It was out of this church that Jeremiah’s rap ministry was born, beginning with live outreach performance on the streets and in local churches. As a kid, a career in hip-hop was far from his mind. “Growing up, all I wanted to do was design rollercoasters as a Disney Imagineer.” After he completed his engineering degree and interned for Disney, he realized that it wasn’t what he wanted to do every day. Nor was successfully selling $17,000 contracts for a communications start-up he worked for. “I went home and I was like “I’m out.” I’m going to rap these songs for my church.””
“So I sold my car, sold everything, lived at home and just had a phone bill, doing shows and selling CDs.” But Jeremiah applies his engineering degree and the problem solving skills it taught him everyday. He is also incredibly creative. “Art is a lot bigger than music. It’s everything—it’s the way you arrange your clothes.” He discussed the aesthetics of his upcoming album and the music videos he and his collaborators at Humble Beast were creating to supplement the narrative of the album. The album’s story is all about pride and the subsequent fall. It mirrors Jeremiah’s own journey through drug addiction and the resulting humility that came from being anchored in the local church. All of the aesthetics, from the album cover to his Instagram feed, support this story.
“Remember, I wanted to work for Disney,” he tells me as he shoots hoops in the small basketball court outside the studio. “So my whole way of producing something is a Walt Disney mindset, it’s the entire experience.” I remark on how interesting it is that these lifelong desires, while not fulfilled directly, are still being used by God in the end. “Right?” Jeremiah exclaimed. “He redeems it! God has been like “I’m going to let you do what you wanted to do you, just didn’t know you wanted to do it like this.” It’s just dope!” We laugh together, truly enjoying the way God turns our selfish dreams and aspirations into something that magnifies him in ways much better than we could have imagined.
As I sit outside the studio in the summer heat, I reflect back on what I’ve witnessed that day. These are men who are honing their skills with excellence. They are deeply grounded in their church communities, discipling while being discipled. Their unique circumstances led them to this place, despite disappointments, disillusionment, and even failure. But God had worked through it all, impacting many though the overflow of their lives: their music. Even me, in my world of Calgary.
I return home having seen a little clearer how God has been using my messy circumstances, my gifts, and my failings. I’ll pray all the more for faithfulness and humility, and I’ll stay even more rooted, thankful, and committed to the oversight of my church community.
My conversation with Odd Thomas was so helpful and encouraging that I couldn't fit it all in this essay. I've instead published a transcript of the entire chat here.