Jai, a former background vocalist for Grammy Award winning artists such as Donnie McClurkin and Mary Mary, is now front and center for her time to shine. A pioneer of the Urban/Pop Gospel movement, Jai reveals where her passion for her music comes from and the secret behind her individuality within the Gospel Music Industry in this exclusive interview with uGospel.com.
We discuss everything from her humble beginning as a “Precher’s Kid” to her new album, Culture Shock, without forgetting to touch on her views on abstinence among young women. The self-proclaimed Urban Fusion/Christian musician is a third generation minister, an entrepreneur, a worship leader, a student, a wife and a mother. The world better be prepared because this trendsetter is definitely ready to shock our culture back to life using her God-Given talent, creativity and uniqueness.
uGospel.com: Where does your passion for music come from, and how did you get your start in the music industry?
Well, I am from St. Louis Missouri and I was raised in ministry. When I was born, my father was an ordained Elder and my mother was an ordained Missionary under the Churches of God in Christ (COGIC) and at 8 years old my father became a pastor. Now, being a pastor’s kid I began working even more so in the church and ministry. Being a child in the “first family” meant nothing prestigious at all to me (lol). We were the “first” at church, the “first” to clean, the “first” to do everything… even the “first” to learn how to play instruments and learn how to usher the presence of God in.
Therefore, by age 18 I was appointed as the Worship leader and by age 20 I was the minister of music. It was around this time that God began to deal with me on writing music for myself and I declined because I did not feel talented enough. Well, God didn’t stop calling me, but it wasn’t until a local producer asked me to help him with a recording that I even went into a studio. As time progressed and I started getting more acclimated with studio production, that desire for creating my own music grew.
I then connected with another local producer (J.R.) and while singing one of the songs produced by J.R. at a local event, I got noticed and selected to sing behind Grammy Award winning duo, Mary Mary. I sang with them for 3 years and during that time I was still recording my own project and featuring on some of the greats in Christian Hip Hop’s records. In 2009 I released my debut EP Focus (digitally) and on August 2, 2011 I released my debut full length album “Culture Shock” under my own record label Outlet Music Group (OMG).
uGospel.com: Your music is very innovative and current to what’s hot in Pop/Hip Hop music. What made you choose Christian music versus mainstream music?
Oh it was never a choice. This is a God given assignment. If it weren’t for God, I wouldn’t be singing at all. I’d be in some fortune 500 company working in their communication department or at some advertising or PR firm. But, being that I grew up in a very strict Christian environment that only had the option of listening to the same music that my parents loved, charged me to make relevant music that still speaks about the Gospel.
uGospel.com: I definitely consider you a pioneer in the Urban/Pop Gospel movement. You are very original. What inspires your sound, look and style?
The sound is God inspired! It is the pulse of my generation. I heard a preacher say before; you can’t be an MP3 church that still records the services on A tracks! My mission is to take back my generation. We are so heavily influenced by pop culture that we know these songs without even purchasing their records. Why is that? You don’t think that Satan, who was a part of the heavenly host before getting kicked out of heaven, is not going to sneakily use his music in even way possible? It’s on TV. It’s being played in the stores. It’s being played everywhere we go and it’s not necessarily the lyrics that get us (because we just robotically retain them) it’s the sound.
So with much prayer and fasting, I asked God how He wanted Culture Shock to sound, so this is His project! As for my look and style… I’ve always been unique (for a lack of better words)! I was always the girl with 1 hot pink sock on my left foot and a neon green sock on the right! I was also the one that when my parents said we couldn’t wear makeup, was caught in my room (at 9 years old mind you) melting crayons and mixing them with petroleum jelly creating lipstick. So the Jai you see now… has been me for everyday! LOL
uGospel.com: How does receiving compliments from industry heavyweights, such as Kirk Franklin and Dr. Bobby Jones make you feel?
I’ve never been a star struck kind of person. I never sought after the approval of others, however having some of Gospel Music’s greatest understand the God given mission and see greatness in it is definitely humbling.
uGospel.com: I believe the newer generation of Gospel Music fans will embrace Culture Shock with open arms. Are they the target audience for your music?
