Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Fonzworth Bentley's "Cool Outrageous" Faith Spurs New C.O.L.O.U.R.S. EP
The paparazzi snap one photo of you performing the role of a personal assistant to your boss and you’re forever labeled as “P.Diddy’s Umbrella Man.” Or maybe not.
Although that was once the life and celebrity slingshot moment for Fonzworth Bentley, aka Derek Watkins, he has since parlayed that fame into a viable career as an author, reality show host, motivational speaker, fashionista, and hip hop music recording artist.
Over the weekend, Bentley debuted his C.O.L.O.U.R.S. EP. It’s a project that was originally scheduled to drop on Good Friday but ended up surfacing three days later on Easter Sunday. Sound familiar?
Although unplanned, such spiritual analogies are not entirely off-base given Watkins’ Christian faith. In fact, he says he started publicly describing his art as “Kingdom Music” as far back as the 2009 MTV VMA Awards. (However, that bit of news probably got overshadowed by a little Taylor Swift/Kanye West dustup you might have read about.)
And speaking of Kanye – Bentley is a G.O.O.D. Music affiliate. At this year’s SXSW Music Festival in Austin he performed at the headline showcase for Kanye’s record label/artist collective. And the two have a professional relationship that at least dates back to the “Everybody” single and video he dropped in 2008 that featured both ‘Ye and Outkast’s Andre 3000 (who grew up with Watkins in Atlanta, GA.)
Additionally, April 22 was Earth Day. One of C.O.L.O.U.R.S.’ key tracks, released last summer, is a song called “Greener” featuring Anthony Hamilton. Bentley said he’s always been fond of layered meanings within his music and used the “Greener” video to include subtle messages related to the conservatory nature of that title by filming it at a wind farm and powering several cameras on the shoot with energy created by those turbines.
“It’s about going to higher heights and newer horizons,” Bentley said. “That includes a greener and healthier diet and taking better care of the planet because we’re on borrowed time. Those that are Kingdom-minded understand that we’re citizens of heaven and are really just ambassadors here.”
As a Christian in the mainstream music industry, Bentley said he’s taken special notice of the “Religion and Hip Hop Culture” class rapper Bun B co-taught at Rice University this semester. The two have worked together in the past (and on this album) and reconnected in Austin last month.
Watkins said he’s proud that Bun’s former rhyme partner, Pimp C, is featured on the EP’s title track and that the deceased rapper’s verse on that song is profanity free.
“Everybody knows that Pimp had a way with words and could even make cursing sound like sweet perfume,” Bentley said. “But at my request, he kept it clean.”
Bentley said he also convinced all of that song’s collaborators (including Bun B and Lil Wayne) to donate their publishing income from it to the children Pimp C left behind.
Another highlight of the EP is a testimony track titled “Believe It” he recorded with Faith Evans. In the song, Bentley recounts a dramatic healing he received from a possibly cancerous tumor in his abdomen. It’s one he also performed at the DaSouth.com’s Christian rap stage at SXSW.
Bentley said one of the most important things that other Christians can do for someone like him who proclaims his faith in the “secular” hip hop market is to pray for and encourage them.
“I know I have a voice that resonates and I could definitely use their help in gaining ‘angelic assistance’ instead of meeting ‘demonic resistance,’” he said.
Fonzworth Bentley’s C.O.L.O.U.R.S (Cool Outrageous Lovers Of Uniquely Raw Style) EP can be streamed in full at therealmrbentley.com. Select songs from the EP can be downloaded for free and others will be available for purchase via iTunes.