Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: Wiz Khalifa's "Rolling Papers"

I contributed to a "Brain Trust" review of Wiz Khalifa's new Rolling Papers album along with four other talented writers at The Rap Up.

Sample line: "You're trying too hard, B."

I also work in a reference to Music-Related-Punching-Bag-Of-The-Moment Rebecca Black.

Read the full review here.

NOTE: The Rap Up is a mainstream hip hop blog so it's possible that you'll see ads, images, or other content that might make your pastor blush.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bavu Blakes Tackles "Eddie Long" at SXSW

It was the headline that caught my attention: “Eddie Long at South by Southwest.”

In the immortal words of Liz Lemon: “What the what?!?”

Then I saw that it was a performance video by rapper/journalist/minister (and former Austinite) Bavu Blakes and it rocked me.

This is an excellent hip hop song for a couple of reasons:

It’s edgy.
Anyone following Bishop Eddie Long in the news lately will be immediately drawn in by the title and wonder what this MC has to say about a pastor accused of inappropriate sexual relationships with young men under his leadership.

It’s layered.
It may take a few listens, but catch what Blakes is really saying. It may not be what you thought after the first run through.

It offers something of value.
Again, back to the message – here, the poet is encouraging self introspection and leading by example by taking Jesus' words in John 8:7 to heart.

"When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

But what are your thoughts?

Should the legal troubles of a highly-visible public minister like Bishop Long be a topic of modern music?

Do those within the Christian faith have a right to "throw stones" at someone like Bishop Long given the serious nature of these accusations?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Surprise: Shad beats Drake for Canadian Grammy

In a surprising turn of events Sunday night, indie rapper Shad beat out Drake (the "Best I Ever Had" / Young Money favorite) for the Rap Recording of the Year trophy at the Juno Awards for his album TSOL.

Although not on a "Christian record label" or a part of the Christian rap scene, Shad is plenty outspoken about his faith in interviews and his rhymes.

In the November/December issue of Relevant Magazine he said "Any time I read four or five verses of what Jesus said and taught, that's enough for me. It's a serious challenge. It's a way of life that's very foreign to all of us. But it resonates as the right way to go about things."

I'm curious:

1. If another rapper in the States could follow his pattern of living out his faith while in the midst of the mainstream hip hop culture.

2. If the American music scene would embrace an artist like that the way our neighbors to the north have.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

VID: Dre Murray & 007 (5th Ward Boyz) Break Down the Realness of "Good Times"

Backstage at SXSW I had the opportunity to return the "Good Times" Season 1 DVDs that Dre Murray loaned me after I tweeted that I had never watched the show. (Shocking, I know.)

That encounter led to this riff from Dre and 007 (formerly of the 5th Ward Boyz) who wanted to let me know how GT kept it 'trill.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Still Trill Christians Receive White House Recognition

Houston's Still Trill Christians were recently honored with President Obama's "Call to Service" award and medal for their continued support of the country's youth and for their "No Sex" song/campaign in particular. The track sounds like a mainstream bedroom rap song but instead encourages teens to resist the pressures of pre-martial intercourse.

Group members JT (Joshua Dillard, 23), ACE (Antawan Moore, 24), Prince AJ (Albert McQueen, 20) and Erupt (Elwyn Dillard, 24) formed the group at their church home In Christ Ministries in Humble,Texas several years ago. Last January they were invited to perform the track and gave their testimony on BET's popular "106 & Park" show.

The group recently signed with positive music promoter Rick Hendrix whose company currently works Jennifer Hudson, Whitney Houston, U2 and Aretha Franklin. "I am so excited about these guys, they bring a new vibe to hip hop, the church, street, back porch and front porch," Hendrix said.

STC member JT explained, "The church is in us but we’re taking it beyond the church. Jesus wasn’t in the church; He was in the streets spreading the ministry. And that’s what we intend to do.”

For more on STC visit

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Recap: SXSW 2011 - Hip Hop Hope

Our Hip Hop Hope Unity Conference panel discussion at the Carver Cultural Center

Three days later I think I'm FINALLY catching up on the sleep lost from late nights at SXSW.

Our third year there presenting Christian hip hop in a variety of formats was another good one. We had a jam packed concert roster, a killer panel discussion, and three full days of events.

Highlights include:

Thursday's Artist Fellowship Dinner

I wasn't able to attend, but several people told me how much they enjoyed this kickoff event. There, artists and fans were all the same and got to know each other on a personal level outside of the stage.

Frontline crew's performance of "U Rydin" from Friday night's showcase concert

By the time 10pm rolled around the crowd energy had (understandably) waned - that is until these Houston boys came up and absolutely wrecked shop. See the video below and ask yourself: Is Frontline the next 116 Clique?

Fonzworth Bentley

The former Diddy personal assistant/MTV's "G's to Gents" reality show host and current fashion entrepreneur/G.O.O.D. Music signee worked both of our concerts AND panel discussion into his busy schedule and was an awesome addition to the weekend. (Props to theBREAX for making that connect.) Be sure to keep and eye out for Bentley's new work and encourage him in the faith when you can.

