Canton Jones: Think God, Gospel And Grandmas Not Gangstas, Girls And Guns

Friday 25th May 2007

Susanne Martin reports on the holy hip-hop artist from South Florida, CANTON JONES.

Canton Jones
Canton Jones

South Florida's singer, songwriter, rapper and producer Canton Jones is a success in the world of holy hip-hop. In the last four years the American Arrow /EMI Gospel artist has recorded four albums, performed to over 300,000 people at concerts in 2005 alone, and works as a part of 25,000 member World Changers mega-church in Georgia. But the aim of his music isn't fame and fortune, it is a ministry to preach Jesus to youths on the streets. "When you think of hip-hop, you think of gangstas, girls and guns," said Jones. "When you think of Christianity, you think of Grandma, church and hymns. I'm showing people that these worlds can collide."

Canton started his career in music when he was just five years old. With a family who were keen music lovers, Canton started singing in a local quartet founded by his father. From the age of 16 the talented youngster was producing his own tracks and those of other local artists. But it was when he left his home in Peerfield Beach and went off to Morehouse College, Atlanta that his first big opportunity came to show off his vocals. He joined the school's world-renowned Glee Club and began singing and touring over the US, Europe and Africa. The Morehouse College Glee Club sung for the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Stevie Wonder, Dr Bobby Jones and the late Ray Charles, not to mention performing at high profile events such as the opening ceremony of the 1996 Olympic Games and at the first gospel concert ever held at the US Pentagon. This established the foundation for a promising career and opened the door to a wide range of opportunities.

Despite growing up in a Christian home, Canton admits that he didn't fully commit his life to God until he started attending the church World Changers, which is headed up by pastors Creflo A Dollar Jr and Taffi Dollar. "I grew up in the church," Canton told The Call magazine. "We were born and raised in the church and we were always in church. But, you know, I was real sneaky. When I got out on my own I kind of lost focus and really got out there dealing with gangstas and dealing with thugs and doing stupid stuff. My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, took me to World Changers and I started getting the word. I was going to that church for like three years before I really rededicated my life to Christ. I was there from probably like 1998 or 1999 until 2001 before I really started getting on track. That's how much word I needed to just say, 'Man I've really got to do this [salvation] thing.'"

As well as a music artist, Canton also considers himself a businessman. In 2001 he launched his own gospel record label CAJO International. The Atlanta Business Journal reported him as saying, "Being that music is five per cent talent and 95 per cent business, I had to get behind the music. I had to take myself out of the artist standpoint and to listen to my music as a businessman and not an artist."

Canton Jones:  Think God, Gospel And Grandmas Not Gangstas, Girls And Guns

Canton then released his first independent album '20 Years, 3 Months & 28 Days' in 2003, which chronicles his path to salvation. He said to Image magazine, "I became best friends with Wal-Mart because I was in there every other day buying blank CDs to burn copies of my first album." 'The Password' followed in 2004 and that same year, he wrote, produced and performed the song "You And Me" which appeared on the Grammy-nominated compilation 'Holy Hip-Hop: Taking Gospel To The Streets'.

The focus for Canton's music is bound up with his desire to reach young people from 13 to 25 years old with the Gospel. His style is aimed at those who can relate to the culture and hip-hop sound. He explained, "There are people my age and younger that like the type of music I'm doing, that need this kind of music. When I was young the music of the church did not connect with me. I'd come to church and listen to praise and worship music but I won't ride down the street bumping it in my car. I told the Lord that I want to make everyday music; something that speaks to the things that go on throughout the week when we're not in church."

