Thursday, July 29, 2010

Houston's 97.9 KBXX’s Hip Hop 4 HIV: The Right Cause With The Wrong Reward


Author’s note: This post contains references to rap lyrics that describe sexual behavior in explicit detail and may be offensive to some readers. They have been edited as much as possible, but are presented to prove a specific point to the contrary.

On Saturday afternoon, for the fourth year in row, the Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) and 97.9 KBXX will celebrate a near month-long campaign of HIV awareness with a rap concert.

Approximately 15,000 teens and young adults will get to go to the exclusive show, headlined by acts such as Plies, Paul Wall, Bun B, and Lloyd Banks, as a treat for taking part in the Fourth Annual Hip Hop for HIV Awareness Intervention, a four-day HIV and syphilis screening event.

It’s undoubtedly the right cause with a wrong reward.

Hip Hop 4 HIV’s Mixed Messages

Unfortunately, the rappers chosen to perform on Saturday will often present a message that is in direct opposition to this noble pursuit of improved community health. Many of their songs seem to celebrate and encourage the dangerous sexual and social behavior that increases the risks of contracting this deadly disease. The educational information 97.9 has published on its own website says as much.

From KBXX’s website:
How is HIV transmitted?

HIV transmission can occur when blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), vaginal fluid, or breast milk from an infected person enters the body of an uninfected person. The virus must be present; meaning an individual must be infected with HIV in order to infect others.

HIV can enter the body through a vein (e.g., injection drug use), the lining of the anus or rectum, the lining of the vagina and/or cervix, the opening to the penis, the mouth, other mucous membranes (e.g., eyes or inside of the nose), or cuts and sores. Intact, healthy skin is an excellent barrier against HIV and other viruses and bacteria.

Can I get HIV from unprotected oral sex?

Yes, there are documented cases of HIV infection from oral sex with both men and women. Body fluids exchanged through sexual activity can enter cuts in the mouth and get into the bloodstream. Also, certain cells in the mucus lining of the mouth may carry HIV into the lymph nodes or bloodstream. Reduce the risk of HIV during oral sex by using a latex or polyurethane barrier such as a condom or dental dam.

Isn’t abstinence the only way to prevent HIV?

Abstaining from sexual activity or certain sexual behaviors can certainly eliminate risk. So can eliminating alcohol or other drug use that may impair judgment when in sexual situations. However, abstinence also has its own “failure rates.” It is equally important for people to know how to reduce risk as it is for them to know how to eliminate it.
Hip Hop 4 HIV main eventer Plies has crafted a public image that’s half goon / half nymphomaniac. It will be interesting to see if he’ll perform his song “Becky” (a slang term to describe oral sex) on Saturday.

Sample lyrics:

Plies – “Becky”
I’m on this liquor / oh so heavy / ‘Fo we f—k. can you neck me? / A lil’ h—d and I am ready / I want yo mouth, give me that Becky
Or what about Houston-native Paul Wall? Will he perform his new hit song “I’m On Patron” that talks about him being “so gone” that he needs a ride home or “I’m a Playa” with its implications of casual sex?

Paul Wall – ‘I’m a Playa”
Wave the trunk and chunk the deuce / keep it movin’ / I’m on the prowl / I’m on the hunt for some one-night love / best believe that’s it’s goin’ down
Surely “7 shots to the dome” can’t help his judgment.

What about South Texas favorite Bun B? Can we expect to hear his pimp anthem that solicits johns for anal sex encounters with his “b---h?”

Bun B – “Who Needs a B---h?”
If anybody need a b---h then I got one / put her in the drop and you can let her ride shot gun / she can suck your d--k while you mash on the gas / so you can take her to the crib and put some d--k in her a-- / Who need a..

If anybody need a b---h just holla / I got top notch p---y for your bottom white dolla' / we poppin our collars and dustin’ these gators off / not to mention we brushin’ these haters off / Now tell me who need a..
And the teens and young adults in the audience can expect to hear Lloyd Bank’s smash “Beamer, Benz, or Bentley” that brags about his threesomes, right?

