Tuesday, September 28, 2010

While "Rehab" hits #3 overall on iTunes, Lecrae serves in Sundan


“Who’s this Licorice guy with the Rehab album that is today’s third-best selling digital album behind Lil Wayne and Kenny Chesney?”

Undoubtedly several audiophiles and casual fans checking iTunes’ Top Ten charts today asked that same question. Actually, his name is Lecrae (pronounced: Le-cray) – a Houston born Christian rapper who is the faith-based genre’s most visible artist.

He also co-owns the Atlanta-based Reach Records label that expertly marketed this project through viral videos, exclusive merchandise giveaways, and by cultivating an ever growing and loyal fanbase.


They know that Lecrae equals quality – both in music and ministry. He’s also admired for his counter-cultural message (especially as a member of the hip hop nation) of exalting others before himself.

A perfect example is how, on the drop day of what might prove to be his biggest album ever, he chose to stay offline and out of the limelight and instead headed to Sudan for a mission trip.

In a blog posted on the Reach Records website, Lecrae explained his Rehab theme like this:

The obvious cure is ALWAYS seeing and savoring more of Jesus. But HOW do we do that in this world of distractions competing for our affections?

Take me for example, I spent the last few months recording my album, rigorously checking my Twitter and Facebook, moving to a new area, traveling on weekends, filming videos, having family outings, date nights, meetings, and interviews. Where in that whirlwind do I find fresh affection for Jesus? Where do I demonstrate to my children that Daddy is different than other entertainers out there?

Many of us need to stop and reflect on God. I've found nothing like the solace and restoration of being somewhere my phone and laptop don't go; where I don't know what the latest movie is; where all the luxuries and distractions of my life are stripped away and I'm left to focus on Jesus and his mission.

Therefore, at the height of my new album REHAB, I plan to be in Southern Sudan.
Sudan has been obliterated by war for so long, resulting in over two million casualties. They have only known roughly 15 years of peace since 1956, and they are currently operating under a peace agreement that will be up for renewal next year. At the time of voting, the Sudanese will decide whether they want to remain one country or be split in two.

I believe it is of critical importance for people to see that the Gospel impacts every area of culture. I want to give them hope in Christ. So, I won't see the iTunes charts on release day. I won't know what Billboard, fans and critics have to say about it. I'll be consumed with the Master and His work.

He also asked that fans take this mission a step further and provided a link to financially support the ongoing efforts in Sudan.

Christian hip hop is blessed to have Lecrae and his Christ-first attitude as the face of this movement.

Those interested in hearing more from him and other artists on Reach Records can catch the crew’s Unashamed Tour which hits Houston next month on October 22. Details can be found here.

Dove Awards and Holy Hip Hop Inc. Unite for 2011 Events

Big news on the gospel rap accolades front. On Monday, September 27 it was announced that the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Awards had partnered with Holy Hip Hop Incorporated (HHHI) to assist them in managing the nomination process for recognizing the genre’s best rap album and song.

Additionally, this year’s Dove Awards will be held in Atlanta and the annual Holy Hip Hop Awards will also take place in that same city during the same week.

This is a big deal for those of us who often complain about the legitimacy of the Dove Award nomination and selection process which tends to lean toward the familiar CCM-label affiliated hip-pop acts year after year. The En Sound Music Awards did the same thing last month here in Houston when they partnered with DaSouth.com for similar services.

The move makes sense for both entities. I'm told attendance and excitement for GMA Week in Nashville has been in decline for several years. And hopefully this partnership will help the HHHI improve their show's quality in the areas of presentation and artist participation.

Although Atlanta’s Holy Hip Hop Awards have often seemed more like recognition than competition, I’m excited to know that individuals who are intimately engaged in our culture will now get to play a part in deciding who will receive this form of encouragement and support for their music ministries.

Look for more information on this week as the April 20, 2011 event date draws closer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Christian rapper FEDEL clarifies that he is NOT the one named in the Bishop Eddie Long lawsuit

When news about the alleged sexual coercion lawsuit by two men against prominent Atlanta pastor Bishop Eddie Long broke yesterday, many in the Christian hip hop community noted that the name of one of the plaintiffs matched the legal identity of Oklahoma-based rapper FEDEL.

