Our Exclusive Interview with Rapper Joey the Jerk: "Being a Christian, Jesus is Everything"

Joey the Jerk

Joey the jerk started his rap career in a freestyle session at lunch in high school, his interest in hip hop music led him to a bible study in Los Angeles, where his rap career would be born.

A founding member of the Dove nominated, critically acclaimed, legendary hip-hop crew LA Symphony. Joey gained exposure by performing with the group at churches, bars, outreach events and Christian festivals around the nation and the globe. All the while crafting his skill and keeping true to his first love of music and artistry. As he steps into the scene as a solo artist he carries with him a mature perspective of growth as a husband, father, and man of God. With a heart to preach the gospel to the youth, and a sound that any hip hop fan cannot deny Joey is allowing his light to shine in a new way! 

Hallels: Thanks so much for your time. Why do you call yourself Joey the Jerk?

My father is from Ghana and gave us traditional Ghanaian names so my name is Sarpong Siriboe Boateng. And as a young man I would be asked numerous questions about my name, what it meant, where it was from... I grew very wary of answering tons of questions every time I would meet new people so I started telling people my name was David, or John, or Bobby, or Joey.

The first time I met the majority of what would become the L.A. Symphony I told them all my name is Joey Lawrence not realizing I would be practically living with all these guys for the next so many years. As I kept running into them and we started a Bible study that grew our friendships and relationships I never told them my real name they thought my name was Joey Lawrence so that became my rap name. 

That's the Joey part, the jerk part came in when I would speak honestly yet harshly about beats or ideas or things that we would be discussing as a collective, I am a very opinionated person and I was pretty immature and brash in my words I guess sometimes hurting peoples feelings, not purposely just casualties of me being honest. So at shows we would do introductions and one day I was introduced as Joey The Jerk probably because someone had hurt feelings days off of something I had said to them before the show and after the show really energetic person came up to A group of us and said something like "Joey The Jerk, that's the greatest rap name I've heard in my life..."

And since then that has been my super duper fresh rap name.

Hallels: You were also the founder of the group LA Symphony, tell us more about the group and its music.

Correction I was not the founder of the L.A. Symphony, I was one of eight founding members. We were a collective of 5 different entities that were into rap music and were into Jesus, it started as a Bible study, after every Bible study we would end up freestyling after the Bible study and that led us to form a crew. We released an independent record that did pretty well.

That led us to sign a deal with the now defunct Squint record label where we recorded an album that never came out but was highly anticipated by the Christian music industry. On that record we had production from legendary mainstream producers like Madlib, Prince Paul, Mario C. and Will I Am. We had a song featuring the Black Eyed Peas on the album as well. This record was projected to be huge! But the labels financial backers decided to get out of the music business and compiled all of their musical assets( they also owned Word Entertainment which was the home of Amy Grant, Jaci Velasquez, Michael W. Smith, Shirley Caeser....) to sell them right around the time our record was to release. So they pulled the plug on all finances and our record never came out. Warner Bros. ended up buying the musical assets and decided they didn't want to put our record out or let us out of the deal easily. We finally got out of the deal two years after Warner bought the assets.

So from the time we signed the deal with Squint to the time we finally got out of that record deal about four years had passed. The week we got out of our deal with Warner we were in the process of taking offers from Gotee records and BEC/Tooth and Nail. We also went from eight members to five members throughout that four-years and the five of us decided to go with Gotee. We released 2 records on Gotee that did OK I guess and after that we put out a record on Syntax and we all took a hiatus from making music as LA Symphony. We recently reunited as the original eight to record and release a record in 2014.

Hallels: Why did you then decide to pursue a solo career?

LA Symphony started out as a group of Christians who wanted to make rap music and right now, and as we were recording in 2014, all of the members were not walking with Christ. So for me as an individual who is, it was not fulfilling to make music that did not reflect that. As a believer, I think we need to make a stand, and step towards taking stands for Christ. That's what this album is. It's me standing alone outside of LA Symphony and saying this is what I stand for. I stand for Christ. It's me living that out for my children, who are watching me take a stand for Christ musically, and away from my good and close friends who I love dearly, but I can't stand with them in a sense because they're not standing for Christ, and for me, my music has to be about that, because that's who I am...I'm someone who stands for Christ and that's who I want to be, and that's who I want my kids to be. So that's the example I need to be. That's really the message that we need to see as people who believe in Christ. We need to see examples of people standing for Christ, and I'm not saying I'm being persecuted or I'm some kind of martyr. Not at all! This is just me making a record. But even in this small stand, I think it's powerful because it allows you to get used to taking stands for Christ and that should help you to continue to take stands for Christ. So for me, doing a solo record was really about that more than anything else.

Hallels: How would describe your style of music?

I make rap music. For any listener who enjoys rap music; hip-hop music, there's something that I do that will be enjoyable to that listener. My art is exactly that, art. I don't really make songs trying to impress people, I make songs trying to make the best art possible.

Hallels: For our readers who may not have heard your new single "Don't Be Afraid" yet, tell us what is the single about?

This is a song that has to do with taking a stand in a way. The song is saying don't be afraid of the evidence that points towards the reality that there is a God.

Hallels: Are you working on your new album now? Do you have a title yet? When will it be releases?

We are finished recording the record. Now we are just waiting in the preparation stages of releasing singles and videos, and just looking at what all that's going to look like in regards to title and release date. I'm not sure that I can give you all that information just yet. But it's definitely coming soon. The album will be out in September sometime I believe.

Hallels: Being a Christian musician, what does Jesus mean to you? And how do you communicate the Gospel through your music?

Being a Christian, Jesus is everything, with no Jesus, there's no one to take the penalty for your sin and there's no reconnection with God. There is no reconciliation, so Jesus is everything! I feel like communicating the good news of Jesus through your life is of utter importance, so obviously in the music it takes precedence to any and everything. But I think it can't just be part of the music you make, it has to be a part of who you are, and how you live your life every day. We all should be communicating the gospel through our lives, through how we live, and it should be what we communicate to people in conversation. We should live open Christian lives so we have the avenue to communicate Jesus to people.

Hallels: For our readers who would like to find out more about you and your music, where can they go?

They can find me on Instagram Twitter Facebook and Tumblr @iamjoeythejerk 

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