J Moss has, almost invisibly, become one of the most powerful forces in modern Gospel and Soul music. Combining traditional spiritual messages with modern arrangements and hip hop beats, J Moss has performed groundbreaking work with Trin-i-Tee 5:7, Hezekiah Walker, Michelle Williams (of Destiny’s Child) and has helped others bring an accessible style of Gospel music to general Urban audiences. He has made subsequent contributions for secular artists such as Patti LaBelle, Dru Hill, Boyz II Men and Kelly Price.
J Moss – booking information Born and raised in Detroit as James Moss, the son of Gospel star Bill Moss, Sr., J spent much of his childhood on tours with his father’s popular group, Bill Moss and the Celestials, and his cousins, the Clark Sisters. As an early teen, J was teamed with his brother Bill Jr. in the singing duo, The Moss Brothers. They toured on weekends around the Midwest and recorded two major label albums during their seven years together. In this period J was developing as a fine keyboardist and a burgeoning songwriter, and was also learning first-hand the business of music. He attended Michigan State University for two years, but the desire to write and perform was too strong, and he left, seeking a career in music.
Upon his return to Detroit, J Moss signed with a small local Christian label and released two albums. More importantly, around this time he became acquainted with Paul Allen and Walter Kearney, and the three began working together.
Moss spent the mid-90s touring with the Clark Sisters, and was signed, along with Karen Clark-Sheard, to Island Records in 1996 to record a solo album. While his album did not generate much attention, Clark’s became a smash and introduced the Gospel world to a new production powerhouse.
Recently J. Moss spoke to Aries from UrbanBridgez.com about his new release “Grown Folks Gospel,” his thoughts on the state of gospel music, his relationship with Faith Evans, the best advice Karen Clark-Sheard has given him and more.
UrbanBridgez.com: What is your definition of Grown Folks Gospel and why did you decide to name the new project that?
J. Moss: It’s music for people who are going through real life, grown stuff. That could be anywhere from 10 years old, all the way to 100. It’s a record about love, encouragement, inspiration and worship, all under the same roof. Just a collaborative collection of great sounds, very iconic voices, the soulful progressions and arrangements and melodies that we use. It all just sets up an atmosphere for a real mature person. What drives it is you can’t be a rookie and in your faith all of the time. At some point you have to grow up because you’re going to get hit with something serious and at that point you need to be mature enough in your faith to understand where you can pull resources from or from where your strength actually comes from. Grown Folks Gospel is the album for that.
UrbanBridgez.com: You have three singles currently on radio to set up the album, was that always the plan or did the hype around the project determine that?
J. Moss: Sometimes the hype dictates it, we’re always looking for buzz & find areas where things can just catch fire. So we just try to saturate the industry as much as we can and get buzz to see what’s actually catching fire, then capitalize on that. So we’re strategers at heart and just try to do things different than the normal conventional way of releasing a gospel record. Usually it’s a couple of flyers then the album just suddenly appears on the shelves. We didn’t want to do it that way, so we just try to flood the market and take a page out of pop, r&b, etc.
UrbanBridgez.com: I absolutely love “Make Me Feel” with Faith Evans. What is it about Faith that made you want her to be on that record?
J. Moss: She’s my sister, we keep up with each other. She’s on the west-coast and I’m on the east and for years we’ve been able to keep in contact with each other and support each others career. When we did this track, I just kind of went in the studio and free-styled it. These are like just the first things that came to my mind. So once I finished the song, I was like whoa this isn’t really gospel. Lord did you really mean to give it to me like this? He just kind of gave me that afromation like yeah. I’m all about love, the reason that you’re still here is because I love you. Those times that you share with me, loving on me why wouldn’t I present that to my people. So I left it alone. I sent it to Faith and asked her if she wanted to be involved? First off she loves our family and has always announced it publicly just her love and respect she has for our family. When she heard it, she called me back screaming like this is so me. She laced her voice and killed it; even took the song to another place. I’m thankful for relationships for one and two for people like her who willing to lend her talents to spread the good news.
UrbanBridgez.com: What would you say is the most personal song to you on the new album?
J. Moss: It depends on what I’m going through at the moment. I just suffered a devastating house fire. It’s so many pieces on this record that could actually minister to me and have ministered to me. Just letting me know how things are and how things could of been worse. How to keep my faith focused and what the test was and all of that. How God actually wanted me to play my album to myself during my low point after the fire. To say hey look, now you know what you’re going to be singing to. This is the heart that you’re going to be singing to. This is the mentality that you’re going to be singing to. People that are hopeless, feeling like all are gone. Feeling like all is lost and they’re not going to get another shot at it. People who are having to rebuild again, people who are in transition. Now you know what that feels like, now you know how to present these songs to them. So he kind of gave me a preview on how these songs were really going to penetrate the public.
UrbanBridgez.com: This year marks the 10th year anniversary of your debut album The J. Moss Project. Take us back to when you were preparing that album, what goals did you have for yourself as a solo artist and with that project did you achieve them?
