Friday, June 29, 2012

INTERVIEW: Singer B.Reith talks about his new hip hop mixtape, surprising listeners with rap, and the challenges of sharing his faith in music


On June 29, 2012 B.Reith released How the Story Continues Vol. 1 – a free hip hop mixtape that reimagines and continues to expand the theme of his recent How the Story Ends album.

I recently caught up with the acoustic pop artist via e-mail to discuss the project, whether or not listeners are still surprised to hear he raps, and which style of music is an easier way to share his faith.

Sketch: In today’s mash-up, multi-genre music culture, are people still surprised that you rap? Why do you think that is the case?

B.Reith: Maybe not surprised that I rap, but hopefully surprised at the depth of my rap skills. Being able to rhyme a few basic words is one thing, but being an actual lyricist? That’s more of an anomaly.

Regardless of how multi-genre and mashed up our music culture is today, hip hop is categorically an urban genre. My element of surprise is that I don’t dress or talk “urban,” yet a portion of my music is urban.

I think God has a sense of humor, deciding to place these diverse gifts in me. I’ve been around diversity my entire life, it’s part of my calling. I’ve learned to cherish it, embrace it, love it: relationally and artistically. But diversity is rare, and that’s why it probably surprises people.

Sketch: The new version of the song “Lonely Hearts Club” is described as an “acoustic cello-beatboxing remix.” How in the world did that come about?

B.Reith: Yea, so if you haven’t heard of Kevin Olusola you need to go and look him up ASAP. He is a cellist /beatbox virtuoso. I met him a year ago (before he became a part of the Pentatonix and won The Sing Off, since then his career has sky rocketed). He was touring with the band Gungor who my manager Calvin also managed at the time. He was in Nashville for a few days and we tracked some cello parts on “I’ll Get By” for my most recent album How the Story Ends.

While we were in the studio we started talking about how cool it would be to remix a song with cello and beatbox. “Lonely Hearts Club” was perfect. We started it that night and then finished in L.A. earlier this year. Kevin arranged it, slowed it down a bit, and gave it a whole different vibe. I can’t believe I’m giving it away for free!

Sketch: Which do you find more challenging: to write a hip hop song (which tends to have a ton of lyrics) or an acoustic/singing song (which tends to have less lyrics)? Why is that?

B.Reith: I think writing good, authentic and quality music is challenging, period – no matter what the genre is. But I find that writing hip hop is a little easier for me because I can just go with the flow of a rhyme scheme and not be bound by the word limitations of a melody. I think it’s harder to say what you need to say with less words – especially when those words are bound by a melody. You have less words to tell your story, so each one counts more, and they have to fit poetically with the melody as well. It’s the same thing as communicating with people. It’s easier to say EVERYTHING and hope they get the point than having to carefully edit yourself and craft each word. That’s why I’m glad I do both, I can slip in and out of them when I feel like it. It’s the best of both worlds.

Sketch: Do you find that one artform, hip hop or acoustic pop, lends itself to conveying your faith better than another?

B.Reith: Well, it depends on how the song comes about. Sometimes I feel as if God is writing through me, and I find it very easy to convey my faith through my writing because it’s pouring out of me. Verse 1 of “I’ll Get By” was like that.

Other times it takes everything I have, and then some… and then some more – to labor over every lyric and carefully craft my words so they can hit the listener in an authentic, creative, and emotional way they’ve never heard before. I think that softens people’s hearts. Verse 3 of “I’ll Get By” was like that, took a LONG time because of how sensitive the topic I was speaking on.

So I would say regardless of the genre, conveying my faith in a refreshing, artistic, non-stale, non-recycled sounding way takes some deep digging. Maybe hip hop lends itself to that slightly more because I have room for more words, but then again, it’s hard to sound authentic and not cheesy. So… to answer your question, I’d have to say both!

Sketch: Are there any songs where you prefer the album version over the mixtape version or vice versa? Or is that like asking you which of your children is your favorite?