The artist panel discussion

Wow! I organized and moderated the thing, but God was the one who used and orchestrated the conversation. Our discussion focused on the practicalities of full-time music ministry and was so good we had to extend its run time by at least half an hour. There were varied viewpoints but a unified purpose and vision. Peep the video clip below for a short sample.

Scott Free played host on Friday night & workshop instructor on Saturday

Scott Free's Hip Hop Missions workshop

I wish more artists were able to attend this because the content was so rich and challenging. I take the blame for that because we had to rearrange the schedule at the last minute, but if you get a chance, be sure to check out this message and what Free is doing with this City Takers movement in Atlanta.

Solo from the Gospel Gangstaz busts out his sword - Photo by Von Won

Gospel Gangstaz mix old school and new school

The OGG's reminded us that the West Coast still reps the cross and had a high energy and fun performance of "Keep It on the Low" with mic partners 007 & Martay on stage to do it up right.

JR was interviewed by the Factor Effects crew backstage at Saturday night's concert

New songs from JR, Da' T.R.U.T.H., and Ambassador

We haven't heard from some of these guys in a minute so it was nice to see them again and get a sneak peek at all three of their upcoming albums.

The Christian rap community took over a restaurant after everything was done

40+ Christian rap artists and affiliates at Baby Acapulco's

Once the last mic cord was wrapped about 40 of us ended up crashing a Tex-Mex joint at 12:30am. It was a great way to end a long weekend with a ton of new and old friends.


That's just a brief glimpse of what went down. For more, follow all of your favorite Christian hip hop artists on Twitter or Facebook as I'm sure even more photos and videos will be popping up online in the weeks to come.

And prayerfully, we'll be back to rep the King through hip hop at SXSW again next year.

More pics:

DJ D-Lite & DJ Wade-O man the turntables at Friday night's concert

Pro gets hyped before hitting the stage - Photo by Von Won

CheeseBeats, Tre9, and Von Won chill in the artist green room - Photo by Von Won

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Official Christian Rap @SXSW 2011 Workshops & Panel Discussion details


It's here - the Christian rap weekend at SXSW kicks off today and the schedule and lineup details for's Hip Hop Hope Unity Conference Saturday have been announced. Here's the rundown:

Saturday, March 19
The official SXSW Hip Hop Hope Unity Workshops, Film Preview, & Panel Discussion
Location: The Carver Cultural Center - 1165 Angelina Street, Austin, TX 78702
Time: 11am-3:30pm
All events are FREE and open to the public - No badges, wristbands, or pre-registration necessary

Artist Panel Discussion
Time: 11:00pm – 12:30pm (1.5 hour)
Participants: Solo, Chile Baby, Da’ T.R.U.T.H., Ambassador, Thi’sl, Pro, D-MAUB, Lil Raskull, & Sketch the Journalist (moderator)

The Heart of Hip Hop Missions Workshop
Time: 12:35pm – 1:20pm (45 minutes)
Participants: Scott Free (Freestyle Missions - ATL)

Hip Hop Hope Unity Workshop
Time: 1:25 – 2:10pm (45 minutes)
Participants: Tre9, C-Aphilyated, Apaulsoul

DJ/Producer Panel Discussion
Time: 2:15pm – 3:00pm (45 minutes)
Participants: DJ Wade-O, DJ D-Lite, Chris Chicago, Kadence (Producer), Marv4Beats (Producer), & Sketch the Journalist (moderator)

Film preview – Unashamed Tour / 116 Movement
Time: 3:05pm – 3:30pm (30 minutes)
Participants: Art Hooker

Press Conference Information
Due to time constraints we are not able to have a separate press conference. However, media will have access to interview artists in a private area during the entire workshop sessions from 11am-3:30pm

NOTE: Although not anticipated, this lineup and participant list is subject to change.

And don't forget to join us afterward for presents The Life In Hip Hop blowout concert from 5pm to 10pm at Promiseland Church located at 1504 East 51st Street, Austin, TX 78723.

Again, this is a FREE, open-to-the-public event. No wristbands, badges, or pre-registration necessary.

For more details and the lineup visit

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Bless You" (cover of Cee-Lo's "F--k You") is the new "Christian Side-Hug"

"Bless You" (cover of Cee-Lo's "F--k You") is the new "Christian Side-Hug."

I should hate this. But I don't. For the most part, I believe the dude is just trying to be funny. And the video is not without its own brand of hilarity.

  • The bass player who never moves
  • The awesome MC Hammer clip that plays when he substitutes the word "legit" for Cee-Lo's original scatological exclamation
  • The American Jesus reference complete with flag banner background
  • The way this reminds me of some off-base Christians who actually use "Bless You" in the same way that Cee-Lo uses "F--k You."
  • "Oh look, he's a false teacher / just thought you should know preacher"
So go ahead and enjoy this in the good humor in which it was intended. (But please, please, don't confuse this with authentic faith-based hip hop.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Patty Cake, Patty Cake, Preacher Man? - My interview with Malice from The Clipse


A month or so ago I had the opportunity to interview Malice from The Clipse about his renewed spiritual direction.

