Monday, June 27, 2011

The Award Show God Shoutout Phenomenon

Author's note:

I posted this online a few years ago when I was helping promote The Fence documentary I worked on with Bobby "Tre9" Herring.

Given the time that has passed and our now diverted passions, I'm honestly not sure if it will ever be completed or released. But given that last night's BET Awards had plenty of this, I figured it would be worthy of resurrection today.

It seems to happen at every award show – so much so that it’s now a frequent punch line. The rapper who rhymes about selling drugs, pulling guns, and sleeping around with your girl gets honored for his work and the first thing out of his mouth is “I want to thank God.”

Why would someone promote and sell a lifestyle that appears to be so sinful if they are really trying to follow the ways of Jesus? How do they think their God receives such words of gratitude?

Is the “spiritual/Jesus track” at the end of the album a reflection of their true relationship with the Creator or something they tack onto the record to make their momma proud?

This year, we’ve already come through the Grammys, BET, and MTV Awards where such sentiments were no doubt proclaimed from the stage. There's also been the Dove and Stellar Awards where Christian music artists most certainly did the same thing.

Watch this exclusive clip from The Fence documentary series that explores these topics through interviews with people like Houston rap figures Paul Wall and Madd Hatta (97.9 KBXX) as well as comedian D-Ray and Christian rappers R-Swift and Urban D.

How would you respond to their stories, explanations, and reasons for this “Award-Show-God-Shoutout” phenomenon if you were in front of them? Are there valid reasons behind such sentiments?

Leave your comments here and let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

CaJo in Houston for Michael Vick football camp / DVD soundtrack


This just in:

Apparently Christian rapper/singer Canton Jones is in Houston today for Michael Vick's "Change the Game" football camp.

Via Twitter, CaJo noted that he's been asked to contribute to a DVD soundtrack of Vick's post-dogfighting/prison "Redemption Story."

Michael Vick’s Change the Game Weekend, to be held at the University of Houston Practice Field, benefits the foster care system and the urgent needs of those young people. It also included a meet and greet fundraiser held at the House of Blues Foundation Room on Saturday, June 25.

More details on the camp here.

Have questions about Canton's song posted above? I did too. Read about that here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bizzle's "Tough Love & Parables" hits #10 on iTunes Hip Hop Charts


Bizzle, the Christian rapper from Houston who is best known for targeting a song at Jay-Z questioning Hov's dark imagery and Jesus-related lyrics, released a new album today that is currently in the #10 position of iTunes Hip-Hop/Rap charts.

Since "Explaining to Do" hit over a year ago, the passionate MC has developed a sizable fanbase through his free Messenger mixtape series and furious retweets (RTs) of compliments from fans including mainstream artists like Malice (from The Clipse) and MC Hammer.

Tough Love and Parables is Bizzle's first full album and includes production from Houstonians Beanz N Kornbread (who have made hits for rappers Z-Ro and Paul Wall) and Canada's Boi-1da (who recently won Grammys with Eminem and Drake.)

The album started its chart ascent earlier today despite reports from some fans about technical issues with iTunes' download service.

And interestingly enough, to hit the #1 position Bizzle's package of Christian poems will have to unseat an album titled Hell: The Sequel by Bad Meets Evil - the side project from Eminem and Royce Da 5'9".

Friday, June 17, 2011

10 great Christian hip hip songs about fatherhood

The Cross Movement' s Enock (R.I.P.) with daughter Jayna

Earlier this week theBREAX released a free mp3 of “Fathers” which got me thinking about this weekend’s holiday and some other Christian hip hop songs about dads.

Below is a list (which is neither perfect nor exhaustive – but still intriguing and entertaining) of ten great tracks from faith-based MCs that celebrate fatherhood or provide a Godly perspective on the way this role introduces fear, fascination, and fulfillment in their lives.

“Parent Me” – J’Son featuring JR

To set the stage, let’s review the important role parents play in developing their children. This song and video dropped last year and rocked most of us with its stark illustration of that dependency. Told from the viewpoint of several different youths, it’ll certainly make you stop and think.

“Songbird Saturday” – Sivion

This is one of my all time faves. A Dallas-based MC named Sivion simply reveling in the joy of a lazy weekend with his wife and kids.

“Daddy Did Me” – Thi’sl

Unfortunately, many rappers didn’t grow up with a strong paternal presence. However, most of them desperately want to change that and avoid making the same mistakes their dad did. Here, Thi’sl lays out his plan to break that sick cycle.

