Mark J.
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Mark J.


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Mark J. @ "Missionary Trip" sponsored by Decatur Bible Chapel. More info soon!!!

Kenya, Africa, Not Applicable, Kenya

Kenya, Africa, Not Applicable, Kenya

Mark J. @ Decatur Bible Chapel

Decatur, Georgia, USA

Decatur, Georgia, USA

Mark J. @ Preaching Engagement @ Decatur Bible Chapel

Lithonia, Georgia, USA

Lithonia, Georgia, USA

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Mark J is one of the most articulate and great storytellers within the Christian hip-hop community. As you hear Mark spit a rhyme, it is like watching an artists painting a master piece on a canvas. Mark has a way of bring words to life as he often times paints vivid images of who God is or many of the problems our sin sick society faces. As this year unfolds, most Christian hip-hop hedz will find that City of Pain will be one of the best CDs out this year. The tracks are consistently good through out this project. As you listen, there are a couple of tracks that stand out. My personal favorite is the title track entitled “City of Pain”. Mark takes his listeners through an average day in many urban communities as he paints a colorful picture of an often times depressed community who lacks the rule Christ. Mark J is one of the most articulate and great storytellers within the Christian hip-hop community. National Anthem” is another track that will cause you to constantly press repeat as Mark takes a moment to talk about the state of Christian hip hop. In some parts of the song, he compares secular hip hop with holy hip hop and take a moment to celebrate how far Christian hip hop has come and where the genre is presently going. This is a possible theme song for the Christian hip-hop community. This project is full of quality artists who are featured on this CD.  Artists like Canton Jones, Precise, Truth, Todd-Bangz, Elle-Roc, and Platinum Souls all spit a verse or two on this project. Overall, this CD will challenge you in your walk with God and provide you with hours of ministry as you listen to this well produced project. We highly suggest that you add this one to your CD collect. - Kymo Dockett

Mark J- Words from a Veteran
By: Tony Stone
June 16, 2004 12:20PM EST


Stone: Mark J, thanks for giving us the opportunity at interviewing you. You've been one of the longest standing emcees in not only gospel hip-hop, but hip-hop in general. What has been your observation of the changes that have evolved, from your perspective?

Mark: Gospel Hip-Hop has come along way within music quality, deejays, legitimate breakers and graffiti artists. We now are seeing more capital pouring into Hip-hop through the various churches. I think now we have to start thinking more strategically and get sponsorships and corporate funding and massive media to create better and bigger crusades, tours and shows that gear towards reaching the Hip-Hop generation. I think too many labels, artists and companies are running towards the “positive” banner when we need to be running away from it. There are too many grey lines under that banner and it’s confusing the world about what truth really is. I think we need to be clear in our message and our cause and hold up the “Jesus Christ” banner high up to the sky.

Stone: What were your initial goals and intentions when you jumped in the game over 10 years ago, and in what ways has your agenda developed/refocused over time?

Mark: I was initially inspired to write raps from a group I used to hang around called, “YBC” (Young Brothers in Christ). They were already an established Christian rap crew traveling doing shows all over the country. In 1995 they retired and their manager just started booking me for their scheduled shows. After ministering at a few shows and seeing people get saved at my concerts I knew this is what God called me to do.

The agenda has been the same, reach the unreachable through an uncompromising form of Hip-Hop music to bring souls to the Kingdom. I believe God reveals things from the general to the specific has far as your calling is concern. Every album God confirms and reaffirms this calling in my life and how I should convey it to the world. I believe I’m evolving as a man of God which is maturing my artistry and ministry on the mic.

Stone: How many more albums should we expect from you? Do you have any intentions of stopping?

Mark: Expect the unexpected because I will stop only and ONLY when God tells me to. I might be the KRS-One of Christian rap (in terms of pumping out albums) because God is keeping me in this season for a reason or…. I might be out tomorrow, it’s up to God. I try to live my life according to how the Spirit moves. My calling might take a different shape or form from rapping to juggling (lol). Who knows…I’m just going to stay obedient.

Stone: That’s wassup, I’m feeling that. How long does it typically take you to write a song, or better yet, compose an album. Some cats get it done seemingly in a matter of a few months, others take a few years to build on it. What's your formula doc?

Mark: It all depends, one song might take an hour another song might take day or a week. Basically my formula is to try and get the beat first and marinate on it until God gives me a concept. Usually my songs are very conceptual so I may take longer than your average emcee, but that’s just me. I’m learning to be a perfectionist when it comes to my music so my albums are actually taking longer to make.

Stone: How did you hook up with Much Luvv records to put out the album "City of Pain"?

