SD native JMatth (born Jason Matthews) has been rapping since he was 9. By age 15, when he was known as JROC, he'd shared the stage with Run-DMC, CeCe Peniston, and Montell Jordan.
"My mom was my manager," says Matthews, now 25. "She got me in at 4th & B and Spreckels Theatre." When Matthews was a junior at Helix High, he moved in with his father.
"One of the rules of moving into Dad's house was I had to go to church every Sunday. I wasn't with the Spirit until I was 16."
Rap pioneer Kurtis Blow now leads a hip-hop congregation in Inglewood. The Crystal Cathedral in Orange County hosted a "Hip-Hop America" meeting in October. A megachurch known as FaithDome in South Central L.A. attracts 7000 followers to its hip-hop church service. Matthews says Christian rap has yet to bloom locally.
"It's San Diego, what can I say? Shows that sell out anywhere else don't sell out here." Matthews rails against the hip-hop culture portrayed in MTV videos.
"The so-called gangster rapper raps about stuff that they never even experienced. A lot of that is corporate America telling them, 'Put on a chain, grab this microphone, and rap these lyrics. It's guaranteed to go platinum.' And America is eating up this image of what they think a gangster should be....
"When you know someone is not rich, it looks funny when you try to portray that you are. The big chains you buy at the mall aren't real. It's like makeup, like a costume. It's irritating when I see my little brother [wear chains]. He said, 'It's just the style.' I ask him, 'What's the point?' "
Matthews works in customer relations for a major airline and raps at Greater Victory Baptist Church in Lemon Grove. Sample lyrics: "Now breathe it in/ Let it permeate the thought of your deepest sin/ Let the way I play the mike be your medicine/ A vaccination for that poison."
Though he'd like to do holy hip-hop full time, he says, "Christian rap has a bad rap.... I want to give it my all after my album comes out. My main focus will be to bring purity back to hip-hop."