FEDEL was quick to respond via Twitter and just posted this note on his website:

Due to the recent lawsuit against Atlanta, Georgia bishop Eddie Long and the two Georgia men: 20-year-old Maurice Murray Robinson and 21-year-old Anthony Flagg - FEDEL has decided to issue an official statement as follows:

Anthony Flagg, 27, of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma – otherwise known as Christian Hip Hop artist “FEDEL” – has no involvement with the lawsuit against Georgia Bishop Eddie Long. Neither does Anthony Flagg (FEDEL) have family relation to 21-year-old, Georgia plaintiff, Anthony Flagg; nor has ever met Bishop Long or performed at or attended Bishop Long’s church: New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.

FEDEL fans please keep those involved in this situation in your prayers and pray that God’s truth would prevail.

- FEDELITY Music Team

Given Long's churches affiliation with the genre, I can completely understand why FEDEL felt the need to make this statement.

Please join us in prayer for everyone involved in this situation.

Interestingly enough, FEDEL's excellent "Walk It Like I'm Changed" song/video/campaign addresses overcoming such tragic issues of abuse and exploitation.

Here's what he told me about it at SXSW in March.
(Listen for comments at the 3:11 mark.)

Video: Full interview with Brinson

As mentioned in my September 11 post, I wanted to share with you my full interview with GodChaserz Entertainment CEO/artist Brinson.

I hope you hear his heart and see why he's one of the most personable guys in Christian hip hop.

Topics covered:
  • Luvv to Dance, OMG, and running GodChaserz Enetertainment
  • His inspiration behind the "Don't Rap No More" song
  • Connecting with other artists and what Knine REALLY sounds like off the mic
  • His beard, image, and upcoming projects
  • Dealing with negative criticism

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lil Raskull Goes Back to School


When the Big Red Marching Band of Houston’s MacArthur High School takes the field for halftime of this Friday night’s homecoming football game they will be joined by two special alumni. The first will be Marcie Chapa – a professional drummer who frequently tours with Beyonce and Delbert Harris aka Lil Raskull – a veteran Christian rapper.

Although Harris’ small stature and babyface features would allow him to pass for a member of the senior class (hence the “Lil” in his stage name), it’s actually been 20 years since he roamed MacArthur’s locker-lined hallways. Chapa graduated five years after him and is a 15 year alumna.

The duo will perform with the school’s marching band for an interpretation of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” hit song as well as an all original duet written by MHS music director Jose Diaz.

Harris said he was invited to perform by Diaz who was MacArthur’s music director when he attended the school. He’s also worked with Diaz’s side band, Caliente, a few times in the past.

“I’m definitely honored by the request,” Harris said. “It’s probably the closest thing a Christian artist like myself will get to performing at the Super Bowl.”

Although Ras, as he is also known, has not performed in a setting like this before, he said he was inspired by the mix of hip hop and marching band music when he saw the movie Drumline.

“I’m definitely excited about getting my Petey Pablo on,” he said, referencing the mainstream rapper who made a memorable cameo in that 2002 film.


Harris said he was far from a straight-A student when he attended MacArthur High but had many friends who were and also participated in varsity sports.

After graduation Harris briefly attended the University of Houston – Downtown. He said back then he wasn’t disciplined enough to appreciate the delayed gratification rewards of a degree and eventually dropped out of college to pursue his burgeoning rap career.

But today, he’s actually returned to the UHD campus and is one year away from graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science.

When asked what he would say if he could provide one bit of advice to the 1990 version of himself, the answer was almost instantaneous.

“Definitely take that athletic trainer college scholarship you were offered but turned down because you wanted to ‘hang out.’ Paying for this stuff on your own dime is no fun at all,” Harris only half-way joked.

The MacArthur Generals will take on the Jefferson Davis Panthers this Friday, September 17 at H-W.W. Thorne Stadium at 7pm.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Remembering When Christian Hip Hop Also Courted 9/11 Controversy


Around this time almost three years ago I found myself troubled by and critical of a group of Christians using the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Muslim extremist terminology to advance a personal agenda.