Mark: I sent demos out to everybody and their momma and one landed in Tre-9’s lap. We started building a relationship via phone after hooking up at “Flavorfest” in Florida. He really wanted to sign me, but I wasn’t to sure where God wanted me. Corey Red vouched for Tre-9 which really helped me come to decision, because I wanted to sign with a label I could trust. I love Much Luvv and I know this is where God wanted me. We are more like a family than a label. We hold each other accountable on so many levels, which I believe makes us such a great independent label.

Stone: Would you ever sign to a secular label, and why or why not?

Mark: That question is hard to answer because it would depend on all the sub-factors. How much creative control do I have? What unholy stipulations would I be agreeing with in the label? Would this label make my good be spoken evil of? Etc.

Stone: Who has influenced you musically, both in the past, and presently?

Mark: From a ministering standpoint: Commissioned, Winans, Sup the Chemist & Tonex. From an artistry standpoint: Rakim, Tribe Called Quest, Common, The Roots, Mos Def and Eminem.

Stone: Who are some cats in the music scene who may not be known as "veterans", but are indeed long standing laborers in the gospel through music?

Mark: Hmmmmm…..good question…the unsung heroes…hmmmmm. I would say, Truth (my brother-in-law), Second Nature, Michael Peace and Stephen Wiley.

Stone: Are you an anti-radio rap type individual, or what's your take on that?

Mark: Not really. I don’t think there is such a gap between underground and mainstream any more. I think hip-hop has too much politics parading among deejays, videos, magazines and so the radio plays what’s selling. The redundancy of songs comes into play because of all the politics, but I wouldn’t say I’m anti-radio.

Stone: What are some of the biggest outlets that you've had- whether it be an event, or a medium (like internet, tv, etc.)? How did it help further what you're doing in the HHH movement?

Mark: I’ve been on BET a few times and minister at large concert shows throughout the years but really I couldn’t tell you what has help me or what has not. Without it sounding like a cliché’ I do believe God’s favor has brought the biggest increase in my ministry.

Stone: I agree with that, lest God build the house the laborers build in vain, so God does make that difference! What has proved the most effective way for you to push album sales up, that you can vouch for over the last 10 years? Was it a personal contribution, outside help, a certain type of promotion strategy, etc?

Mark: Doing shows and word of mouth. Straight up!

Stone: On some non-hip hop related stuff, what are the 3 most valuable things that you possess, in your opinion, and how did you get em?

Mark: Michael Jordan’s rookie basketball card in perfect mink condition, A 1947 Batman 2nd DC issue edition and last but not least is Jeanette “Black Widow” Lee’s first championship pool stick (priceless…dawg!). How I got’em? I can’t reveal all my secrets fam! LOL.

Stone: Hahaha! That’s dope man, I never figured you for a collector, maybe we can do some trades one day, I collect myself. What other talents do you have that most cats don't even know about?

Mark: I’m an Ordained Preacher.

Stone: That’s hot. Ok fam, last question- who do you see as THE future of gospel hip-hop: not in a boastful sense, but who do you see will be the next one that many people will notice and latch onto?

Mark: Again, I don’t want it to sound like a cliché’ but it’s all about God’s favor and unfortunately we can’t predict that. I just pray that as Christian emcees we don’t get caught up in that and veer away from our calling. We all have a role to play. I’ve been playing my role for over 9 years now and I’m completely content with were God has me. I’m not trying to over spiritualize your question dawg, but I want heads to know that God is in control. Let’s all just stay obedient to the work he has placed us in!!

Stone: That’s exactly the type of answer I would expect from you, and everyone can clearly see your heart and see your humility. What a wonderful thing! Thanks bro for taking the time to share with us, we are much appreciative!

