Friday, April 30, 2010

A few thoughts on Braille’s Weapon Aid


I’ve had Braille’s Weapon Aid for a few weeks, but just really started to hear it.

It has a somber-but-hopeful mood which is surprising, yet expected, from a follower of Jesus who has experienced a mass of emotional turmoil the past few years.

Braille has spoken publicly about his father’s death, his painful divorce, moving from state to state, and caring for his young daughter. Add in the demise of his Hip Hop is Music company and the public diss from a former labelmate and you’ve got a justifiable recipe for depression. Still, his lyrics convey an air of ultimate trust and rescue through Christ the King.

They process the concerns of a “Blessed Man,” admit periods of doubt, darkness, and defeat, but never lash out. Instead, Braille seems to seize the opportunity for self-examination.

On record, betrayal never leads to bitterness. This is the route we wish RedCloud would have taken.

Weapon Aid is heart-sleeve hip hop in the emotional vein of Kanye’s 808’s & Heartbreak. I’m guessing that five to ten years from now we’ll look back on this dark period in Christian hip hop and say that this album was a healing catharsis for us all.

Must listens:

• Complexicated
• Shoeless Joe
• Revenge (The Right Way)
• Surgical

Available online now at iTunes, The Bus-Shop, Sphere of Hip Hop, and other outlets.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Update: CHH Kite Program - Coverage & Tips


Good news, our Christian Hip Hop Kites Program was featured on the front page of the Houston Chronicle's website last night. (See image above.)

I also thought it would be helpful to pass along the following information and resource links to help you maximize your safety and ministry impact of any correspondence you might decide to send.


This is a GREAT way to minister and can be very effective, however, please remain cautious when corresponding with inmates. Providing personal information about yourself, such as your full name, physical address, telephone number, date of birth, etc., may fall into the hands of someone it was not meant for and could have ill effects.

County, State or Federal Facilities will not deliver items which are considered to be contraband. For specific information regarding what contraband is, contact the unit where the inmate resides and ask for this information.

Ministry and safety guidelines

Texas Department of Corrections guidelines

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Update: CHH Kite Program


A few updates on our Christian Hip Hop Kite Program that seems to be gaining momentum.

First, thanks for all the sites and blogs that helped promote this including the Houston Chronicle's faith blog, The Wade-O Radio Show, Holy,, and others.

Second, I have a new name for us courtesy of Houston's IBC.

Pharoah is a member of Houston's underground Street Military/South Park Coalition collective. IBC tells me he's been writing Pharaoh for a minute.

You can hit him at the address below:

Pharaoh aka Mr. D.J. Burton # 1151396
Coffield unit
Rt.1 box 150
Tennessee Colony, Tx. 75884

And finally, 007 recently Tweeted that:
My homie New Life (fka Lo Life) got sentenced to 32 years in 05, the parole board will take notice [of this.]
Now go pick up a pen and pad.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

CHH Kite Progam: Letters to our MCs behind bars


Saturday night I was at 007's Audio Future album release party and interviewed his former rhyme partner E-Rock.

During our conversation E told me that Lo Life, the other member of their 5th Ward Boyz trio, was still in prison but now a believer. He said the brother changed his name to New Life, is pursuing Christian rap, and recently held a concert inside the walls where 213 inmates showed up and 85 had to be turned away due to a lack of security.

This sparked something in me and I remembered the verse of Scripture from Hebrews 13:3 which says:

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

I wanted to get New Life's address so I could write and encourage him. Then on Monday, 007 hit me with the mailing address and about an hour later I saw that FLAME sent out this Tweet about rallying the Christian hip hop community to write to Lil Wayne while he is locked away.

God is moving and I want to get on board.

So why don't we start the CHH Kites Program? ("Kite" is street slang for correspondence received while incarcerated.)

Let's send these two brothers all kinds of mail that uplifts and shares the love of Christ.

Don't ask for autographs, record deals, or for the dudes to check out your music. Break 'em off with a good word from the Word, tell them that we're looking forward to seeing them on the outside, and share a little bit about what being a follower of Jesus has done in your own life.

Here are their addresses. Now go pick up a pad and pen.

Lil Wayne
Eric M. Taylor Center (EMTC)
Dwayne Carter
NYSID# 02616544
L10-10 Hazen Street East
Elmhurst, NY 11370

NewLife formally LoLife of the 5th Ward Boyz
Richard Nash Jr
1303820 One Circle Drive
Sugar Land, TX 77498

If you know of any other MCs on lock that could use encouragement, please send me their addresses and I'll help get the word out.

Vid: 5th Ward Boyz reunion?

This weekend I had a chance to chop it up video-interview-style with E-Rock at 007's Audio Future album release concert.

