Thursday, November 18, 2010

Former 5th Ward Boyz Gangsta Rapper Gives Back to Community Through This Weekend's Bless Fest 2010


This weekend, a former gangsta rapper who served time for armed robbery will demonstrate that he is a completely new man by giving back to the community through an event called Bless Fest. The activities will commence at 3pm on Sunday, November 21 at 10009 Homestead Road, Houston, TX 77016.

Andre “007” Barnes, known for his music career as a member of Rap-A-Lot Records’ 5th Ward Boyz group, has partnered with Impact Ministries to offer an afternoon of food, music, and various “blessings.” Residents in some of the neediest parts of Houston can register to win one month’s paid rent, one month’s paid light bill, one of 25 turkey baskets, and over 100 children’s toys.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Barnes said. “Jesus met the needs of all who came in contact with him physically. So we don’t want to preach to you, we just want to bless you as God has blessed us.”

For Bless Fest 2010, Barnes has secured partners such as All Eyes On Me Inc., Fiesta, Kohl’s, Street Life Ministries, CFC Church, G Tech Solutions, and Blessings Christian Bookstore.


Andre “007” Barnes is a 5th Ward native whose story is a perfect example of how positive opportunities and role models can lead to dramatic life change.

In the mid-90’s 007 gained fame and notoriety as a founding member of the hard core gangsta rap crew the 5th Ward Boyz. 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.

Eventually 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 release he caught another case that earned him 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 a much different message.

“I’m just trying to show young people that you don’t have to let street life consume and define you,” Barnes said.

Here's what 007 sounds like today:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jerry Falwell's Liberty University Turns to Hip Hop To Promote Enrollment

Jerry Falwell's Liberty University is turning to hip hop to promote enrollment and raise visibility for the conservative college.

In September, Washington D.C.'s Humble Tip, (real name Jason Lewis), recorded and released a song called "LU Anthem." Its video version was posted online just a few weeks ago.

The track has recently gotten some run (and mocking) on sites like The Huffington Post, Jesus Needs New PR, and Christian Nightmares.

Say what you will, at least the university acknowledges hip hop culture and is doing something to change the perception that the school is only for rich, Republican, white males.

Sure it's a little cheesy, but what college promo video isn't? At least it's not Freekbass' "We Are Notre Dame."

Plus, Tip's an established Christian hip hop artist and this isn't his only claim to fame.

In actuality, it's his day job. Lewis, an LU graduate, is currently working as an admissions counselor for the college.

To give you a taste of Tip's other (better) work, check out "Lethal PoiSIN"

Friday, November 5, 2010

Saturday's Old School Hip Hop Tour Brings Several Acts with Christian Rap Connections


This Saturday’s Fresh Fest Old School Reunion Tour will bring several acts to Houston who are now, or who have recently been, involved with Christian hip hop.

Kurtis Blow

Kurtis Blow is a rapper with a lot of “firsts.” He is largely regarded as one of the first commercially successful rappers, the first to sign with a major record label, and “The Breaks” single from his 1980 debut album is the first certified gold record rap song.

Now, he’s better known as the founder of The Hip Hop Church in New York and for his recordings with gospel hip hop acts like The Trinity and Young Chozen.

Cheryl "Salt" James from Salt N Pepa

Salt N Pepa has sold over 15 million albums and singles worldwide. Known for songs like “Push It” and “Let’s Talk About Sex,” SnP is the best selling female rap act, and six of their singles have been certified either platinum or gold.

The group disbanded in 2002 and Salt moved on, finding God and providing a few guest appearances on several Christian hip-hop flavored songs like the remix to Kirk Franklin’s smash hit “Stomp.”

Other collaborations:
Knine’s “Never Alone,” from Born Again
Salt City Six's "Shine", from Holy South: World Wide, a compilation of Christian rap and Christian R&P (Rhythm & Praise) songs

Christopher “Play” Martin from Kid ‘n Play

As one-half of Kid ‘n Play, Martin recorded three successful albums and starred in four hip-hop based comedy films: House Party, House Party 2, Class Act, and House Party 3. After the duo split in 1995, Play became a born-again Christian and focused on gospel rap.