- Tony Stone

It’s been more than a minute since we’ve last heard from Mark J. Say hello to City of Pain, and prepare to hear the NY-bred and Georgia-based artist in a new light. He has always been in the street mission vanguard, bold in his goal of immersing the Gospel message in the rhythm of the urban neighborhood. Now settled in with Much Luvv Records, Mark J emerges with a revitalized sound and next-level effort. The album is a generous melange of beats, rhymes and interludes, and comes with a fist full of guests. At 25 tracks, there is plenty to choose from. Amidst Mark J’s predominate East Coast influence, there are diverse elements that pack an R&P and even ragga punch. Passion” is Mark’s vehicle to outline his vision and his lifeblood —Jesus. Canton Jones gathers steam in accompanying the flows with purely soulful vocals. What about that title track? It’s a reference to the world, the anguish that the artists sees in his hometown, the evidence of Satan’s grip on the masses that populate the streets. Mark J delivers his rhyme, telling the story from his perspective sitting watching in public transit, expressing hope that the ‘city of pain’ will see the ‘city that needs no sun’. Bob Russ produces; delicate guitar and fine backing vocals from Katanya Ingram gel the cut. Truth guests on “Root of Evil”, adding his urgent ragga flow to Mark J’s, making an already urgent subject matter come across with just the right punch and potency, making it one of the tightest cuts on the project. Check “Right Revolution” for another Truth cameo, an old school blast of scratches and brass samples. Ms. Ty Scott of Platinum Souls (see album review) continues to impress with her rhyming, delivery and poetic abilities. Here she guests on “A Slave’s Cry”, an fast-paced intense offering that examines the sometimes negative connotation of heritage in the light of Scripture. The follow-up joint brings in a roster of peers: Ricardo Flo of Platinum Souls, Elle Roc, Todd Bangz and Precise. It’s “Livin’ Martyrs”, and it’s a heady ride into hard-hitting territory with flow after flow of penetrating questions to the believer, culminating in “are you dying daily?”. City of Pain then blooms into a garden of beats and truths, with artists such as Izrael (“Queens to Kings”), Dawn Bynoe (“14 Karat Gold Ave.”) adding to the joy. You might be thinking that it’s alot of guests artists. It is —and credit Mark J with unifying the whole business with his writing and consistent themes. He’s ever-present with his ability to anchor each cut with his fluid flows and lyrical brilliance. The project finishes with “Sundown Wars”, a rare guest spot from Dano and Neogen of Remnant marking it and pushing this project to its high point. Always ready with a lashing vocal hook to bring in the masses and delicious flows to snag attention, Mark J has issued one of the nicest rap projects to hit 2003 to date. More Gospel Hip Hop ---> Click Here
Producers: Various album release date: June, 2003 Much Luvv Records review by Stan North - Stan North

Mark J
City Of Pain


…My ride is bumpin’ as I roll down the streets of D-Town crankin’ the “The National Anthem,” the battle cry of hip-hoppaz everywhere, causing those around me to turn around and wonder who’s got her vibin’ like that? It’s “THE CITY OF PAIN,” Mark J.’s latest release after a 4-year hiatus and let me tell you, it was well worth the wait! I had a chance to kick it with Mark J. to see what’s on a brotha’s mind…

LABEL: Much Luv
Birthday: 6/21/75
City/State Born: Jamaica Queens, NY
Resides: Atlanta, GA
Hobbies: Basketball, Reading
Favorite Scripture: Philippians 1:21
Church: Decatur Bible Chapel

Kiwi: I’ve been vibin’ to the CD for the past 2 weeks…where were you in life when you started working on CITY OF PAIN?
Mark J: I had just come off of a sabbatical from my last album…I took a break because I was getting married so I pulled myself out of the ministry for awhile to position myself to put my wife and my family over hip-hop… I just wanted to make sure that my perspective was right, so I just cut off all ministry for a while. So, when making the album my mind-state was really just reaching the lost…I wasn’t up to breast on the industry or what was going on in the Christian Hip-Hop community or anything like that. That helped me to really be able to communicate to the world because I didn’t have any other blockade.

Has family changed your perspective on life and ministry?
Definitely! I think if it wasn’t for my wife, I don’t think the outlook on my album would be the same. First of all, I have a female’s perspective who normally doesn’t like hip-hop. My whole attitude about this album was to try to reach people who don’t listen to hip-hop, but they can still get something from it. I was trying to be very open minded for those so that they would be able to embrace the songs and the messages in the songs…just everyday people, na’mean? Not music lovers…but everyday people.

Let’s kick it about the title track, “City of Pain.” How did the whole concept come about?
I was riding through the city at night and God just hit me with something. I was looking around and seeing different things and I wondered how God looked at the city and the things that are going on. When I got home and had Bible Study that night God brought me to Revelation 20:22 which talks about the city of Heaven. One of the verses says that the city will have no need for sun or moon because the Light of the Lamb will shine on us all and I started thinking like, man…there’s so many people in pain right now on earth but yet they can look forward to a city that needs no sun in Christ. So, I saw the parallel and said to myself you be in the same position but a different perspective. When you look at things through God’s vantage point and through His 20/20s you start seeing things differently within the city whereas if you were on your everyday route, you wouldn’t pay attention to things. You look at it from God’s perspective you’ll see the hurt, tears and a lot of things in people’s eyes and you’re like, man, I wish they could know that you could look forward to a city that needs no sun. Sort of like what Romans 8:18 says (he quotes the verse)...the more you suffer here, the more you rejoice in Heaven.

