“My name is Vice Versa, I’m just a young man of God, a father, husband…” I heard him say. “My intentions are to preach the gospel through the vehicle of music to the saved and unsaved, that’s where the name Vice Vrsa originates, to be able to do it on both spectrums.”
James Lilly III (23) was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His death from a motorcycle accident on Sunday, 5th August 2012 has seen sympathies and prayers stream in to his wife, daughters, extended family and fellow stable mate, Viktory.
Having to learn about a brother in Christ and fellow member of the Christian Hip Hop and Urban missionary movement (as I call it) and the great work he has been doing to spread the Gospel in his passing, is saddening yet, a call to rejoice in the goodness of the Lord and a life lived to honor Him.
First encountering Vice Vrsa in Viktory′s music video for the track,”Never Look Away”, the emcee strikes me as a man strong in his convictions, yet peaceful and content in his delivery.
Vice Vrsa, the VersatileWhen rap meets neo soul, Ashleigh is a happy woman. However, though the Vice showcases a similar preference in his music, he also possesses the ability to accommodate the musical tastes of both young and old, which is easily noted through the contrast between his songs, “Crazy” and “Made It” which you can listen to on his website, www.vicevrsa.com. The best of both worlds perhaps?
I believe his mandate was quite simply and eloquently explained in a statement he made which said, “My intentions are to preach the gospel through the vehicle of music to the saved and unsaved, that’s where the name Vice Vrsa originates, to be able to do it on both spectrums.”
In a recent conversation I had with NY based emcee, Vultcha, he reminded me of something we all seem to forget. “We are all LOST at one time in life, that’s how we became FOUND – no one was born saved but JESUS.” He called this a GOD PROCESS. What would have happened if no one deemed us fit to be ministered prior to our salvation? Whether in silent prayer, or a kind word or many other instances alike. What loss would we not see if musicians like Vice Vrsa decided to limit God’s purpose to the church? Music moves, are we moving along with it bring souls closer to Jesus?
Abandoned LyricsIt’s easy to pen a verse to a song, and many artists naively perceive that this is the only way they are able to spread the message of Christ. Lilly however, contributed effectively to using his gift to serve a community and generation which needed and still needs every willing heart to display the love of God through actions.
2005 saw the start of his ministry through a hip hop based youth mentorship program called Abandoned Lyrics. The movement delivered services to NPOs, school districts, churches and other youth circles. It included creative arts sessions on elements like poetry, songwriting and dance. This cause transcended from a mere 2 students to over 100 students over Lancaster County. Are you involved where you are, utilizing what you have been blessed with to make a difference?
What I have learnt from the little I know about James Lilly is locked up in the following:
“I’m still learning along the way, I’m learning every day, how to be a man of God, how to walk straighter. how to be obedient and just how to have that authentic connection with Christ amongst all the commotion that goes on, the accolades that come, bright lights and whatever it may be, it becomes a bit hard to focus sometimes. We just continue to figure out how to try to stay grounded, and when I say we that’s just my team of support, that’s Team VR, my local fellowship, and the artists I try to keep myself humbled around. “
Notice a teachable spirit, willing to learn, not only musically (in fact the music is not even mentioned here) but in the areas of life in which an open heart matters most – in relationship with God. As an artist myself, I know it is so easy to get lost in everything you ‘have to do’ to see your ministry move from an idea/thought/vision birthed inside to a calling constantly being fulfilled project after project. Our prayers are often for production costs to be met, for ticket sales to fair well and for our work to be received with a positive reaction in the media, Christian community and amongst family (I dislike the term, ‘fans’) – these are real concerns, which I can respect. However, our heart’s cry should, by all means remain longing, as in James’ case, to maintain sincerity in our walk with Christ. Do we strive to remain obedient to Him, to stay in alignment, to fulfill His heart for us? Or has this slowly shifted downward on our list of priorities?
Flavor Fest 2011Flavor Fest, an urban event hosted in Tampa, Florida showcases various speakers and artists through workshop sessions and performances, which Vice Vrsa was part of last year. Vrsa was excited about the occasion and was grateful for “the opportunity to learn, to just be a sponge.”. He looked forward to the fellowship, as well as the chance to be in the presence of so many people with similar goals and then being able to take that information back out into the community and spread the Gospel. Are we looking out to learn more so that we can give more?
Though I still have a lot to learn about James Lilly, I praise God for his life and consider myself enlightened by the little information I have at my disposal writing this.
James has a beautiful wife, Gerica Devon Lilly and two precious daughters, extended family and friends who need our prayer right now. Let’s lift them up during this time.
“He could take me tomorrow, just being able to make it this far, feels like something I could toast to.” - Vice Vrsa, ‘Made It’
Word to James – Rest in Peace brother.
*I speak of James in present tense throughout this article, as I believe his memory will live on through the character, principles and values, and changed lives he has left behind.