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