B.Reith: I think I like the mixtape remix of “Simple Days” because of the sincerity of the new rap leads over those classic samples. It has more passion and more relevance; it’s more personal to me. And “Lonely Hearts Club” and “Drawing Board,” well, the remixes are so different, new and fresh to me right now, I guess I always favor my newest ideas. If I ever have children I hope I don’t treat them like that.

Download How the Story Continues for FREE at

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June 27: What the classic Houston freestyle might have sounded like with Christian rappers

June 27 is a historic date in Houston hip hop.

The video above contains DJ Primo‘s tribute and imagining of what that classic DJ Screw freestyle might have sounded like if H-town connected rappers (including Lecrae, Tedashii, and Trip Lee) from the 116 Clique were a part of it.

Carlos “DJ Primo” Avila was the Houston-based DJ who perhaps best exemplified the spirit and legacy of DJ Screw within Christian hip hop. Today is also Primo’s birthday. He would have been 32 years old. #RIPDJPrimo

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Wade-O Radio Show Website Relaunches June 22


Although The Wade-O Radio Show successfully relaunched at the start of 2012, its web presence remained in flux. But on Friday, June 22 fans of the high-energy, multi-hour Christian hip hop program can look forward to the new

“It wasn’t the ideal situation, but I think our new site is really a step forward for our ministry,” Wade “DJ Wade-O” Harris said.

In addition to being a central repository for all of the show’s podcasts and audio interviews, the revamped web destination boasts a new look and management system that Harris says will make it easier to publish fresh content on a daily basis.

“Visitors can look forward to blogs on pertinent issues that we all deal with and exclusive bonus mixtapes that will only be available at,” Harris said.

“And of course, each piece will be integrated with tools to make it easy for our visitors to share the content through their preferred social media outlets.”

Wade-O promises that episode 247 of the podcast will reveal more about the site including:

• An answer to why it took so long to relaunch
• What he learned during the hiatus, and
• How it will differ from other Christian hip hop spots already on the web

To find out the exact minute and second the site will republish visit and sign up for the e-mail newsletter.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

INTERVIEW: theBREAX talk about their new “Toe Tappy” dance song, MTV, and how I get mentioned in their lyrics

On Monday, San Diego-based hip hop group theBREAX released a theme song for the “Toe Tappy” dance developed by Knucklehead – the MC/choreographer who won Coca-Cola’s nationwide “Make It Possible” contest.

I recently caught up with BREAX frontman Ruslan via e-mail to discuss that record, how well he believes MTV portrays hip hop culture, and how I got a shout out in the lyrics of this track.

Sketch: Aside from the theme of your When theBREAX Sold Out project a few years ago, I don’t think I would have pegged you guys as a group who developed a dance song in partnership with a soft-drink company. How did this opportunity come about?

Ruslan: The whole point of that project was to push the envelope and show our audience that we refuse to be boxed in as “underground rappers.” The truth is we love mainstream music and we enjoy dance music, [group member] Beleaf in particular really enjoys dancing.

The opportunity came about after Knucklehead finished shooting the Coke Zero video with Perez Hilton and Carmen Electra. He decided he wanted to do an original version of the song that was more reflective of his brand as a dancer and a part of his group Street Kingdom. He got with Beleaf who had Mr. Noise build the foundation of the track in Baltimore over the Memorial Day weekend. Then it was passed onto me, DJ Rek, and JRuckers to finish the track and get the mix right.


Sketch: theBREAX have sort of developed a rep for “positive hip hop.” It’s easy to see how you might plug that into your lyrics, but can how might it also work with the dance element of the culture? Can there even be such a thing as “positive hip hop dancing”?

Ruslan: I think krump dancing in general is very positive. It’s often misunderstood, but the energy behind it, at least from what I’ve learned being around Street Kingdom, is to bring glory to God and express yourself.

Within the context of hip hop culture I think the different dances are actually really positive. It gives people something to do on the dance floor besides bump and grind. It’s like a resurgence of the late 80′s and early 90′s time period of having to know different dances to be “cool.”

Now a days it’s the same thing – every few years a new dance comes out and the “cool kids” all learn it. I’m happy they aren’t Blood/Crip walking or having sex on the dance floor with their clothes on.

