Christian hip-hop pioneer KJ-52, whose real name is Jonah Kirsten Sorrentino, took to Instagram this month to share a list of reasons why he’s hanging up his rap hat.
To date, Sorrentino has listed six reasons on the social media platform explaining why it makes sense for him to end his KJ-52 brand. He shared a different reason every few days.
“Many of you have asked why is this the last KJ-52 album/book. The reality (whether we like to admit it or not) is that ageism reigns supreme in CHH. There isn’t a place to grow old gracefully from a touring perspective. I’ve been told in so many words that I’m too old (or been around too long) to get the ‘slots’ anymore,” he shared as reason No. 1.
Sorrentino said his core fanbase has helped fund his four last indie projects but his touring opportunities have not been the same.
“CHH doesn’t honor its pioneers from a touring perspective. There’s no legacy touring acts in the genre, sad to say. People can say they want it but it comes down to the handful of gatekeepers. (black and white) that control whether it happens or not,” he added.
The Tampa, Florida, resident will be producing one final KJ-52 album/tour and book but assured his fans there will still be music. He said his end goal is to transition from road life to full-time church ministry after 20 years as a performer.
Sorrentino said reason No. 2 is “money.”
“Sad to say, but over the last five years I’ve probably been burned to the tune of approx $100K (maybe more) by multiple organizations/people,” Sorrentino revealed.
He also said streaming has made it nearly impossible for an artist to generate money from album sales.
The third reason he listed is that people are just too distracted to follow artists the way they did in times past.
“We’re all becoming terrible at paying attention (I need to do better). People ask me for new music all the time but don’t know that I’ve dropped four albums, one side project, one book, one instrumental album and one documentary all in two years,” Sorrentino continued.
The 44-year-old came to the conclusion that he’s better off making music for his core fan base than getting frustrated over “casual fans” who don't pay attention.
Sorrentino assured everyone that he will continue making music that glorifies God and reaches people during this next season in life. He just won’t be focusing all of his attention on making projects as he did before.
The father of three is naming his final KJ-52 book and album Victory Lap.
Reason No. 4 on his retirement list is “family.”
"I’m just going to cut to the chase here and share what I've only told a few. A few years ago, one of my kids was stalked and could’ve been potentially kidnapped. This happened when I was out on the road and mirrored an experience that I went through as a kid (plus it took me off the road for a month as we went through family therapy, etc.).
"One of my deepest fears is that I’ll be gone and a tragedy would happen. My boys are getting older now and the teen years are approaching. Boys need a father to help them navigate as adolescence approaches. It was easier to tour like crazy when they were young. These days I want to anticipate any problems before they become a reality,” he stressed.
“I don’t want to sacrifice my family on the altar of my ‘career,’” he added.
Next on the list of reasons why he's resigning is to go back to the original reason why he started making music.
“We started as misfit dysfunctional kids that didn’t fit into the mainstream church, but we were in love with Jesus and hip-hop and wanted to change the world. I never want to forget that. CHH has always been an incredible catalyst for racial reconciliation and yet now in some ways the ugly sin of racism threatens to undermine all the progress it has made,” he noted.
The emcee, who went viral after penning a song dedicated to mainstream rapper Eminem in 2009, wants to get back to “mentoring, outreach and the purity of using Christian hip-hop to reach people,” he said.
The last reason listed to date, No. 6, is full-time ministry.
“I left full-time inner city youth ministry to do the music back in 1999. Over the last few years I’ve been blessed to serve in the capacities of college, youth, teaching and communications pastor (this has been on a part-time/volunteer basis). Balancing road life and church life hasn’t been easy, and realistically has kept me from going full time into church ministry,” Sorrentino reasoned.
“The last three years has stirred up and revealed gifts inside of me that I can’t shake or deny. I know the Lord is calling me back to where I started. For years I’ve always thought that I had to choose music over ministry, ministry over music, but I’ve realized that’s not true. I’m retiring KJ-52, but not the music.
"I’ve found a new passion in speaking + empowering younger believers and using my gifts to build up the local body. What this looks like specifically I don’t know yet but I do know where God is tugging at my heart and I need to answer that,” he concluded.
Sorrentino acknowledged he does not know where the next stage of his life will lead but he is putting his trust solely on God.
“Prayers would be appreciated for clarity and patience (one thing I’m not great at) and that I would continue to hear His voice and that He would open the doors that I would walk through,” he ended.
Sorrentino’s final KJ-52 book/album will go into further detail about all the reasons he’s listed. He is asking his supporters to join him on his journey for the last KJ-52 book/album by supporting his Kickstarter campaign.