Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m 27, born and bred in Leytonstone, a proud East Londoner. I started with London City Mission as a Pioneer (formerly Urban Mission Pioneer), and now work at the Ridley Centre in Forest Gate. I’m also a rap artist. My first album, Revolution, got to number four in the official UK Christian and Gospel charts!
What was life like growing up?
I lived next to the Cathall Estate, one of the roughest estates in East London. No father in the house meant the streets raised me - it’s where I learned to ride a bike, fix things, drive, and how to treat women. Losing your virginity deserved a medal. Being a man meant sleeping around with the most women, being violent, standing up for yourself and doing something to make yourself relevant, either drugs, football or music. At fifteen, I fell in love with Grime music and used it as my exit out of all this madness. Now I’ve seen the world and the kindness that others show, I can see how violent my area was. But that was all I knew. It shaped my worldview.
How did music provide an escape?
Music took up a lot of my time, I had a little computer set up in my house and it kept me and my mates off the streets and out of trouble. I grew up around hip-hop but in 2003, a stone’s throw away from where I lived, Grime was born from artists like Dizzie Rascal, Tinchy Stryder and Wiley. Wow, these were kids just like us on radio stations, on CDS you could buy from HMV, and even on TV! We thought, if they can do it, why can’t we? Grime became the voice of our generation. We could express ourselves, where we come from, and what we do without compromising in any way.
How did you become a Christian?
My dad came out of jail when I was 5. He’d become a Christian and Jesus was all he spoke about. He was a real example of what it meant to live for the Lord. He took me to church and gave me the gospel. I went to Sunday School now and again, but at 15, I stopped going. That year, I was beaten up by 20 guys at once. A few years later, ten guys severely beat me up with metal baseball bats. Going round my head was: 'You reap what you sow'. When my granddad died, my mum started going to church. The pastor visited and shared the gospel with us. God captured me that day; I had no escape. I repented of my sins, became a believer and served as a youth leader for the next seven years.
What’s the biggest difference Jesus has made to your life?
Understanding the gospel showed me I was a sinner; everything I’d lived for was a selfish act in opposition to God. I needed his grace. He loved me so much that he chose to send his son to die and resurrect so I can be free. I was a very angry person inside but it's hard for things to irritate me now. Christ has changed my heart and continuing to change how I see things, how I treat people, and who I am as a person. Knowing him has changed my world view - my life is bigger than me, to live out for someone bigger than me. I owe my life to him and I have no purpose on this earth if I don’t know who I’m living it for. .
How did you first get to know about LCM?
When a friend told me about them, I said “No, that’s too good to be true! I don’t believe you.” After a meeting with leaders from LCM, I got onto the Pioneer course, working in Forest Gate, right next to Leytonstone. It was literally a dream come true. I’m working in my local area, shoulder to shoulder with Sammy Gunnell, a pioneer in the Christian Hip-hop scene. Growing up, he was known in my area as the big Grime MC from Birmingham.
What do you enjoy most about working in Forest Gate?
Youth clubs are my favourite, the local kids love dancing and the kind of music I grew up making. They listen to artists that are my age, who grew up like me. I understand the peer pressure they feel, so I make my youth club talks about love, finding your identity and using your talents. I hope many of these young people will come to know Jesus. The staff at Ridley are very good at reaching people from their local area. That really touched me, ‘coz I’d never seen it before.
Being with LCM has built up my faith and theology and allowed me to bring others along to be equipped. The Lord laid it on my heart to work there a second year - I aim to stay on and become a full-time missionary.
What can churches do to reach young people from tough backgrounds?
I call kids from council estates ‘The Forgotten Kids’ - forgotten by society and seen by the law as the bad ones to shut down and arrest, or to allow to kill amongst themselves. What are we doing to reach these young people involved in gang culture and drugs? They’re boxed in, scared, with nowhere to go and that’s their home. They know nothing else, some have never even left their area. If you want to reach them, you need to be like them. I could go to my local estate and talk to people I’ve known from school about Jesus and they wouldn’t reject me straightaway because they know me. You gotta be relatable in your approach.
How does Jesus use your music to open doors?
In a tune called Off My Chest, I talk about battling with porn as a Christian and having an auntie suffering with cancer. I share my struggles as well as my faith - that I’m an imperfect person in need of a perfect God. Most people I know say they need to fix-up first before they come to church. I make it clear that Christ wants us exactly as we are. He’s the fixer of broken people and we can’t fix ourselves. It’s not by our works so that we may boast but it is by grace through faith that we are saved. As Christians it’s good to be open and let people know that God is with us in our struggles, but they don’t stop when you become a believer. There is always going to be sin, but the solution is always going to be the gospel. I’ve had countless messages from Christians with my background, tell me they can still listen to grime because of my music, I believe God uses that to draw people to him, to convict and encourage people. I believe if I continue to be as real and transparent as possible. my music will continue to have impact.
What would you say to those reading?
Some people think missionaries paint walls and take pictures in a far, far place. But mission starts with the inside going out. Start with your family, your neighbour, your street, your area, your borough, your city, your country, your world, not the other way around. One of my tracks says “Sometimes it’s cold out here and they’re thinking, do you really rip your saviour? How can I be known out there but I can’t share faith with my next door neighbour?”
I’m no different to anyone else, just a young boy from Leytonstone who’s thankful to the brothers and sisters funding the Pioneer course and giving to the mission, allowing people like myself to be recruited. LCM workers are from all different backgrounds - a real reflection of the gospel. God doesn’t look at size, colour, race, gender, ability or disability to be able to use us. So many are being edified and grown in their faith and becoming believers. Thanks to God for working through these missionaries to preach the gospel across London.
An excerpt of this interview was first published in the summer edition of our magazine, Changing London.