You’ve been MCing for 8 years now and I know during that time you’ve seen some of everything…where do you feel the state of Christian Hip-Hop is today?
I’ll give you the good and I’ll give you the bad. The good thing I see is there has been a lot of progression. A lot of people have come into the fold who are in the Hip-Hop culture and who are now using their talents for the Lord…of course you can see it by the number of MCs producing these days…graf artists, B-Boys…there’s a lot more talent coming into the fold that God has called out in the Hip-Hop culture in the last 15 years. The negative is that it’s not a lot of people who are really discipled…who have really taken the time to sit aside and learn God for who He his. Because of that you get a lot of watered down lyrics…and I’m not necessarily talking about a “Jesus” in every line type thing, but I’m talking about maturity in the Word of God. Be able to handle yourself properly and handle your sword properly when you’re on and off stage…we have a lot of people up there spittin’ and they’re not saying anything. Paul said it in Philippians. He said that I wish with all sincerity that everybody do this with a pure heart, but there are some who do it for vain glory, envy, jealousy but thank the Lord the gospel’s preached…I feel the same way about Holy Hip-Hop now.

Ok, with that said we HAVE to talk about “National Anthem” which is getting mad love on radio. Just hearing it makes you want to be a Holy Hip-Hoppa’ if you never dreamt of being in the culture! What was your vision for it?
The National Anthem was just an encouragement for all gospel MCz to keep going. Remember, it’s all about the death, burial and resurrection. Understand with a lack of financial backing we’re still here, after 15 years and more…we need to carry the cross to this culture. It’s really an encouragement to believers. God is going to bless!

I really appreciate how you incorporated spoken word on your project. How do the two parallel for you?
Well, spoken word has become very prevalent, especially in Atlanta. I’m what you call “spoken word in training”. Instead of hitting a lot of open mics and stuff like that I hit a lot of secular spoken word joints. I just want to be able to be like Paul said, become all things to all men that by all means I might win some. I’m learning to do more poetry. I started out doing a lot more poetry then before I rapped…really rap is just rhythmic poetry. I’m just trying to get back so that I can keep up with the times. I definitely wanted to put some spoken word up here to show some diversity so that way I wouldn’t be limited on the places that I can go. You always have to be one step ahead as far as your tools and keeping up with the cultural aspect of music. You have to be available to speak the gospel when need be.

I have to be totally honest (laughing)…when I heard “Passing Moments” it made me upset.
Why? (laughing)

I just love happy endings! I’m talking to my CD player saying, “don’t let her walk away, say something!” It also made me wonder how many times I’ve missed out on my blessing because of the same situation…it just frustrated me! (laughing)
(laughing) …I was trying to make it as real as possible. The whole key to it is being cognizant if the other person is a Christian. A lot of times Christians don’t think about that…but I wanted to make it relevant to everyone. Everybody, Christian or not, has been in that situation. I’ve been in it many times before I got married. Plus I didn’t want to advocate going up to every person you feel is fine, I left the decision up to you. But just emphasizing that you are aware “is this person saved? Are they down with my Savior?”

I feel you! Who’s that featured on the track?
The spoken word artist is Daneea Badio. I met her at one of the spoken word joints here in Atlanta. She was one of the featured artists when I was there. When I heard her I thought she was hot, we hooked up and started vibin’ and we ended up doing the song. Ricky Trotter and Tosha Jenkins, who sung the hook, goes to my church. We actually reacted the whole thing out at my release party, it was real tight! We dressed up like we were in the 1940s and we were in a train station…

I know that was hot! …I just can’t take the end! (laughing)
Don’t worry there’s going to be a part 2! …It might not be your favorite ending, but it’s going to be more to the story.

Cool. Do you have a favorite track on the CD?
Definitely, “Sundown Wars” because, first, my favorite MC is in there, Neogen from REMNANT and I’ve always wanted to do a song with him. Second, to me that culminates everything about my ministry…to reach the lost, to get out there and carry the cross to the world and the struggle of doing that. A lot of times you don’t feel like doing that, but He tells you to. My Dad always encouraged me because he grew up in Kingston Jamaican and he was doing the same thing…dealing with Rastafarianism and all that, he took his cross out there to the streets and was doing stuff and he’s still active. The parallel is me being here in Atlanta and we’re taking our cross out and stepping on terrain where a lot of other Christians don’t step on. Hip-Hop gives you access to a lot of other places where the church can’t reach. You just have to be ready to grab your cross. The song is very poetic…I like that poetic feel.

How do you prepare for ministry?
The day before [the event] I’m usually in the Word to see what God wants me to say to open up my song, etc. Right before the event starts, I’m in prayer…I find myself a little spot where no one is and I hit my “prayer closet” making sure that I decrease as He increases…it’s not about me, it’s about Him.

Who are your influences?
Common, definitely.

