Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Houston's mayor declares official "Bun B Day"

The rapper/professor posted this photograph of the official proclamation to his @BunBTrillOG account on Twitter

Bernard Freeman has done it again - making both hip hop and Houston history with yesterday's City Hall proclamation from Mayor Annise Parker of an official "Bun B Day."

The accommodation declared that August 30, 2011 would be known for the rapper/professor in recognition of his commitment to community service.

Within the last few years, the UGK rapper has served Houston both privately and publicly through efforts like:

- Co-teaching a "Religion and Hip Hop Culture" class at Rice University
- Headlining 97.9 KBXX's "Hip Hop 4 HIV" concert
- Speaking to a local youth mentorship group
- Participating in Rap-A-Lot Records & All Eyes On Me Ministries' "Hip Hop Hope Family Fun Day"
- Participating in a Real Talk Teen Assembly at Willowridge High School

Bun B with the TWEF Eagle Scholars in May
- Photo by Sketch the Journalist

The Houston Press reports that Bun B used the occasion to speak to and encourage a more active focus on the issues facing young people.
"I do believe that presently in Houston there is a need for more hands on attention for the youth of the city, either with after school programs or just a general need for attention to the children.

I'd like to take this opportunity to tell the City Council that I am available 24-7/365 when it comes to the children of Houston as well as the surrounding cities and communities. Whenever the city needs me, I am more than willing and able to answer the call.

I ask everyone who is here present today, as well as those who may see this on TV or the internet later, to do their part as well."

Having worked with Bun through several panel discussions and outreaches with Christian rapper Bobby "Tre9" Herring, I can confirm that he is indeed approachable, reachable, and very interested in making a positive contribution to community outside of his music.

Without a doubt it would be great to see more mainstream rappers follow his lead.

Here's a clip of the presentation from The Rap Up blog.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Houston pastor believes Friday’s rap concert will bring “Hope” to the Third Ward

Houston's Von Won performs at last year's "Hope for the Tre" event - photo courtesy of Von Won

Patrick Ngwolo has a bold vision that a hip hop concert this Friday night can bring hope to the Third Ward neighborhood where he is the pastor of youth and young adult ministries at Houston’s Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

The event, called “Hope for the Tre 2” (playing off a slang term for the area), will start at 7pm and feature nationally known rappers Thi’sl and PRo (whose Dying to Live album hit as high as number three on iTunes’ overall sales chart when it was released on Tuesday.)

“Through the efforts of this concert we will reach into the community-at-large with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Ngwolo said. “We believe that what we are doing is not just a concert, but a Christ-cert.”

“We can be literally new creations in Christ Jesus, living lives that reflect Him in strong families, love for our brothers (no violence) and love for our sisters (no sex without marriage, no STDs, etc). If enough people in this community hear this gospel and believe this gospel, this community will be changed. He is the hope for the Tre.”


Ngwolo said he selected the event’s rap roster (which also includes artists from Houston) based on their authenticity and passion for ministry.

“Thi'sl has a genuine, gritty sound that appeals to the streets and to who we are ultimately trying to reach. His music has a rawness that most artists do not allow to come out in their songs,” Ngwolo said. “But that alone would not have been enough. Being real without connecting people to Jesus is a fail, and we think that both PRo and Thi'sl successfully do this. They build bridges for people to cross from the messiness of the culture to the perfection of Christ.”

For more details and ticket information visit Good Hope’s website.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Malice (The Clipse) book signing this Friday, August 26 in Houston


Gene Elliott Thornton, Jr.'s Christian testimony is a powerful one - especially if you know his history as a member of The Clipse, a gritty rap group he founded with his brother Pusha T, who are mostly known for their witty and realistic depictions of the drug game.

Malice (his stage name) recently released an autobiography that details his renewed spiritual direction called Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind and Naked and a few months ago Relevant Magazine published portions of my interview with him about the book.

This Friday, August 26th the artist/author will be in town to sign copies and meet his readers and fans.

