Rapper Mogli the Iceburg didn’t know the music video for his song “Sit Back and Smile” was trending in the Netherlands.
Then an independent record label distributed by Sony Music Entertainment told him about it. The label had reached out to Mogli to discuss a single distribution deal for “Sit Back and Smile.” He had released the song for free on his mixtape The Space Inside, which listeners downloaded over 25,000 times on DatPiff.
If “Sit Back and Smile” sold sufficiently, the label said, it would consider releasing an album with Mogli.
He entered talks cautious due to an extensive family background in the music industry. His father played guitar and produced music, mother sang backup vocals, uncle performed in the band Roxanne and other uncle produced and engineered music — including songs for Ozzy Osbourne, Snoop Dogg and Diddy. Their experiences in the industry were often unpleasant, which is why Mogli majored in marketing at Middle Tennessee State University, as opposed to a music-related field.
“My family is just very wary of me doing anything with the music industry and wanted me to get a secure job and education — a lot of grime and shady deals. P. Diddy owes [my uncle] so much money still it’s ridiculous,” Mogli, born Jacob Horenburg, said. “Everybody got burned out, and nobody wanted to see me either get burned out or successful, broke, on drugs and divorced like everybody that they know.”
Despite this, Mogli still started to rap in high school and continued part-time at MTSU, where he also became a Christian. But he didn’t then begin to rap about his faith.
“To me, Christian rap was super corny,” Mogli said. “I walked this line of being Christ-like in my lyrics and, at the same time, not being explicitly Christian.”
This approach led to the creation of songs like “Sit Back and Smile” — essentially a positive version of frat rap. This is what the label that reached out to Mogli wanted, he said.
However, it didn’t want conscious music, which Mogli slowly started to write more of as he matured as a Christian. When the label heard demos of Mogli’s album that dropped on Tuesday, DREVMCVTCHR, it asked him to exclude his Christian faith in order to reach a broader audience.
He tells the dramatized version of this story on track No. 8 of DREVMCVTCHR, “Gain the World,” which is inspired by the Bible verse Matthew 16:26: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” He also recruited Gemstones and MC Jin to tell the stories of their mainstream pursuits.
“One major deciding-factor for me personally when it comes to collaborations is if the concept/message of the song is one that speaks to me,” Jin said. “In this case, the idea of exploring what it means to gain the world and what do you lose in return is something that speaks closely to my own journey.”