What would your “fans” be shocked to know about you?
(laughing) Ummm…I won’t say that one…! (laughing) Oh, ok. I go to a REAL traditional church where people don’t really say “hallelujah”. They don’t clap their hands too often. Women wear head coverings and the worship songs we sing are the old, organ (he starts singing) Hoooow Greeeaaaat Thou Arrrrrt! People wonder how an MC came out of that church…

How did an MC come out of that church? (laughing)
Just a group of brothers who loved hip-hop, who found a passion in God outside of the church…but, we still stayed in the church because they preach the Word and we tried to get the best of both worlds. I had a mentor who showed me the passion of Jesus Christ that fueled me and the church validates our ministry because they know we have the Word in us.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
(Laughing) When I was on “Teen Summit” in 1997. They had a gospel show and I represented rap on the show. They only gave me one time to record and I went up there, looked up at the spotlight and straight froze up!

Oh, No!
I couldn’t even freestyle or nothin’! I was like, “Uh, can we start over? Can we start over?” …The crowd was into it, but I was SO nervous! I ended up messing up anyway, but I freestyled the rest of the song! (laughing) I was nervous like crazy!

What’s your take on the title “gospel rapper” or “holy hip-hoppa’”?
I’m not trying to be offensive, but I think it’s stupid for anyone to say that they are embarrassed by the title. I am a holy hip-hop artist. I am a gospel rap artist, you know? God has called us to be set apart. The thing is a lot of people feel like the world feels that we are “holier than thou” when you say that, but you have to find a balance on how to love your enemy, but at the same time realize that they are your enemy. I’m not embarrassed by the title, God has called me. The funny thing is that all the MCz who say that, when they are standing in front of the Redeemer’s seat they’re not going to say “I’m a rap artist who happens to be Christian”…the first thing you want to be said is that you are a Christian, so why would you treat it any different here? If you say that before the Throne, then act like you are before the Throne here on earth! You know what I’m saying?

In closing, if you had to give advice to an up and coming MC who may be reading this interview, what would you say?
I would say stay close to the Word of God. Keep studying. I think we’re in a time of a lot of deception and false teaching…and you want to stay as close to the cross as possible. Keep learning the culture. Take your artistry as strongly as you do your ministry. Music is just a conveyer belt for words, what you ship on it is up to you.

Kiwi is a member of the hip-hop ministry THE QUEST out of Detroit, MI, the owner of G-Praize Music a music production, promotions and marketing company, as well as UGA's Detroit Chapter Rep.
- Kiwi

City of Pain
Mark J. - Da South -
Words: Allison Ryan*
Queen’s native Mark J. is clever in his diversity on this CD entitled ‘City of Pain.’ He begins using a unique Afro- centric drumbeat. “Beat of my soul” is perfect for an Afro-aerobics dance class, and a unique introduction for a Holy Hip-hop CD. Now, an Atlanta based artist, Mark J. is boldly a “holy hip hop artist” in his lyrical style. He has a ‘passion’ to call on the name of Jesus as a lyricist and he is un-compromising with his tight hip-hop beats. Mark J. isn’t scared to address Christian themes in his song ‘In it, Not of it,’ or in his rock inspired song entitled ‘Lift up the banner.’ You will also love Mark J’s appreciation for an presumably ‘Caribbean islander influence’ in the spoken word segments, lyrics, and songs such as “Rock,” ‘Livin’ Martyrs,’ and ‘Right Revolution.’ His brief spoken work mini-sermons are nicely done. His music is sometimes reminiscent of ‘The Refugees’ and ‘Petidee.’ “National Anthem” is a potential radio hit with a sound similar to DMX blended with creative ancient chanting. ‘Po’ Pilgrim’ takes one to church with traditional soulful praise. He offers a variety of genres with blends of spoken word, jazz, r&b, hip-hop, traditional gospel, and rock. Each of Mark J’s 25 tracks will keep you rocking out of your chair with the desire to dance. Mark J. has a versatile style of holy hip hop and his CD is a keeper.


- Allison Ryan

Nominated for "Holy Hip Hop Artist of the year" for 2005 by Atlanta Gospel Choice Awards

Nominated for "Holy Hip Hop Artist of the year" for 2004 by Atlanta Gospel Choice Awards

"City of Pain"-LP Nominated for "Album of the Year" by WTW Magazine 2003 Awards!!

"National Anthem"- Nominated for "Single of the Year" by
WTW Magazine 2003 Awards