Today, Play is the founder and CEO of HP4 Digital, a pre and post production multimedia company for film, digital media, and theater. In 2006, he released a documentary film titled Holy Hip Hop with the Atlanta-based company of the same name.

Primary source:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

5 Questions with Playdough: Dallas-based MC mashes lyrics from different genres on free "Writer Dye" album


Today, deepspace5 member Playdough drops his free Writer Dye concept album online. I recently connected with him for this quick Q&A.

Sketch: What inspired your new project Writer Dye - a concept album where you take lyrics from other bands and genres (including The White Stripes, Kings of Leon, The Violent Femmes, and Nirvana) and turn them into hip-hop songs?

Playdough: I usually put a lot of thought and effort into my hooks and song concepts. I knew this album was going to be a freebie so I didn't want to spend too much time conceptualizing these songs. I played with the idea of using other bands and genres lyrics and making them my chorus. I tried it and certain songs worked great. Then it became really fun and somewhat challenging to find a piece of someone else's song that I liked and try to make it work on another song that was totally different than the original.

If you think about it, it's the same thing as sampling when you're making a track. I took the part that I thought would work best and squeezed it into the place that I wanted it to go. I'm already used to doing that when I make beats.

Sketch: My perception is that Christians often have a limited music diet. As an MC who is known for your faith and has experience in the Christian music scene, would you agree with this statement? If so, why do you think that is the case?

Playdough: I think that's a fair statement for some Christians that are more casual music listeners. I tend to know a lot of musicians and people that are passionate about the arts. The Christians who are really into the arts have a very diverse musical pallet.

The more casual listeners seem to only have knowledge on what they listened to before they started following Christ. Or at least until they've gone through the phase of throwing away their music collection after hearing someone preach about how it's wrong to listen to worldly music only to buy it all again years later when they're a little stronger in their faith.

Sketch: You’ve given this and your last couple of projects (The Bible Bus and Who Is Harry Krum? mix and beat tapes) out for free. Why is that?

Playdough: I gave my beat tape away for free because I was doing it to promote my production and sell a few beats. The Bible Bus was a mixtape with beats that had been spit on by some of rap's greats, there's no way I could charge for that.

But honestly, the goal for The Bible Bus and now Writer Dye has been very strategic for me. It's been four years since I released a full length solo album. I realize there are a lot of people who don't know my music yet I can honestly say that when most people hear my music, they like it.

I wanted to gain as many new fans as possible. I wanted to do a mixtape to show fans I'm still on my game and still getting better while making new fans at the same time.

Writer Dye is supposed to be a step up from the mixtape, but still free so that people who are unfamiliar with me have nothing to lose by listening to my album. All of this is done as lead up to my official, real deal, you-have-to-buy-it album called Hotdoggin coming out in the Spring.


Sketch: You’re mostly known for the hip hop music you’ve released with collectives like Phonetic Composition and deepspace5. But your ill harmonics group has also released acoustic worship sets like Modern Heart Exhibit. When people find out about this side of your craft are they puzzled? How do you explain it to those who might be skeptical of such a dichotomy?

Playdough: Actually, more people know about my ill harmonics material than anything else I've done. As crazy as it sounds, the trickiest part is getting them to connect that ill harmonics is me.

People come to my shows and are blown away when they find out that the ill harmonics stuff is me. Folks will spend a lot of time telling me about how much they love ill harmonics, but have no clue what Playdough music sounds like.

To answer your second question, I've never felt I had to explain it and have never really been asked to. I hope my musical taste and body of work speaks for itself to the point that it's not surprising. I'm a very musical cat and always try to keep my hip-hop music with good song structure and good writing.

Sketch: Although you’re from Dallas, you don’t have the typical Texas rap sound heard on local radio. Is it a challenge to find support for your style of hip hop and have you ever been tempted to do something that may be more commercially-viable?

