Interview with Seminarian Rapper Jihoon Kim

This is not your ordinary seminarian. And this is not your ordinary rapper. And this interview turned out to be not your ordinary interview.

People (especially here in this Korean American Catholic community) may not have known that our very own seminarian currently at St. John’s was a rapper in his past. So this song and music video were a surprise to them. To Jihoon’s friends from the old days, many didn’t know quite how religious he was or even that he had entered the seminary. So this song and music video were a total shock to them! But for Jihoon himself, the path that led him to combine his musical talent and his religious calling was a completely natural one. His talent was God given, his calling was from God, and this whole project would be affirmed and led by God.

This is what makes the genesis and execution of this project so intriguing. In almost every case, projects of these kind are planned, calculated, and tested before being unleashed upon the world. Thereafter, they are tracked and analyzed, and conclusions are drawn and judgments are made about their success or failure. But every single one of these elements is on human terms, effected by human minds – we in our arrogance think we have control over these things! The complete opposite is the case for this song.

For the longest time, Jihoon was in fact hesitant about retreading his old musical footsteps. He knew too well the kind of world they inhabited. A world of earthly glory. Although people advised him to use all the talents at his disposal for his ministry, and although he liked this idea, he wanted to be sure that if he did, he would not be doing it for his own recognition. He had to be absolutely sure that he would be doing it for God. So he prayed about it.

He spent his Holy Hours, sitting in front of the blessed sacrament, letting God’s will be done. And he found himself being overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude. In these moments, thanking God was all he could do. And soon the song began to form. During those times when he would usually do spiritual readings in the presence of God, Jihoon found himself writing in his notebook, letting his hand be guided. He would bring these notes back to his room and rework them for rhythm and cadence, but all the time, the song came into being through prayer.

And so we have this song. Thank you. A song of pure love and gratitude to God. And this is where things get confusing, because when I asked a generic question about what Jihoon hopes to achieve with this song and music video, the usual answers didn’t fit. Honestly, he said, nothing has been planned ahead and everything is being left to God. There is no strategy here, no calculated moves, just a letting go. The song is free to watch and download. And we are so used to judging on human terms, where a million views are preferable to a thousand views, and a billion views will put you on top of the pile. But in the mysterious ways of God, one single view could result in a deep impact and a moment of communion and possibly even a calling.

This much Jihoon was willing to concede. Because it’s a rap song, he said, it is generally geared towards a younger crowd. Maybe it will speak to them, he said. Maybe it will shed a light on just how thankful he is for the love that he has received, and how this was just a small gesture to repay God a little for everything.

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