Our conversation occurred just before his book about that experience dropped on Valentine's Day. Since then I've received and read Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind, and Naked and mainstream hip hop website The Rap Up published a piece I wrote about it.

Topics include:

- How he describes faith
- How we know he's legit or not
- How his brother (and Clipse rhyme partner) Pusha T feels about his new direction
- The Illuminati

Click here to read the full thing.

NOTE: I mentioned that The Rap Up is a mainstream hip hop blog. As such, you may see ads, images, and content that does not align with your spiritual convictions. If that's an issue for you feel free to skip.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

VID: KJ-52 bathroom freestyle

Recite pre-written rhymes while a classmate bangs on a lunch table.

Freestyles topics suggested by fans on Twitter & Facebook while a professional drummer makes beats on fixtures in a public restroom.

He wins.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

“Youth Can Lead” Movement Against Explicit Radio Rap Continues At This Weekend’s Real Talk Teen Conference in Missouri City

Soliders On a Mission (S.O.M.) perform at last month's Youth Can Lead event

The “Youth Can Lead” movement that began last month will continue to try and motivate teens to rebel against explicit rap music played on the radio at this Saturday’s “Real Talk Teen Conference” in Missouri City.

Pastor Craig D. Hayes organized the effort in partnership with his CrossingPoint Christian Church and Hightower High School in Fort Bend ISD (where he also sits on the board of their campus-based leadership team.) Part of the event will include performances from positive hip hop artists and a panel discussion about the variety of messages contained in rap lyrics.

“Not all elements of hip hop are bad,” Hayes said. “But with our conference we want give students and parents a deeper perspective on the music that’s such a large part of their lives.”

The “Youth Can Lead” movement’s current focus is to gather over 1,000 FCC complaint letters against the “Let’s Make a Movie” song by Chicago rapper Twista and R&B artist Chris Brown.

The track, which is currently in rotation at both 97.9 KBXX and Hot 95.7, is about the narrators' attempts to persuade a female to make a pornographic film.

Sample lyrics:

"And you know I think you a hell of an actress
Especially when I'm shooting you on a mattress

Shawty, straight to the top, that's where we headed
And I'ma see my name in the credits

and be the sh-t if you let it"

Attendees signed formal FCC complaint letters at last month's Youth Can Lead rally

The panel discussion will touch on that song, others like it, and also ask questions about the hip hop lifestyle image that is mass marketed versus the actual reality of musicians in that industry. Participants will include Pastor Hayes, Bobby “Tre9” Herring, Andre “007” Barnes (from the 5th Ward Boyz), Pyrexx (an affiliate of the mainstream rap group ABN), and a few selected students.

In addition exploring the influence of negative rap music on the radio, Hayes said his event will discuss dating violence, “sexting,” and bullying. All aspects of the conference are free and open to the public. It will be held from 11am until 2pm and include giveaways and sponsorship from local businesses like Chili’s, Chick-fil-A, Buffalo Wild Wings, HEB, Pizza Hut, and Demeris Bar-B-Q.

Hayes said he understands the delicate balance his event faces in a government-funded public school and does not intend to proselytize.

“We’ll just let our light shine and show how churches and schools can partner with one another to make a positive impact on our community,” Hayes said. “All it takes is some maturity on the part of the church and some openness on behalf of the schools. Together we can provide a real service to those around us.”

The Youth Are Listening Campaign from Von Won on Vimeo.

Friday, March 4, 2011

VIBE Magazine photographs Lecrae shopping and riding in elevators before the Grammys

Photograph shot exclusively for VIBE by Hiltron Bailey

VIBE Magazine sent a photographer to follow Lecrae around during his recent trip to LA for the Grammys.

The result is a slide show of him doing exciting things like shopping at the mall and riding both an elevator AND an escalator!

The expanded coverage of Christian hip hop is nice, but this is just straight up boring.

Even Lecrae agrees. Peep this recent Tweet back to fellow artist Jai.


At least they gave him a more in-depth interview piece earlier.

(Heads up that this is a mainstream rap site and there's a LOT of flesh in the sidebar ads. If that's an issue for you, feel free to pass. You're really not missing much.)

Parts I found cool though:
  • Lecrae shows he's just a regular dude - sharing the moment with his wife and family
  • He made it a point to show he was shopping a clearance rack ("You got money? You got paper? / So what? Who cares?)
  • At Lids, my man looked to be seriously considering an Houston Astros cap to rep his hometown

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Von Won enlists Nuwine & Lil Keke for "One City Under God"


Von Won
is getting serious about this "One City Under God" song/campaign he's targeting for Easter weekend.


As the name and these photos swiped from his Facebook page indicate, he's working toward a unity movement with some of Houston's most well-known hip hop faces including Lil Keke (from the Screwed Up Click) and none other than Nuwine.

Stay tuned.