LOS ANGELES, CA – Bizzle has been on his grind, first making a statement in the Christian rap world with 2010’s The Messenger and mostly riding through the mixtape circuit. Before committing to the Christian Hip Hop route, the Los Angeles rapper had built significant connections in the mainstream industry that he’s maintained through his career. On his latest album Crowns & Crosses, he again enlists production from Boi-1da, this time for the closeout cypher with all the artists on his God Over Money Records. Other notable features on Crowns & Crosses, which dropped Friday (October 21), come from Dee-1 and Reach Records’ KB.
Known for 2010’s “Explaining to Do,” a song questioning Jay Z, Bizzle continues his analysis of Hov on Crowns & Crosses with lines like, “There’s only one Jehovah with the blueprint” on “Royalty (Interlude),” but it’s clear that Bizzle wants to be known as a storyteller pointing people to a higher power than as a Christian rapper calling out Jay Z.
The entrepreneur spoke with HipHopDX about how his new album reflects his journey, the importance of the independent game and donating $45,000 to build wells in Africa through proceeds from his 2014 album, Well Wishes.
HipHopDX: On “We Here Now,” the opening track, you talk about the media where you rap, ‘They muzzle the wise and give somebody foolish a mic / To make us all look crazy, they come up with topics, ask the craziest pastor that none of us rock with.’ Why is it important for you to be a voice, especially during this time?
Bizzle: It’s important for me to be a voice because I feel like media as a whole tends to have an agenda attached to it and the story will always get told in a way that promotes the agenda or whatever’s trying to be done. So I believe as a Christian, growing up as a young black male, I remember always seeing when they interviewed somebody on the news about something that just happened, it seemed like they would always pick the least-educated person they could find to ask. We’d be sitting back like, ‘Yo, really? Why do you always ask that guy?’ We’ve seen stuff go viral. We’ve seen stuff go viral that’s news interviews of black people that they ask questions and whatnot.
What I’m seeing is the same thing in Christianity is that they pick, they handpick certain pastors or certain people to represent the whole church on whatever the idea is that’s being spoken of, so on our end, like for the homosexuality thing, Westborough baptist church, you see them all over the news with ‘God hates fags’ signs and all kind of stuff and nobody that I know knows about, we don’t know about them. Nobody rocks with them. Nobody agrees with them. We don’t know, to us, they’re a cult. But to the world, they represent us. And that’s what I’m talking about, just poor representation that I’ve seen. So I just wanna — not that I’m the best representation — but I just wanna do my part to represent Christ in a way that glorifies him the best I can.
DX: Does it feel like a double burden too, like you said growing up, and now as a black man and a Christian, do you feel like you have to represent both communities?
Bizzle: I definitely feel like I do. I think that that’s a burden that a lot of us, speaking as a black male, a lot of us having to carry, because there’s stereotypes about every race, but it seems like a lot of our stereotypes are negative, so you wear that. For example, when I’m in public and I’m in a group, I don’t wanna be too loud because I wear the burden of making black people look like we’re loud and ghetto because that’s a stigma. Or I wanna be on time because if I’m late, they’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, see black people are always late.’ That’s a burden that we’ve always wore or had to carry in a lot of different areas. So now as a believer, there’s a lot of stigmas and stereotypes as well that we kind of have to overcome.
DX: What is the theme behind the new album,Crowns & Crosses?
Bizzle: Crowns & Crosses, the crowns represent moments of triumph, moments where you’re just bold and, you know, ‘Praise God and Hallelujah’ and all those good moments. And then the crosses represent the cross that you have to bear in this life, the struggles, the pain that you have to deal with, while still trying to keep your joy. Then also, while we’re on this earth, we’re guaranteed suffering. The Bible never tells us that we’re gonna have Heaven on Earth like that. It tells us that there’s going to be suffering. So we carry our crosses now and later on we get our crowns.
DX: You’ve been in the game for a minute. Is this project reflective of your journey that a new artist wouldn’t be able to create?
Bizzle: I wouldn’t say a new artist couldn’t create it. A new Christian probably couldn’t create it. But if you’ve been walking this walk for a while, then you know how it feels to be up, you now how it feels to be down, you know how it feels to be triumphant in your walk, then fall off and get back up. The Bible says a righteous man falls seven times and gets up seven times. So you definitely, if you’ve followed Christ any period of time, you’ve had those experiences. So I just try to be candid about it because I don’t want to sell a fake image of what this walk is like. So on this album, I do go into, I talk about my personal struggles, my marriage, my household and I want to paint a more clear picture and not just tell everybody when you come to Jesus, you’re gonna get a Bentley, you’re gonna get a big house, you’re gonna get rich. Then they come, and that doesn’t happen.
DX: I noticed you do a good job of striking that balance of being transparent and not being preachy, but being ‘This is what it is.’