“Inspiration” – Von Won

I was happy to capture this video of Houston rapper/singer Von Won at a local show before he moved off to Arizona (and then back again) for a ministry job. Over a sample from the band Chicago, he raps words of love and affirmation to each of his three kids.

“You Are” – Bless’t

In a similar vein, Houston’s Bless’t lays out a love song to his two little girls with an assist from Bruce Takara.

“A Grief Observed” – Muze One

Fatherhood can also bring tears and frustration. Witness Muze One’s recount of the struggle he has with his daughter’s illness and how he personally handled it as a dad and husband.

“Unborn Child” – Willie Will

The pain can even be greater for those who never met their kids.

“Lord You” – Sean Slaughter featuring Alvin Slaughter

Father/son associations can often become strained – even if your pops is a famous gospel singer. Watch and listen to this clip as Alvin and Sean Slaughter put their relationship under the microscope for us to observe.

NOTE: The volume starts out very low at the start of this video but comes in loud and clear once the song begins. Check for the relevant verses around the 2:30 mark.

“Pops Song” – LA Symphony

The artsy Cali-collective also expounds on the ups and downs of dealings with their dads in this single from Disappear Here.

I love these lines from Joey the Jerk:

My mom at work / my father check our homework every evening
I was deceiving / F’s and D’s I was receiving
I didn’t get whippings / I got African beatings

“Domesticated” – theBREAX featuring Blame One & Braille

And just so we bring it full circle and end on a happy note: Blame One, Braille, & theBREAX rhyme about the joys of being a good dad and husband. Perhaps the only rap video you’ll ever see with a dude dancing with vacuum cleaner.

Where there any titles I missed? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

VurseOne on graffiti, Spanish-language hip hop, and his Christian faith


On Saturday, Houston’s Jose “VurseOne” Ramirez is hosting an art show for graffiti writer Mario “MOE131” Jimenez. I caught up with him via e-mail recently to discuss that event and his own artistic expressions through aerosol and Spanish-language Christian hip hop.


Sketch: What exactly does it mean to curate a graffiti art show?

VurseOne: To curate an art show means that a person would need to scout and secure a gallery in which to exhibit the artist’s work and cover any costs associated with the show such as promotional materials and marketing. In our case, I was able to secure a financial investor that covered the cost of the gallery to run a whole week. Also, one closely advises the artist on how to best display his work, at what prices they should sell for, etc.

Sketch: What drew you to Mario “MOE131” Jimenez's work?

VurseOne: I met Mario my sophomore year of high school in art class and we drew together, painted together, and just hung out. Since day one I have been an admirer of his work because it is a reflection of his life and the people around him. His use of mixed mediums is very impressive with acrylics, automotive paint, airbrush, aerosols, and who knows what else.

His work is a very dark and colorful world. I believe that a true artist can make art out of anything and Mario is a true artist.

Sketch: You're both a Christian rapper (bilingual even) and graf writer. How do you explain those passions to people who think they're mutually exclusive from your faith?

VurseOne: I would explain it as talent with a purpose. Talent with no direction tends to not be very effective. When I rap I do it with the purpose of trying to deliver a word - almost like a lyrical sermon or a new way to present the Word of God to new generation.

And graffiti, to me, is just another medium in which to create art. My faith is the inspiration and motivation for all of it whether expressed musically or visually.


Sketch: Which artform is more rewarding for you?

VurseOne: That’s a good question. I would say the emcee part of it. I think people can connect more with what I’m saying and how I’m saying it as compared to what I painted and what they are seeing. Graff is limited in what it can say, but rap appeals to more of our senses.

Sketch: Which scene is more underdeveloped and deserves more attention and appreciation: Spanish, faith-based rap or faith-based graffiti art? Why do you think that is?

VurseOne: I think in Houston they both are. You have some really talented Spanish rappers but not enough emcees. These days anyone can rap, but not everyone raps about relevant messages.

For years Spanish Christian rap has been corny and cheesy, but The VRS.BOX Project [Vurse’s group effort with producer FXBOX] is trying to expose the listeners to a different side of that. I think it deserves more attention because of the creativity in bilingual rhyming. It’s hard to write in Spanish and still make it sound clever and witty.

