Jabee, an award winning rapper, has had to endure many hardships in his life. From family tragedy to homelessness, his faith was constantly put to the ultimate test, and each time he prevailed.
Jabee attended Oklahoma Christian for a semester before the death of his brother caused him to drop out.
“I just didn’t have anything,” Jabee said. “It was like all the life was sucked out of me. I just didn’t have any passion or drive anymore.”
Tonight, he returns to the place he once called home, performing in The Brew 8 p.m. as part of Oklahoma Christian’s History Speaks.
Has music always been a part of your life?
“Yeah, always, man. Especially in school—middle school, high school—that’s all I did, you know, just to get through school. I would write and listen to music. I would get home from school and just do all that. Even when I became an adult and was working: music. When I was working a nine to five: music. I remember one time there was this album that came out, I was working this really, not a hard job but one of those kinds of ‘Man, what am I doing with my life?’ type jobs. There was this album that came out that really got me through it. I remember the group was going to be in Houston, and I drove down there, just to tell them thank you for getting me through work. The group was called The Foreign Exchange, and the album was called ‘Connected.’”
What age did you start writing?
“I wrote my first rap when I was like seven. In high school, I would write raps, poetry and stuff like that. Middle school was really hard for me, and the first few years of high school were hard for me, too. I went to 11 different Oklahoma City public schools, so we moved around a lot. I remember when going to school wouldn’t suffice, because I didn’t have name-brand clothes or stuff like that.”
When did it go from you writing music to you recording it?
“I started recording, I want to say [when I was] 15 or 16. My junior or sophomore year of high school, I already had friends that were doing it. I started doing shows right around then, too. Talent shows, underground parties and stuff like that.”
You won an Emmy for your involvement in the Science Museum of Oklahoma, what was that experience like?
“I’ve been in two shows, three or four movies and I have two that haven’t come out yet. It was cool, you know, whenever we did it, it was one of the first commercials I had done. I didn’t even think about the possibility of submitting it to the Emmys. It was tight; it was really cool. We spent a few weeks recording the music to it, then we spent the whole day shooting the video for it.”
Did you get to go to the award show?
“I actually didn’t get to go. I was here. The rest of the guys went. I was just sitting at home waiting to get the texts that we won.”
Who have been some of your—growing up and even now—idols and role models you have looked up to?
“In music, I like musicians for different reasons. Some of them I like for their music, some of them I like them for who they are. My favorite is Tupac. But I like him for more than just his music, his story it reminds me a lot of me, you know? Single mom, homelessness, just trying to make ends meet. There’s a gospel singer named Willie Neal Johnson, he’s dead now, too. He was somebody I listened to growing up. We had a cassette of him, and I would just always keep it with me. I listened to him on the way here, matter of fact. Nas is another one. He got on when he was like 19. Just stuff like that is really inspiring. Jay-Z as a businessman, he’s done some really remarkable things. Turned rap into way more than anyone ever thought it could be. And everything he’s done started with rapping. I feel that it’s the same for me, you know. I just started out here rapping, and now I’m partnering in a music venue and I’m opening up a restaurant. Doing film, activism in the community, just things like that.”
Jay-Z turned it into more than just rap for y’all.
Yeah, we can do anything. And it all just started with rapping. You know, I like things like that. Killer Mike, who’s a friend of mine, especially lately with his community activism, has really inspired me to get out and do something.
You said gospel music and God has played a part in your life. Is that something that has always been there or something you just came across?
“It’s always been there. My mom was always a woman of faith. We didn’t really make it to church every time, but even when we didn’t, she made sure God was in our hearts. I remember being little and having her get these kid Bible books and reading them to us as kids, like a little Bible study as a family. So yeah, it’s always been there. My granddad, my dad’s dad, I only met him three times, but I know he was a pastor in Texas. It was always around in our home and stuff. I’ve always been firm in my faith, and I’ve been through so many things, seen so many things and overcome so much. I could’ve been dead, could’ve been in jail. Nobody can tell me different. I’ve seen some crazy things and experienced some crazy things, it has to be Him, you know what I mean?”
With everything you went through, did your faith make it easier, or did it make it harder, because you practiced that faith and stuff kept happening?
“You know, it didn’t, we just always knew to have faith. We knew God would never give us more than we can handle. We always tried to find ways to see blessings where other people couldn’t. Whether people were getting robbed or shot at, or homeless, alone, whatever it was, losing people, we found the blessings. We had to, and we knew whatever it was, we would always come out the other side. We knew God wouldn’t put anything on us that we couldn’t handle. It might suck right now, but tomorrow it’ll be better.”
How did you find Oklahoma Christian?
