A Friday night in January 2016 significantly changed my life. I was thumbing through my social media and stumbled across an event flyer for a show in my current city with a big national act and a fellow local artist was opening up the show. We had worked together with them on some shows in the past and developed what I thought was a good relationship based on mutual respect for our desire for excellence and professionalism. Because of this I was a little surprised that I didn’t get a call, or text about the show, much less opening for the artist they were bringing in. This being “looked over” as I perceived it, made me question everything about my artistry: “Am I really any good?” “Am I supposed to be doing this?” “Should I just quit rapping and speaking all together?” “Why am I always getting passed up?” As these questions of doubt raged around in my mind, there was a part of me that’s always believed in putting your most vulnerable, painful, intense, emotional moments into a song, so I sat down to write. I asked myself two questions: “what am I feeling” and “how I encourage ‘me’” After much thought and honesty I discovered “I am feeling perceived rejection, disappointment, doubt, and that is real, but you should keep going.” Those two little words “keep going” are so simple but they resonate so strong as they contain incredible encouragement.
This is where JXGRNVT was born. As I begin to add limbs and life to the song, I felt it was crucial that I be as honest as possible about my struggle with doubt. Constant thoughts of giving up, and how repeated failure can quench motivation. I wanted the listener to know that it’s okay, and even normal to experience these things. Just as important was to balance that with the moments that make persistence all worth it. All of this with a charge to “keep going” no matter what in the chorus provided the best advice I could ever give in a song in 159 seconds.
That advice has led to some really impactful moments and amazing opportunities. I got an email from a pastor whom I visited on tour who told me he had decided to resign the morning we were scheduled to play a show at his church. He told me after he heard JXGRNVT, he was inspired to not resign but continue to keep going. There have been countless people online as well as in person after shows that approach me saying the song inspired them and “that was just what I needed to hear.” Hearing those unique stories of what the song means to an individual never gets old, and it’s always beyond encouraging.
In each of those stories I found some common themes in the human experience.
- Everyone Is Pursuing Something
Most of us have had a moment where we witnessed, read, or heard something that made us say “I want to do THIS” or “it would be really cool if THIS happened”. This ‘grand imagining” is ingrained in us. It’s in who we are. That moment is almost always followed by the internal blueprint we make detailing what it would take to get there/achieve that goal, even if it’s just subconscious. In that moment we are filled with the wonder as we imagine what it would be like to live in the reality of that accomplishment. It is from that moment that a great number of us begin the pursuit of that reality.
- Everyone Has Experienced Wanting To Give Up
For so many this thought of giving up comes in the “blueprint” stage. They see all of the hurdles and obstacles that stand in the way and resign from the task before they even start. Others begin their pursuit but their enthusiasm is quickly choked when they share their aspirations with others, especially those whom they are close to. Still others are able to shake off the naysayers but can’t escape the internal negative voices constantly telling them to throw the towel in because of setbacks or delays.
- Everyone Needs To Be Reminded To Keep Going
This message of “keep going” rings true because the nature of life and pursuing your dreams is the same: it’s a climb. We are all climbing, from stage to stage, and season to season in life. In that climb, your limbs get tired. You reach a summit only to realize you got so much further to climb. You can’t see the top because it’s veiled in clouds. There are so many moments and scenarios that make you want to stop, but then you see a fellow climber a little bit ahead of you who calls out “keep going” and in that moment those two words give you all the push you need to find one more toe hold. It provides the strength to keep reaching, and pulling yourself up. We all need that reminder because we are all climbing.
It’s my hope that my story behind the song would provide you encouragement to keep going in your endeavors regardless of the many challenges and setbacks you will face, whether or not you ever hear JXGRNVT. There are so many amazing things that have been accomplished by people who refused to give in to that common desire to walk away. This theme of perseverance shows itself in every arena of our lives in which we set for ourselves aspirations to be better than we were yesterday. Many of us don’t see greatness because we give up too soon. However if we allow failure to shape us and not shake us, greatness can never truly be far away.
Gospel Lee is a Billboard-Charting Hip-Hop artist who has been blessed to open for artists such as Derek Minor, KJ-52, Tedashaii, and GRAMMY award winners Lecrae & TobyMac. His newest single, JXGRNVT is available on Spotify, Apple Music, as well as iTunes and Amazon. It can also be heard below.
Buy “JXGRNVT” on iTunes here