And while I won’t go so far as to say that GodChaserz Entertainment’s promotion of Jovan MacKenzy’s Jihad album rose to the same level of distaste as Rev. Terry Jones’ threat to burn copies of the Qur’an on that date, I was recently reminded of a time when Christian hip hop pushed the envelope into similar treacherous territory and how we were ultimately able to overcome those differences and redeem a relationship.

Along with the title and 9/11 release date, MacKenzy’s album included cover art with Arabic font faces and Crusades-era battle imagery. In my review for Rapzilla.com I noted that:

I can honestly say I never got a real Christian vs. Islam vibe from the project, but I definitely got a "Let's-exploit-their-terminology-and-imagery-in-our-promo" feeling.

Maybe that's the issue.

1. It's tacky and exploitative – particularly from one who claims to follow the teachings of Jesus.

2. It doesn't even make sense. Once you get past the cover and suspicious drop date you don't really get the "Us vs. Them" or "conversion-by-force" thematic sense from the rest of the album.

The packaging (not just the physical thing, but the whole concept, 9/11 date, etc.) doesn't match the content. When that outer wrapping is offensive and distasteful to boot, you're just doing yourself a disservice.
At the time, GodChaserz Entertainment president Brinson took issue with my critique. On my personal blog, he posted that his company defined “jihad” as a “holy war” or “personal struggle.”

He said “Since we are not Islamic, the holy war (jihad) we declared was on SIN.”

And to GodChaserz' credit, an indie label with 15 titles under its belt, none of their releases after Jihad carried anything close to this tone.

Brinson's last album also dealt with the inner battle between flesh and spirit, but was more appropriately named Escaping Me. His latest, OMG, flips a popular text term to express his literal awe at the greatness of our Creator.

Thankfully, Brinson is a solid, rational brother in Christ. And after my initial critique, we were able to civilly discuss our differences and continued to build our friendship beyond just a surface critic/artist/CEO relationship.

In fact, this became a topic of discussion during my video interview with him during a recent stop in Houston.

Oh how I wish this Qur’an-burning business could be similarly solved.

(AUTHOR'S NOTE: Comments start around the 0:40 second mark.
You'll also get to hear more of Brinson's heart in additional interview segments that will be posted next week.)

Monday, September 6, 2010

7 Questions with Sivion


Dallas-based hip hop artist Sivion’s new album, Butterfly Sessions beats by Dert, drops today and is the first in a series of EP releases from Sivion and Illect Recordings.

Since it contains seven original songs and accompanying instrumentals, I decided to hit the Phat KAT with the same number of questions for a quick Q&A.

1. First of all, any hidden meaning behind the Butterfly Sessions name and Silence of the Lambs-inspired cover art? If so, please explain.

Ha Ha. Good question. Well first off, y’all know I love butterflies. They are just some of the most beautiful creatures God created. I mean, just look at them. What's not to like? I've never seen anything so colorful in my life. Their wings are truly a work of art. God out-did himself on those designs.

But also, the more I grow as a believer, I realize that the whole cocoon transformation is so symbolic of our rebirth into the knowledge and grace that comes through Christ. So, so very fresh.

Now as far as the cover art goes, I'm a huge fan of the design of the Silence of the Lambs poster. As spooky as it looks, it's a really dope idea. So for years I thought that it would be cool to spin off that with the butterfly concept instead. Thanks to Jon, Josh, and Jae at Illect Recordings, I finally got the opportunity to do that. And thanks to Dert too, for sparking this whole project to begin with.

2. A few years ago you were involved in a pretty bad car accident. How has your life changed since then?

Man, my life has changed in an immeasurable amount of ways. For one, that wreck reminded me that God is in charge of when I go home to my resting place in the kingdom. It has nothing to do with anything else. He had/has more work for me to do, so therefore, here I am.

Secondly, it was a blessing to think about Jesus and scream His name seconds before impact. You always wonder if God is who you will truly turn to in your final hour and it was very encouraging to me to know that what I feel in my heart is really as strong as I always thought it was. God is my salvation so I call on him in my time of need.