Lloyd Banks – “Beamer, Benz, or Bentley”
I got a girl named Kima / and Kima like Christina / baby three don’t make a crowd, it make a sex scene meaner / I just wanna get between her / turn it over scream her / then it’s one, two, I’m through, see ya / I scoop her in my Beamer, Benz or Bentley…
It’s extremely rare to ever hear a mainstream rap song that mentions, much less encourages, the use of condoms, dental dams, or abstention from drug use and casual sex that can help curb the spread of HIV. It’s doubtful that will change at Saturday’s concert.

Again, the cause of raising awareness and mobilizing listeners to actively get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is a righteous cause. It’s the reward that’s offered as a motivation that sends a completely mixed message.

It would be like Channel 2 KPRC encouraging obesity education and diabetes testing to its viewers by promising a trip to an all-you-can eat dessert buffet sponsored by Hostess as a reciprocal prize. How does that make any sense at all?


Hip Hop 4 HIV Needs a New Voice

Using hip hop to reach young people and 97.9’s target audience is a no-brainer. But they should at least offer performers with a catalog of songs that reinforce their message, not fly in its face.

Houston has a large community of positive hip hop artists that could easily fit this bill. Two that immediately come to mind are J. Xavier and the Still Trill Christians.

They are not unknown to audiences consumed with mainstream media either. J. Xavier has had video play on BET and earned screen time in MTV’s “Super Sweet 16” movie. And earlier this year the Still Trill Christians were interviewed and asked to perform on BET’s 106 & Park video countdown show.

Contrast STC's "No Sex" lyrics to those listed above.

Still Trill Christians - "No Sex"
We can hit the mall and go shopping while we in it / and you be lookin' good girl, I must admit it / but I don't need no sex, sex, sex, sex, sex / cuz you're worth more than that, that, that, that, that

Please don't get me wrong, lil mama, you're so fly / but I listen to my Daddy / and that's the reason why / that I don't need no sex, sex, sex, sex, sex / cuz I'm worth more than that, that, that, that, that
And if 97.9 needs even more names to fill out the Hip Hop 4 HIV roster then perhaps they can pull from the list of artists they play on Praise 92.1 – the Box’s sister gospel station that is also owned by their Radio One parent company. Praise 92.1 even has its own Christian hip hop shows and on-air personalities that would certainly be willing to help and provide musical content that better supports the goal of this event.

Hip Hop 4 HIV is a worthwhile effort. But at this point, it’s diminishing its powerful message in favor of pop appeal.

Houston’s Still Trill Christians performing “No Sex” on BET’s 106 & Park

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rosario Dawson: Spiritual Metaphor?


A lone glance at the beautiful Rosario Dawson can inspire a thousand thoughts in any man.

For some, it will be as simple as lust or love. For rapper NomiS, it’s more like muse and metaphor.

Indeed. On Tuesday, the California-based MC dropped his free, 10-track “Rosario Dawson” EP via Bandcamp.

“I remember watching Seven Pounds or something she was in and thinking to myself, ‘She is quite the cute lady. God did a good job with her. She would be nice to know. But… I never will,” NomiS recalled.

Actually, although the artist is single and looking for a mate, he says the title track is deeper than that.

“It’s actually a playful metaphor about people always wanting the things we can’t have instead of just desiring the things we really need,” NomiS said. “In my music I like to talk about real things but also keep it light, you know?”

Dawson, who has also acted in films such as Sin City and Clerks II, is also no stranger to hip hop, having appeared on Outkast’s “She Lives In My Lap” track from 2003’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album.

Other topics on the “Rosario Dawson” EP include defending the voiceless (video: “On Behalf of the Silenced”) and what the artist sees as our country’s often unholy mix of politics and faith.
God is not Republican / but it’s forced on His believers / you wouldn’t catch Jesus blowing up abortion clinics neither / Vanished heart for the lost and it’s scary /Your American flag is 10 times bigger than the cross you carry / So where do your alliances lay? / If stars and stripes come first then you’re denying His name – NomiS on “Dropping Jewels”
Although raised in church and a confessed follower of Jesus, NomiS is cautious about how his art (as either a solo MC or as part of the larger Gallery Drive collective) is labeled.