Sketch: You recently started connecting with your fans with Freestyle Friday videos where you improv a song based off of suggestions from your followers on various social media outlets. How has that gone for you so far and why did you decide to do this given that freestyle raps often aren’t as polished as full-length songs on albums?

Ruslan: Freestyle Fridays is a lot of fun. We basically love connecting with our Breaxheads [the name the group has given their fans], we love meeting them, and we love interacting with them. We figured if we can do that over the net it’ll allow the connection to feel that much closer.


Sketch: This “Toe Tappy” song connects you with Knucklehead – a dancer who competed with the group Street Kingdom on MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew.” You’ve also done songs, shows, and videos with Fonzworth Bentley who had his own “G’s to Gents” reality show on that network. In your opinion, how well is MTV covering/promoting hip hop culture as a whole? In what ways are they excelling and where do you think they could improve?

Ruslan: MTV’s objective isn’t necessarily to cover hip hop culture accurately. Their objective is entertainment and ratings.

But I do think they do a good job with guys like Sway who is a part of the culture and engaged. They could improve by showing a more balanced version of hip hop – to highlight the independent scene, the positive stuff and what guys like Lecrae and Thi’sl are doing.

At this point our movement isn’t below the radar like it was five years ago. I think MTV can, and hopefully will, come alongside and bring positive/inspiration music more exposure.

Sketch: How’d it come about that I get a shoutout (my Twitter handle at least) around the 1:55 mark of this song? Was it just so that I would write about it? If, it kinda worked.

Ruslan: That came out very naturally in Beleaf’s verse. He was just vibing in my living room as he was writing it and I was like “Was that a SketchtheJ shout out?!? That’s fresh!”

Purchase “Toe Tappy” on iTunes here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Former Houston gangsta rapper hosts Father's Day weekend event to honor and educate men about finances, family, and faith

On Saturday, June 16 Andre “007” Barnes, a former member of the gangsta rap group the 5th Ward Boyz, will hold the M.E.N. (Mentoring Educating Networking) Mentor Celebration in north Houston. The event is designed to honor and educate males of all ages in matters of finances, family, and faith.

“Double 0”, who is now a business owner and dedicated Christian rapper, claims he didn’t know his own father until the age of 22 after he had already achieved a criminal record and success as a recording artist on Rap-A-Lot Records. He said he was driven to organize the affair after seeing alarming statistics about the often negative fate (incarceration/homelessness, etc.) of children who grow up without a dad.

“Too often it seems like Christians only speak to the spiritual side of things,” Barnes said. “I wanted to take a holistic approach and offer people something besides advice to ‘just pray about it.’

“Don’t get me wrong, I love and value the power of prayer, but we can also offer some practical solutions to issues that face men and their families.”


Barnes enlisted speakers and sponsors from Comercia Bank and other local businesses, former Houston City Councilmember Jarvis Johnson, and Christian rappers Bobby “Tre9” Herring and Gifted da Flamethrowa to play a part in the day of workshops and celebration.

007 has also been involved with The Empowerment Community Center’s young male mentorship program over the last year and guided members of its Eagle Scholars Student program through an 18 week course that ended with them taking an all-expenses paid field trip to Washington, D.C. to further their education.


Click here to find out more about the free event and register to attend.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wit & Dre Murray confirm "LOL Nevermind" is a response to a diss track from another Christian


In a recent video interview with Christian rap journalist Steve Patton, the Invisible Gorilla duo of Wit and Dre Murray discussed the inspiration behind their “LOL Nevermind” song from Hell’s Paradise II.
“It is what it is, man. So that track was definitely about someone. I’m not going to put his name on blast, but I mean, I will say that it was about somebody,” Dre Murray said. “And you know, he took the song down. He claimed it wasn’t a diss and that his wife told him to take it down… so you can’t find the song anywhere, but ‘LOL Nevermind’ definitely was a response to something that happened to us.”
You can get the full story in the 2 hour interview on Rapzilla’s YouTube channel (info on this segment starts runs from about the 21 - 27 minute mark) and now that I know about its history, it definitely paints the music video for that track in a different light.