Bizzle: Thank you. With Crowns & Crosses, I try to balance the fun and the seriousness. Because a lot of my music, I write as a reflection of what I’m going through in the moment or what I see in the world, a lot of negative. I write from pain a lot, so with this one, I tried to balance and have some fun records so you don’t always have to be thinking super deep when you listen.
DX: You have a line on “Knock Off Love” that seems to address Jay Z again, “There’s only one Jehovah with the blueprint.” Is this a continuation of “Explaining To Do?”
Bizzle: That line was about God first and Jay Z second or any other self-proclaimed god second. One of the names of God in the Bible is JEHOVA, and the song is about love. So I’m saying God has the blueprint on love. But I definitely knew what I was doing when I chose those words.
DX: And you have your own label, God Over Money, what benefits has that given you, just having your own platform?
Bizzle: It’s been awesome because nobody can tell me what to do or what to say. That right there, that freedom is very important for what I do. Because we’re in a time where to a lot of people, Jesus is a curse word I think. Jesus’ name gets bleeped out or edited out on TV shows. There’s places where you’ll do interviews and they’ll say, ‘Well, we just don’t want you to mention,’ even radio, they say, ‘We don’t want our listeners to be offended, so can you try not to?’ Because I’m independent, I wanna say, ‘say and do whatever I want,’ but it’s not that because I still have guidelines and principles and standards put forth by the Lord. But I’m in a place where I can’t be bought, I can’t be sold and if I have to take a stand, I can take that stand and nobody’s built me, so nobody can destroy me is what I feel, because I’m 100 percent independent.
DX: With your growing roster, what’s it been like to see your label grow and be that opportunity for other artists?
Bizzle: It’s been awesome because the Christian rap genre has a stigma already kinda stuck to it where from the gate, they assume that you’re corny, they assume that you’re wack, then you have to prove otherwise. So I get to play my part in handpicking artists and hopefully them being the first artists that you hear before you make up your mind on the genre as a whole and hopefully get to duplicate myself. Even in the way that we run the label, I want artists to know how to create opportunities, whether we have apparel, whether different avenues to try to make business, I want everybody on the team to win. I’m blessed to be able to help somebody. Because there was a time, for the majority of my life, there was a time where I’d always be in a position where, ‘I’d help if I could, but.’ There was always a ‘but.’ So now that I’m able to actually help people, that’s a blessing.
DX: I also wanted to ask donating to build the wells in Mozambique. What motivated you to do that?
Bizzle: Initially, the Lord put it on my heart to do a project and give all the profits away, I just didn’t know what it was going to be. So I went out to Africa on tour, I spoke to some people, I got back and I prayed. It’s like one of those for the people, I prayed and I asked God what does He want me to do with the money. What I didn’t want to do is go out there throwing money where they didn’t need it and just throw my American dollars at problems that weren’t their biggest concerns. So I asked the Lord what He wanted me to do. I cracked my Bible open, the first thing I came to was Jacob and Rachel at the well and all of a sudden, it stood out, that’s what I’m supposed to do: water.
So I started looking up companies. I ended up being in contact with someone already that I didn’t know did that. I talked to her and she was telling me about this village, the Gumbane village in Mozambique, one of the things she told me was that the water, the kids die at such a high rate out there from the water that a lot of the mothers don’t even name their children until they turn one years old, so they don’t get attached to them and then have the child die. Just hearing that broke my heart, so I wanted to do something about it and for the first time in my life, I can.
Like I said before, sometimes you have the heart to do something, but you don’t have the resources, so now, after I’ve been rapping for a minute, I’ve dropped a bunch of mixtapes. Those mixtapes, we gave ‘em out for free. So I’m used to dropping projects and not seeing money, so mentally, I prepared myself to drop this project like it was a mixtape, so I could pretend like there’s not money coming in, like it’s free, and put that money aside for them. And God is good. We were able to raise $45,000 to build water towers out there and now that community has clean water. The whole community is good. We’re not finished, but that’s definitely a start.
DX: Wow, that’s cool, even that you knew the woman already, and it all came together.
Bizzle: Yeah, exactly. It’s very hard to trust someone, especially with that kind of money, so the fact that I was already, already had that contact, it was somebody I felt really good about, it really worked out. Because now, you never know. You might give your money to a cause and 10 percent goes to what you thought it was going to.
We Here NowBless His Name f. Alexis SpightWake UpAin’t Got It f. GS & Dee-1Oh Yeah (All I Know, Pt. 1)Knock Off Love f. Jonathan McReynoldsRoyalty Interlude f. Tony GaskinsRoyaltyBeen 100Hands In the Air ’94Money Get LowFrom the OutsideDream WorldKing f. H.U.R.T.Work It OutForever Love (After the Storm Interlude)All I Know, Pt. 2 f. KBGod Over Money Cypher 2.0 f. Sevin, Datin, Bumps Inf & Selah the Corner