Q&A with KB"I hope folks know that to know God, and to be known by Him and then getting the opportunity to be known by others, is life."
KB is a Christian rapper, entrepreneur, author, and podcast host of Southside Rabbi. He released his latest album, “His Glory Alone II,” this past August.
PEER: You just released a new album, “His Glory Alone II,” this past August. What is the inspiration behind it?
KB: The latest album is part two of the album that preceded it. It’s His Glory Alone II (HGA 2), and the project is designed to take this concept of the glory of God, which I’ve been talking about for a long time. I see the hope for human flourishing in returning to understanding beholding loving, being inspired by the glory of God, which is simply defined as the beauty of His goodness, the beauty of His splendor, the beauty of His holiness, that is displayed all over the place.
That’s what I talk about a lot. Trying to live for that and help people be more aware of it, because God’s glory is around us. We are often blind to it. In my albums, it can seem like that’s very far away, like very transcendental, intergalactic, out there, but the glory of God is also expressed near us and in us. It’s expressed near us and in us.
I know that God is actually using my weakness to accent His power, so in this album, I spent a lot of time talking in very transparent, intimate ways with my own challenges, my own story and how that doesn’t negate the glory of God.
P: Why does this latest album mean so much to you?
KB: I haven’t talked a lot about my “daddy wounds.” The song, “Your Way,” is a song about worshiping after failure, and I talk a little bit more about some of the things I’ve kept hidden in terms of my success. I’m more of an open book, and we know this, everyone knows this. I hope folks know that to know God, and to be known by Him and then getting the opportunity to be known by others, is life. That that is where safety happens, where flourishing happens.
Strength comes from that, to not be walking around surrounded by curtains of shame, wearing a mask everywhere you go, trying to act like yourself, or act how you want to be perceived, but to just be, to just exist, to be a human being, not a human doing. That is happiness, that is wholeness, which is the pathway to healing, so in the album, I got to exist without a lot of qualifications, so it means a lot to me. I’m hoping that it would also help other people to exist in all of their nuance and frailty and flaws.
P: How does your personal relationship with God influence your songwriting?
KB: Typically for me as a writer, I am trying to basically squeeze what’s in my heart, so I want my heart to be like a sponge, and then I’m wringing it out on the paper. So as I am filled, being filled with the Spirit and going deeper in my relationship with the Lord, as I’m learning more from His people and, learning more in His world, that has tremendous impact on how I write and what I write about. Because in the Word, you don’t just pick up God’s language, but you pick up His priorities, His heart, the things He cares about, the things that would cause the Lord to shed a tear.
P: Some songs reference doubting God. Have you ever doubted God and how did you process through those feelings?
KB: Yes. I haven’t spent a significant amount of time doubting the existence of God, or even the fact that Jesus is who He is and has done what He’s done. I think that my biggest doubts, and they have been recent, probably I would say in the last three years, has been around God’s vision for the church next to what the church actually is. I had never up until recently even considered that perhaps how beautiful the church is designed to be, might be something that we just will never see in this life.
Beginning to doubt the principles of what makes a healthy whole community when things that I thought were relatively simple, seemed to be a lot more complicated. I think that my doubt emerged in the church itself. Not necessarily, I know people are going to be sinners, that is not surprising, but how does God allow this kind of division and abuse and confusion at the very place that He has promised unity?
I think a big piece of my own journey is getting back to a trust when I can trust God, especially when I can’t trace what He’s doing.
P: Can you tell how has your therapy experience impacted the songwriting and the album-making process? Has this album been a way to process feelings brought up in therapy?
KB: Yes. I think in some ways, yeah. The song “Daddy,” I had to stop listening to it because it was making me cry all the time, and I hadn’t really been much of a crier for real until recently too. I think that, with discovering a lot of things that have been buried from my childhood, from abuse to abandonment, that stuff will follow you. If you bury something that is still alive, it will either rocked or resurrect either way it is coming out the ground.
I think that I needed to have some a season of unfurling and uncovering things, so that absolutely showed up in the music, and I found when writing about it as you help other people heal from their wounds, you find healing for your own, so that was certainly present in the music. Also, to me, I love that Gen Z is not bristling at therapy or scoffing at therapy, I love that, because you need a doctor. If I break my leg, I’m not going to be able to go on YouTube and figure out how to fix that.
I can’t muscle through a broken leg. I have to go to a doctor, and there are things that are broken in your soul that are worse than a broken leg, that you are trying to figure out with no skills or profession, so we have doctors for the body. Of course, we need doctors for the soul, and I think that’s where spiritual leaders come into play and particularly spirit field professional therapist.
P: What advice do you have for young Christian men who may be struggling with their mental health and maybe afraid to ask for help?
KB: I would say, if you’re struggling with your mental health, you really want to consider this very old simple but wise bit of advice: You are not going to find happiness at the place that you keep losing it. I think that that speaks to social media. I encourage long-sustained breaks from the place that is making you unhappy, that is making you question yourself. You feel like you’re missing out if you’re not on social media, but you get on social media and you really feel like you’re missing out as you’re watching everybody else’s lives.
Gen Z has been turned into a generation of “peeping toms” in that we are all peering in on each other’s lives. It’s not just Gen Z, it’s all millennials, all of us. We are all intimately involved in places that we don’t need to be, which inspires us to compare, inspires us to compete. It inspires us to be discouraged, so I encourage long breaks from a good thing, social media is a good thing. The long breaks, especially if you’re struggling.
It’s wild to me to be in serious disarray and mental crisis and to continue to go to the places that are helping to solidify that. I think in a lot of ways, loneliness has gripped our people in ways that it hasn’t in the past, give yourself to real relationships. Give yourself to places where you can be vulnerable. We call it soul nakedness, where somebody can know that you are confused.
You have thoughts that scare you have done things that you are ashamed of, or you can be vulnerable with folks, and now you just don’t choose to have that. You gotta build that and getting off the Internet and going out—that is really, really important as well, because it creates a safety net for your falling. One of the ways that we define friendship on Southside Rabbi (Southside Rabbi Podcast) is strength to pull from when you need it the most. That’s what friendship is, and if we don’t have that around us, then we are outgunned, we’re outmanned in this battle for our mental health.
P: What is your go-to self-care tip when you’re feeling overwhelmed?
KB: Sleep. Long, long sleep. Blacked out room.
P: What are you currently listening to?
KB: Yes. I’m actually finishing up a docuseries that Wondery did on Michael Jackson (Think Twice: Michael Jackson, Wondery).
P: What’s a Bible verse that’s been on your heart recently?
KB: This is not the most inspirational, but it has been on my heart. In fact, I was actually meditating on it this morning. Paul says it a couple times, but he says it in the back of Romans. He says, very simply avoid dividers. “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them” (Romans 16:17, NIV). There are individuals in the community who are marked by causing division by merit of being near them. Don’t give yourself to trying to simply maintain it, maintain them, avoid them.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.