Thursday, July 26, 2012

The math behind Lecrae’s “Gravity” imagery

I’ve studied and think I have it figured out.

Lecrae’s Gravity drops September 4.

Houston will get one of only three Gravity release concerts at Warehouse Live on September 28. Tickets can be purchased online here.

* Think being the key word. After I initially published this post my man Jaap pointed out that De La Soul‘s Art Official Intelligence: Bionix should be added to the formula. He’s dead on, so I adjusted.

Also, Illuminati conspiracy lovers will probably point out that, similar to Trip Lee‘s The Good Life artwork, only one of Lecrae’s eyes is visible in the promo shot. Now run along to YouTube to post your pontifications.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

INTERVIEW: Ambassador speaks on the Meek Mill / “Amen” / Pastor Jomo situation

During a tour stop in Houston this past weekend, I sat down with one of Christian hip hop’s elite (The Ambassador’s Christology is often cited at the G.O.A.T. album within the genre) to discuss the recent dustup over “Amen.”

For those who may need a refresher, Meek Mill’s “Amen” song and video uses a traditional black church organ riff and lots of religious language praising the pleasures of women and liquor. Pastor Jomo K. Johnson led a public campaign against the track and the two had a conversation joint phone call about the topic on Philly’s Hot 107.9.

Meek later offered an apology on BET’s “106 & Park” and Jomo dropped his boycott. But since Mill, Jomo, and The Ambassador all hail from the “City of Brotherly Love” I figured this might contribute to the ongoing discussion about what type of content defines sacred, secular, or blasphemous hip hop music.

You may have also seen my interview with Da’ T.R.U.T.H. about the same topic. It’s interesting how similar their responses are given that these conversations were recorded at separate times without the other one in the room. They weren’t given any sort of heads up on what questions I would be asking either.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Saturday’s MOVE Tour brings nationally-known gospel rap, pop, and R&B acts to Houston


Saturday’s MOVE Tour will bring nationally-known gospel rap, pop, and R&B acts to Houston. Names on the bill include Jessica Reedy (BET’s “Sunday Best”), The Ambassador, Da’ T.R.U.T.H., Sean Simmonds, B.Reith, and emcee/producer/recording artist DJ MaL-Ski.

Like last year’s Misfit Tour, the event was organized by Xist Music and UpLift! Group. Compassion International ministry and Houston’s G.O.A.T. Radio are also listed as sponsors who helped bring the concert to our city.

In a recent interview with DJ Wade-O, The Ambassador discussed the “MOVE” theme and said “Because God is always moving, we should be too. Some people need to ‘move’ out the way, some need to ‘move’ forward because they’re standing still, and others need to ‘move’ back because they’re off track.”

On July 17, the event released its official theme song. “MOVE (Chasing You)” features all tour members in a hip hop-style “cypha” and will be performed each night of the tour.

The MOVE Tour will take place at Christian Life Church, 6650 Rankin Rd. Houston, TX 77393 from 6:30pm to 10:30pm. Tickets can be purchased online at

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rawsrvnt’s Fallin’ In Love?!? Is new song about God, a girl, or both?

“Fallin’ In Love” is the new summer jam from Florida hip hop worship artist Rawsrvnt. The track’s high-energy, electropop beat and vocal stylings are tailor-made for beach parties and radio requests, but its ambiguous lyrics may cause some fans to ask whether the song is about God, a girl, or both.

Is it okay for a Christian artist to make a song about romantic love instead of godly love? What if it’s a mix of both?

Does it bleed into the “Jesus-is-my-boyfriend” territory that some believers feel is a negative trend in modern worship music? Or is it simply a strategic decision to attempt to expose and connect faith-based art to as many different people as possible?

“I wrote ‘Fallin’ In Love’ in a moment of pure passion,” Rawsrvnt cryptically stated.

“As with any piece of quality art, I think it’s up to the consumer to spend time with it and ultimately decide both what they believe the author intended and the message they’re going to take away from it.”

The song, which was produced by Crane and features Christian rapper Milliyon, is currently available for purchase from iTunes.

Fans who are “Fallin’ In Love” with the track are urged to use the #LoveStruck hashtag on social media networks and visit for FREE electronic wallpapers and other goodies.