As a youth pastor, he always tries to write songs about issues that he feels need to be addressed. The song "Cute", from 'The Password', especially stands out as it tackles the problem of lust. "That stuff is so strong. Anytime you get into that situation you aren't going to win. So you have got to start building road blocks by planning your escape five, six, seven steps ahead. Once you get to the house or once you get to the bedroom it's over! Man, you try to fight her then and it's too late. So this is what young people, old people and everybody that's coming up in this walk have got to do: When you try to resist sexual temptation you have got to cut off the friend that's going to lead you to the girl or guy - you know what I'm saying. All of your hook-up buddies? You've probably got to cut them off. You've got to stop watching certain movies and you've got to prevent lustful thought. Why? Because those seeds are getting into your heart and out of the heart are the issues of life. So you're going to live out what's in your heart. If you've got all kinds of lusts in your heart, that's what you are going to live. So you've got to start working on it. When God delivered me it was a step by step process to get out of that mindset. You think you can do it alone, but you can't. You can't just get up and start speaking in tongues when you and the girl have just taken off all your clothes and all that in the room alone. It's not going to work right then. You won't be speaking in tongues or reading Scripture in that room. So, I have to teach people what's real. They know it's right to stay out of that situation but why do we keep getting caught up in that? Because there are steps you've got to do to keep yourself out of that - it's not just going to happen. You're not going to have the preacher lay his hands on you and the spirit of lust is going to come up out of you. You've got to stay away from it, you've got to flee it."

Soon after he recorded 'The Password', Canton signed to Arrow Records, an affiliate corporation of World Changers International created and operated by Pastor Taffi Dollar. Canton then made his national debut in the summer of 2005 with the album 'Love Jones'. The album is named after his daughter Love, "and of course, God is love and I'm the Jones," he explained to The Call. The year proved to be a time of great success for Canton as in November came the re-release of Canton's second album dubbed 'The Password: Access Granted'. The CD received two Grammy nominations. His success also meant a more profitable outcome for the business side of things. The Atlanta Business Journal included Jones at number 19 in their 40 Under 40 chart of Atlanta's rising stars in 2005. The magazine reported him as saying, "I've been working here on my own at World Changers under Pastor Creflo Dollar for one year full time and it's been very lucrative. He's a wise businessman and operates in excellence in everything and I was able to apply the skills that I learned with him to my own business." Later that year Canton also won Gospel Choice Awards and a Holy Hip Hop Award. Despite the accliam, he is determined not to rest on his awards and achievements. "I don't want to get relaxed or get lazy because of one accomplishment," he said. "Yeah, when we win a Grammy, the next day I'll be on the road ministering to some people. Why? Because that's what it's all about. I don't want to celebrate over the last victory too long. I want to go and keep fighting until Jesus comes because there are souls at stake."

Canton Jones:  Think God, Gospel And Grandmas Not Gangstas, Girls And Guns

Concerts have also played a big part in Canton's work, and in 2005 alone he managed to perform to 300,000 people over 200 nationwide performances. The biggest audience was at the MegaFest '05 in Atlanta where he performed to 150,000. The Miami Spring Fest was also a highlight for him as he was the only gospel artist among a bunch of mainstream artists. "God has given me that opportunity," he said. "I just thank God for it." Britain welcomed him in 2006 when he came and performed at London's Notting Hill Carnival in August. He played as part of the Urban Mission's Christian witness at the carnival, a section which was recently nicknamed The God Corner by police and carnival authorities.

Canton's popularity has really grown over the last few years, but instead of letting it throw his focus on ministry, he sees his success as another stepping stone to point people to Jesus. "I believe the popularity has come because God is making me popular," he said. "I try to stay away from that type of stuff because it's not about me getting my head swelled up, it's about continuing the mission. I mean the popularity is cool - you've got to be popular so people can know you so you can have a voice to preach Jesus. I believe that the more popular you are, the better you will be able to voice your opinion about God. So, you know, that's the focus." And his work for God seems to be paying off, as he says his greatest accomplishment in the music industry "is the fact that there are souls getting saved at the end of concerts and people are coming to Christ. I have a lot of people telling me, 'Man, I never would have listened to gospel if I hadn't heard you.' That's not something I can take credit for but I believe God has given me that opportunity. I just thank God for all the opportunities he's given me. But, the greatest, to me, is always the souls. It's always about somebody getting something out of your songs to better their life. Yeah, we're going to have fun, yeah we're going to do the bling-bling, yeah we're going to do this and that. But I believe when it comes down to the souls the more albums you sell the more people you'll reach. So, that's what it's about - it's about reaching people."