Faith-based graffiti art is virtually non-existent in Houston. It’s bigger in places like San Francisco and Australia. There you have very talented individuals creating detailed and creative murals with a spray can who are well respected in the graff world. That’s the thing about hip-hop, whether Christian or not, if it’s well done it will be respected.

I think a lot of the under appreciation and lack of attention is due to the people who were doing it wrong. Hip hop is very non-discriminatory. If it’s wack, no matter who you are, it’s wack. If it’s dope, it’s dope.


Labwerks Media & ENB Magazine present Mario "MOE131" Jimenez for his first solo show "Moe's Dark & Colorful World." It will take place Saturday, June 18, 2011 at War'Hous Gallery - 4715 Main St, Houston, TX 77002 from 7-11pm.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Favorite Christian hip hop dad-raps?


This week's remixWEDNESDAYS free download from theBREAX is an appreciation song for all the dads leading their families and raising their kids.

The track is produced by Sound Collage Musik and features Shaady G. It also features vocal samples from Mark Gungor ("Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage") and pastor Paul Washer.

Given that topic and this weekend's holiday, what are some of your other favorite Christian hip hop songs that deal with fatherhood?

Listen the track below and download the mp3 here if you dig it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My thoughts on "Hell: The Sequel" & "Goblin"

Earlier this year I was honored to join The Rap Up blog's squad of fire-spitting writers. One of the things I enjoy most about contributing to this mainstream hip hop outlet is jumping on team reviews for their Brain Trust posts.

The most recent include our takes on Hell: The Sequel from Bad Meets Evil (aka Eminem & Royce da 5'9") and Goblin from buzzworthy Odd Future frontman Tyler, the Creator.

Peep the links below to read my thoughts on each one alongside the opinions of other TRUbians.


Bad Meets Evil Brain Trust review


Goblin Brain Trust review

Von Won crafts apology song/video to other Christian rappers

As you may or may not know, my man Von Won can occasionally let his passion get the best of him. From time to time, with the zeal of an early believer, his words and actions hurt other people. (A certain sword-swinging disciple named Simon Peter was like that too.)

Recently, he's had a few run-ins with other Christian rappers (specifically Thi'sl, J'son, and Houston's Lita Rodi) over his content and approach to music ministry. Never a shy guy, Von has often publicly vocalized his frustrations with these perceived double standards, closed relationships, and misunderstandings.

And now he's done what any good artist does: he put it into his work.

Behold "Bow Down" - a melodic rap song about submission and asking for forgiveness. I love this dude.

Von Won "Bow Down" Official Music Video from Von Won on Vimeo.

This track will be a part of Von's One City Under God album releasing on Friday, June 24.

Monday, June 13, 2011

How do you define a "mixtape"? - Interview with DJ Aslan

A few months back my man DJ Aslan and Lil Dre from Church Boy Entertainment came to Houston for the "5,000 Tour."

It was my first time meeting either guy and gave me the opportunity to ask Aslan a question that's been buzzing lately:

With all the free/street/digital albums flooding the Internetz lately, what's the true definition of a "mixtape"?

In addition to that question, we also talked about Christian hip hop turntablism, the tour, and how he got his DJ name.

What are your thoughts? How do you define "mixtape"? Is DJ Aslan's description too restrictive or right on the money?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ambassador & CaJo collab? "STOP THE FUNERAL" tracklisting revealed


STOP THE FUNERAL, Ambassador's much-anticipated, post-fall release, just had its tracklisting revealed and has a few guest spots that are certainly interesting.

Given their perceived theological differences, can you imagine a Canton Jones/Deuce collab back in the Cross Movement era?

1. A-M

2. Get With Us ft. Sean Simmonds

3. Mind Made Up

4. Pop Pop Pop

5. Up Down ft. Charmaine

6. Favor ft. Canton Jones

7. Bring You Out ft. Melissa T

8. Talk This Way

9. Crumbs ft. Jessica Reedy

10. Trust In You ft. Mali Music

11. Nothing Like Us ft. Ryan Stevenson & Charmaine

12. Your Love ft. KJ52 & Michelle Bonilla

13. Put It Down

14. The Reunion Cypha ft. God’s servant, J.A.Z., shai linne, C-Lite, Cruz Cordero & DJ Wade-O

STOP THE FUNERAL will be Ambassador's 4th solo project and his first CD release with new joint venture Xist Music/220 Entertainment. It drops on July 12, 2011.

Which guest spot draws your eye most?