Details are below:

Friday, August 26th

3pm to 5pm

SF2 South
7204 SW FWY
Houston, TX 77074
(713) 995 4458

If you can, definitely try and make it out to show Malice some H-town love and pick up your copy of the book. It's certainly a quick and captivating read.

The blog author and book author met in April after "Religion and Hip Hop Culture" panel discussion for Bun B's Rice University class.

PRo/Reach Records’ Video Game Promo Shows Benefit Of Signing To A Label


PRo and Reach Records' killer video game promotion for Dying to Live (dropping 8/23/11) shows the benefit of signing to a label.


Peep my post over at The Rap Up.

My thoughts on "Watch the Throne"

Kanye West & Jay-Z's collab Watch the Throne album is one of the most-buzz about records of the year.

Wanna know my thoughts on the project? Check out my contribution to the Brain Trust group review over at The Rap Up.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

S.O.M. talks about the "Next Chapter" of their group and Houston's Christian hip hop scene


I recently caught up with Raymond “Chizzell” Steward of the group S.O.M. (Soldiers On a Mission) via e-mail to discuss their new album how they’ve witnessed changes in both the group and the Houston Christian hip hop scene.

Sketch: Your new album is titled The Next Chapter and the cover art features one less group member than before and you guys wearing coats and ties in a large library. I’m guessing those things aren’t a coincidence. Can you share a little bit more about those choices?

Chizzell: The choice on the outfits and library was actually made over a year ago. We were going through some transitions in our lives and in our group and we knew that it was time to turn the page – hence the The Next Chapter theme. The look that we wear is "us.” We wanted to reveal who we truly are and what we stand for. Everyone goes through seasons in their lives and an album cover with baggy clothes and t-shirts in front of a car we don't own doesn't represent us. In regards to having one less member that is part of The Next Chapter as well. The Next Chapter and library represents a place of much thought, planning, and prayer.

Sketch: You guy were part of what might be considered the “second generation” of Houston’s Christian hip hop scene. What sort of changes (both positive and negative) have you witnessed in our city’s gospel rap community during your time in it?

Chizzell: Positive changes would have to be the quality in beats, talent, videos, and overall presentation of the genre. It is weird that people look up to us the same way that we looked up to Nuwine and Lil Raskull back in the day. I am impressed by the reduction of "corny" Christian rappers. A lot of these guys are very great at their craft.

The negative side of Christian rap is the same struggle that those had before us and those will have after us which is support and unity! I think that the small market for Christian rap has artists focused more on competition than the call. There is definitely a spirit of "hoarding" in Christian rap that causes people to keep their talent, gifts, and connections for their crew.

Sketch: Two of your group members are twin brothers. How has that impacted group dynamics throughout the years?

Chizzell: The funny thing about that is it is a trademark of S.O.M. It allows people who may forget the name to always say "You're in that Christian group with the twins right?" Just like all brothers they give each other a hard time. However, they are in synch with ministry and that helps when it comes to the unity of the group and our decade of servanthood.

The Lord works in mysterious ways because he gave each of the twins a son and blessed me with twin boys. So, in several years you will be able to ask the next generation of S.O.M. this same question.


Sketch: What are you most proud of about your Christian hip hop ministry efforts so far?

Chizzell: The ability for people to learn from all of our mistakes. The ability to re-invent ourselves based of what God is trying to do. There is nothing great about us so I am proud/honored that the Lord has allowed us to see and do so much with this gift.

Sketch: In your opinion and experience, is Christian hip hop mostly a tool/movement of the youth or is it something that can grow with its audience? Why?

Chizzell: I think that Christian hip hop can grow with its audience. However, growth is, and I believe will continue, to be very slow. We promote an unpopular message and are competing against a formidable foe (media). People have spoken and the majority chooses to support the "popular message" (drugs, sex, alcohol, violence).

I guess the best way for me to put it is all our seeds will pay off (eventually) but I am thinking more like a 401k.