“I definitely don’t take the title of ‘Christian rapper,’” NomiS said. “But I do view my work as evangelism.”

Download the “Rosario Dawson” EP for free here.

Watch the video for the “Rosario Dawson” song below:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jay-Z's "Free Mason" verse draws different opinions throughout Christian rap community


The Jay-Z is a Satanist/member of the Illuminati stories just won’t go away.

He’s tried ignoring them. Then playing into them. And when Rick RossTeflon Don album dropped this Tuesday, the artist officially took the issue head on with a guest verse on a song titled “Free Mason.”
“I said I was amazing / Not that I’m a Mason / It’s amazing that I made it though the maze that I was in / Lord forgive me I never would’ve made it without sin” – Jay-Z on “Free Mason”
Still, many MCs who claim the cross take issue with Jay-Z’s recent imagery and hints at a dark side. In January, Houston rapper Bizzle made waves when he released a track called “Explaining to Do (Jay-Z Expose’)” that was directed at the man who calls himself “Jay-hova.”

The accompanying YouTube video (now at over 53,000 views) is filled with visual examples of possible connections to the occult and was featured on mainstream rap sites like and Overnight, the previously unknown Bizzle found himself in the middle of a firestorm.

“I’m really trying not to get stuck on the Jay-Z stuff and just want to focus on telling people about the Lord and his Good News,” Bizzle said.

But obviously, the kid known for calling out Jay has an opinion about his “Free Mason” verse.

“I think he only cleared up things for ‘blind’ people who want to remain ‘blind.’ They didn’t want to hear a real explanation, they just want to hear him say it’s not true,” Bizzle said.

“And no, I don’t think it was a response to my song. If that’s the case he would have addressed the specific points I raised. To me, the logic should be that if I brought up 20 signs that point to him being a Mason and having Satanic ties then he should have to bring up 21 things that say the opposite.”

Other Christian rappers aren’t so convinced. Dre’ Murray (a Houston native) has shared songs with Bizzle but thinks that Jay-Z’s verse adequately addressed the issue.

“Make no mistake, Jay’z imagery in the past, especially in the ‘On to the Next One’ video, was blatant. But I think he was just trying to push people’s buttons,” Murray said. “I think there was some clarity in ‘Free Mason’ where he owned up to some stuff and denied other parts.

“Could he be lying? Sure, but for me to devote all my time trying to figure out what he is or isn’t really defeats my purpose as a Christian MC. Good should be out fighting evil, not sitting around talking about it.”

Still, there’s no clear consensus about Jay-Z’s lyrics and actions in the holy hip hop community. Here’s what outspoken New York rapper Lavoisier told me when he was in town for The Houston Project last week.

What are your thoughts? Have you heard Jay-Z’s “Free Mason” or Bizzle’s “Explaining to Do?” Does the evidence add up to you or did Jay adequately address these concerns?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Houston Project Uses Hip Hop To Love Neighbors


When most people think about church missions they envision short term trips to Mexico or Africa. For the members of First Baptist Church it means, for this week at least, directing their attention to residents of their own city.

Known as The Houston Project, over 1,400 volunteers are challenged to share the love of Christ in 13 different locations via vacation bible schools, youth events, adult ministry, food distribution, sports ministry, evangelism, and prayer. Aside from the next-door neighbor focus, many will also find uniqueness in the large role that Christian hip hop is playing in this movement.

Malcolm “Excelsius” Marshall was tasked with coordinating those efforts and pulled from his vast network of personal relationships within the Christian rap community to incorporate urban music ministers from H-town and beyond.

This year’s roster includes:

Knine (Florence, South Carolina)
Mahogany Jones (Detroit, Michigan)
Lavoisier (New York, New York)
Lil Raskull (Houston, TX)
Gifted da Flamethrowa (Houston, TX)
Educator (Houston, TX)
DJ 1 God (Houston, TX)
IBC (Houston, TX)
Lita Rodi (Houston, TX)

While some might assume this approach is radical for a theologically conservative congregation like First Baptist, Marshall said it wasn’t really that hard to get his team on board with the idea of using hip hop as a predominate ministry method for The Houston Project.

