Craig James, popularly known as 5ive – takes his stage name from the biblical number for grace and favor. A tumultuous childhood led the rapper to marijuana, cocaine and meth addictions by the time he was 21. In his darkest moments, 5ive sought comfort in talking with his cancer-stricken aunt, a pastor in his hometown of Earth, Texas. In late 2010, strung-out and unable to sleep for days, 5ive unmistakably heard the voice of God telling him to go to church. When he entered his aunt’s church on Sunday as she was preaching, he immediately surrendered his life to Christ. Six months later 5ive—with no previous musical experience or formal training—wrote his first Christian rap song and has since released multiple projects, including Ignition, Ain’t Supposed To Be Here and Flight 393. Family Business, the True Breed Records debut from the acclaimed rap/hip-hop recording artist, released June 7. Steeped in themes of unity and love, Family Business showcases features from such names as V.Rose, SPEC, Datin, J. Carter, Drew Weeks, MH Eternal and Je’kob, as well as 5ive’s 13-year-old son Kyren Cyrill, among others. The project also marks the debut release from True Breed Records, Nashville Label Group’s new hip-hop imprint helmed by Seventh Day Slumber frontman Joseph Rojas. Recently, 5ive took a few minutes to talk with us about the moment he dedicated himself to Jesus, the message behind his new release and his relationship with Joseph Rojas.
Congratulations on the release of Family Business. Can you talk to us about the message behind the album’s title?
This album is about showing unity in Christian hip-hop and being able to make good music explicitly about Jesus with people who I have come to know and respect over the last seven years. Signing the True Breed deal was incredible, but I honestly didn’t want my first release to be about me— I wanted it to be about us, the body of Christ! There is nothing more beautiful to me than people coming together to worship the Lord and bring Him glory! If you think about it, that’s how it’s gonna be in Heaven, all of us bringing beautiful worship to the King, together in harmony.
This is your debut release on True Breed Records. How did your relationship with Joseph Rojas come about?
It was definitely a God thing. I did an event with Seventh Day Slumber about six years ago, when I first started ministry, and we were also supposed to do a tour together. Unfortunately, the tour never happened, but God always has a way of bringing things full circle. Fast forward to this year, and Joseph is looking for Christian rappers for his new label. Seventh Day Slumber’s producer and guitarist Jeremy Holderfield brings my name up to Joseph, while another good friend of mine just happened to be interviewing Joseph that same day and he also mentioned my name. The rest is history!
How long has this record been in the making?
I started making this record in April of 2018, before I got the deal with True Breed.
What aspects of your personal life will fans see reflected on this new release?
I pray they see someone who is fully sold-out to Jesus Christ and how important family is to me.
Which track was most difficult to write or record?
I would have to say “Lead The Way.” I was literally at a point where I wanted to give up on music. I’d been doing this a long time and it seemed like nothing was happening. But then God reminded me that He called me to this in the first place. This song is my declaration that regardless of what people think about my music, I am going to continue to share my story and keep Jesus at the center of every song.
What was your biggest challenge during the album making process?
My biggest challenge is to avoid being overly critical of myself and feeling like I’m not good enough. But once again, God quickly reminds me that it’s not about me.
What is one take away message you hope fans identify by listening to this release?
I pray that they see there is always hope, and it’s only found in Jesus Christ. I was addicted to meth and crack cocaine for over 10 years. Then on November 7, 2010, I met Jesus—I mean really met Jesus—and I was instantly delivered. No rehab, no 12 steps, no withdrawals and no relapses. I lost every urge to do anything that was not pleasing to God. If He did that for me, I believe He will do that for anyone. But how will people know if no one ever takes the time to be 100% real with what they’ve been through and where they are now? I just want to be transparent and let people in on this treasure I’ve found, withholding nothing, telling the whole story and continually pointing people to The One who set me free!
Who are your biggest musical influences right now?
Oddly enough I don’t listen to a lot of rap. My biggest influence right now would have to be Elevation Worship, which is also my dream feature, by the way!