Luke 6:29 “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.”

Well done fellas.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Florida rapper Rawsrvnt releases Miami Heat anthem video (“Watch Out Boy”) before pivotal NBA Playoff Game 5


As the Miami Heat draw closer to another NBA Finals appearance (and hopeful championship), Florida rapper Rawsrvnt has released the official video for “Watch Out Boy (Can You Feel the Heat?)” – his theme song for the pro basketball team.

With a decade of music ministry under his belt, Rawsrvnt, also known as Eddy Puyol from the reality TV Show Donald J. Trump presents The Ultimate Merger, is just as outspoken about his love for Jesus as he is his passion for the Miami Heat.


In January Rawsrvnt was invited to perform at a surprise brunch to celebrate the 30th birthday of Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade. The following month he released a video for “On Fire” remixed as a tribute to the team with additional vocals from Richie Righteous.

Now, as a preview to Tuesday night’s pivotal Playoff Game 5 in Miami, Rawsrvnt is asking the world “Can You Feel the Heat?” with his new video for the song “Watch Out Boy.”

“I’ve been a huge Heat fan ever since they landed in my part of the state,” said Rawsrvnt. “I hope this anthem fires up not only the team, but Heat fans all over to rally our boys home toward another ring.”

The video was directed by Rawsrvnt, filmed by Leo Gomez of CBS Sports Miami, and edited by Nomar Rosa of Seventhwire Films.

View the video for “Watch Out Boy (Can You Feel the Heat?)” at the link below:

Fans and supporters can also follow Rawsrvnt online through Facebook and Twitter.

To purchase the song from iTunes, click here.

Friday, June 1, 2012

INTERVIEW: Houston Christian rapper Gifted da Flamethrowa discusses how he impacted public schools with his message over the last year

Gifted da Flamethrowa at a recent school assembly
As students and teachers celebrate the end of the school year it’s important to look back on the events and people that helped shape the previous months of education and personal development.

One such snapshot is the way that Christian rapper Gifted da Flamethrowa has used his personal story of triumph over adversity (including a violent period of his youth filled with near-death experiences and evacuating his New Orleans home for Houston due to Hurricane Katrina) to inspire young people at schools across the nation.

This year, after signing to the Adams Entertainment Agency (founded by former Harlem Globetrotter Melvin Adams), Gifted performed at over 120 schools and events for over 17,000 people.

“At times we can get too comfortable in the four walls of the church,” Gifted said. “The Great Commission [from Scripture] was to go out - not to stay in. How can we be a light amongst darkness, when we are too busy being a light amongst lights?

“Doing shows in schools and prisons is a calling I gratefully accept. It allows me the opportunity to reach people in a non-traditional setting.”

See Gifted in action in the short clip below:

After viewing this video online I noted that Gifted was rapping to a beat from his previous gospel rap album but with a different set of lyrics. Given the recent revival of the “Christian rapper” vs. “Rapper who is a Christian” label debate I figured I’d e-mail him about whether this choice was hiding his faith or selling out just to gain a bigger audience and stage.

His response:

You have a great ear. I loved the track that Sypreme produced for me so I just rewrote a new song on top of that beat. It’s a crowd mover.

Due to the separation of Church and State, I can't go into a school speaking about religious beliefs. And to be transparent, I never set out to be your average ‘church’ rapper.

I am not compromising the mission; I am embarking on a new mission. I am stepping into a field that is uncharted and ripe for seed sowing. I am not hiding my faith because my faith is better expressed by the life I live.

I provide the students with Godly principles. I express to them my testimony and leave the students inspired to chase their goals and treat themselves and others with love and respect.
Since I have been touring the schools I have encountered a plethora of issues.

One school I worked in Midland, Texas last year had over 50 suicide attempts and about 12 or 13 successful suicides. Our kids are hurting and they may not come to your youth group, but they will be at school and so will I, provoking them to DARE to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.

What are your thoughts? Is this an effective form of ministry or is removing direct references to faith a way of being "ashamed" of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?