“I think it’s been cool to see them embrace something that maybe is a little bit uncomfortable at first,” Marshall said. “But once they see God is in it they really can’t deny it.”

Some of The Houston Project's rap staff. From left to right: Mahogany Jones, the author, Excelsius, Lavoisier, Knine, DJ 1 God, and Lita Rodi.

Lee Epston volunteered his time at the Farrington Mission site on Monday night and got to witness Lavoisier’s music ministry first hand.

Lavoisier ministers at the Farrington Mission location for The Houston Project.

“He was great,” Epston said. “I think our pastor hit the nail on the head when he said that while the vehicle to share the gospel may change, the message itself doesn’t.

“These kids may not relate to country or old school 80’s music like I used to listen to. But if you can get somebody up here who is a good rapper that can speak the truth and share Christ with them, then if one kid’s life is changed then it was worth the whole week.”

The 2010 Houston Project’s events started on Sunday, July 11 and run until Thursday, July 14. For site locations and information, visit

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

DJ X: MTV's first Twitter Jockey?

Courtesy photo

The DJ for a popular Christian rapper may be MTV’s first Twitter Jockey.

Given our post-modern, hyper socially-networked society, surely at least one of the words in the previous sentence perked your interest.

Starting today, viewers can vote for DJ X (aka Xavier Moreno) to be the youth-channel’s first TJ (Twitter Jockey) – a modern version of the original MTV VJ (Video Jockey.) MTV General Manager Stephen Friedman told the Associated Press that the TJ position is "a natural evolution of how we connect with our audience."

DJ X was one of the first 18 candidates hand selected by MTV for the competition. The ultimate winner will relocate to New York, make occasional appearances on the network, and earn a one-year $100,000 salary as their online personality for music and pop culture.

Over the years, Moreno has developed a strong following as a frequent tour DJ for best selling Christian rapper KJ-52. With KJ, he’s traveled and performed at hundreds of venues each year including the Get Motivated business seminars where he’s shared the stage with world leaders like Rudy Guliani, Colin Powell, former President George W. Bush, Dwayne Wade, Joe Montana and others.

The gig, along with his popular blog, has occasionally led to questions about his calling. “Is he a Christian rap DJ?” many ask. “If he gets this MTV job, will he be selling out and promoting ‘worldly’ music?”

“I’m a DJ who has a faith. That carries over into all aspects of what I do,” X said. “I just want my convictions and what I stand for to filter into all aspects of my life. Whether that’s on a Christian festival with KJ-52 or in a night club environment, DJ X and who I am doesn’t change.”

Although originally from the Bronx, X’s family relocated to Fort Myers, Florida when he was 14 years old. It was there, through church and friends, that he met KJ-52. As one of the genre’s most in-demand artists, KJ often needed a DJ with the talent and time to enhance his many performances on the road.

X accepted the gig and was able to observe first hand how well his MC counterpart was able to connect with his fans. Always on the bleeding boundary, KJ was one of Christian hip hop’s first artists to have a regular podcast, video blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.

“X is definitely high on the fashion/music tip, where I tend to be a little more savvy on different apps and such. But we complement each other well, an ‘iron sharpens iron’ type thing,” KJ said. “And when I saw the competition he’s up against I thought he really brought a creative edge to what he does that I didn’t see in some of the others. I think he’s going to knock it out of the park.”

And although he’s often pegged as a “hip hop guy,” X appears to be a man who is well rounded and passionate about specific social causes and issues.

From the stage, viewers might notice his TWLOHA t-shirt (from To Write Love On Her Arms, a non-profit organization which aims to present hope for people struggling with self injury, thoughts of suicide, depression, and addiction) or his REVOLUTION forearm tattoo (with the letters EVOL –backwards LOVE – shaded in red.) Offstage, they may know him from his over nine years of mentoring youth through engagements and entertainment outlets such as The Bridge Youth Center, Life Skills (Charter) High School and juvenile detention facilities.

“He's a real interesting cat, not some monotonous drone reading from cue cards or talking about stuff that he doesn't know anything about,” Kansas based rapper Cash Hollistah said. “His musical palette is diverse too. Not just hip-hop, but indie, folk, rock, whatever. He's that dude!”

