I watched a controversial movie Burning Sands on Netflix; the film displayed a version of black greek life meaning fraternity and sorority that depicted a process of pledging that may seem degenerate to some, realistic to others, and informative to those who’ve never been apart of the process. As a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., I experienced a part of the process that I employ as a mantra of life. In fact, once you proceed through these BGLOS, all organizations have a set of poems such as Invictus amongst other poems, these poetic writings are cloaked as more than poems but lessons that are coping mechanisms for life’s trials and tribulations. My two favorite were IF by Sir Rudyard Kipling and Test Of A Man.
As I listened to singer, and actor J-Llyfe’s story, these poems re-surged on the forefront of my mind. J-Llyfe is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, although we haven’t conversed about our individual experiences with our organization; listening to his triumphant story provided me perspective, that perspective defines a man who could metaphorically walk through flames. Has walked through flames and would do it again if it meant doing what he believes in. As you proceed to read the story of J-Llyfe and the transformations that have lead him on his current path, I will insert the poem Test Of A Man,” before each metamorphosis of his transition to provide insight to this extraordinary person.
Act 1. – The test of a man is the fight that he makes,
The grit that he daily shows,
The way he stands upon his feet,
And takes life’s numerous bumps and blows.
Before the singer and actor J-Llyfe, J-Llyfe was born Justin Thomas from Birmingham Alabama. Justin’s station in life lead him on so many obstacles, but very few notice the contusions accumulated because his presence beams a divine light of strength and hope. An obstacle is one of the most honest experiences an individual can come across in their journey known as life. The honesty derives of how an individual handles those tumultuous trials and tribulations and decides to surge on those moments whether you succeed or fail; it is those moments of truth, and those bits of truth are the most honest moments an individual can encounter.
Justin’s pursuit of the arts began at the age of six and seven; he started singing in the church choir in a group called the Adorable Kids. Influenced by the greats Ray Charles, Michael Jackson amongst others, he began to mimic his idols; at this time he discovered his talents, but truly wasn’t comfortable with the talent he possessed which made him apprehensive to display his gift. Growing up in the projects in Alabama and being shuffled around living with various family members was challenging not having a consistent nurturing environment. That setting proved difficult to cultivate talent and stay poised in his abilities with an inconsistency of stability at such a young age. That changed when Justin was approaching high school, with the full support of Justin’s mother she agreed that his aunt and uncle provided a loving and supportive place for him to live so that he can attend high school in a more progressive area.
As Justin entered high school his first thought to stand out amongst everyone else was playing sports. By the time he entered high school he was a well-accomplished wrestler within the state of Alabama. Justin embracing his accomplishments, his last thought was singing after all he was on a path to athletic greatness. Maybe it was Justin’s personality and or charisma but some reason Justin was encouraged by his drama teacher to audition for a character in a play called “Lessons Before Dying” by Earnest J. Gaines. A premier high school athlete, he was nervous of the perception he would have amongst his peers as an actor, but in spite of reservations, he embodied the character he played and found a love for theater. The play’s name was, “A Lesson’s Before Dying” which was almost like a foreshadow of what’s to come, no too long after the play Justin was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma cancer in his spleen at the age of 17.
Act 2. A coward can smile when there’s naught to fear.
And nothing his progress bars,
But it takes a man to stand and cheer,
While the other fellow stars.
The diagnosis left Justin devastated, angry and confused, Justin now pre-season ranked the number one wrestler in his weight class in the state of Alabama, has now seen his life’s destiny forever changed. With his mortality unknown at the time, Justin questioned his very purpose, emotionally under siege he was left with very few outlets to release to what was disturbing him emotionally. He was encouraged by his friend to start writing his emotions down, so Justin started to write poetry which allowed him to cope with what he was dealing with emotionally. Justin was introduced to an outlet called https://gspoetry.com/, where he could submit his thoughts to an online community of poets sharing their experiences. Understanding his old life was now gone, his writings were creating a buzz in the online community, giving life, not just to him but those who may relate or empathize with his experiences.
Act 3. It isn’t the victory after all
But the fight that a Brother makes.
A man when driven against the wall,
Still stands erect and takes the blows of fate.
Art, Llyfe, and Rhymes once again introduced in Justin’s life were guiding him towards his destiny was now working on his cancer going into remission. His teacher visited Justin in the hospital and told Justin, “once God heals you I want you to star in this musical, where your character will be rapping.” Unknown to his teacher Justin started to write poetry, which provided him the experience to interpret words in rhyme form. The play is exactly what Justin needed to restore his purpose, follow his destiny and re-create himself to start living his new life. The kid that was concerned about what others may perceive of him and his adoration for theater now has fully immersed himself in the arts and the creative world. The scholarship to college he thought he was going to receive for wrestling and football; he received a scholarship in theater providing him his way.
Act 4. With his head held high, bleeding,
bruised and pale, Is the man who will
win and fate defied,
For he isn’t afraid to fail!- Test Of A Man By Unknown Author
The summation of Justin’s life is truly a spiritual journey that very few people can continue to stand steadfast in the face of adversity. Justin turned trials into triumph once he found his purpose, which was in the theater.
So what happened to the young boy who started singing in the church? Justin not necessarily thinking about singing was asked to sing background for someone else’s song, as he recorded these backgrounds he was dipping his foot back into the music, what changed was the response once people heard him sing. That’s when Justin understood the depth of his talent, being a fan of musical artist Lyfe Jennings, he proceeded to call himself J-Llyfe meaning “Just Living, Life, Young, Forever.” No longer questioning his mortality but embracing his vitality and all the blessings that come with Llyfe.
If you listen to the soul and passion in his voice, you understand his description of why Justin calls himself J-Llyfe. Right away you feel a connection through his passionate voice that raises spirits and gives Llyfe through a melody that beams future superstar. With J-Llyfe finally embracing his talent, It seemed like finally, things were starting to manifest for Justin and things were turning around, unexpectedly his mother passed away in 2014, but before his mother passing away, they had plenty of insightful conversations.
Those discussions occurred in a song written and recorded by him called MaMa, MaMa that you can find on Soundcloud. When you first hear his voice over the smooth tempo of the beat, it’s blatantly clear he provides a contemporary and classic vocal pitch that sets him aside from other singers. The young boy who would mimic his favorite artist had truly found his voice. MaMa MaMa is such an impactful song with various layers of political commentary, self-love and empowering messages of self-image tapping into the cultural diaspora of the African American. J-Llyfe has been tested and resurrected, and he is taking advantages of all what Llyfe has to offer as he follows his dreams of theater and music in NYC.
JLlyfe has been doing just that acting in a theatrical play entitled “Ain’t Never Been That Easy.” The setting of the play is in Alabama during the depression era; In addition to acting, the young gunner has been putting that pen to work, to release his debut project this summer entitled “Songs About H.E.R.” an acronym meaning “Hopelessly Evolving Romantically.” Not only is he premiering a phenomenal project in the summer, but he’s imparting the wisdom of Llyfe to the men in the summertime preparing them for “cuffing season.” So fellas humble yourselves and buy
Check out the music here or link below and follow @jllyfe
Article: Atibia “Broadway” Williams