Jermaine Bethea prides himself on his lyrics.
The Egg Harbor Township teen publicly debuted his anti-drug song, “Wasting Time,” at the 71st annual New Jersey Broadcasters Association Conference in Atlantic City on Thursday.
His “tough love” take on the drug problem earned him a $3,000 music contract as the second-place winner of this year’s New Jersey Shout Down Drugs.
The outgoing Egg Harbor Township High School junior had two days to put the song together after learning of the contest.
Finding a beat was easy, he said.
Bethea keeps files of beats he’s working on, and found an orchestral one he thought would be perfect, with a few tweaks.
But he wanted to do something different for the lyrics, knowing many would take the angle of inspirational or emotional when tackling the drug epidemic in song.
“It almost feels like a tough love stance,” he said Thursday, after the first of at least three performances he will do as part of his contract. “It’s a direct approach: it’s time for you to make a decision. You could be doing so much more.”
The title is about the time wasted getting high and not fulfilling one’s potential.
“It was great that Jermaine could share his message at such a prestigious event” said Angelo Valente, executive director of Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. “Each participant from this year’s event has displayed not only creativity and musical talent, but also determination to make a difference in the lives of their peers through their passionate messages of substance use prevention.”
Bethea, 17, said he always wanted to be a writer.
He started out with simple poetry in middle school. By high school, he introduced music.
“I’m not much of a singer but my writing is really good, I would say,” he explained.
His focus is on the art of the music, Bethea said.
“I’m looking forward to where else I can take it,” he said.
He has performed in school plays and in the annual talent show. Although he missed this year’s performance because it was the same day as the Shout Down.
Bethea already has collaborated with other upcoming talent in the area.
He had a song he wanted to do at the Teen Arts Festival in Hammonton in April, and asked Imohimi Unuigbe. Bethea was a freshman when he met the then-senior.
“He’s beginning to go into his own sort of career,” Bethea said of Unuigbe.
Bethea is focused on doing the same.
He has two jobs, and is ready for college, where he plans to major in film and minor in theater.
It was theater that really gave him a place in school, he said.
“In a way, it really started to shape and change my life,” Bethea explained. “Before I did that, I really didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere in school.”
He sees a career in film making, where he can mix all of his hobbies.
“When I make a music video I get to dabble in my love of film and my love of song writing,” he said.
And he definitely won’t be wasting his time.