For many members of the Church, rap music and faithful living don’t seem to go together at first glance. However, one creative returned missionary is finding great success in proving the two are not only harmonious, but can be used for the greater good.
James Curran, known better by his moniker James the Mormon, has been making music since he was seventeen. An interesting fact: he recorded his first song his senior year of high school while living in Tashkent, Uzbekistan as the son of a diplomat. While serving as a full-time missionary in Washington, James learned a lot about what he wanted to do with his music.
“When I was on my mission, I became frustrated when members of the Church would be scared to shared the gospel or even tell people they were Mormon. Because my mission changed my life, I made a goal that I would dedicate the rest of my life to missionary work, and that there wouldn’t be another person alive that didn’t know I wasn’t Mormon.”
That’s how James got his new name. He changed all of his social media accounts to say ‘jamesthemormon’ when he got home. Four years later, after working on music and just living life, he felt prompted to “stop playing around” and share the gospel as best he could through rap music.
In 2015 and 2016 James began to make a name for himself within the LDS community with his great music videos and vlogs, including a rap about the BYU football team and this special Christmas hymn combined with a service project. He felt silly sometimes, doing all of this as James the Mormon.
“I’ve tried 3 different times to change my social media name, but every time I tried I get sick to my stomach like I’m making a huge mistake.”
He didn’t need to worry. Thanks to the release of his first album, I’m Not a Rapper, James is attracting a lot of positive attention from those outside the the Church.
“I wanted to make a rap album that could compare to anything out there on the top of the charts, but that was clean and attached to the name Mormon,” James said. “I chose to be very picky with beats and tried to make each song a song that someone would want to repeat.”
As with all musicians, James didn’t know what to expect when he dropped the album. Leading the album was the first single, “Motivation” and its music video.
The public reaction was instantaneous. Within the week, the album began topping national and world charts and streaming playlists.
(If you’re ready to listen to the album, click here.)
The coolest thing? James is giving 50% of all the proceeds off the album to the Church’s LDS Missionary Fund.
“I hope that listeners see Mormons in a new light,” James said off the good influence he hopes to have with his music and decision to use his album to serve others. “ A Mormon is someone who struggles just like them. I want people to see Mormons as normal. We are just like everyone else in the world, we just have a strong love for the Son of God, and because we are so grateful for Him and what he did we strive to live the way He’s asked.
“I just want to let everyone know there is nothing more important on this earth than sharing the message of the restoration and the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. God has given us talents to spread His gospel. Figure out what yours are and how God expects you to use it to build His kingdom then go out and serve!”
To support James, following him on social media by searching ‘jamesthemormon’. You can listen to and purchase the album here.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.