Canton is hoping to carry on his ministry, getting involved in more youth projects and producing more albums. His vision is to get more people and older generations to support his work that has already reached many young people. He told The Call, "I'm trying to love on the grandmothers and the Church and say, 'I know you don't like hip-hop but I need to do this so I can reach your grandsons or your granddaughters because they may not relate to certain music and methods.' I want the Church and the old school to help me impact the youth. After we all reach heaven we can ask Jesus about the methods we used while we were here. But let's at least get them there. Everybody just expect God to do his thing. We have a responsibility also. Everyone may not understand it now but they are going to grasp it. It's going to be lovely and we're going to grasp it." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Susanne Martin
Susanne MartinSusanne Martin is studying journalism at Staffordshire University.


Reader Comments

Posted by Belinda in North Carolina @ 01:28 on Oct 12 2012

I have always liked your music from the first day I listened to it. You have a way of reaching people that no one else can. God gave you a gift that no one can take away from you. Some people want to talk bad about or don't like it. Then it's not for them. God has his own way of reaching different people, so he is using you to do that. There was a time when church folks didn't like the spritual dance that most young people do today. But now they love it. Keep doing what you do for the Lord, the rest will catch up in time.

Posted by Lorene L. Harris in Albany, Georgia @ 22:03 on Sep 9 2012

So full of the SPIRIT!!! His name has been a household name for me since the beginning of the 90's. My children grew up in Pompano Beach, Florida.
My daughter and I had talked about his music approximately a week ago; then, after listening to "God's Princess Stephanie B" today, I did a search. I do own a couple of his CD's. However, after reading this article I am so proud of this young man, his thoughts, and where he is headed.....A VERY WISE YOUNG MAN!! Keep looking to the hills.

Posted by Jacerase in New York @ 15:28 on Apr 5 2011

@ Daryn....i only had to read a paragraph of ur comment from may 2010.....what ur sayin is good......BUT use those scriptures at the person that only listens to it BC it sounds good and the artist proclaims to be a "gospel" artists----cus they lookin for an excuse to tell their parents that they can listen to rap and hip hop music.....but i will say, no matter how its dressed up (glitz, glamour, good looks, hot beatz, hot cars, and houses) the word of God is pure and true and those that read it know when a song's lyrics are way-off or hitting you right on with the Word of God. Listening to his songs on a regular, i can admit, that some of them are somewhat vain babblings, but as for the songs that do draw to christ and call you to obedience and empoering you to do what u know is right by God, i have nothing to say about, bc he's ministering. Again, all that you say is good, but we must be careful when speaking about whom God may have called and chosen for such a time as this to preach and teach his word through son or rap or even movie, bc the word does say "touch not my annoited and do my prophet no harm".....we never know who God actually IS using.....and i speak from the same perspective as you, and i'm most times considered "ole skool" with this music and ministry thing, but i had to realize that, " if it's straight up Word UNaduletrated and nothing in the song makes me wonder, "now, where is that at in the scriptures?" then, we shouldn't judge it." if they're not against us, then they're for us".....this is not meant to be offensive to any1 or change any1's beliefs if it is backed up by the word of God. Daryn, I love you in Jesus' Name, just thought this would be helpful to everyone to understand the concept of this "holy hip hop or gospel rap".... : )
be blessed

Posted by daryn in North east @ 17:38 on May 25 2010

im just gonna post what daniel said a couple of messages ago because it seems like no one got that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Posted by DANIEL @ 00:14 on Mar 31 2008

Why do few see anything wrong with it? Because it looks good to them. The lust of their flesh has gotten in the way. Because they can bob their head, wave their hands, and move with the rhythm and the beat, the artist looks good maybe and the words are rhyming and sounding so great, they think, "oh yea this has to be Gods way of reaching the youth!" Noooo. Just because it sounds good, looks good and feels good doesnt mean God is in it! 2 Corinthians 11 explains this primarily in verses 13-15. It says, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."

