To coincide with the release of a brand new single, titled "Set It Off," hip hop artist George Moss took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with Jesusfreakhideout.com's Christopher Smith about his music, his message... and burning down the church!
This interview took place on: 2/10/15.
JFH (Christopher Smith): Thanks for taking the time to do this interview! And congratulations on your baby boy! Just a couple weeks old, right? On a scale of one to ten, how exhausted are you? 10 being a zombie.
No problem! I'm honored that you'd even interview me, and thanks! Yea, my new baby boy turns 3 weeks old tomorrow. I'm actually feeling pretty good at the moment. I'm kinda used to running on only a few hours of sleep as it is. But then again, I just had a cup of coffee about an hour ago, so that probably has something to do with it.
JFH (Christopher): You've made it your mission to reach people within the Church that are Biblically illiterate and go to "church" for the activities. What inspired you to do this?
This has been something that has been stirring inside of me for years, so I guess it's not just one moment of inspiration, it's more so something that I just can't bite my tongue about anymore.
JFH (Christopher): What is your response to this quote from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis: "It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects-education, building, missions, holding services... the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose."
The fact is that there are literally millions of professed "Christians" that have made a profession of faith, prayed the sinner's prayer, yet they have not repented of sin. And I'm not just talking about people that only come to church on Christmas and Easter, but we all know that they live in open and deliberate sin every day. The person I really am hoping to reach is those that are described in Matthew 7:21. Those are people talk the talk, and look the part. They are the ones that genuinely believe in their heart of hearts that they are saved. They are actually sincere in their confession, and they even are able to perform many miracles in the name of Jesus. Yet on that day of judgment, they are going to hear God say, "I never knew you, depart from Me, you worker of lawlessness."
In our modern day churches, we stress so much that "it's not about rules and regulations, it's about relationship," but scripture clearly tells us that there is something that is required of us. There are "rules & regulations" to live by.
Don't get me wrong, I don't believe or preach that you have to do something other than put your faith in Christ for salvation. But I am saying that if you don't live a life of repentance from sin, and seeking the Lord with all of your heart, it's very questionable whether or not you ever actually put your faith in Him.
I have to confess, I've got a few C.S. Lewis books on my shelf, but I've never actually finished one. And I see people quote him quite often on my Twitter feed, and I think he has some great wisdom and insight. I even post some of those quotes myself. But I've never seen this quote before.
JFH (Christopher): Your single "Set It Off" just came out today (February 10); can you tell us about that song?
As for that particular quote, I agree with everything except for him throwing in "even the Bible itself" towards the end.
We see in John 1:1 that The Word equals God. And maybe he and I differ on what we believe that means, but I believe that the Bible is The Word of God. And Jesus (or better said Yeshua), is The Word made flesh. So I'm totally on board for throwing out all the other objects that get in the way of us truly knowing God, but not The Bible. If you throw out The Bible, you throw out God. And sadly, many Christians do that very thing in the name of love.
Absolutely! I actually started this song well over 2 years ago. At the time, I had no idea that this would be the message behind it. It actually came about after being on WinterJam way back in 2011. I was asked to come up with a song that they could use to start off their show. So the phrase "Set It Off" came to mind.
JFH (Christopher): I appreciate the message you have been sharing about all this. My Church meets in a public school gymnasium and I'm thankful for that because it has strengthened my understanding of the Church as God's people instead of a place or building.
When I think of the phrase "Set It Off," I automatically think of something radical, or extreme. I just wanted to bring that feel to the start of my live performance at the beginning, but as I began to develop the concept, I really felt the Holy Spirit showing me that there was an extreme message that "The Church" needs to hear.
The song was produced by George "GRoc" Ramirez (Lecrae, Da. T.R.U.T.H, Trip Lee, KJ52). I told him I wanted something more aggressive than my last radio singles, "Loud" & "Hands Up." Then I asked my friend and up-and-coming emcee Steven Malcolm to hop on the track. I really wanted to hear some crazy fast double time flow at the end, and so he was the guy to go to for that. And I also wanted to give him some exposure to a wider audience because he's just dope on the mic.
I also had the song edited and mixed by Jacob Morris from Reach Records to really turn the song from just rap verses over a beat, to an actual song that I think people will be able to vibe to.
That's cool to read responses like that. The Church is the people, so no matter if they meet in a school, living room, park, or in the van driving down the street, one of the points I want to get across is that Church isn't a place where you go, it's something that you are a part of when you repent from sin, and place your faith in Yeshua our Messiah.
JFH (Christopher): What led you to the decision to use the imagery of blowing up a church building to communicate your message?
Ultimately, I wanted to communicate something that would spark a conversation. In our little conservative Christian world we live in, it's rare that someone will rock the boat--and if I can be honest, I didn't want to rock it either.
JFH (Christopher): With such an "edgy" metaphor, I'm sure people will have strong reactions to your message. What kind of response have you seen so far?
Christians are all for going out into the world and sharing the gospel with people. But very few, if any, Christian--and I use the term loosely--artists will call out the institutions, or should I say corporations, that we call church on the fact that most of its members don't even know the full gospel message themselves. Let alone being able to share it with the world.
Ya know, I actually braced myself for some strong reactions, but I haven't seen many strong reactions on either side just yet. I wish there were. I wish Christians would show some signs of strength. It's so ironic that we claim to serve the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth, yet I'd bet you'd be pretty hard-pressed to find someone that would describe Christians as a whole as strong. I know that sounds a bit brash, but I just have to be honest.
