A Christian rapper/artist you may not have heard of is Mark Johnes. – Zimbabwean born and bred turned Londoner who ensures his faith is the foundation of the unique music he makes.
“I just want to help others” Mark began, “by helping the experience hope, life, empowerment and comfort. Music allows me to focus on what’s really important and to realign the fact that God is in control.”
Having personally heard but a few of his songs – I got that impression about his music right away! “A lot of people have that ‘one song’ and if I can create that for others then I am happy.”
Faith and roots in music
Having been saved for a number of years, I was keen to know how Johnes came to Christ.
Unsurprisingly, it was through making music with an evangelist associate from the states.
“Growing up I’d always considered myself a Christian but I didn’t really start living and understanding [the faith] until I was a lot older. “
Through this friend, he got a bible and started reading the word for himself. “My eyes were suddenly opened and my interest in Christianity was sparked”.
Mark’s unique style and combination of soul, jazz , rap and hip hop is influenced by his upbringing.
“I’ve been around music all my life because my dad was a radio DJ.” Playing tunes from the 70s, 80s and 90s – Mark quickly developed a taste and appreciation of different genres and styles from those times. “It was easy to implement the different sounds into my own work.
The roots of hip hop are obviously important in music history. “My rap flows are slower in my music which combines well with the laid back vibes of the soul and jazz music that also suits my personality quite well.”
UKCR + CHH Views
The debate about the authenticity and intent of Christian music and artists in the industry – both Stateside and in the UK has been in the firing line recently.
Mark gave his two cents on the issue by discussing his decision to release his music independently. “I’d always wanted to get signed from the start” He began even mentioning a brief time with a Christian management company.
“There was a time I came close to being signed before I got saved – but friends intervened and warned me they might not be as trustworthy as they seemed. After that I realised it was better to refrain as a matter of necessity.”
Going on to mention the ease of releasing music without the need of representation – Mark continued “there are plenty of other avenues online that give you a platform to promote yourself and your music.”
Alongside the freedoms and lack of constraint that comes from releasing music independently, Mark is also happy to be unsigned because he is focused on performing.
“I consider music more of a passion than a career – so going to schools, churches and community groups allows me to share that passion and the positive message. On a corporeal level.”
With African roots and US influences, Mark considers himself more than a #UKCR (UK Christian Rap) artist. However, he was quick to call the UKCR scene “exciting and growing – despite the talent not getting the appreciation it deserves”.
When asked about his favourite Christian rappers – Mark felt as if he was “choosing between friends” but eventually listed Triple O, Jahaziel and Faith Child as favourites and ultimately Dwayne Tryumf as his ultimate fave.
10 Years from now…
Mark and I found common ground in the fact we both ‘discovered’ the UK Rap scene around the same time back in 2007.
“It’s interesting to see how they (the artists) have grown up and changed over the decade.” Speaking of 10 years – one of my final queries to Mark was where he saw himself 10 years from now…
“Touring on a global scale to countries such as Japan and Brazil” Mark said candidly. “I’d also like to release a live jazz album mixed with hip hop.”
After finding out he doesn’t even play an instrument, I was astonished by his outstanding ear for sound “My only skill is rapping, lyrics and the production side of things” He said. “But I normally get other people in to do everything else.”
With a creative design job on the side new tracks released on a regular basis, Mark is a very busy man. But what’s next for him?
“I have a new release on the way but I’m not sure when it’ll be out”
If you wanna know – or wish to find out more about the man behind the article – check out the website (and be sure to join the mailing list!)