James Curran, a.k.a. James the Mormon, has made waves in the hip-hop and rap industry with not only his stage name but with the quality of his music.
With his latest album, We Came to Play, hitting no. 9 internationally when it first released and surging to no. 4 overall Wednesday before dropping back to within the top 10 as well as hitting no. 4 in the hip-hop category, it's clear members and nonmembers alike appreciate James's often motivational music. Proceeds from the presale of his album will be donated to the Operation Underground Railroad, an organization dedicated to rescuing child victims of human trafficking, and proceeds after the release of his album will go toward the LDS Church Missionary Fund.
We sat down with James to ask him a few questions about his music, his life, and, of course, the story behind his stage name.
What is your favorite hymn?
“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” because it talks about how we all are imperfect and how we need the Atonement and Christ. I like that because it’s kind of my mission to humanize the LDS people and make our culture less about perfection and more about being transparent about our failures.
What is something not a lot of people know about you?
I think a lot of people don’t know that I grew up overseas, that I speak fluent Russian, and that music is just a hobby for me.
What is the story behind your stage name?
The story behind the name “James the Mormon” is that I was 23 when I went out on my mission. I had lived a very worldly life up until a year before that point. For me, the transition before I went out on my mission was my own very personal Alma the Younger experience. I really tangibly felt the Atonement and loved it and really genuinely wanted to share that with everyone else. So I dedicated the rest of my life to just sharing the gospel. Then I came back and, with very small effort, changed my social media to James the Mormon, hoping to be transparent and open about what I am and to potentially lead to some missionary experiences.
What was the most memorable part of your mission?
Every day on my mission, I wanted to go home. And every day on my mission, I never wanted to leave. It was just this beautiful, painful experience all at the same time that really helped me grow.
What’s your advice for people who want missionary experiences?
Pray for them. Be open (1) that you are LDS and (2) that you are fallible; you struggle. Be open about what your struggles are and what you are doing to overcome them. That can help people even outside the Church see us as more human and relate to us more.
What are your hobbies?
Entrepreneurship. I also collect sneakers and play basketball. Eating food, good food. Watching movies.
What’s your dream job?
My real dream is to develop software and businesses.
Tell us about your latest album, We Came to Play.
Basically, [it’s just about] being with a bunch of musically talented friends—a lot
of them aren’t LDS; some of them are LDS. It’s about, “Hey, there’s this little hip-hop scene and music scene here in Utah, and a lot of us are LDS, and we came to play in the same game as everyone else.”
What’s your favorite place you’ve ever lived?
Uzbekistan. I love the food. I love the people. It’s one of the few places overseas that I actually lived among the people, and I just loved it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
No matter what you do or say, you’re going to offend somebody. So don’t worry about it.
Lead image courtesy James Curran
In his first release after becoming the only LDS hip-hop artist to top the iTunes chart, James the Mormon shares his testimony as only he can. This six-track EP includes songs about the restoration and repentance, and a missionary anthem featuring David Archuleta.