Playdough: It's challenging to find support on a large scale. The masses love the dirty south, "D-Town Boogie" dance music. A very small percentage of them like to think about life and eternity and knowledge and wisdom. I've flirted with some more southern style production that's a little different than what people are used to from me, but still very much my steez.

Honestly if I haven't sold out yet then I never will. I've been doing this too long to just now decide I want to get some real cash off this thing.

Download your free copy of Writer Dye right ‘chere.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Scribbling Idiot JustMe Pushes the Envelope with "Tragedy & Dope"


Veteran Christian hip hop rapper JustMe gets gritty on his latest project. I recently connected with him for this quick Q&A.

Sketch: You named your new album Tragedy & Dope and in your lyrics you say that God made both. To clarify, are you using the word “dope” to mean drugs or “dope” as slang for something positive? Is it like Run-DMC’s “not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good” line from the song “Peter Piper”?

JustMe: Absolutely! "Dope" as in hip hop slang for good.

Sketch: You’re a part of the Scribbling Idiots collective of mid-west MCs. How would you describe the hip hop scene where you’re at in Lexington, Kentucky and what’s the value for you as a solo artist linking up with a team like SI?

JustMe: There's actually a pretty good scene here in Lexington. Lextown is small, so the scene is small, but it is full of talent. We have shows nearly every week.

The Album is the name of a local hip-hop shop that supports the local scene and the college radio really supports.

As far as SI, it is a huge blessing to be part of such a talented crew. Those guys really push me to be sharp and creative and we really celebrate each other’s achievements.

Sketch: When we spoke recently, you told me you felt like this album was going to push the envelope as far as faith-based rap releases go. Listening to it, I definitely hear some words (either said or implied) and content matter that I believe would definitely keep it from being sold in Christian bookstores. Why did you feel the need to express yourself this way on this project?

JustMe: I have always tried to be really honest in my music. I've been repping Christ in hip-hop for 15 years and I don't feel like I've ever been accepted in that scene, so why censor myself now? I use some strong language on the album, but there is strong language used in the Bible. It’s all real and honest.

Sketch: The song “Sexual Confessional” seems to describe both your frustrations and fantasies about intimate physical intimacy with your wife – a topic rarely discussed in Christian music of any genre. Why do you think that is?

JustMe: I don't know. I touched on this a little on my last album too, on a song called "Third Round KO," and when the worship director heard it, she asked me to perform it at church. I did and everyone felt it.

It’s out there. Men and women are different. We have a hard time communicating sometimes and I think that it should reflect in the arts.

Sketch: Tragedy & Dope was entirely produced by Deacon The Villain of the underground hip hop group CunninLynguists and, to me, has a real, Whitey Ford Sings the Blues feel on the hooks. Tell me about how and why you connected with Deacon for the album and is that you singing the choruses?

JustMe: Nah, that's Deacon singing most of the hooks. I do sing on "Sexual Confessional" though.

Deacon and I have been friends since I moved to Kentucky eight years ago. We've worked together several times, but this was different.

Deacon reached out to me about a year ago and said that he wanted to produce my next record. I was overjoyed! He's an extremely talented human being.

Deacon is a Christian. His dad is pastor of a very large church here in Lexington. I think that through this record, he was able to communicate some things that he hasn't so much on CL records.

His involvement helps me to reach a new audience as well. I think it’s been great for both of us.

Sketch: The “Serenity Prayer” seems to be a recurring theme on Tragedy and Dope. Have you found that prayer becoming a regular part of your dialogue with God lately? If so, why?

JustMe: That prayer (spoken and applied) has been a recurring part of my relationship with God for years. If I couldn't let go and lay my baggage at His feet, I would literally go crazy.

Likewise, I want to be a man of action whenever I can make a change for the better. There is a difference between contentment and complacency. I want to be content in every situation, but I don't EVER want to be complacent.

Tragedy & Dope is available now for just $5 via JustMe’s Bandcamp site (where you can also sample each track) and will be offered via other traditional digital outlets on Tuesday, November 2.