“So, when I was graduating high school, my sister was at Langston, and my mom was wanting me to go somewhere where I would be in a good environment. My mom saw things in me before I saw them in myself. She wanted me to go here. It was weird, and it was different. Even being here now is different than when I came here. I felt like it was an opportunity for me to better myself. We lived on the east side, so you just take Eastern all the way down and you’re on MLK, you know. It was close, but it wasn’t too close. All my friends were going to OCCC or Langston.”
How do you feel about Oklahoma Christian putting on History Speaks?
“Oh man, I think it’s amazing. It’s tight. I think it’s important. I think this stuff should happen throughout the year. I think that if things like this were going on while I was in school, I might have graduated. I might have stayed. I might have gotten involved and felt like there was something here for me. But when I was here, I was shooting back down to the east side every weekend. I didn’t have any friends here. It’s like church. If you go to a church, you’re more likely to stay there if you’re getting plugged in and if you have friends. I was alone here. I was crazy about this [performance] being [at Oklahoma Christian]. It brings back memories being here, some good and some make me feel anxious and a little insecure depending on where I’m at. Like I came with the president, and I went to chapel, and it felt good, but when I walked into the student center, it brought back not good feelings. Not that I can remember anything specifically, but I could tell my mood changed when I walked in there. What y’all are doing now, I like it.”
How do you feel about race relations in the country?
“Because I’m around people like me most of the time, I try to be mindful of those who aren’t like me and think about those who aren’t like me. Because I think it’s horrible. I believe if someone acts racist or says racist things, then they’re racists. That’s just me, though, but I’m also black, and a minority in America, and I’ve experienced life a little differently than somebody who hasn’t. The people who haven’t experienced things differently, they don’t know because of ignorance. I’m not calling someone ignorant, I’m just saying because of ignorance, they don’t know any other way. But sometimes, people will make decisions or buy into things because they don’t know, and they can still be racist. You can be impartial to that it is racist and not even know you’re being racist. So I used to say it was just me, but I’ve met so many people and talked to so many people who otherwise I would’ve thought were down with [President Donald Trump], and they haven’t been.
It’s just amazing to me how someone can divide our country like that, but also bring people together as well. Because there’s people who would never had their eyes open to what others are dealing with had he not come in and open their eyes. People aren’t in agreement with him, they know wrong is wrong and that’s the bottom line. I know that no matter what, those people are still out there. My grandma picked cotton, she’s still alive, and she always told me, ‘If I’m alive, they alive.’ I’m mindful of that as well, knowing there’s plenty of work to be done, especially in Oklahoma City. I just try to be upfront and honest: if you say racist things, if you act racist, then you’re a racist. People in the Christian faith, for instance, with Muslims, we know about the wall with Mexico and all that but think about Muslims. My daughter, her mom is from Pakistan, and Pakistanis are Muslim. I take my daughter to church because I’m a Christian, but her mom isn’t a terrorist. That’s my family, too.”
My good friend is Muslim, and she’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. She doesn’t want to kill anybody, but people have been conditioned to think she does.
They did the same thing with black people. They painted an image of black people in the 80s of being crackheads and gang members, so if you were to see someone who was black, you would think they’re crackheads or gang members. It’s the same thing they’re doing with Mexicans. They’re painting this image, and it’s the same thing with Muslims. When it comes to government, people always say, ‘We want to govern the country based off the Bible. If somebody is Muslim, are you going to let them govern it based on the Quran?’ That shouldn’t be our thinking, if somebody is Christian, they should govern the country based on the law and based on the present. It shouldn’t matter. Our country shouldn’t be built on one faith; it should be built on the people.
The same we feel about our faith and our Christianity is the same way they feel about theirs. They do the same thing with gays and lesbians. They make everyone think they’re molesters and terrible people. I don’t have all the answers; I just feel like the things that Christians should be concerned about are people’s souls and making God famous. That’s it. If you can worry about God, then everything else will fall in line. If you’re concerned about somebody else’s well-being, it shouldn’t matter what they look like or sound like or where they’re from. It shouldn’t matter if you’re truly a Christian. Now someone else, they can do what they want to do. But if I’m speaking as a Christian, I don’t love you because you’re Mexican or gay. I love you because you’re human. That’s what we’re supposed to do. I could go on and on about police brutality. If a police officer would look at a person that’s black and see a human that they’re supposed to love, serve and protect, they wouldn’t kill them. If they saw human beings, they wouldn’t kill them. If you see people and your immediate perception is ‘This person is a thug, or a gang member,’ just based on the color of their skin, then you’re not seeing human people. You have an image of some nightmare you had. I don’t know, man, I just know that for me, when I talk to people or teach my kids, it’s important we put people first. No matter what.”