry.

R: Hype is a hell of a drug. Publications sometimes fall victim to a desire for clicks and web traffic. There'll be a sensational headline about X artist revealing their album title, you click the link and a release date is nowhere to be found.

J: I uploaded that live Q+A to Youtube and in the description I was going to put "My Brother and Me coming out Spring" . Instead I left it at "coming soon" because I never know what's gonna happen. Fool, you put the season because even you don't know what your date is because your album's not done! How about you just don't announce anything until the album is done? I learned that lesson with El v. Envy.

If there's any hype, and I hope there is, it's because I'm trying to build authentic hype. But I think it'll come from the fact that I'm talking about it and having people be a part of it. You're getting these photos, us going to the Underground Museum, you're getting this process because the rollout is actually you following me for a period of time and while I have your attention before it drops, let me just give you as much art as I can and as much education about what's really going on in this art thing, and then you get my album. It's not about my album, I'm not the greatest artist. What you need to do is read this James Baldwin quote though because I got that from him. Or, hey Andre 3000 is coming back and you need to check his stuff out because I recycle his old lines in most of my catalogue and you don't know who he is. You're quoting me saying "humble as a mumble in the jungle of shouts and screams", saying I'm the illest but that's Outkast.

R: 'Humble Mumble' featuring Erykah Badu.

R: Earlier you mentioned healing in art and community, becoming whole. And art being a part of the process. Art being a balm to the soul. That's absolutely true. I know a lot of people can relate to that. For me A Seat at the Table was major for realizing I wasn't crazy. She was able to put into song things that a lot of us were thinking already. In the same way that Jordan Peele found a way to display the horrors of being black. Art is important.

J: It's the thing that sticks. The lectures go, the protests go, even the speeches. A lot of people haven't even read Martin Luther King's sermons. They only know I Have A Dream for the first four lines and the picture that we had to color in elementary school.

R: The one with his hand out, right?

J: Yup. His tie was red in my head.

But people do know "What's Going On?" They know "Beat It". And that song was about Crips.

R: We do! I know we need art that's just fun. We do. We need music that's fun. We need stuff that's just for it to be art. It helps us get through this life. But it is so very necessary for their to be art that acknowledges the times in which we live. I don't know if you do that intentionally or if it's just who you are. Being that you grew up watching GMA with your family, you're not detached from current events. It's you being you, but I feel it's...

J: Intentional.

R: Yea!

J: I'm very intentional with what I observe. Especially being in culture change. I didn't realize until looking back. We got keep it woke since it's that season, you can come up in the cradle-to-prison pipeline easily with people that look like us, right? My mom was in middle school at the height of the Black Panther's activity in LA. They were a little bit older than her and a lot of those things that were new then, she grew up on. And so [I’m aware of] things like the school to prison pipeline because my mom was on that. She wasn't preaching; she just made sure we didn't fall in it. When it came to instances where I was in school and a kid wanted to fight me and he lived in the projects full of Bloods by my great grandma's house, my mom was quick to pull me out of that situation and put me in a school I had to get bussed into. Later on, I realized it gave me better shot at avoiding the system. The antithesis of the prison pipeline is the culture change pipeline, where you're in this upper echelon of education and learning all these things and by the time I got to USC, which I'm in leadership, they start telling you the things to do to change culture. That's something that's innate in you. You're intentional but your actions aren't contrived. You're used to changing culture with your ideas. I think that's what people get with me. I'm not trying to culture change or I'm not trying to make people something else, I'm just a natural culture changer.

R: It sounds like your mom was instrumental in shaping who you are.  Even things that you hear that are pretty commonplace with black folks. Like, "you need to work twice as hard to be second place".

J: No, " You need to work twice as hard to compete for second place". Ha!

R: Ha! All that to say, I feel that's affected your approach to making music and you kinda just gave that to me in your last answer. where you're not contriving these culture shifting ideas, you're being.

J: I don't make presentations about what I think based on a theme. I don't want to say this like a jab but it's an observation about Christian Hip Hop. For instance, let's take the reformed evangelical church. The first agenda was to push "urban missionaries", so you see Reach in Texas doing "Jesus Muzik" then they evolve into "We really need to push discipleship, then you see geographically they move to Memphis, to Atlanta and then ReachLife Ministries comes into the picture. You also get that trickle down where Propaganda was discipling me. That's a major reason it happened. And everything was based on that mantra. And the mantra now, I don't know what it is. So I don't theme my presentation in art based on whatever's been fed to me. I'd rather base it on what I've been learning. So after assessing everything Christian and I have been discussing, we're really on this tip of being yourself and call your family. That's our mantra. That's what we're on. Instead of "It needs to be discipleship, so let me go and try to facilitate discipleship." Nah, just name what you're already doing. That's how you brand yourself. A lot of people will go and look for something to brand themselves with. Look in the mirror, analyze what's in there and then spell it out for people. People will say, "Wow your brand is so consistent". Jokes on you, because it's just me. And if you change or grow, because your brand was authentically you, you don't have to "brand manage". It just grows because it was always you. Cats aren't being themselves bro which is the biggest problem I have with these personas. Ray Murray on the Organized Noise documentary said something that I always quote "We were making all original stuff then it came to a point to where we started to accept our eccentricities."  One thing is, I ramble, so of course I'm gonna go into some Jeff Goldblum, Vince Vaughn type of comedic style because I ramble. And if I'm not insecure about my rambling then you're gonna get the deluxe version of rambling and it might be funny because I'm not trying to hide it. Accentuating your eccentricities and leaning into good things about yourself that you just cannot change. You could be the most loquacious person and want to change, but maybe you don't need to. Maybe you're just a talker. Own it. That's you. And just watch what you say.

R: I bet that makes brand management a breeze.

J: It makes it difficult for me as a brand manager for others. It's what I did before I was doing it for myself commercially. I still take clients but I don't do my consulting work, I do it based on if we just match. I need to see first if a client's brand is actually something that they believe in or if it's just a knockoff of something else. If it's a knock off, I'l still do it if they pay me. But I'm not gonna put any passion or effort or into it. I'm just gonna go to the knock-off and copy and "here you go". If they really believe in what they're doing, I'm going to ask them questions like, "IF your company was a person, how old are they? What do they wear? What music do they listen to? What shows do they like?" And what they'll see often times is that their company actually reflects them. So they're getting to see themselves in their company. If they identify those two then their brand will be a lot easier to manage if I'm not there.

R: Truth.

R: What is it that makes you you?

J: I don't even know how to answer that. I mean, I care about people. Well, I definitely live by carrying on my family name, Givens. And not just making my name known. Michael Jackson's son said something on Good Morning America the other day, "I remember the conversations with my dad , he told me ' Titles are worn, names are given.'” My last name is Givens. I remember asking God when I was younger "What does my last name mean?". And I found it in my Matthew 5:32, "Give to everyone who asks from you and never turn anyone away who wants to borrow". So I just lived my whole life, all of my goals, even before music with engineering, I just wanted a ton of money so I could be a philanthropist. I think what makes me is I feel like I'm generous. Sometimes I'm irresponsibly generous to my own detriment. But I'm trying to be as giving as possible. I hope to beat Michael Jackson's record fiscally for philanthropy so I'm shooting for that.

When it comes to my talents, a lot of times I'd short change myself when I was freelancing. I would do stuff for free. Just because I was so passionate about whatever they were doing and I wanted to give my skills to it to help them.

R: I think we're done.

J: That was a great counseling hour, bro.

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