In it, he talks about:
  • A possible 5th Ward Boyz reunion
  • His view of 007's new work
  • What LoLife is up to in prison
  • How God is using hip hop

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Vid: Ras & Child of Christ "Let Me Speak"

A new video from Lil Raskull, aka Ras, popped up on the web this week.

"Let Me Speak" has an underground look and sound and appears to have been largely filmed near the University of Houston-Downtown campus that Ras attends.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Rap Terrorist's response to "Legal Money"


Lavoiser, aka The Rap Terrorist, is an MC/radio host/hip hop critic I greatly respect. His new Grow the Heck Up site is one you definitely want to add to your blog roll and check frequently.

The question I recently posed about whether or not Von Won's "Legal Money" track would get the same embrace and support that Sho Baraka's "We Can Be More" did from the Christian hip hop community seemed like one Vois himself would ask.

So I hit him up via e-mail and got this knowledge dropped on my Inbox last night. With his permission, I'll share it with you here.

From Lavoiser:

I often wonder if people who criticize and dismiss music and songs like this do so because of how disassociated they are with the criminal element and those who struggle with crime.

Many in the church don't often understand how prevalent of a stronghold "crime" is in some communities. Particularly the low-income black community. And for Von Won to be a dude with a college degree??? (Or at least on his way-not sure), what a witness!! They don't know what it means for certain people to see and hear that kind of living epistle.

Much like a successful Wall Street executive, might site his financial accomplishments when sharing his testimony because he's aware that money is what the world esteems. We're biased. We don't know how to judge justly. The testimony of the song is that there are people (and an enemy) who would like to see me getting money the wrong way, but I'm not. I'm going to do it the right way. How could one look at the reading, job, pregnancy, abortion, crime and income statistics of Black America and ever have a problem with that message?? It's bugged to me sometimes.

Jesus' principles and "way" of life is the blueprint, not his life itself. To say "You didn't see Jesus trying to cross over to the mainstream", not only is it untrue, but its a bad comparison. I didn't see Jesus trying to get married and have kids either. So his "every move" can't be the basis (in that way) for how we live our lives.

But to publicly speak with a woman of ill-repute, of another nationally for whom it was not customary to speak with, tell her everything about herself, KNOWING she was the one to talk to that would blab it all to the whole town, I ABSOLUTELY see Jesus as intentionally trying to reach the masses and make everyone aware of who God is.

I think that dudes truly believe they're right when they criticize these things, but have a bad understanding of how to contextualize the bible for today. They don't realize that working for Pharaoh, king of Egypt as Joseph did could be the equivalent of working for an MTV or a BET. Or how serving an organization who's totally against your belief system could be the equivalent of Daniel serving the king in Babylon.

Now that's not to say I "understand" it all, but there are some things in the Word of God and in our written code that are not as easily explained away as people make them. They are not versed in scripture. On Wade-O's show, if my memory serves me correctly, Sho Baraka actually spoke about being intentional about reaching across that wall to reach the un-churched. So you know...those are my thoughts : )

Thank you Vois.

BTW, here's a sample of Lavoiser's own take on the cash flow topic from his "Rap Terrorist" mixtape (which you can download for free) where he flips 50 Cent's "I Get Money" track on its head.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Will "Legal Money" get "We Can Be More" love?


Von Won’s upcoming “Legal Money” (featuring Bizzle and Dre’ Murray) track leaked last week and when I heard it, I have to admit, it gave me pause.

My main question is whether or not it would receive the same sort of warm welcome that Sho Baraka and J.R.’s excellent “We Can Be More” song did just a few months ago.

I wonder because neither track is explicitly “Christian” or evangelistic in nature.

Sho’s song offers a God-honoring perspective on an amorous relationship between a man and woman.

Here, Von, Bizzle, and Dre’ seem to take a similar approach to examining man’s constant pursuit of money – cautioning against the illegal means to the end and celebrating a more honorable approach toward those goals.

Von told me he’s targeting this toward mainstream rap radio (as part of his new venture with a Warner Bros. Music-backed label) and believes he’ll receive his first spins on Houston’s 97.9 KBXX this weekend. Many people have also noted that “We Can Be More” can (and should) receive similar crossover exposure.

So, what are your thoughts on “Legal Money?”

My guess is that it won’t receive the same embrace from the Christian hip hop community as “We Can Be More” has, but we’ll see. I’d love to be proved wrong.

Listen/watch: "Legal Money"

Listen/watch "We Can Be More"

Saturday, April 17, 2010

My Top 5 CHH Emcees

Last week, asked me to name my top five Christian hip hop emcees.

It wasn't easy.

Click here to see my selections and those of some other key gospel rap mavens.