"City of Pain"- Nominated for "Album of the Year" by UGI Awards 2004

"National Anthem"- Nominated for "Single of the Year" by
UGI Awards 2004

"Mark J."- Winner for "Independent Artist of the Year" by Christianity Today

Received "Holy Hip Hop Award" in 1999 at the 1st HHH Award show

- City of Pain-LP

Christian rapper Mark J aims his unique musical talent and perspective at praise and worship of God. His lyrics are strong and determined, yet edgy and unyielding. In all, there’s a common thread throughout his lyrical performances – God’s constant love and sustaining presence.
Mark J, born Mark Johnson, was raised in Queens, New York, the birthplace of the music he would come to love – hip-hop. As a child, he saw the originators of this music in his very own neighborhood and was enamored by their music, their lifestyles and the instructions they gave to his generation on what life was about. He spent hours listening to rap, eventually amassing a collection of hundreds of CDs.
Mark J was heavily influenced by his love for hip-hop, although he knew it’s content clashed with his religious upbringing. But he didn’t know if he believed in God, and the hypocrisy that he felt surrounded him, only fueled his ever-growing doubt. As a result of this uncertainty, indiscretions during his teen years sent him packing to Georgia.
During a Youth Night Service in 1990 at Community Bible Chapel Church in Atlanta, as Mark J watched films of the “rapture”, God revealed Himself, and it was that night Mark J accepted the Lord into his heart. Born-again and refocused, Mark J gained a new lease on life and knew he was to be used in God’s work. “My prayer was if God can do it, may He put me in position where I can be used for His service.”
In 1995, Mark J toured nationally with “Young Brothers In Christ”, spreading the gospel, sharing their testimonies, henceforth, bringing numerous lost souls to Christ. Upon their disbandment, Mark J continued as a solo artist, inspired by the work he’d been doing for God’s kingdom, and motivated by faith in what God held for him in the future.
Mark J’s debut CD, We Wrestle Not, was released in 1996 by Christ Inspired Only (CIO) Records, followed in 1997 by his sophomore effort, Forever Pregnant. It was during this year that Mark J collaborated with several Christian artists, most notably, Elle R.O.C., Soul Heir from Mars Hill, and Red Letta from the duo “I Do”, and created the group “Sound of the Rebirth.” From this ensemble came their self-titled compilation. With a new record label, Rescue Records, in 1999, Mark J released his third CD, Concept After Concept.
The following year Mark J took a sabbatical from his music ministry to focus on a personal journey, specifically his engagement and eventual marriage on July 21, 2001. This same year, Mark J honorably received a Holy Hip-Hop Award at the 1st Annual Hip-Hop Awards for his outstanding work in “using hip-hop to take gospel to the streets.”
Having severed ties with Rescue Records, Mark J is currently working on his fourth CD titled City of Pain. This project, due for release at the end of 2002, focuses on visualizing Christ through the issues of today and understanding how Christ brings real solutions to real problems. Musically, the selections take you on a spiritual journey with its uplifting dramatic recitations laced over R&B/Hip-Hop infused tracks. With the cautious use of subtle but crisp lyrics, exploring various shaded complexities, Mark J has successfully married the hip-hop he loves with contemporary gospel, bringing to mind the realization of celebrating God-given life at all costs.
“…My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” Psalms 45:1 – No longer uncertain about his destiny, Mark J has mastered just that.

Recording Personnel:

Canton Jones, Precise, Truth, Todd-Bangz, Elle-Roc, Platinum Souls

Musicianship (0-20): 19
Songwriting (0-20): 19
Ministry (0-10): 9
Originality (0-10): 10 Vocals (0-10): 9
Production (0-10): 10
Engineering (0-10): 10
Packaging (0-10): 10 TOTAL

- webmaster

Mark J City of Pain Hip-hop

On City of Pain, the track "My Peoples" is like a sonic resumé of prominent Christian hip-hop/R&B recording artists, featuring the voices of Coffee of GRITS, KJ-52, Lisa McClendon, Verbs, Phanatik of The Cross Movement, DJ Maj, and several more. Those names offer some insight to Mark J's music, which includes qualities of GRITS, The Cross Movement, L.A. Symphony, and Tonéx. Mark Johnson was born in Queens, New York, where he grew up on a steady diet of hip-hop. He later moved to Atlanta and became born again at a youth service, seeking ways to bring hip-hop and faith together. He went on to record three independent albums (prior to City of Pain), and collaborated with Soul Heir (Mars ILL), Elle R.O.C., and Red Letta (I Do). I was immediately hooked by City of Pain's rhythmic opener, "Beat of My Soul"—live percussion in hip-hop, imagine that. The rest features programmed beats, but a good mix of melodic hooks, both R&B and rock, in conjunction with the hip-hop vibe. The rhymes are thoughtful and clever, overtly spiritual and evangelical without sounding clichéd. Mark J has a lot to say with this eclectic and lengthy disc (25 tracks and just short of 80 minutes!), but he also cuts to the chase in every song with his passionate point of view. - Russ Breimeier

1) Who is Mark J?

Gospel Rap Artist from Atlanta.

2) What inspired the title, "City Of Pain"?