Young Gospel music fans are definitely my home base target audience, not only for this record but for my ministry at large.
uGospel.com: What is the meaning behind the title “Culture Shock”?
It’s best defined in the intro of the album. The primary goal of Culture Shock was to be transparent and show a real process of someone submitting to the call of not doing church or ministry “as usual” in an effort to be a reflecting mirror to those who struggle with the call. It is to SHOCK the culture back to life by reminding the body of Christ that we each have a unique purpose that is unlike anyone else and yes it may be uncomfortable, but we have to push that aside in order to reach the primary target audience… THE LOST! If we submit to that purpose with no sham and no hesitation, lives will be saved and God will get all of the glory.
uGospel.com: You have a mainstream sound that flows perfectly with a Gospel message. Was that your goal when you began creating “Culture Shock”?
Definitely. I grew up in an age where the youth at church would sing all of the songs that our parents wanted us to sing in church, but as soon as we got the opportunity to listen to what we really wanted to, we did. Now days, the youth don’t even appease parents any more. They blatantly laugh at the mere suggestion to listen to a Kirk Franklin or Mary Mary. This was the music I was created to create. No, I did not duplicate the sounds of the world either; I’m taking the sound BACK! God created sound. God created music. I feel that it is past time for this generation to create music that the world wants to emulate.
uGospel.com: The production on “Culture Shock” is very unique. Would it be fair to say that you’re creating your own genre of Gospel Music?
Yes. I was actually in a meeting with one of the mainstream retailers and he asked me, “Where should we place your CD? Should I place you with Lecrae and Canton Jones, but you’re not a rapper? Should I place you with Mary Mary? But you’re not like them either?” So yes. I believe that because I am an independent artist that owns my own label (Outlet Music Group), I have the liberty to make exactly what God is telling me to. I’d like to classify myself as Urban Fusion/Christian.
uGospel.com: What’s your favorite song on “Culture Shock” and why?
“Stand Alone”, because it was that pivotal moment in my life when I realized that everyone that started with me won’t necessarily finish with me. It also reminded me of my purpose and that the one that gave it to me will NEVER leave me!
uGospel.com: How did you hook up with Lacrae for your song “Calling You”? Tell us about the song.
I’ve been working with the Reach Records family since I wrote the hook on “Live Free” on Lecrae’s Rebel album. Since then I’ve been featured on Trip Lee’s “The Invasion”, Lecrae’s “God is Enough” and Tedashii’s” He Lives” and a host of others. So it was only natural that Lecrae would help me on my album.
uGospel.com: What’s the overall message you want to convey to your fans in “Culture Shock”?
I pray that this album SHOCKS my supporters to be who God has called them to be!
uGospel.com: A core message of your ministry is abstinence until marriage. Tell us about that and why it’s important to you.
I was a virgin until I was married and I’m so grateful that I kept that jewel for my husband only. God honors those that honor their body’s (the temple) and my music is one of the ways that God honors me back for that commitment to Him. I went through high school and college (and trust there were many suitors) without sex. I always knew that God had a bigger plan for my life.
I witness girls so afraid because their cycle was late and I worked in Health Services in college and I saw so many people scared and picking up pamphlets about STDs that, minus the spiritual consequences, sex wasn’t worth my health or sanity! Everything in today’s media promotes sex and I feel that it is important that this generation sees people, like myself, that are living testimonies that you can me cool and successful without losing their virginity. I also encourage those who have lost theirs to reclaim it and “Clink Clink” from this day forward until marriage. It’s worth it!
uGospel.com: What’s next for Jai?
I am planning on touring, writing a book/devotional, writing more music for myself and others and hopefully building my label to a point where I can help others put out more good music.
uGospel.com: How can fans stay in touch with you?
My website is www.justjai.com
“Like” my facebook page at www.facebook.com/jaimusic
Follow Me on twitter at www.twitter.com @justjai
Links to my blog are my site as well
GET ME TO YOUR NEXT CONCERT OR EVENT by emailing email@example.com
Interview By Michael Jones for uGospel.com