Fast but not furious

MC Jin
BUSTIN’ A RHYME: US rap artist MC Jin has collaborated with Kanye West and Just Blaze

Known for his role as mechanic Jimmy in 2 Fast 2 Furious and his rhymes on the film's soundtrack, hip-hop artist Jin Au-Yeung got his big break in 2001 when he won seven rap battles in a row on 106 & Park, a popular show on America's Black Entertainment Television network.

Immediately signed by Ruff Ryders, he became the first Asian-American rap artist to be signed to a major record label.

His first mainstream single 'Learn Chinese' became the first video ever to be played on MTV China, but his debut 2004 album "The Rest Is History" only reached 52 on the Billboard 200 chart, so he was dropped from Ruff Ryders.

By 2008, Jin says he was in a "pretty dark place" in his life, particularly after losing two major rap battles.

"I was defined by the approval and praise that I acquired from building a reputation within the battling community. The moment all of that got stripped away, I was left with nothing but questioning of my own self worth and validity," he admits.

At this low point, Jin recalled how his aunt Kathy, a devout Christian, had taken him to Vacation Bible School.

Along with great fun and friends, Jin recalls in a 2011 video blog that the leaders "taught us the basic fundamentals, which is basically God's love for all of us: Jesus and how great He was, and what a great sacrifice He made."

Jin says he wanted to fully commit his life to Jesus, but he never did, instead, "I developed something that a lot of people do, which is the habit of turning to God when something is wrong, whenever we're in trouble."

In 2008, his manager introduced him to a Christian pastor named Jason Mark, and this meeting, Jin says, "was such a ground-breaking experience". That day, he decided to surrender his life to Jesus, and the next day he was baptized in water to publicly signify his commitment.

Following this he went to Hong Kong to promote an entirely Cantonese album and ended up staying for four years as product endorsements and TV and film gigs turned him into a self-described Justin Beiber of Hong Kong, drawing crowds that shut down shopping centers.

"I really believe God brought me to Hong Kong," Jin adds. "As time passed I realized that God planned all this, and that's just how amazing He is."

Jin explains he made his decision for God because he wanted to "turn to Jesus" at a time when he was not in crisis and allow Him to take control.

"For all the years when I turned to Him when I needed Him, when I was in trouble, I want to turn to Him now and express exactly how grateful I am."

In 2009, Jin released a rap that expressed his faith titled "Welcome To The Light Club," and ever since then, a change in his content has been apparent.

On that track, he raps, "they say the truth will set you free if you so believe – Jesus is the truth with Him freedom can be achieved.... you want raps about pimpin' killin' snitchin' ballin'? – you won't get 'em from me naw that's not my callin' – God Almighty reached out... Mark chapter 10 the 31st verse – the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Amen."

Wanting to share his new life, Jin has made a number of free releases, including Say Something EP, Sincerely Years mix-tape and free album Crazy Love Ridiculous Faith.

Like rap artist Lecrae, Jin does not accept the label 'Christian rapper', because he wants his lifestyle to speak more than such labels.

"If I did 15 [gospel] mix-tapes ... and my heart is not living for the Lord, it wouldn't mean anything," he explains. "I am a work in progress. I don't believe that God is expecting me to... [be] perfect but He wants me to live the rest of my days... with that intention of seeking more of Him, surrendering more to Him, obeying more to Him. And that's what I want to do."

For him, making music is now "bigger than having fans and supporters".

"It's about transforming lives and touching hearts and serving the Lord – allowing people to listen to your music and interact with you. Allowing them to experience this thing that [I'm] experiencing right now, which is an amazing blessing. MC Jin is my stage name, MC now stands for More Christ," he concludes with a smile.

After marrying in 2011, he became a father and moved back to New York a year later to reintroduce his music to the US audience, starting with the Brand New Me EP, and an upcoming album Hypocrite.

The foundation of our morality >>