S.O.M.’s The Next Chapter can be purchased online via iTunes,, and other digital distribution outlets.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Christian hip hop song/video tackles gay bullying

The good folks over at Illect Recordings have just released a video for “Concealed Sorrow” – one of the most heart-wrenching Christian hip hop songs I’ve ever heard and one of the reasons I nominated Theory Hazit & Toni Shift’s Modern Marvels as one of my Top 5 Albums of last year.

Inspired by a true story of pain, hate, and loss, "Concealed Sorrow" goes a little deeper than your average rap song.

The track, which is based on a real life incident witnessed as a youth by now-pastor and university professor Dr. Tony Campolo, is told from the perspective of a bullied, undefended, and forgotten gay high school student who ended up taking his life after receiving the brunt of horrible actions from his classmates.

Theory says he wrote 'Concealed Sorrow' hoping that the church would listen, watch, and perform the love of Christ to all that struggle.

“Perhaps this message is just what the culture needs – a wake up call to begin standing up for the downtrodden and outcasts of our society," Theory said. "At the very least, 'Concealed Sorrow' should serve as an eye opener for anyone who thinks that bullying and hate are minor issues. Family members, friends from high school, and co-workers also inspired the song and short film. I pray that Christians would step up and be as we are called."

To catch the clip, read the lyrics, and the full backstory from the song visit

Monday, August 8, 2011

Photo recap: Hip Hop Hope Family Fun Day 2011


On Saturday, August 6 the Prince Complex (owned by Rap-A-Lot Records' J. Prince) and Eyes On Me Ministries (run by Christian rapper Bobby "Tre9" Herring) partnered together for another Hip Hop Hope Family Fun Day in Houston's 5th Ward.

They expected a crowd of about 1,000 people to enjoy and receive free backpacks full of school supplies, haircuts, food, inflatable games, and positive hip hop music.

Below is a quick-hit, photo recap of some of the festivities. All photos by Sketch the Journalist.

The 100-plus degree temperatures didn't stop people from lining up at the gates early for the 2011 Hip Hop Hope Family Fun Day.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee stopped by to give an official proclamation of recognition to Tre9 for the Prince Complex mission events held on this day and every week as part of Hip Hop Hope Tuesdays.

Volunteers served cotton candy to kids and adults.

The servant D. Davis did double duty as sound/stage coordinator and performing artist.

Rappers Hillary Jane, Wretch, and Archie of the group Second came out to share music and support.

Former Houston Rocket Steve "Franchise" Francis (white tank top) greets UGK rapper Bun B (white t-shirt) after the 3-point and slam dunk contests.

Even "seasoned saints" enjoyed the day. And yes, Pops in the quad-roller skates knew how to throw down once the music started cranking.

Houston's hip hop mayor Bun B spoke, encouraged, and thanked the crowd.

Tre9, reggae artist Denzil, and 007 (5th Ward Boyz) share a smile

View from the back of the crowd

Soon-to-be-kindergartener Eleazar shows off his new backpack full of supplies

Tre9 asked the crowd to pray for Victory Prep Christian Academy (represented by the pastor on the left) and the Prince Family (represented by Mrs. Mary Prince on the right) who helped fund and organize the event.

BONUS: This dude to the right of me was an unannounced guest.

So I guess that "ALIVE! Is Michael Jackson Really Dead?" documentary I streamed on Netflix last week was legit after all.


Monday, August 1, 2011

DJ D-Lite on Christian rhythm and praise, holy hip hop, and sacred love songs


I recently caught up with former Texas-city resident Damon “DJ D-lite O'Brien via e-mail to discuss his new rhythm and praise website, the difference between Christian hip hop and R&P, and whether or not the genre offers anything like the “Songs of Solomon.”

Sketch: You recently launched – an online hub for rhythm and praise (R&P) music. What differentiates that style from traditional gospel or Christian hip hop music?

