Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Walking what they talk, a collective of Christian MCs and producers will be using profits from their new compilation album to raise funds for an African school. At the time of this post, it is ranked #10 on iTunes' Hip Hop/Rap Albums sales chart.
The project, titled King Kulture, contains never-before heard tracks from artists like Lecrae, theBREAX, Braille, Sho Baraka, and GRITS. It was organized by the popular gospel rap hub Rapzilla.com and will benefit Ecole de la Borne, a school started by the site founder’s missionary grandparents.
“The literacy rate in the Congo is 66% versus 99% in the United States,” Rapzilla co-owner and editor-in-chief Chad Horton said. “We’re doing a project that is going to benefit people there who haven’t been afforded the same opportunities that we have.”
1. Welcome to the Kulture – George Moss (produced by Tony Stone)
2. Beautiful Thing – GRITS (produced by Mo Henderson and Michael Millionz)
3. Lift Up – Braille (produced by Theory Hazit)
4. Faith – Dezcry (produced by C-Life)
5. Get Wise – Sho Baraka (produced by Swoope)
6. Breaking Out the Box – theBREAX (produced by Jruckers)
7. It’s Going Down – Benjah ft. Watchman, and Stefan Otto (produced by Benjah & Sky)
8. Drop It On Em – KJ-52 ft. Japhia Life and Kelly Kelz (produced by Tony Stone)
9. Nothing For Us – Eshon Burgundy ft. HotHandz (produced by HotHandz)
10. Fight On – Young Joshua (produced by Chrys Beats)
11. Beautiful Struggle – Yaves The Street Pastor ft. Ron Riley (produced by Cephas)
12. Don’t Leave the Dash Out – K-Drama (produced by GeeDa)
13. Stop – Jeremiah Bonds (produced by @rocdomz)
14. King Kulture – Beautiful Eulogy (Braille, Odd Thomas, Courtland Urbano) ft. Theory Hazit and Lee Green (produced by Courtland Urbano)
15. Bars – T-Word (produced by D-Hood)
16. New Shalom (Dubstep Remix) – Lecrae ft. PRo (produced by Karac)
Sunday, January 22, 2012
2011 Thanksgiving and Christmas revisited: My interview on Yadah Da King Radio & Thi'sl brings gifts and hope to his hood
From the Better-Late-Than-Never Department: A few items related to our recent holidays have just hit the web.
The first includes my interview with Yadah Da King Radio from Thanksgiving.
I always feel odd when I'm asked to be on the other end of interview questions, but I appreciate the good folks at YDK Radio and decided to play ball. The piece aired live in November and is now posted for your on-demand listening pleasure.
During the course of our convo we discussed how I became a follower of Jesus, how I got involved in writing about Christian hip hop, and about where I think the movement is headed.
Click here to stream or download the show.
The second is this nice video of Thi'sl spreading joy, hope, and Christmas gifts to members of his St. Louis community.
Monday, January 16, 2012
This past Saturday Houston gospel singer Yolanda Adams and Christian rapper Rawsrvnt were invited to perform at a surprise brunch to celebrate the 30th birthday of Miami Heat basketball star Dwyane Wade. The event kicked off what is said to be a week-long celebration for the former NBA champ and gold Olympian whose actual "born-on" anniversary is Tuesday, January 17.
South Florida native Rawsrvnt, who is known offstage as Eddy Puyol, said the opportunity came about when Wade’s mother, Jolinda, saw him perform at an event for the Tree of Life non-profit organization.
Without knowing she was in the audience, Puyol rapped his song “On Fire” which includes a reference to Dwyane Wade. He said that Ms. Wade, who is a pastor at a Chicago church her son purchased for her, made it a point to meet Puyol afterward and share a word of encouragement.
“She told me she loved the song and thought it should be played in the Miami Heat’s arena as the team’s new anthem,” Puyol said. “She also talked about raising Dwyane to be a man in the physical sense and wanting to continue to pour into his life in the spiritual sense. Months later, I received the invitation to perform at his birthday party.”
