Hip-hop with a conscience
by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Tuesday, November 6, 2012, at 12:42 pm
One of the things I learned from Francis Schaeffer was to celebrate truth and virtue wherever it is found. With so much of commercial hip-hop music promoting narcissism, consumerism, and misogyny, it is refreshing to find artists who challenge listeners to higher virtues. “Mr. J. Medeiros,” a Los Angeles-based rapper and producer, is a great example of an artist who promotes wisdom and virtue. I recently caught up with “Mr. J” to ask him about his music as he plans to produce a new album with his recently reformed group, The Procussions.
Having grown up in Colorado Springs, Colo., how did you get introduced to hip-hop? Colorado Springs is sort of a hub in it’s own way. There are numerous military bases which pull people from all over the country. Hip-hop is definitely there and, with all its different arms of influence, it’s diverse enough that any inspiring rapper could choose his own sound free from the pressures of regional cultural expectations. However, my first experience with hip-hop was in Rhode Island [where his family is from] at age 8. I lived in a big apartment complex—those types full of different aged kids all hanging out together. I also had babysitters with older brothers. I would sneak into their room while they were blasting their boom box listening to the Run DMC King of Rock album. Between those two social environments I fell in love with hip-hop.
As an artist you made a conscious decision to write lyrics that are not as lucrative in our current media environment. Why take the risk? If you write music centered on misogynistic material, for example, you will have more “success” I am sure. However, if you’re trying to write music in an attempt to connect to some truth within yourself or in the world, it requires a certain type of honesty and introspection that has no time to worry whether or not it will “sell.” If I have any values at all, I’m sure it has something to do with faith, family, friends, great song writers, and some awesome books!
On your first solo project you wrote a powerful song honoring your parents. Why dedicate so much space to them? I wrote “Call You” [see video clip below] around 10 years ago. When I think about it, now, I feel that I didn’t say anywhere near enough about them. I still feel anxiety when I think about writing about my parents. They are just too big of characters to fit inside a 3- to 4-minute song. My parents fought really hard to keep the family out of poverty. They are self-educated, extremely hardworking, and would never let me lie, not even to myself. They still don’t, ha! My father, as stated in the song, is an ex-Marine. He works at a pizza place. He rides his motorcycle and plays his original songs at bars around town. My mother has had two jobs my whole life as a waitress. For one of her jobs she runs a restaurant. They are still married and they hide nothing, blush at nothing, and still have room for faith. When it came to rapping, they’d always push me to “be about it” not just dream about it. They gave me just enough of what I needed to find my own way, and I’m truly grateful for that.
Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.