Here's a taste of one of the first singles:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

7VNSEAL talks mixtapes, Wu-Tang, and sitting down before taking the mic


I recently caught up with 7VN Seal a.k.a Gods Dagger (formally 80proof) via e-mail to discuss his free mixtape, his Wu-Tang influence, and coming off the mic after his Christian conversion.

Sketch: Early in your rap career you had some association with the Wu-Tang Killa Bees family. What events took you out of that world and into the church?

7VN Seal: My association with some of Wu was mostly just doing a few tracks here and there. The events leading up to my conversion were plain and simple: it was all lustful sin!

I was doing music for a while, so to finally work with guys like the Killarmy told me I was on my way to the top because they are ill artists. My main connection didn’t happen overnight, but during the time I knew them they treated me good and we heavily promoted each other on the tracks I was working on. By the time I linked up with Shyheim I wanted to start some shows out in Texas and came to San Antonio to begin to work on the P.R. side of things.

So these events in 2007-09 and prior led me to get to where I am in Christ today. In a nut shell, GOD SET ME UP! One night, on March 16th, when I was supposed to go to a publicity event for our music I spoke to a pastor. He said he had a word for me from the Lord that this was my last chance. I knew right there that I should have been dead a long time ago or in the penitentiary for a long time.

Now I truly know His mercy and grace was over my life. That night I left everything, accepted Christ, and ended up at Victory Gospel Chapel under headship with Bishop Donny Banks. I remain in Christ to this day. I mean there is way more to this story, but this is the short end of it.

Sketch: What positive or negative lessons did you learn in being around that type of environment?

7VN Seal: Shoot, what I thought was positive was really the destruction of my soul. A lot of smoke and liquor and, well, you know the rest. I was into some of that before I knew those guys but now it was just amplified ten times over. It was all sin – dirty, evil sin - nothing good was in it but Satan’s playground. But I did learn about the business.

Sketch: Wu-Tang is known for having their own philosophy/religious outlook on life. How difficult was it for you to “unlearn” that way of thinking and reconcile it with your current Christian faith?

7VN Seal: My faith then, if that, was not Godbody or 5% or Islam. I know some of them share those ideas of religion, but I was never really into all of that because I’m a very skeptical cat and very analytical. So I didn’t even agree with a lot of it but we still did music together. I had heard of Jesus then but never knew him as the Christ.


Sketch: When we first spoke, you were taking some time to sit down under the leadership of your church in San Antonio before coming back to the mic as a recording artist. What did you learn during that time and is that a process you would recommend for other rappers coming “out of the world” who might want to immediately use their musical talent for the cause of Christ?

7VN Seal: What I learned was that my life wasn’t as glamorous as I thought it was in comparison to the Word of God. I was gaining the world but my soul was lost. I learned to shut up and sit down somewhere and get Christ and stay saved.

For too many years my flesh and soul had been in charge. It was time for my spirit man to be led by the Holy Ghost. Hebrews 4:12 “…you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” says it all.

Secondly, I would recommend the process our Lord lays out in Mathew 6:33 – “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” Don’t be so quick to do music. First you have to be delivered from self before you can be a leader to others. Learn to follow and serve in the kingdom, serve the body of Christ and be under headship. The bible says to be submissive to those whom God has put over you. God doesn’t need rebel rappers without headship. He needs real men and woman of God.

Better to be obedient than to sacrifice. Psalm 37:4 says “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Patience takes time to build. Take the time for the Lord to renew your mind. That doesn’t happen overnight, that takes a lot of prayer and fasting in the Lord.

Sketch: Why did you decide to link up with DJ Wade-O for the “Keep My Boots Madd Muddy” mixtape and where does that title come from?

7VN Seal: One day I was searching for Christian websites and came across Anyhow, I call this dude up and told him my testimony and from there on we starting building and did an in-depth interview on his show. We kept building and behold, a year later we were working on a project for Christ.

Regarding the title, the bottom line is Ephesians 6:12 - “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

This is everyday, not just when you feel like it. I’ve got stories that can put chills down people’s spines. I know for a fact that demons exist, that Satan exists. We had a personal relationship if you will back in the day.

So if they are real, then the word of God has to be real.

Now back to Ephesians and the weapons of war, I gots to keep my boots madd muddy, yo. If not then I can be kept off guard and I don’t like that at all!


Dig in your closet for your Timberlands and chess set and download the “Keep My Boots Madd Muddy” mixtape for free right here.