Saturday’s intimate affair was attended by a select group of Wade’s family and friends and held at the W South Beach Hotel and Residences. A healthy buffet was served alongside chicken and waffles inspired by Los Angeles’ famous Roscoe’s restaurant.
Rawsrvnt said he opened the party with a performance of his “I Gotta Feeling/Take It All” mashup of the Black Eyed Peas and Hillsong United hits and then turned the stage over to Adams who sang the Marvin Sapp chart-topper “Never Would Have Made It.”
“The party was full of surprises," Puyol said. "Dwyane didn’t even know it was going down. It was real cool to hear some of the childhood stories shared by family members and see his reaction when his 91-year-old grandmother showed up just to love on the boy.”
Puyol said he closed his second set with a performance of “On Fire” after Pastor Wade led the audience in a group prayer for the quick healing of Dwyane’s recently injured ankle.
No stranger to the mainstream entertainment scene (Puyol appeared as a bachelor on the reality dating show Donald J. Trump presents The Ultimate Merger and led a pre-race NASCAR chapel event after “On Fire” was selected as the intro theme for driver Michael McDowell), Rawsrvnt said he believes the party invite was a divine call to his specific mission field.
“People just want to enjoy life. But unfortunately they often believe there is no joy in Jesus,” Puyol said. “Hopefully my music and lifestyle can help change that misconception.”
“We simply can't afford to keep the world's greatest message trapped inside the four walls of the church,” Puyol said.
Monday, January 9, 2012
When I saw that popular secular rapper Rick Ross dropped a free mixtape last week with the first song’s title being “Holy Ghost” I knew a vocal member of our Christian hip hop community would probably respond.
Houston’s Gifted da Flamethrowa didn’t let me down.
Late Monday, January 9 he released his own version of the song on YouTube – something he calls a “response record” and not a “diss.”
Gifted’s “Holy Ghost” uses the same backbeat but attempts to take the song’s original artists (which includes Sean “Diddy” Combs) to task for their public “disrespect of God.”
Ross’ version contains lyrics like:
They say I’m gettin’ money, must be illuminatiAnd
Talking to the Holy Ghost, in my Bugatti
He knockin’ on the do’, don’t let the devil in
He knockin’ on the do’, don’t let the devil in
You talkin’ to the Holy Ghost“It’s obvious he [Ross] is going out of his way to disrespect God. We can't say he is doing it for pub because he is already a top seller. So what he is doing is from his heart,” Gifted explained to me via a Facebook chat on Monday night. “When I heard that song it immediately sparked my brain to reach out.”
I’m smokin’ ’til I overdose
When I **** she let the ***** soak
Even my lawyer be askin, "Is it dope?"
Never break the code, shock me with a million votes
I’m forever dope, touched by the Holy Ghost
The tactic of using a rapper’s own song/lyrics against him is a time-honored tradition within hip hop. In fact, Monday was also the day that Chicago artist Common raised the stakes in his beef with Toronto’s Drake when his version of “Stay Schemin” from Ross’ same Rich Forever mixtape hit the Internet. However, Gifted denies such retaliation and battle rap actions inspired him to rework “Holy Ghost.”
“I've been aware of Common and Drake's beef for a while. On top of that I don't consider what I did a diss. I consider it more of a rebuttal. That’s why I was careful with the wording,” Gifted said.
He said he created the song to hopefully let Rick Ross hear a different point of view and create a dialogue.
“Everything in that song is what I would say if I were ministering to him face-to-face,” Gifted said.
In the YouTube clip, Gifted also includes footage from the unreleased documentary The Fence* which interviewed Rick Ross when he was in Houston for the 2008 Ozone Awards about his faith and responsibility as a rapper.
“I am a proud Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ. So if you say you are too but the character or action you display is against the belief, then you open yourself up to be questioned and corrected by other Christians,” Gifted said.