DJ D-Lite: R&P is simply the R&B style or form of gospel music, surrendered to Christ. It, like the other forms you mentioned, is a sub-genre of Christian/gospel music, but much younger than the other two formats.

The term was first presented on Dawkins & Dawkins’ 1996 release Focus in which they had a song entitled "Rhythm & Praise." Then people shortened it to R&P, making it a subgenre, with many artists and groups such as Nancey Jackson, Lisa McClendon, Cam, and Canton Jones just to name a few.

Sketch: How is your site different from – a Christian hip hop site you’ve been a part of in the past?

DJ D-Lite: GroovSpot is described as "R&P's Spot On The Web" so what sets us apart from Dasouth is that our focus is ENTIRELY R&P...not hip hop.

Dasouth is running in that lane of focusing on the hip hop side very well. In fact I'm glad to say that we are partners. Zee, co-owner of, gave me his complete blessing and support when I shared with him the vision of GroovSpot, something I really feel God inspired me to launch. He has even referred R&P artists who come to Dasouth to contact us with their content as well.

And for the record, I am STILL very much part of and will continue to serve as its radio program director and contributing staff member.


Sketch: Given that you’re a DJ, which music format do you find is more readily accepted by church folk: R&P or gospel rap? Why do you think that is the case?

DJ D-Lite: I think that R&P would be more readily accepted by church folk, just because it is singing which is what most "church folks" expect to hear in a sanctuary setting.

But I also see it as the bridge that can help hip hop be accepted by them as well. You can see several examples of R&P artists featuring Christian hip hop (CHH) artists on their songs. Both styles parallel each other in many ways and have shown that they can co-exist to reach a wider audience.

Then this makes me consider the flipside of the question. Let's exclude the "church folks" and, say, put "the world" in the equation. Then it comes down to one thing: making good music!

The world can appreciate any musical style when it's done in excellence. So as long as that is our aim, and through the music, we have an even balance of ministering in and out of the four walls of the church, God will honor and use whatever the musical style is.

Sketch: Some people might perceive R&P’s fanbase and lyrical direction to be more directed toward young adults and Christian rap’s to be more for teenagers. Is that a correct assumption or have you seen some crossover within the scene?

DJ D-Lite: I can see where some people might assume this (I must admit even I as I get older want to hear some good singing over hip hop some days), and in some ways it can be presented that R&P has a more mature sound.

But once again, you can say that about some CHH that is out today. I believe that our young people today are so bright in many ways and on top of things so fast that not too many things are outside of their grasp to comprehend. Kids can repeat lyrics to songs like it's nothing because whatever they like, they will let it in their minds and hearts.

So to answer the question, I'd say no. I think that there is definitely crossover for R&P to impact teens, young adults, and even seasoned adults, just like CHH does. Once again, people appreciate good music, so if it's done in excellence, anyone can grab it and enjoy it.

Sketch: Do you find R&P can tackle topics that Christian hip hop or gospel music cannot? It’s mainstream counterpart, R&B, often discusses romantic love and its physical expression. Does R&P have anything to say about that or is it something that they tend to shy away from?

DJ D-Lite: Whatever CHH or traditional gospel can speak, so can R&P. Once again, we are merely talking about a subgenre of Gospel/Christian music. So if anything, number one it SHOULD be set apart and have Christ in it. Second, it should clearly be represented by people who can truly SING with excellence and skill. And lastly, it has to be creative. Christ is the architect of creativity.

As I'm writing this, I'm aware of a new release by Bishop T.D. Jakes called Sacred Love Songs Part 2. So you know from the title, this is music for a man and a wife to enjoy together. And I applaud this and say we need more of it. (I'm sorry, but when I want to be romantic with my wife "riding with my top down listening to this Jesus Musik" does not help me in that moment. Hehe.)

R&P in this sense may help to present a whole new picture of what real intimacy should look like, both to the church and the world, because for many, that painting is very distorted.

At the end of the day, R&P artists and any other artists who make Christ-centered music are responsible for being true to who God called them to be and being faithful to carry out His assignments.