Through Conviction and Passion: J. Crum’s Gift of Music Gives HopeNov 01, 2021 10:55AM ● By Josefina Loza
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Joshua Crum pours it all out for the sake of Christ.
“My music is eclectic, soulful, and transparent,” said the 33-year-old independent artist known as J. Crum. “I talk about everything that is important to me. My marriage. Mental health. My faith.”
The Detroit-born musician was raised in a group home at Boys Town, where his parents worked as house parents. At 7, the family left the group home to live in Omaha proper. His parents split up three years later, and Crum and his mother moved into their own place.
While a sophomore at Omaha Northwest High School, Crum suffered a subdural empyema, an intracranial infection.
“I almost died,” he said. “It was scary when it happened. It got to the point where I couldn’t put sentences together. I couldn’t communicate that there was something wrong with me.”
Crum was placed in a medically induced coma to protect him from severe seizures triggered by the brain infection. “My whole family thought I was going to die.”
Crum said he was thankful for the tutor Omaha Public Schools provided to help him keep up on his studies while he was hospital-bound. When he returned to school, he was actually ahead. Instead of an early graduation, he took several study halls.
During those hours, he picked up a new hobby—writing music.
“Out of boredom, I started rapping because I had all of this time to figure out what I wanted to do,” he said.
Shortly after graduating in 2006, he attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he studied psychology. In 2008, he switched gears and attended Global University, graduating with a degree in biblical studies.
At 24, he ran a group home for boys as a family care associate. He felt he could have a lasting impact on other young impressionable men.
“I just want to help people in whatever situation they might be in,” he said. “To show them that the choices that they’ve been making…there is always an out.”
After running the home for nearly five years, Crum decided to put all of his energy toward making music full time. Around that time, he met his wife, Jessica, who is also a singer. He said it was the second time in his life he wasn’t able to put sentences together,.
“She’s pretty dope,” he swooned. “I met her at an event. When I saw her, I just knew I needed to speak to her.” On that day, he couldn’t muster up the words to approach her beyond a simple “hi” and an awkward wave. Eventually, though, the two dated and married.
“She’s extremely supportive,” Crum said. “You’ll find her at each and every show. She’s probably the loudest person in the room.”
Fellow musician Chrisna Clark is also a supporter. “I’m a fan, not just of his music, but of who he is as a person,” she said. “I love how he’s using his craft for the greater good. To elevate his community, inspire…and I absolutely love that he isn’t afraid to share his faith in Christ.”
Crum said of his listeners, “Anybody from any walk of life can find something that resonates with them in my music. Music is like therapy for me. It’s not a replacement for therapy, but it has been a [way] for me to have a voice.”
And that’s what makes him authentic.
“He has mad grit and determination, and is dedicated to his craft,” said Nadira Ford Robbins, who has followed his music. “He’s transparent and there’s a rare quality of realness in his music.”
Those sentiments were also felt and shared by founder of Culxr House Marcey Yates.
“What I love about my brother J. Crum is his dedication…I love his showmanship and representation. He has a great sense of humor as a person,” Yates said, adding that he has known Crum for about six years. “He always shows up and puts his heart in it. As a hip-hop-to-death guy, I appreciate authentic and real rap when I hear his music. He has made an obvious transition with faith and he speaks on it. That’s authentic.”
Crum said he writes for people who feel like they may be struggling to find their place. “It’s for the people who feel like maybe people don’t see them. When I’m writing my music, I always keep them in mind.”
Crum has been honored with 15 nominations for the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards, winning the Best in Hip-Hop category in 2018 and 2020. He is also the founder of Streetlight Sounds, which provides services such as consulting, management, social media management, mixing and mastering, and graphic design for independent artists.
A recent collaboration with artist nobigdyl resulted in the song “Made For This,” which was regularly played by the Seattle Seahawks and the University of Michigan football teams as a game-day song.
“A lot of people think you have to have millions of streams to make money,” he said. “Really you don’t need all of that—just a passionate fan base.”
Crum’s fans have followed his journey and continue to root for him.
Mars Nevada, who lived in Omaha for a brief stint, said Crum “was actually one of the first musicians and artists I ever saw when I moved to Omaha. That was my intro to the creative community and energy of Omaha. It didn’t just make me want to move to the music, it made me want to create.”
Crum’s personal connection with his listeners is inspiring. Many of his fans supported his performances during both Maha's 2020 virtual event and their in-person 2021 concert.
“It was really dope,” he said. “It’s really special for our band…especially to see the fans who had been rocking with us since day one. They’re part of the team.”
Editor's Note: J. Crum announced on December 29, 2021 that he now identified as agnostic, after this article had gone to press.
Visit jcrummusic.com for more information.
This article originally appeared in the November 2021 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.