JFH (Christopher): If you had an unlimited budget and free creative license for a "Set It Off" music video, how would you envision it?
The very fact that there haven't been really strong reactions, I think, is a testament to the strength of faith that most people have (or lack their of). It's either that, or people just don't care about what I'm doing, or the message I'm trying to convey--and I can be honest and say that maybe I'm just not that important to listen to.
I'm sure if Lecrae posed in the same image, and brought the same message, there would be stronger reaction. But I can't base what I do on people's reaction either positive or negative. My mission is to share the gospel--all of it.
Wow, I'm not sure how much detail you want me to go into on this. But I could write you an entire script scene for scene! But to give you a quick synopsis, me and my fellow OXEN Team members would be a part of a rebel army on a rescue mission. We would invade one of Americans many mega churches to warn and wake up every person in attendance who is sleeping to get out before the building is demolished.
JFH (Christopher): Who are your musical influences?
There would be a lot of explosions, destruction, and fire! But in the end, those that were rescued would realize that they hadn't been in a Church, they had been in the enemy's prison the whole time.
I get asked this quite often in interviews--but the truthful answer is not many. I don't even listen to music that often. I write and record music not because I'm passionate about the craft of making music. My passion lies in the holy scriptures, and doing my best to communicate those truths.
JFH (Christopher): Going back a couple years, what are the highlights from touring with KJ-52 and collaborating with him on your song "Ridin' Windows Up"?
So, musically, I'm all over the place as to what I like. But as far as what does my music sound like, I've probably had most comparisons to artists like B.0.B/Lupe Fiasco with a hint of TobyMac. But I personally don't think this latest song sounds like any of them.
Touring with KJ taught me a TON! KJ is a solid guy, and very smart. I think the biggest highlight for me was going out on WinterJam with him back in 2011, and also being able to do a tour throughout Australia. But being out with him, it gave me the opportunity to build tons of great relationships with people all over the world. I don't think I'd be where I am today if it weren't for God using KJ.
JFH (Christopher): Can you tell us about OXEN? What is it and who is involved?
One of the things I love about KJ is the way that he's able to laugh at himself, and make others laugh at the same time. Even when it comes off a little cheesy, it's still fun. So we did the song "Ridin' Windows Up" for my album called It's Time. The song was just a silly play on the image people try to portray in hip-hop. But instead of talking about how amazing our cars are, or how much money we have, we decided to just poke fun and be honest at the same time about driving broken down cars in real life.
OXEN is a brand that I've been working on since early 2013. I wanted to create a brand that meant something that I truly believed in. And instead of making "George Moss" t-shirts, I wanted to create something for people that meant more then my name.
JFH (Christopher): Name three albums have you been listening to recently and why you like them.
OXEN is based on Matthew 11:29 where Yeshua says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me" to the crowds He was speaking to. I look at that analogy in two ways:
1: A yoke is what you put on an oxen. Often times, an older, larger, more experienced oxen would be yoked together with a younger, less experienced one. The purpose of doing that would be to teach the younger animal how to walk. And as we take the yoke of Christ, we learn how to walk just as He did (1 John 2:6).
2: By taking the yoke of Christ, we are then also under the Master's (God the Father's) authority, and we are to carry out His work. And although the work may be hard physically, we will find rest for our souls.
His "Yoke" is His teachings, His commandments, His law. And His law is not burdensome (1 John 5:3, Psalms 119:24). So OXEN is a brand that personifies the lifestyle of doing the work that God has called us to do.
But there is more to it than just t-shirts. I've also started an online community called the OXEN Team. And that's made up of individuals that want to go beyond the stereotype of church attending Christianity, but actually want to dig into the scriptures daily. Yoking up with one another, plowing the field of our hearts, that we may see the fruit of the gospel in our lives.
Haha, like I said before. I don't even really listen to music much. When I'm in the car, I typically drive in silence, or I listen to my Bible app--especially the old testament so I can learn how to pronounce all those difficult names. But most recently, if I do listen to music, I've been spinning Lecrae's Anomaly album. I also still have Heroes For Sale by Andy Mineo on repeat from time to time.
JFH (Christopher): What scripture have you been reading lately? What are you learning from it?
For the past year or so, I have really been reading and studying a lot. Probably more than I ever have in my entire life. It's hard to nail down just one passage of scripture, but I'd say since officially launching the OXEN brand last year, my mission has been the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."
JFH (Christopher): Are there any upcoming tour dates on the horizon? How about a new album?
I think most of my ministry up until this point has been focused on going into all nations, and building a fan base by talking about God. But that's not the instruction given. I'm learning what it means to go into all nations and make DISCIPLES! I always thought I was doing that by just telling people about Jesus. But there is more to it than that. The key part that is missing in a lot of our modern day evangelism is in verse 20, "Teaching them to observe ALL that I have commanded you."
So that is what I've been learning lately. Learning, teaching, and observing ALL of His commands the best that I know how.
I've got a few dates here and there on my calendar, but I don't currently have any major tour plans in the works at the moment. I'm just coming up on one year of marriage soon, and we just had a baby 2 weeks ago, so my main focus has been on my family.
JFH (Christopher): Thanks for your time George. And thank you for speaking out on such a relevant and challenging issue!
I don't know what God has in store for me tour-wise. Right now, I'm just focused on studying His word, teaching it to my family, and then creating new music and resources to advance the Gospel.
Musically, I've got a few more singles coming out this year before I finalize plans for a full album.
No problem! Thanks JFH for the honor of having the platform to share my heart.
George Moss's latest single, Set It Off is available now wherever digital music is sold!