And thirdly, man, I've grown so much closer to my family, it's crazy. My wife and I are the closest we've ever been. My kids are close to me and the whole family unit is in perfect alignment (as perfect as God can make it, because let's face it, I know I'm a screw-up without him).

God knows what he's doing and he never puts us through more than we can handle, but if we hang in there with him through the trials and lessons, we become so much stronger in the end. Praise Him!

3. In today's radio single and multi-guest-driven environment, why decide to work with a producer like Dert for a full project?

As most probably know already, I'm no super mega genius or anything like that. I can't take credit for concocting this elaborate marketing scheme to get my name back out into the global media world. Nope. All I have going for me is my passion for God and following his lead.

So when I say that this project came about by accident, I really mean it (though I know nothing happens by accident.) If Dert hadn't lost the session files for the joints he did for me, I wouldn't have been prompted with the idea to find a way to make sure they saw the light of day. That's how all of this came about.

And the funny thing is that I couldn't be happier about how it all shook out. Dert's the one that's a genius. Working with him is a no-brainer. Just ask KRS-One, LMNO, and a trillion other emcees way doper than me.


4. Why does the record only have seven songs? And why include the instrumentals to those songs? Are you trying to encourage some "mixtape" remixes?

Actually, the limited number of beats available in the small batch of production I had from Dert helped me to determine that it would just be seven songs. But that's an amazing number for many reasons, so I thought it would be "perfect." And it was.

The instrumentals were actually Josh's idea. He thought it would be a nice bonus on the CDs. The beats are ridiculous. Who wouldn't want the instrumentals? Although I will admit, the thought of some mixtape/remix type stuff would be dope and I highly encourage it. The a cappellas will be available too so the producers will be able to put their remix hats on and get after it soon!

5. Your lyrics often speak fondly of your wife and kids. Why don't you think more hip hop is like that?

Man, I'm just coming from a totally different place, all together, compared to most emcees. And I'm just not on the same tip that most cats are.

What's important to them, ain't important to me at all... status, wealth, fame, fortune, street-cred, bling, whips, cribs, drugs, swagger, status, visibility, sex appeal, etc. etc. etc. I could care less.

What motivates me is family, friends, love, and God. Not in that order, but you get the picture. I'll throw health in there too, so I can be here to do what God has me here to do.

Until rappers get over themselves (Christian rappers too) you'll never hear them talking about their wives and kids. That would interfere with their sex appeal which is totally manufactured and phony to begin with. Don't get me started.

6. You're involved in the underground deepspace5 supergroup but weren't a founding member.

How did you feel coming into the group after they had already started and put out a few projects?

To be honest, they were pretty wack until I joined. Ha ha! Just kidding.

These cats had been holding it down for a long time, so I was honored to be tapped into it. And realistically, at first I was trying my best not to shake the tree too much and mess up the vibe they had going.

But after a while, I realized that I was an integral part of what makes the unit dope, so I just started totally being myself on every song and every track, which made my contributions even more unique (which is what my ds5 brothers wanted from the start.) Playdough and Fred B, especially, were instrumental in helping me bring out my true artistry on our projects.

Silly me for thinking I needed to sound more like Mars ILL or Labklik. I love my brothers!

7. I've been jamming an advance copy of Butterfly Sessions for a few days now and would probably describe it to a new listener as "break-friendly, coffee-shop hip hop."

Do you think that's an accurate assessment?

Do you lean more toward a b-boy, barista, or both?

Dang Sketch, you're gonna make me pull out the Webster's Dictionary to figure out what you just asked me. Ummm, what? Barista? Break-friendly? I'm not sure how to answer that.

I will say, to me, this joint is on some cool out with the family, picnic/b-boy in the park, sliced tomato with a side of avocado, turkey burger type hotness.

Some of it sounds familiar, but then other parts make you go "What? Avocados? Turkey burgers? Really?"

Yeah, but just know that this record can be whatever you need it to be. A warm blanket when you're cold or an extremely loud alarm clock when you've slept too long! Time to wake up people!

Listen to Butterfly Sessions beats by Dert's lead single, "Here We Go," here.