I was inspired to use this title while driving downtown one day and just looking at the City. I started to wonder how God looks at our cities from his perspective. When I got home that night and God lead me to Revelation 21:22-23, "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp." The Lord showed me that even though we might live in a city full of pain on earth we can look forward to a city that needs no sun if we have Christ in our lives. What makes "City of Pain" different can be summed up in one word…relevance. I think this album shows more spiritual maturity. I was definitely more focus and strategic on how to reach my listeners with the Gospel. I wanted to illustrate real life situations that our youth face every day and give some real life solutions through the mind of Christ. My thinking was backwards this time around; meaning every time I sat down to write I thought of a concept based on the mind of an unbeliever and worked backwards through teachings on God's word. I believe this ultimately has change the way I write. I began to realize the cliché's and spiritual gestures I tend to use were going right over the average cat's head on the street. Not thinking about my listener as much as trying to get my point across was making me sound very judgmental. My heart meant to show love, but my methodology sounded extremely dogmatic to someone outside "Christian circles". For example, the song "Passing Moments" is about a brother who sees this fine sister and starts inquiring in his mind about her (and vice-versa) all the while waiting for the train. What makes this song so potent is that they keep asking themselves if the other person is a Christian.. The key is: Everybody has been in this situation (in some shape or form) like that, but not everybody has been concerned whether the other person was a Christian or not.

3) Who is contributing to production and guest appearances?

I rallied a gang of hot producers: Howie Tee (Hollatchaboy Productions), Rob Russ (of New Frontier Productions), Anthony Delano (Out of Bounds Studio), Construct (of Remnant), John Penn and High Tech. I also had several guest emcees: Precise, Elle-Roc, Todd-Bangz, Canton Jones, 2nd Nature, Truth, Izreal and more.

4) In light of this world's current events, were do you see your unique role to be?

In light of the global tension of terrorism and economic decline of our country, people are looking to hold on to closes thing they find security in. Many people are searching for answers that they thought money and material could buy. I think now is the perfect opportunity to reach the world with the Gospel, especially through hip-hop. People are getting tired of the sex, cars, ice and clothes music. I believe my role is to reach this generation by explaining the truths of God's word. So many times I tend to look at things through my natural eyes and forget God's vantage point. However, the more I read God's word, the more conscious I become on the way he thinks, the more potent my music becomes. Now it's a lot easier for me to see through the cries, laughter, fake smiles of man. I keep challenging myself as a believer to look deeper into the wonderful mind of God and praying for him to improve my methodology to reach our lost generations.

5) Tell us about the balance of MCing and life as a family man, business man and a man of faith.

When I find it I'll let you know (lol)!! Seriously, I'm still learning everyday. God has just shown me favor by giving me a wife who is very supportive and understanding of my ministry. Really the key is time management! My administrative skills have improve over the past eight years in this ministry, which has help me to organize my life a whole lot better. My wife handles most of my scheduling and bookings which helps me out tremendously. If it was not for her I would have quit a long time ago. Every time I read how meticulous God was when he build the temple or the ark it just shows me our God is a planner. I don't think there is an exact science in creating a balance, but I do think God wants us to manage the time he allots us.

6) What is your message to someone who's into hip hop, but isn't feeling the idea of "faith based"/"Christ-centered" hip hop music?

Get out! If your motives are something other than to further the Kingdom of God, you're only hurting our cause.

7) Tell us about the Atl HHH camp?

The Atlanta Holy Hip-Hop scene is growing by leaps and bounds, especially because churches are catching on to the idea that this music can be used as a tool to reach young people. It's become a lot easier down here in the south (being in the Bible belt) for young hip-hop ministers to display their talents. The emergence of Holy Hip Hop, Inc. with Danny Wilson and Eddie Velez has help to bring all the artists together to make a stronger impact. Now you got Canton Jones and his crew, Platinum Souls, Elle-Roc Boogie Bless hittin' the radio waves and countless other doing their thing for Jesus.

8) What inspires Mark J?

Studying the Bible and learning God for who he is and not just for what he has done. I know that sounds like a cliché but I love to find out new things about my Lord and sharing it with others.

9) Any words of wisdom to up and coming MCs desiring to pursue a career that is similar to yours?

Make sure this is what God is calling you to do. Stay on your knees!


Past Time: Basketball

City/Why?: Atlanta…why not?