J. Moss: I just wanted to grow and mature and find out who I was. I came out in a band and I stayed true to that, I stayed true to the sound, the dare to be different. From there I had did my homework, I stayed in the studio and continued to nurture my craft. Adjusted as I got older and just things of that nature man. You see people like Michael Jordan do it all the time, he came out the gate rocking and jumping over the rim. Then he settled down and focused on who he really was and his post-up game and his jumper game really became fineness. And that’s where I am, just really trying to redefine who I am. And nurture my gift so it’s always ready to go when available & I can present it in a spirit of excellence and really help change lives.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s your thoughts on the current state of Gospel music? Do you feel it gets the love it deserves or is it a battle still for mainstream success?
J. Moss: It’s definitely a battle and a lot of it is our fault. We got to come up and step up. We have to write about different stuff, we got to lay different tracks, we got to collaborate with different artists. We have to bring people from R&B over and do collabos with them, rap artists as well. Anything we can do to get more people to pay attention to who we are. Instead of just saying oh well, you know Jesus is on the main line worked back then it should work now. Same message, God don’t need all of that. I disagree with that, I believe that God has blessed us to be as cutting edge as any other genre. I think we need to push those envelopes and hit those buttons and turn on those switches and do whatever we need to do without selling out. That’s a big component of what I am, don’t sell out or necessarily compromise. But there is a way that you can up your game and do certain things with certain people to really be respected. Hey, you know J Moss is a church boy, go ahead and crack your jokes. But I got you on this record with me and it’s hot. That’s just what I’m all about. Whatever way I can collab or get more people into the knowledge of Christ, into the awareness of gospel music and my colleagues, more power to us.
UrbanBridgez.com: A lot of truth in that, loved the way you stated it. What’s some of the best advice Karen Clark-Sheard has given you about the entertainment business?
J. Moss: She’s always very supportive, actually I gave her a lot of advice oppose to her giving me some (laughs). It’s so funny, in terms of the business, the music business she use to always stay to herself. I always gave her a little push like, yo you need to do your own label, you need to establish some other artists, you need to take some of these female artists and groom them. Take them under your wing and put them out there. I was instrumental in being able to push her to a lot of those limits. Now her to me, she definitely gave me a lot of pointers as far as stage performance. Nobody on the planet can control a stage like Karen Clark-Sheard does. So a lot of times I would just go to her and say how would you pull off this particular song singing it live, what would you do? So she would say things like well I would eliminate this verse and just go straight to this part because the people are going to respond to it. She’s an architect when it comes to that. She’s a mad scientist, she knows how to handle the floor & go after the hearts of people. Plus her timing is perfect, so she’s helped a lot in that area. I thank God for my family.
UrbanBridgez.com: You’ve written for some of everybody is the industry, who’s on your wish list to work with in the studio?
J. Moss: Any and everybody man. I find it an honor and a privilege to work with anybody that I can. I would love a collaboration with Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and Drake. All four of us on one track and just going for it. Let’s do another Jesus Walks or something like that. Anything that I can do to grab a piece of their audience. Which is a lot of them not in Church and it brings them into the awareness. Maybe even penetrate their hearts and shed a little light on some of the dark areas of their lives. Just be an example for them and be some encouragement for them. Let them know that a positive lifestyle is not corny. A positive lifestyle you can still live and be successful at it & make good decisions and things of that nature. So I have my eyes on those guys, I love and respect that they do and they’ve publicly announced that they love and respect what I do. They’re high at the top of my wishlist. Michael Jackson is the one that I missed, I have to say. I was getting close to a collaboration and he was just gone too soon.
UrbanBridgez.com: Tell everybody about the Holiday Praize Tour?
J. Moss: It features myself, Isaac Carree, Jason Nelson and 21:03. We’re hitting the road next month. Everybody is going to do their popular songs and we’re going to have the same amount of time. No big I’s or little u’s on this tour, just something for the whole entire family to come out and enjoy. For a good two hours, we’re going to hit it and get it quick. Just have a lot of fun and possibly put some Christmas songs together and get out of there. Just give the people and their family something to do as an alternative for the season.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s next for J Moss after the release of “Grown Folks Gospel?”
J. Moss: Just grinding man and always just looking inside of myself. Trying to find out what the next thing is and talking to God and ask lord where are you going to take me. What’s next and the beauty of it is you just never know where’s he’s going to take you. You never know where he’s going to drop you in the middle of. I just love that uncertainty of how it creates sort of a spiritual anxiety where you’re just ready and eager to go. Like wow, what’s next. I’m just going to redefine that and explore more, and study more and do whatever it takes to push and make Grown Folks Gospel as successful as it can be.
UrbanBridgez.com: Anything else you want to leave with your fans?
J. Moss: We’re just encouraging everyone to help support gospel music. Pick up Grown Folks Gospel online or at retail. We have to buy, we have to buy. Don’t wait for the stores to get it, download it to your tablets, download it to your iPhone’s, your computers ad support this great message going fourth.