Rapper Jason Ferg weaves together soulful influences from Chicago with his new, elevating album Woke + Righteous. Here’s the interview with Chicago Music Guide:
The Woke + Righteous album starts with an intro like you’d hear while settling in on an aircraft. What led to the airplane theme? What is the metaphor for?
As a music lover, I personally regard airline travel as the perfect time to dig into a new album. While putting the finishing touches on the Woke + Righteous project, I wanted to create a listening experience that offered the same level of concentration and focus that I have while seated on an airplane wearing my favorite set of headphones. In addition, the airplane theme is metaphoric for elevation.
The topics I address on this album invite us all to think higher thoughts, receive and freely express love on a higher level, and navigate life with a more expansive vantage point that what is simply offered on the ground level.
I want to offer a huge shout out to my good friend, Kimberly Saulsberry (who happens to be a real-life flight attendant) for so wonderfully recording the flight attendant snippets and helping make my vision a reality.
What promotional activities or shows have you done surrounding the album?
We recently celebrated the album’s release with a live performance at Tha Juice Joint, an epic and increasingly-popular jam session hosted every Monday night in Hollywood. I am now seeking booking opportunities for live performances as well as public speaking. Through Woke + Righteous, I want to spark and help facilitate meaningful dialogue surrounding the various themes covered on the album.
What do you want the effect of the album Woke + Righteous to be? How is it more than just an album?
Woke + Righteous is certainly more than just an album. It chronicles aspects of my personal journey as I faced our nation’s tumultuous socio-political climate over the past few years. I dealt with fear and anger as I watched the resurfacing of an element of white supremacy that is reminiscent of our nation’s sinful and bloody past. Then, I dealt with a deep sense of disappointment and shame for not being able to maintain control and for being so upset and consumed by what I saw in the news day after day. My wokeness was lacking balance and was getting the best of me. I began to meditate and write about the things I know to be true regardless of what is going on in the world around me. I found balance as I coupled my wokeness with righteousness, which I consider to be my oneness with God. The fear and anger dissipated. I didn’t turn a blind eye. I remained passionate about social justice issues, but I realized that my greater purpose is to always operate from a heart posture of love, just like Jesus Christ.
This album is about finding balance by clinging-on to what is true and rising above the surface-level concerns of this world in order to fulfill our higher purpose and call.
How does music tie in with your ministry, beliefs and spreading the word?
I am a follower and student of Jesus Christ who happens to rap. I do not, however, classify myself as a “Christian Rapper” in the Music Industry’s sense of the term. I am an artist. I am also a whole person, a husband, a father, a former student athlete who grew up on Chicago’s Westside and so much more. The music I create provides a forum for me to share my many truths in an authentic way. My spiritual beliefs are very real to me. They are not tucked away in a cute religious box that I access on Sunday mornings or when the going gets tough. My faith permeates all aspects of my existence and my aim is to make room for that to be reflected through my music.
How did coming up musically in Chicago influence your approach?
Chicago is one of the most musically soulful places on the planet.
The training and experience I received while coming up were mainly about how to feel music and, further, how to make your musical expression heartfelt. Whether singing in the church choir or performing spoken-word poetry at an open mic, the people expect you to give it straight from the heart. Proudly, that still influences my approach today. Stated simply, if I don’t believe it, if it isn’t true to my experience, I don’t sing/rap about it.
How do you balance music, work and life?
Utilizing my academic training and other gifts to have a positive impact in my community and to provide for my family are non-negotiables. My music wouldn’t be worth crap if I neglected those. True to the values instilled in me, I put in the time and effort required to stay on top of my core responsibilities. While it can be tough to maintain balance between music, work, and life, I consider it to be an absolute necessity for my wellbeing. Music gives me life and, thankfully, my wife and children generously honor that. I can recall many occasions when I came home after a rough day at work and my wife comforted me with “Why don’t you get out and enjoy some live music tonight?” I also recognize the value of being a focused and deliberate musician. I plan ahead and establish healthy boundaries to ensure that I am being a good steward of my time. I sometimes dip out of the jam session a little early when I know I have to get my kids off to school and facilitate a big meeting at work the next morning. Yes, there are plenty of times when I would love to just create, teach, and perform music on a full-time basis but, until that time comes, you can find me right here, striking this balance.
Interview by: Hannah Frank of Chicago Music Guide