Food: Patty and Coco Bread

Hip Hop Album: Fugees - The Score

Peep for more info on Mark J.
- D.J. MAJ

Mark J “City of Pain” Much Luvv Records

This album has sufficient styles throughout to ensure that the listener’s attention is kept. However, initially seeing the 25 tracks on offer (admittedly with interludes thrown in) you could be forgiven for thinking it would be hard going, particularly for an independent Hip Hop release. On the contrary, Mark J has his finger on the pulse with the right balance of Hip Hop mixed in with R&B and even Dancehall flavours. In fact, it’s those tracks with the Jamaican influence that really make them stand out like ‘Rock’ and enchanting Fugees-style anthem ‘Right Revolution’. Although none of the formulas used are groundbreaking they are tried and tested like ‘Lift up the Banner’ a high energy Hip Hop tune crossed with heavy metal. Then you have the spoken word, poetic-style Hip Hop like ‘A Slave’s Cry’ and the captivating Jazzed-up tracked ‘Passing Moments’ talking about an attraction between a man and woman (think Erykah Badu). On the album there are a high number of guest appearances allowing a new dimension to be brought to each song. ‘My Passion’ is one such track where Canton Jones adds his soulful vocals alongside Mark J’s upbeat street lyrics. Those into a harder Hip Hop sound will enjoy ‘Livin’ Martyrs’ which features a whole host of headz including Todd Bangz, Elle-Roc, Precise and Ricardo Flo (Platinum Souls). ‘ City of Pain’ showcases Mark J as a competent independent Hip Hop artist who isn’t afraid to mix and match influences and is very much aware of his Caribbean heritage. The selection of tunes will ensure that headz are grooving – DJ why don’t you ‘wheel and come again…’. By DJ El Niño © October 2003 - DJ Nino


2003-"City of Pain" Much Luvv Records
2007-"SOULutions" Mark J. Music, Inc.
2009-"An Everyday World" Gozpul, LLC.



Mark J aims his unique musical talent and perspective at praise and worship of God. His lyrics are strong and determined, yet edgy and unyielding. In all, there’s a common thread throughout his lyrical performances – God’s constant love and sustaining presence.

Mark J, born Mark Johnson, was raised in Queens, New York, the birthplace of the music he would come to love – hip-hop. As a child, he saw the originators of this music in his very own neighborhood and was enamored by their music, their lifestyles and the instructions they gave to his generation on what life was about. He spent hours listening to rap, eventually amassing a collection of hundreds of CDs. Mark J was heavily influenced by his love for hip-hop, although he knew it’s content clashed with his religious upbringing. But he didn’t know if he believed in God, and the hypocrisy that he felt surrounded him, only fueled his ever-growing doubt. As a result of this uncertainty, indiscretions during his teen years sent him packing to Georgia.

During a Youth Night Service at Community Bible Chapel Church in Atlanta, as Mark J watched films of the “rapture”, God revealed Himself, and it was that night Mark J accepted the Lord into his heart. Born-again and refocused, Mark J gained a new lease on life and knew he was to be used in God’s work. “My prayer was if God can do it, may He put me in position where I can be used for His service.”

Mark J began touring nationally with “Young Brothers In Christ (YBC)”, spreading the gospel, sharing their testimonies, henceforth, bringing numerous lost souls to Christ. Upon their disbandment, Mark J continued as a solo artist, inspired by the work he’d been doing for God’s kingdom, and motivated by faith in what God held for him in the future.

Mark J released several indie albums creating on buzz in and out the United States. His ministry spread throughout the nation even given him several performance features on BET Network. He has shared stages with John P. Kee, Tye Tribbett, Yolanda Adams, Fred Hammond and other notable artists. By this time Mark J. had already traveled to the West Indies, Europe, Bermuda, Canada and South America spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ through hip-hop.

Inspired by his new tool of ministering the Gospel he began pursuing his theological studies by attending Luther Rice University receiving a Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies. He has since created Poetry In Motions Ministries (urban missions ministry) which is geared towards evangelism and discipleship through the vehicle of poetry and literary works. He attends Mt. Moriah Baptist in Tucker, GA where he teaches the Men’s adult bible studies and is a rotating speaker for their youth ministry. He also leads a young men’s bible study every Thursday at his household. Mark J. brings ministry to life on and off stage through his everyday living. He resides in Atlanta, GA with his wife Kathy and daughter Israel.

After releasing his last album, “SOULutions" nationally (through Mark J. Music, LLC) he his back with his latest project called, “An Everyday World.” This is definitely the most diverse and indepth work by Mark to date!! He takes you through a globally journey but from and everyday world standpoint. In realizing that sin is universal regardless of a person’s skin color, place of origin or ethnical creed there be must a universal answer; and that’s through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The musicality of the album is a roller coaster of different genres and instrumentation that leads to a perfect blend of global music. The album delves into rock, techno, soul yet keeps the true essence of hip hop. The album features production by powerhouses such as Tony Stone, G-Styles, Juice, David Hackley, Kid Classic and Truth!!! Mark says, "This album sonically has a global feel because the world is a smaller place now due to technology. You can’t peg hip-hop to one sound anymore. We as artists must grow as music grows in order to reach this world for Christ" Mark J has married futuristic hip-hop sounds with solid biblical truths of the Gospel, bringing to mind the realities of this everyday world with of reality of the Cross.