RedCloud's "Evandalism" excuse doesn't hold

Last week I posted about RedCloud’s cutting “Evandalism” track and its impact. On April 9 posted an audio interview of Cloud by DJ Will in which his main explanation for the song was that he was simply in "battle mode" and that he had greatly exaggerated the claims about his verbal targets.

Now Cloud, I love you and I’d never wanna battle you – because I know you’d mos def drink my milkshake – but I can’t accept this line of logic and defense.

Come on bruh, a battle rap involves two or more willing participants. They know what they’re getting into.

It’s the same with a boxing or MMA match. Dudes get in the ring or cage prepared to fight and are usually even wearing protective gear like gloves and pads. They take punches and kicks, but because it’s an intentionally engaged battle, it’s all good.

But if one of those same fighters were on the street and simply walked up and threw a haymaker at an unsuspecting bystander it would be considered an assault, right?

Unfortunately, that’s what I think happened here. As such, there are going to be consequences and ramifications for those actions.

That doesn’t mean we don’t hear your pain and aren’t praying for you homie. But as far as this explanation, I simply can’t ride in agreement with you on it.

To hear RedCloud’s full interview with more explanation and expression – including his views on the use of marijuana, visit

Friday, April 16, 2010

Much Luvv signs former Rap-A-Lot artist 007


After dropping five albums in 2009, Much Luvv Records has hit the ground running with former 5th Ward Boy, 007. It was in January of 2010 that the independently owned and operated Christian hip hop label released former Rap-A-Lot artist Bushwick Bill, album entitled, Testimony of Redemption, in a joint venture deal with G.S.P.O.T. Productions. Now they team up with 007's Judah Music Group and present Audio Future.

Andre “007” Barnes’ story is not unlike the Apostle Paul.

In the mid-90’s he gained fame and notoriety as a founding member of the hard core gangsta rap crew the 5th Ward Boyz. Signed to Houston’s infamous Rap-A-Lot label, the group had several hits that celebrated the gritty, violent, and often-profane street life in which they grew up. They recorded and performed alongside of some hip hop’s biggest names including Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., UGK, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and the Geto Boys. Just Google search the 5th Ward Boyz, the proof is there.

Unlike many of today’s street rappers, 007 was never a “studio gangsta.” His lyrics reflected his actual life. That included a murder case for shooting and killing a man trying to steal his car (later ruled a justifiable homicide) and armed robbery as well as selling and abusing drugs.

Although he continued to see paychecks from Priority Records, Virgin Records, and Rap-A-Lot Records, greed consumed 007. After a European tour in the year 2000, he was caught robbing three banks and sentenced to more than four years in prison.

Upon his release he was asked by Matthew Knowles to write and produce music at Music World Studios (home to Beyonce Knowles and Destiny’s Child). But even this second chance couldn’t keep him out of the life of crime and he was eventually forced to serve an additional 15 months behind bars.

It was there, in jail once again, that Andre Barnes had his “Road to Damascus” experience. Finally encountering and understanding the true grace of God through the sacrifice of His one and only son, Barnes began to change.

When he walked out of the yard this time around, it was with a renewed mind. Barnes pursued ministry, established Taking Back the Streets, and opened Blessings Christian Bookstore with his wife and family.

Now a new creature, 007 has returned to the mic with the goal of using hip hop to glorify Jesus Christ. With a beat background that sounds like it was created in a time machine, Barnes adds sensible, street lyrics to what he’s calling the Audio Future. On this album, he shares his testimony and attempts to warn others of the sinful snares that robbed him of so many productive kingdom years in his past.


The debut release from Much Luvv Records/Judah Music Group, Audio Future, releases this Tuesday April 20th via Central South/Infinity Music Distribution. Pick up his new album at your favorite online retailer. You can also visit your nearest Christian retailer to cop the CD!

Join 007 at 9pm eastern time, Thursday, April 22nd for a live chat session at!

Related video:

007 & the 5th Ward Boyz then:
"Thanks for the Blessin'" feat. Bushwick Bill

007 interview by Sketch the Journalist @ SXSW 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Recap: Gifted release party (11/20/09)

It's anutha belated photo recap post. This time from Gifted da Flamethrowa's release party for the excellent Street Symphony - an album that was one of my top 5 faves from 2009.

Here's the rundown:
All photos by Sketch the Journalist

DJ Primo kicked things off with a spin set that included video mixes and kept the crowed entertained while we waited. (Has a Christian hip hop concert EVER started on time?)

Trevor Lee was MVP of the night - running sound, performing, and acting as a hype man for everybody.

Here's a still shot of the dope Street Symphony video that Primo hooked up to run in the background of the event.

Von Won and the Sheep in Wolves Clothing fam rocked a set with some ski masks. Tracks included "Bow Down," "Jesus Lives" (peep the official video here), and "Game Time."

