When we think of life stories, people can tell the beginning from the end, especially when a story is quite predictable. The thing is, not everyone’s story is the same. Each person is unique, and oftentimes, the element of change can make all the difference.
About a year ago, I had the opportunity to interview Hillary Jane, a Christian rap artist who had a not-so-predictable upbringing. “I grew up in Houston, Texas; and a friend of mine in high school gave me a chance and let me rap on his album... which is how it all started,” Hillary says. Growing up with a sick mother, however, made her rethink her priorities, and eventually, she was kicked out of home at a young age and had to make ends meet.
Struggles and survival
During my teenage years, I remember having a similar choice to make when I decided between focusing on my studies or the suggestions of my friends, which was to become more “popular.”
Unfortunately, it led to a lot of compromises, eventually distancing myself from my Christian friends and spending more time with the wrong crowd. I eventually decided it was not worth it and it cost me; I moved three different high schools before I finally finished out my final year of in a totally different environment with hardly any friends at all.
Eventually, my grades improved, I found the right friends and graduated from what I considered my most memorable year of high school ever.
Hillary Jane also found being a Christian is not acting according to people’s perception, but by what we know is the truth. “Growing up as a Christian in the ‘Bible Belt’ it is easy to play the part of being a believer but not really believing,” she admits. However, she has found through her music she has been able to authentically shine a spotlight on her newfound faith.
“I [now] want to be able to speak into the lives of Christians and challenge them to be authentic...encouraging others to truly believe,” she says.
Eventually, people began to take notice, including people who weren’t Christian. Hillary Jane, or HJ as she is now known, has topped Billboard Charts and iTunes several times. Despite her newfound popularity she remains humble.
One of the biggest lessons Hillary has learnt has been to “create good, quality music,” she says.
“It has been difficult during COVID-19 to engage with people directly, but preparation is key... people gravitate towards what you create... the difference between what people see as ‘secular’ as opposed to what is seen as ‘Christian’ is the content” Hillary goes on to say.
For her, being able to fully express her faith in her music has been the key to reaching people where they are and be true to herself and to the Lord.
As it says in Scripture, “My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul.” - Psalms 108:1 (NIV).
For many, this can be a challenge, but for Hillary, it comes from the heart.
Asking Hillary what is the one piece of advice she would give to aspiring artists, she confides that we ought to “build relationships, serve people, love others, and invest in your craft”.
For many, this can be quite a lofty aspiration, but it speaks to the heart of the matter; in that we are able to connect with people and be our most authentic selves when we express our heart and share our God-given gifts that bring life to our very souls.
Despite all that changes in and around us, perhaps this is the one way we can beat the odds.
Joseph Kolapudi's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/joseph-kolapudi.html