Gifted said the same thought goes for Diddy who has publicly professed to be a Christian. During our online chat, Gifted pointed to Matthew 12:31-32 from the Holy Bible which states:
31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.I told him I knew that passage had varying interpretations among Christians and asked if Gifted believed that with this song Ross and Diddy committed the "unforgivable sin" and will therefore go to hell because of this track.
Gifted replied: “Well, blasphemy is defined as ‘A contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing concerning God or a sacred entity,’ so yes, the things said in the song are blasphemous.
“Will this song send them to hell? No, I wouldn't make that broad generalization. I truly believe as long as there is breath in their bodies they can repent. God judges the heart of man.”
The episode recalls another Houston Christian rapper (Bizzle) who jumped to prominence a few years ago by recording and releasing “Explaining to Do: Jay-Z Expose” after the questions arose about the New York MC’s imagery and lyrics concerning Jesus Christ.
I know that Gifted has spoken and worked with Bizzle on several different occasions and asked if he believed these type of response records were an effective form of hip hop ministry.
“Our battle is not against flesh and blood. So it’s our job to keep dialogue open. I can't minister to a person by disrespecting them,” Gifted said.
“So no, I don't suggest for us to look at these cats like our enemies. I do suggest for everyone to do what God has called them to do. Don't start jumping in this type of stuff if you are not led. If you are going to rebuke, do according to how the Bible says do it.”
* Full disclosure: I was a part of The Fence's editing and production team.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
I recently caught up with Dallas filmmaker Art Hooker via e-mail to discuss the Unashamed documentary he’s working on about the Christian hip hop movement and why he decided to use a crowd-sourcing model to help fund it.
Sketch: Is this a documentary about Lecrae and Reach Records or something bigger? How so?
Art: That's a great question. Although the 116 clique [the informal name for those associated with Lecrae and Reach Records] is an important element of the story, this film is about something much bigger. It will attempt to show the viewer what it looks like to live "Unashamed" within the context of real, everyday life.
In the film we explore why the language of hip hop seems to resonate with the disenfranchised and what that means within the context of the Gospel. This project is designed to inspire the believer to live out their faith in a way that will ultimately influence culture.
Sketch: Ideally, who is the audience for this film?
Art: The audience for this film is anyone in the world who has been influenced by hip hop and/or their faith.
Sketch: You're a Texan who knows about our state and local pride. I know that personally, I take every opportunity to tell people that Lecrae, Tedashii, and Trip Lee are all either from Houston and/or still have family here. So how does Houston's "Unashamed" scene compare to other places you've been to while working on this project?
Art: The Houston "Unashamed" scene is very similar to what we've seen in other cities. I think what sets Houston apart is their intense southern hospitality combined with an intense love of southern rap.
Sketch: You're familiar with Christian hip hop's early days, so what's been your biggest surprise or discovery during the process of making the Unashamed movie?
Art: I think one of my biggest surprises so far is that there was a Christian rap artist named MC Sweet from New York who had a record distributed by MCA in the early 80’s.
Sketch: Did you always anticipate that you would use the crowd-sourcing model to fund your endeavor or is that relatively new development? Is this the future of independent film?
Art: We always intended this film to be for the fans, by the fans. However, as production went on we realized how much it would cost to ensure the film's quality. It quickly became clear that allowing the fans to fund this film was the best and only way to go forward.
The movement is not a reality because of the artists involved, but because of the people who make up the movement. With this in mind we've decided to partner with the movement to make one of the first hip hop films made by the fans for the fans to influence the world.
The Unashamed Movie’s Indiegogo crowd-sourcing campaign ends on January 8.
To learn more about the film or contribute to its production, visit: indiegogo.com/Unashamed and follow them on Twitter @unashamedmovie.
After a three month hiatus, The Wade-O Radio Show is back! Fans of Christian hip hop music, culture, and interviews can look forward to the relaunch of the high-energy, multi-hour program and website on January 6, 2012.
Listeners can also look forward to the addition of:
• The “Going In” Mix – DJ Wade-O will be kicking off each show with a 15 minute blend of the latest and hottest Christian hip hop music designed to get listeners pumped up and locked in.
