JAY PEREZ

In the past , what earthly titles do you think you found your identity in?

Rap music, rap artists. I felt like I related to them, to the music and hip hop in general. At about age seven, I remember buying my first hip hop cassette with parental advisory. It was DMX, so you can imagine. From that inspiration, I started doing my own music—people knew me as Styla J. I always wanted to keep my reputation to that name and that title. I never smiled in pictures; it was a serious persona. It was something I felt like I had to protect.

As I started getting recognized more and more in music, I was buying more into that type. They gave me this name so I started really living the name. Music can be a dark world in a lot of cases, the things that come with it. If you live the studio life, you have so much exposure to groupies and girls. I felt being in the dark felt good and cool—that title of I'm a dark kid. It was the way I grew up. I related more to being the violent person. I made it obvious—don’t mess with me. 

I was the crazy one, the risk taker, the daredevil. I always had an attitude.

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How do you feel like your identity as a son of Christ retitled you?

When I was 18, I started studying the Bible with a Korean lady who approached me on campus; I had the braids and tattoos. Despite all the dark, my heart had gold, and I couldn't say no to her asking if it was ok to study the Bible weekly. I was fighting on the inside. I was like, I don't want to become too soft, especially for hip hop music. I didn't want to be categorized as the church soft kid. It was a battle.

The church I used to go to, the way they talked about God was as a judgmental God. I felt like that was suffocating me. It was this fear, as if God was like a circle, and if you walk out of the circle for just a day, you're not part of God's love or in His safety. The difference at C3 was a breath of fresh air—taking God seriously but not getting squeezed and pressured. Now I feel like I want to follow God more.

It's cool, seeing people's lives changed—or even me changing people's lives, talking about Christ, inviting them to church. I see it from bird’s eye view; if anything, hip hop is so small. God is bigger than hip hop, than anything. It’s changed my view.

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When you hear the theme Untitled, what does that mean to you?

Since I was young I did so many things—music, film, shoot editing, websites. People tell me I’m pretty good at everything I do, but I'm not boasting. I don't really feel like I’m someone. Sometimes I feel like I'm not someone, so I feel like doing more is going to get people to know me and to respect me. It's something I battle with, feeling like this is a blue pen and here are 10 black pens. I feel like the blue pen. I feel deep inside that I want a title, that I want to be defined. It’s like your title is your way of being accepted by people.

Especially coming to church, I could be recognized for what I do. But when people meet the Jason in Christ they are even more astonished. When I’m with God He changes who I am. He shows me how much I’m loved and how much He loves me. The title He gives me while walking in grace is this love and acceptance.