X sounds like he’s looking forward to using his potential MTV platform to challenge his audience to also be activists for change.

“Knowing where I came from and the roots of what I saw and observed as a kid, I always want to be able to give back and show that I’ve been able to come out of that and be successful and not let my environment influence who I am,” X said.

You can follow DJ X on Twitter @officialdjx and vote for him in MTV’s Search for the First TJ online challenges on Facebook until July 20, 2010.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Vidz: KJ-52 talks mixtapes & double standards

KJ-52 was in Houston recently and sat down with me for quick one-on-one interview.

In this clip, we discuss mixtapes, double standards in Christian hip hop, race matters, that "Pastor" comic, and protein bars.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Should Rawsrvnt get a spin-off reality show?


On last night’s episode of The Ultimate Merger, Christian rapper Rawsrvnt (aka Eddy Puyol) was told by Omarosa that he “could not close the deal” and was asked to check out of Vegas’ Trump International Hotel along with Sterling, the only other non-Black cast member. (The show’s lame visual metaphor for the dismissal: Shredding each guy’s mandatory pre-nup.) Many were surprised Raw even lasted this long.

The question now is: What’s next?

No Ordinary Contestant

As any VH1 channel lineup will reveal, it’s not uncommon for reality shows (particularly in the dating subgenre) to grant spin-offs to cast-offs like Eddy. But could or should that happen?

While The Ultimate Merger’s editing may indicate otherwise, my interactions with and research about Rawsrvnt reveal definite charisma. TV One’s website for TUM also supports this in that Eddy has been leading their “Which Bachelor is Your Ultimate Fantasy?” poll since the show premiered. I think that illustrates his popularity, draw, and audience mobilization skills.

And Raw didn’t disappoint his Christian fans. While skepticism greeted his initial announcement of participation in this production, most online commenters seemed to have turned a corner. Now there’s overwhelming support for Eddy representing his faith well in spite of the Sin City temptations provided by TUM’s assorted “challenges.”

His one-on-one interaction with Lady O (as the show is wont to call its headliner) earned particularly high marks from Christians who saw him proudly proclaim he was “in love with Jesus” and avoid the manufactured drama that ultimately creates memorable “characters” who receive exponentially more screen time.

Should a spin-off opportunity be presented to Raw, my suggestions would be two-fold:

1. Open up more

While he admirably proved he was serious about his goal of representing a true man of God, Eddy’s conversation with Omarosa also seemed a bit cold. Perhaps being unsure of how his character would be crafted in the editing room, Eddy chose to make sure he talked about Christ just about every time he opened his mouth so that cutting any mention of Jesus from his dialogue would be near impossible. But still, it seemed to limit the amount of his personality that could shine through.

I’d coach him to relax a bit and simply be himself. If Christ truly resides within him (which I do not doubt), then He’ll naturally reveal Himself through word and deed.

2. Try to step away from the dating sub-genre

Let’s be honest, this is not the best entertainment – morally or artistically. These type of shows seem overly dramatic with situations painfully manipulated to create conflict. Shoot, the producers might as well be shown on-screen directing the action.

But the reality television genre can work when it’s done more documentary style or as part of a legitimate search for new talent.

I think Rawsrvnt would be great hosting a Sunday’s Best type affair that looks for the next Christian hip hop star or as part of a show that explores his life as an urban music minister. This close examination of a unique personality/situation/career works very well on Discovery with Deadliest Catch and on TLC via Little People, Big World and 19 Kids and Counting.

These shows can be both interesting and uplifting and are often very open to portraying their main subjects’ personal faith. As a bonus for the networks: They also heavily draw viewers from the same sort of crowd.

The Finale

As for me and my house, I guess I’ll let my DVR catch the rest of TUM and only occasionally peep in to see one of television’s worst trainwrecks. However, I know I’d be paying much closer attention if there were more guys like Rawsrvnt on my screen.

What about you? Do you think Rawsrvnt could handle a reality show spinoff? Would you watch? Would it matter what type of show it was?