• “Wade’s World Wide Top 5 (3WT5)” – It’s called “World Wide” for the simple reason that the countdown will consist of singles from the United States as well as from places like Jamaica and the United Kingdom (or wherever musicians who love Jesus and hip hop are producing the most-notable audio art.) The votes will be listener-based via nominations and elections made at wadeoradio.com.
Additionally, Chris Belmont and JahRock'n Productions (Heesun Lee, Seda) will be joining the team to support the production process. And I'll be back with the regular Holy Hip Hop News Blast segments too.
“We’re very excited about the re-launch and expect that a lot of people will have questions about the show’s hiatus,” Wade-O said. “All of that will be explained in the return episode alongside some new segments and sounds we believe will really speak to our audience.”
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
I recently caught up with Houston Christian rapper Von Won via e-mail to discuss his just released 100-song album, his role as a youth minister, and whether or not he considers his "One City Under God" campaign a success.
1) Why do a 100-song album? No offense, but that’s a lot of Von Won to listen to at once.
When I came to the Lord in 2007 I had a couple hundred songs in my archives and I didn’t know what to do with them. I decided to pick the best 100 and call it Von Won B.C. (Before Christ). I figured everybody says they used to do secular music, but I REALLY used to do secular music (sex songs, weed songs, beef songs and more) and I wanted my new followers to have a firm understanding of where I came from.
But when I asked fellow Christians if that was a good idea to release it, they convinced me the bad language and old spirit could only hinder the walk of a Christian, so I decided to shelve it. I told myself if I ever got to the point as a Christian where I built up a catalog of 100 plus songs, I would drop it on the world all at once!
The Century Club is also the name of my youth group out at Calvary Worship Center in Baytown. Shout outs to Pastor Bruce Burklow. The Century Club is based on Mark 12:30. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” Give him 100% of your life! And these 100 songs are a sacrifice to the Lord of my gift and I pray he takes it and spreads amongst the multitudes.
Doing “Welcome To H-Town Part 2” with Lecrae has brought a ton of new listeners and some need to catch up on who Von Won has been and see the growth so they can understand where Christ is taking me next.
I like making history, and being that this has never been accomplished I am proud to say I was the first to do it. I will be contacting Guinness Book of World Records soon. They have been closed for the holidays.
2) Why shoot and produce so many music videos for this project? You do know MTV is only about "Teen Moms" and "Jersey Shores" this days, right?
When I look at the music industry and see how the Internet has taken over, I have seen a formula emerge… whoever has the most videos wins! (Examples include: KJ-52, Reach Records, Frontline Movement, Canton Jones) People want to see who they can see.
Viral followings are being formed online. Christian hip hop has emerged without the help of MTV, BET or VH1. It has been a solid underground movement. Music videos are the best form of expression an artist can bring to the table. It is the parallel to what kind of car you drive.
Everyone knows the guy in the Benz has had some form of success. Videos show people the stage of your career. A wack video means a wack movement. Your music wasn’t good enough to get anyone excited enough to pay for a good video or donate time to get you a quality video done for free. Wack videos also show bad decision making.
When I dropped “Jesus Lives” and “High Beams” my bookings doubled and the respect of my peers grew tremendously. Now with “Dedicated” and “Jesus Out My Music,” I pray it has a great impact on the Christian community and music listeners from all backgrounds.
3) How has your life changed since resuming a full-time ministry position here in Houston?
I will quote a line from my song “Ready For His Glory” - “Faith is my best friend / I like the suspense!”
Full time ministry makes my life a suspense movie. When I open my mailbox sometimes it’s full of bills, but sometimes there’s a random check from a ministry partner. It truly causes you to lean on our father in heaven, because He has never let me down.
I like that in Houston there is a team of 50-plus men of God always ready to do an outreach, feed the homeless, a Bible study, mentor a youth and of course hit the studio to record another Christ-centered jam. In New Mexico I was one of the only African-Americans and the only Christian rapper in the city of Roswell. It took some adjusting, but right when I got adjusted I was leaving.
