When asked about the current state of hip-hop, Craig James--aka "5ive"--laughs and says, "That's a question for another day!" While he's not big on commenting on the state of the industry as a whole, 5ive loves sharing about God's grace, His impact and the ways He's showing up in the midst of ministry.
From the moment he was radically saved, 5ive has dedicated his life--and an urban art he'd never before cultivated--to sharing God's grace however he's able. Whether it's through his lyrically rich songs, prayerfully selected live gigs or partnerships (such as his decision to dedicate 50 percent of his new album sales to shoe ministry Soles for Christ), 5ive isn't operating on the traditional industry playbook.
With his second volume of Me Against the World now in stores, 5ive continues to share a viewpoint that there are distractions and destructions that seek to get in the way of believers' impact. Uninterested in playing it safe and unimpressed by worldly definitions of success, 5ive is geared up to reach increasingly larger and more captivated audiences.
It's time to learn more about this sold-out musical enigma.
Your name, 5ive, refers to the number that represents God's favor. What are some ways God's favor is showing up in your life these days?
I see God's favor in my life every morning I wake up! All the doors that He has opened for the ministry He entrusted me with, I'm just so grateful for it all!
How did you get started rapping?
I'm from Texas so we are known for freestyling, so it's always been something I did. I just never pursued until I felt the Lord calling me to it after I was saved!
A big part of your testimony is how an encounter with God freed you from addictions. Talk about that for a second, and how your testimony shapes your ministry.
It was Sunday morning November 7th, 2010, and I had been up for 7 days on meth, and had been up all night smoking crack cocaine and drinking. And while sitting on a couch in the living room of a trap, I heard the Lord say, "Go to church!" Needless to say, I obeyed! I went to church, walked straight up to the altar, met Jesus, and I haven't touched a drug or taken a drink since!
How did you go from this encounter with God to making Christian hip-hop?
Well, when I got saved a couple of young believers who were also musicians named C.J. and Evan Castillo really embraced me and helped me in my walk early on. Evan brought me a beat he made one day and the rest is history!
What made you decide to do a follow-up of Me Against the World? Why keep this particular theme going?
I was reading 1st Corinthians Chapter 4, and verses 13-14 stood out to me. It basically says, "It seems to me that God has put us who bear His message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket. We're something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We're the Messiah's misfits." That's where the whole idea for both volumes of Me Against the World came from.
What does it mean to you to be "me against the world"?
The world has always been mankind's biggest adversary! The enemy has no power so he uses the things of the world to trap and ensnare us. 1st John 2:15-16 basically says, "Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world--wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important--has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him."
What have been some of the highlights of your music career so far?
Well, I've been on the Billboard charts and been able to collaborate with some of the biggest names in Christian music, but nothing can top the lives I've seen changed through the music the Lord allows me to create!
What have been some stories from fans that have really touched your heart?
A couple years ago at Jesus Fest in Clarksburg, West Virginia, a young man approached me and told me that the year before he was on his way to commit suicide. He said he had already written the note for his mom. But he happened to hear me from the stage as he was walking and came over to hear the message of grace I was sharing. He said he was able to see God's grace through me that day, and because of that he is saved and serving the Lord!
Who do you look up to, musically speaking? Spiritually speaking?
I really don't listen to a whole lot of music besides worship. I'm a big Hillsong, Elevation Worship, All Sons & Daughters and Bethel Music fan! Spiritually, my pastors Angie Castillo and Paul Ramon, and my spiritual parents, Pastors Melvin and Mechelle Smith!
You dedicate half of this new album's proceeds to Soles for Christ. Talk about how you arrived at that partnership, and what they do.
They reached out to me and shared how they provide shoes for those who are less fortunate and after hearing their vision, I just felt led by the Spirit of God to help in some way!
What's your calling as best you can tell? What's your measure of success?
I'm called to lead people into worship and success is faithful labor.
What's something unexpected about you?
I am a really shy person, I never sang in front of people until the Lord saved me. I only do it out of obedience!
You have a lot of features on your projects. Do any of them have a special story or special place in your heart?
To be honest they are all actually answers to prayers. But the song I did with Thi'sl is probably my favorite just because I had written that petition down and taped up on the wall in my home studio and it's just really cool when God brings things like that to pass!
How can people be praying for you?
Pray for my family and that the Lord would continue to use me as He sees fit!
Marcus Hathcock is the Executive Editor of NewReleaseToday.com, a husband to Savannah, father of three and a worship leader living in Boise. He has released an EP, Songs For Tomorrow, and occasionally blogs at mheternal.com.
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