Von addressed the crowd and informed us that Gifted and his fam were on the way. Apparently Gifted caught a legit flat tire during his travels that delayed him for about two hours.

Gifted's son, Young Anointed aka Y.A., flexed his freestyle skills upon arrival. Kid can flow.

Gifted da Flamethrowa finally hit the stage to perform some new tracks (like "Free Us" feat. Bishop Lester Love) and a few throwbacks including his "66 Ways" jawn.

And of course, he had to bring up Denzil for that dancehall-tinged "Hands Up" jam. (Peep the official video for that here.)

Gifted also gave props to Pastor Mukes who helped him grow spiritually and as an artist with Bound 4 Glory Records.

Through gold teeth and a think New Orleans accent, Mukes gave a message about that value of Christian hip hop and said that if God can speak through a donkey, He can speak through rap music. After all, the Enemy uses it. We just have to take it back and speak life.

Afterward, Gifted kicked with friends, family, and fans.

And showed off the new CD with his beautiful bride (and femcee) Zeeda.

The Ambassador breaks his silence

William “Deuce” Branch also made news this week when he released his first official statement since his break with Cross Movement Records and Epiphany Fellowship Church.

In the more than 1,000 word, written letter, Ambassador says:
"Back in late April 2009, the Lord exposed me and consequently delivered me from being entangled in a season of willful disobedience, deception and darkness. I was involved in a non-sexual but very inappropriate relationship with a woman other than my wife, thereby betraying my Lord, my wife, family, Epiphany Fellowship (the church I love and was instrumental in founding) my co-laborers and ministry supporters like you."
Later, he expresses his shame, says he understands the frustration of those that viewed him as a hypocrite given his previous admonishments of teachers in similar situations, and ultimately asks for the forgiveness of those he has offended.

It’s easy and natural to try and parse every single word and phrase, but at face value, it’s a man humbled and broken and asking for grace. He’s a sinner unworthy of redemption but offered it nonetheless – just like you and me.

We’re praying for you Deuce and rejoice in your restoration.

Read the full statement here.

UPDATE: Watch Ambassador's abridged video statement below:

RedCloud torches CHH with "Evandalism"

RedCloud freestyling at the All Eyes On Me kickoff party (Houston, TX 2008)
Photo by Sketch the Journalist

"Evandalism," RedCloud’s firebomb diss track, hit YouTube on Good Friday. In it, he vents about his break up with his former label and his disappointment with many of spiritual leaders within whom he had placed some trust.

His harshest words, however, were reserved for his former friends at Syntax Records and a lengthy checklist of well known Christian MCs and musicians.

In the song, Cloud speaks in graphic detail about what he says are the hidden sins in the lives of each of these individuals – most likely in an attempt to justify his own actions and the negative reaction people have had to his, now public, view about the use of marijuana.

What’s obvious in this track is that he is hurting. The lyrics are laid over Diddy’s “Dirty Money” beat and the original hook lines of “love don’t live here no more” and “I need someone to trust” that bleed through are haunting. Cloud also screams out “Lord, deliver me from your followers” and “Somebody feel my pain!”

His pain is indeed felt. And thankfully, after several individuals reached out to him, Cloud removed the clip from the net the next day.

Still, a lot of damage was already done. I’ll have some commentary on this issue with Wade-O on episode #153 of The Wade-O Radio Show.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Vid: Michelle Bonilla covers "Jesus Muzik"

Rocksoul is smart.

Michelle Bonilla's long awaited In Spite of Me album drops next week. They also have a new artist, Donielle Rodwell, to promote.

So how do they go about marketing this? Virally - with a clever and creative cover of
Lecrae's genre making "Jesus Muzik" track.

Maybe Bonilla has been peeping Trevor Lee's acoustic remake video series for inspiration.

Nice work RS team.

Pic: Sho Baraka in a girl band?!?


I snapped this pic last Tuesday when I went to Walmart to pick up my copy of Sho Baraka's new Lions & Liars album.

Two things:

1. Reach Records had advertised the price for this project at Walmart locations as $9.99. I had to pay $10.00.

2. Notice the misplaced title card above the L&L album.

If you ask me, Sho owes Barlow Girl a check for a phat penny!

Just kidding, the album is great. Real "gentleman's music" that tackles several issues in a relevant, Christ-centered approach.

If you can, buy a copy at Walmart or some other brick and mortar store to show the marketability of Christian hip hop. Or, visit Reach Records to get one of those slam-packed combo deals.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Vid: SXSW 2010 in 7 minutes

Here's a quick recap of some of the performances and interviews I captured from the presents The Life in Hip Hop Stage at SXSW this year.

Look for spots by 007, S.O.M., Bizzle, Gifted, Von Won, Fedel, Dre Murray, k-Drama, Tedashii, and more.