Hepcats: Christopher Michael Jensen’s “Joy, Void, Destroy” EP
Imparting wisdom is a skill learned only through years of experience. Through hip hop, wisdom accumulated in life is given to others through rhyme. Countless attempts, mistakes, and years of practice eventually turn students of hip hop into masters. After hundreds of performances and recordings, Minneapolis rapper Christopher Michael Jensen has become a maestro of the local scene to fans and emcees alike.
Christopher Michael Jensen, also known as CMJ, recently returned to the local scene with a new Extended Play titled Joy, Void, Destroy. Accompanied by the imaginative sounds of producer Infinity ~ Suite, CMJ has constructed an EP that is self-critical, exploratory, jubilant, and raw. We happened to be able to attend the EP’s release party, which saw CMJ performing alongside eight other local artists over the course of four hours.
Christopher Michael Jensen sets himself apart from other rappers in the scene through his endless promotion and guidance of other rappers and producers. CMJ makes it clear that what he learned through years of toil should be shared with other performers with the hope of sparing them the difficulties he has encountered. This vision shines through in the many topics he touches on, whether they be focused on the betterment of himself or his community.
CMJ grew up in Minnesota, and has been rapping for more than a decade‒a fact no better demonstrated than in the first track off the EP “Microphone Check,” which pays homage to his own history and creation of the project. Within the EP CMJ also highlights the need for public figures such as himself to draw more attention to societal issues. “Cold Day in Hell” draws particular attention to a myriad of problems ranging from police injustice “I’m from the state where the cops murdered Philando/And then let his killer walk free” to the recent ICE arrests “Tear apart families and stick ’em with stipulations”. CMJ’s lyrics and benefit concerts provoke thought on systematic elements in our society that can be changed if criticized. Ancient Greece and Rome had philosophers filling forums within market-place agoras. Today we have rappers like CMJ spilling truths over beats.
Alongside his social criticism, where CMJ truly shines is during introspection. In “A Purpose To Find,” CMJ vividly paints a picture of his day to day life, characterized by his responsibilities and the external and internal criticisms that befall him. He describes days driven by ambition, fueled by hunger to produce and perform music, and to continue to grow his name as an artist. Yet, his life is filled with countless distractions that try to halt his progress‒the need to fulfill the obligations of living, the exhaustion of work, and finite time. CMJ writes:
“I mean, I’m supposed to be an artist on a mission/But capitalism got me racin’, tryin’ to get by/countin’ out my hours, lookin’ where I can invest time/Ambitions constricted by conditions”
The hook from “To Dream Or Be Aimless” further elaborates CMJ’s dichotomy between fulfilling his musical aspirations and the difficulties of reaching them. “I contemplate my days and lay inside my home/But I still feel like I’ve yet to even come into my own/I see brand new constellations, but things keep on oscillatin’/So I’m caught between a constant dream or staying lost and aimless.” The journey of an artist is not an easy one, yet CMJ’s songwriting illustrates a reminder that one’s passion gives the ability to navigate any roadblock in life.
Joy, Void, Destroy carries the weight of a full length album in only seven songs. Sitting down and listening to the EP all the way through, you are carried along a journey chronicling Christopher Michael Jensen’s rise in Minneapolis’ hip hop scene and his path towards mentorship of younger emcees. During that time, he’s released eight projects, performed for over a decade, and now serves as a pillar of our hip hop community. CMJ has made a permanent impact on the local scene; “Joy, Void, Destroy” is proof of that. CMJ hosts Fifth Element’s monthly open mic series, and co-hosts the Local Dope $#%T showcase in St. Paul.
You can listen to Joy, Void, Destroy, here.
You can also find Christopher Michael Jensen’s website, here.
Christopher Michael Jensen’s Next Shows:
Chuckie Campbell & The Black Den present: The Beats & Brass Tour featuring Chuckie Campbell & The Black Den, Christopher Michael Jensen, Ice God The Macgyver, and North Star Wisdom at the Acadia Cafe in Minneapolis on Monday, August 19th
Local Dope $#%T Hip-Hop Showcase
Hosted by Uncle T & Christopher Michael Jensen
Featuring Young Hustle, Seiler, J Flight, Honey Dick featuring Kat Fox, and Chris Melrose at Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul on Saturday, August 31st
The Fifth Element Open Mic
Hosted by Christopher Michael Jensen with DJ Logoz The Kritick at Fifth Element in Minneapolis on Wednesday, September 4th
Sign up starts at 5PM
“Hepcats” is a recurring feature that zeroes in on talented up-and-coming rap, hip hop, and spoken word artists in the Twin Cities in an effort to raise awareness of those “underground” stars. It’s the brainchild of Benjamin Werner and Kenta Yamamoto. For this installment, Werner and Yamamoto spoke to local emcee, Christopher Michael Jensen.