Real talk though, It gave me more time to spend with my family, but now as I’ve matured I am learning to balance family time and fellowship time with Kingz Camp and the rest of the ministers here in the city of Houston. My pastor and my church family at Calvary Worship Center has really welcomed my family with open arms and me and my wife feel a sense of purpose as we lead the youth in the city of Baytown aka Praytown.
4) I see “Kingz Camp” all over your site and videos. What’s that all about?
Coming from a huge rap family, “The Playboy Click,” on the secular side, I have seen the benefits of having a group of artists representing the same vision. There is truly strength in numbers when you can make the numbers count.
When I joined Much Luvv Records, the unity was great between me and Tre9 but after that everyone was doing their own thing, getting married, having kids, and what not. I started seeing rappers all over the city doing individual movements and ministries.
A guy named RBS came to me around this time and asked me for help so at that time I reached out to 20-plus artists and formed Sheep In Wolves Clothing. We would have Bible studies and the hop in the studio. It was that umbrella that Trevor Lee, Reconcile, Corey Paul and more broke into the Houston scene.
There was always tension and negative feedback about the name and the relationships within the movement spread once Tre9 shutdown his studio. God told me to end it. I fasted for 30 days and in that time Kingz Camp was birthed. David Hatley, now President of Kingz Camp, told me he believed in what I was doing but there were some things he would tweak and would help me do it. We put together a leadership team which included Abdul “Dulo” Rasheed and Trevor Lee and gave the movement to God.
We interviewed artists to make sure they had the right hearts and to see if it was a good fit for them and for us. No one got in the studio for three months. We decided to start a Christ-centered movement built on lifting up the name of Jesus. The King of all Kings. We are his camp!
This is a ministry first with functions of a record label and clothing line. We are on TV seven nights a week on Rejoice TV Network in Houston Channel 21.3 and plan on taking on radio next. I am excited to see the success of Govenor Reiss as some exciting doors are opening in his life. Dulo, Narrow Brown, Lil Sizzle and Denzil should be releasing projects soon and I’m really looking forward to the success of Trevor Lee. Our slogan in “Faith It Till You Make It!” Kingz Camp is the brand.
5) Last year you produced a “One City Under God” song with several local mainstream rap artists and said you hoped to spark a campaign around that theme. How successful was that and what do you think it says about how God views Houston’s hip hop community’s commitment to him?
I felt that the “One City Under God” campaign was great and I think it is still relevant. Growing up in Houston and listening to [DJ] Screw tapes you always hear the sense of God-fearing men on those records even though they were rapping about popping trunks and sipping syrup.
You knew Lil Keke loved God. Lil O referenced the Lord often. It is more than obvious Z-Ro is very familiar with the call of God on his life, but he has yet to fully surrender. Look at bank robbing, ex-offender 007 from the 5th Ward Boyz, who is now fully submitting his life to Christ. Let’s not ignore the recent submission of DJ DMD changing his hit “25 Lighters” to “25 Bibles.”
Nuwine is still a Christian rap icon, Bun B professes to be a Christian and with Lecrae, Shei Atkins, Dre Murray and Yolanda Adams being Houstonians, it is evident God wants to do something major in this city. The largest church in the United States of America is in this city. Not Space City - “Faith City.”
I am just proud to be one that is uncompromised in my approach to serving my Lord. Won’t compromise, won’t apologize. They can’t shut me up about Jesus Christ.
Don’t call me positive or inspirational, I am a Christian rapper. I am here to lead people to Christ! I am truly a minister and rap is one of my main tools.
But in 2012 I am also writing the movie, “Blackout," writing a book called “Shock Therapy,” have a DVD, “The Shockumentary," on the way, and am considering running for Mayor in 2014. No limitations on God!
Von Won's 100-song The Century Club album can be purchase on his website at www.vonwon.com