God help us from being led astray from his purity and righteousness. God help us from being led astray by false teachers and worshipers of themselves. God help us from the spirit of inclusion. God help us from being deceived by anti-christs.

Holy HipHop is STILL HipHop.
Holy Bootyshakin, Unrighteousness, Lust, Fornication, Stealing, Killing, Illegality, Drunkenness, Lewdness, Self-Glorification??? (all hiphop really is anyways)

Dont forget, a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump!
1 Corintians 5:6 says, "Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?"

Galatians 5:9 says it too, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump."

Be blessed, and catch FIRE FOR GOD for our God is a consuming fire! (Hebrews 12:29)

Posted by Gbemiro Ruth in Ogun state, Nigeria @ 14:01 on Apr 29 2010

Bro. Canton, i rili apreciate the grace of God on your life. N i appreciate your passion for youths.its awesm. Kip doin what you do best.

Posted by Carli in Alabama @ 20:45 on Nov 24 2009


I love 5 seconds, and G.O.D, and the Password and sooooo many more!!!! We are blessed at the BASEMENT to have you!!!!!!

Posted by ReGina Young Shephar in Fort Worth, tx @ 00:50 on Jul 1 2009

Bro. Canton, You rocked the house at my church Potters house in Dallas. You were annointed and appointed. It was awesome to hear you and see every rocking and clapping ...the ushers particularly were in a zone. I was happy to see that my cousin did some of your graphics...C. Glenn. Blessings and continued growth and grace to you and Lady Ramona.
Keep doing it big and to God's glory. Lady ReGina young Shephard. Ecc. 4: 12

Posted by Phyllis Thompson in Cincinnati, Ohio @ 18:52 on Dec 3 2008

Hello Brother Canton,
I thank God for your music and your ministry. You will be pleased to know that it is my 70 year old mother that intorduced me to your music. She fell in love with "Love Song". We searching everywhere trying to find out who made "How Can You Sing About Love and Not Sing About Me' {totally wrong title;0} but we finally found you on I Tunes. Halleluiah!!!
My 13 year old son loves your music. We listen to your music during our 1 hour commute home. He is peaking into manhood, and I am so glad for the song Cute. We are asking God now for sexual purity and strength to abstain until marriage. You music helps to reinforce what we as his parents are trying to teach him about the spiritual ties and ramifications that come with becoming sexually active.
Thank you so much for having the courage to say what everyone needs to have, but doesn't always have the courage to produce and peform.
You are doing God's work. Jesus went out among the people, He didn't stay locked up in the temple. Thank you for being the one to go to the youth, and the Grannys.
Best Blessings

Posted by Maurice in Iraq @ 17:33 on Jul 5 2008


I just want to say your CD Kingdom Business, has been such a blessing for me. I just happen to hear your single on WadeO radio show on podcast. And i just had to buy your CD on Itunes. I been searching and looking for an artist like you for so long. Your songs are amazing, i love the message and the beats. It so hard finding a christian artists that has a great message but the music is great. I cant not stop playing your CD. Keep up the awesome God fearing music. I'm currently in Iraq, serving my country. And I'm sharing your music with everyone. I cant wait to get home to Savannah, GA. so i can bump your music loud, and let your music minister to people. I thank GOD so much for your music. The world and the media try to make GOD look soft or a punk. Not the GOD i serve. And it great to show my generation that Christ goes HARD, 100%. And as believers we rock and hiphop for CHrist harder and better! We dont share hate or sex, But the truth and love, and it sounds great. So bump that in your speakers. So, brother Canton stay incourage and countinue to let GOD use you! God bless


Posted by Keiara Mustapher in In Pineville, SC @ 18:17 on Apr 17 2008

Your Performance in South Carolina. I believe last month it was very powerful and anointing. Kingdom Business is the CD. My Cchurch actually model in our fashion show off one of your songs. Remember to always doo what you do but keep God first in all of it.

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