As a young person navigating through this crazy world, it never fails there are older people who try to guide us but don’t necessarily have the best approach. Their intentions are good but their delivery often fails. This disconnection between generations causes a larger rift in the communication of the ultimate message of success. However, gospel singer Canton Jones is taking a different approach. Instead of brow beating the youth with bible verses written in a 1000 year old language, he is meeting youth at our level to help us rise to our potential, with familiar cadences and beats that typically get young people motivated, but with a life- saving message.
Grabbing the attention of the youth with the music, he then segues them into opportunities to further help the community through service initiatives. I caught up with Jones at McDonald’s 12th Annual Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour to find out how he is using a culture that is often looked down upon, as an introduction into a life covered and guided by Christ.
So tell us why we are here today. What is your connection with McDonald’s?
We are doing this inspirational gospel tour to raise funds for kids who have terminal diseases and cannot afford the treatment. So the family of the child who has a terminal, can go to the Ronald McDonald House absolutely free and get the treatment that they need for their child. It’s good for the family because they do not have to worry about anything in the process, which is really awesome. We come and we really reduce rates to sew into it, to give into it, to give our talents to it. We let the people in for free and then we raise funds in the middle of the concert for the cause. Whatever city we raise the money in, the money stays in that city to help those kids.
Talk to me a little bit about your foundation and what you and your wife do for children.
We do this thing called, “CAJO International” and we are both pastors, so our life is filled with philanthropy. We feel like building the Kingdom of God is putting your fellow men before yourself and depending on God to take care of your needs as stated in Matthew 6:13: “Seek first the kingdom.” We do put our fellow men before ourselves in order to build a kingdom, but we do it in a different kind of way. We do it using our culture. We do church for our culture. We call it “Church for Us”. It is very effective when the truth comes to people who look like us, who wouldn’t have given church a chance and church wouldn’t give them a chance, it gives them a different environment. Our church is called “Free Life Church”. Our organization is called “CAJO University” where we mentor people through the arts and entertainment. Whether it is singing, rapping, or production we mentor them so they can find their higher calling.
Speaking about the culture, as beautiful as it is, you know it has secular things and we are all human. As a Christian figure, how do you deal with the pressures of feeling like you always have to be perfect?
I don’t. Nobody is perfect. I just feel like you just have to do you. I feel like our [black] culture has a little bit more unfair pressures to it than others. I feel this way because of how we were brought into this country and how we developed in this country. Our culture is always demonized for just looking like us. You can be who you are, and I am just a part of the culture but they wouldn’t think that I am a pastor, because I do not look like the pastor that came from the other cultures. In other countries, their pastors look like their culture. If you go to Africa, the African pastors are wearing what the village is wearing and so am I. I am a product of the culture and making sure that I can speak to the culture. I let the culture know that you do not have to change your culture, you have to change your heart and minister within the culture. A lot of times people feel like when you get freed from the culture God has changed you, and that is not true, you just changed your outfit, and you didn’t change your heart. We are really trying to put Jesus in the middle of this culture.
The sounds of what is trending evolves and I often find that Christian music struggles to keep up with the time. Gospel artists will try to do something that doesn’t really sound like it should be their sound. How do you make sure your music staying trendy and still relevant but staying true to yourself?
I think it is because I am a part of the culture. Whatever you do, don’t try to force it to get anything just do what you do. Even though I am a part of the hip-hop culture, I am still a little older than the younger cats so I am not going to try to jump on something like that. I still check out the culture. I still listen to hip-hop on a regular basis to try and check out what is new and trendy. When it does not sound genuine is when people who do not listen to hip-hop try to do it. I like all types of music. I do not just listen to hip-hop because I like everything. I have a country record that is getting ready to come out. I did something with a reparation song about black and white coming together.
A reparation song? And it is country?
Yeah, it is dope. It is weird because people always feel like how you look and where you are from is all you can do and that is wrong. When you put your mind to it, you can do anything. You just go for it. With anything you do, you are going to have haters and people who object but you do you and that’s it. My only convictions is God and my family.