A full visual version of “Fallin’ In Love” is set to release on Tuesday, July 24th.

Monday, July 16, 2012

CY returns to original stage name

Tweaking a trend of Christian rappers reverting to their birth names for recordings and stage performances, the MC formerly known as CY will now go by CYclone – the hip hop identity he assumed shortly after his encounter with Jesus at the age of 17.

“I believe my art is like a furious funnel cloud that packs in a variety of styles and ultimately spins out something unique,” Timothy “CYclone” Gross explained.

As he began to incorporate his faith into hip hop Gross adopted the moniker CYclone but noticed it would often get abbreviated as his music began to receive nationwide attention.

After launching the Circus World Event…The Ringleader album at the 2007 Texas Holy Hip Hop Achievement Awards (where MTV personality Sway was a presenter) to critical acclaim, CYclone began to pray about the direction of its much anticipated follow-up.

Whereas The Ringleader’s concept envisioned our world as a circus with one true ringleader (God) and an imposter (Satan) who plots and schemes for the same position, High Wire Act plays off a tight rope metaphor that represents the narrow road believers in Christ must walk in order to receive eternal life. That project also carries other messages about the humility that must be maintained by those placed in lofty positions.

CYclone’s High Wire Act employed a gloomier carnival sound and explosive energy. Each song was painstakingly crafted to embody a singular theme where both the music and lyrics meld together to transport audiences to a specific time and place. A perfect example is the song “Ice Cream Truck” which takes the listener back to the youthful days of chasing after their neighborhood’s mobile, sweet treat shop. Here, CYclone is handing out a variety of lyrical ice cream bars.

It’s versatile and accessible to all listeners with guest artists like Young Joshua, Von Won, Gifted, FireJaws, D. Steele, One Dose, Kent & Shellee Coley, and tracks produced by himself, Phillip Moore, Tony Stone, Vohn Beats/Symbolyc One, Jimmy Natural and others.

So far, CYclone has four albums to his credit and has established his own Complex Melodies production company and record label.

To learn more about the artist visit

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Is Lecrae flip-flopping on the “Christian rapper” title?

Who’s the next contestant on the “Are you a Christian rapper or a Rapper who is a Christian?” game show?

Well Bob, he’s actually someone who’s graced our stage once before. Scraping the sky at well over six feet tall, he’s the co-owner of Reach Records known for his “Jesus Muzik”… it’s the big homie Lecrae.

Yes indeed, Crayola is back in the headlines after giving a written interview with where it appears he’s re-embracing the “Christian rapper” label.
FC: When you hear the term “Christian rap” or “Christian hip hop,” what do you think?

Lecrae: I think what people are trying to communicate is that there are redeemed individuals within hip hop culture. And I would say I’m one of them. I think that as a Christian, we’re to be a light in this world. I think it’s almost like saying “Christian American,” it doesn’t mean that I’m not American, it just means that I’m distinctly and authentically Christian as much as I am American. And so my Christianity is going to permeate throughout my American-ness. So when I think about Christian hip hop I think of an individual who is a Christian who is using hip hop to communicate things that God will endorse.

So what does this mean to the ongoing debate? Is Lecrae a flip-flopper or a man with a divided mind?

I say no. He’s probably just being strategic.

In one instance (see clip above), he’s talking to an audience who may have negative, preconceived notions about what his music sounds like and talks about. In another, he’s speaking to the website of one of the largest Christian bookstore chains in the nation – a business that still plays a key role in record sales for his label.

My guess is that, like me and several others, Lecrae believes that whether or not he puts forth the “Christian rapper” or “Rapper who is a Christian” title is inconsequential.

People are going to label him and his music regardless of his preference, the content is going to stay the same, and that, like fellow rapper NomiS said, the title doesn’t really matter as long as the “Spirit’s In It.”

So cut the dude some slack and trust that he’s being led by the Holy Spirit and considering each individual audience as he answers such pointed questions.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hip-Hop Worship artist Rawsrvnt rejoins THE STORY Tour with Jeremy Camp, Natalie Grant, Pastor Randy Frazee and others


For the second year in a row Eddy “Rawsrvnt” Puyol will bring his unique Hip-Hop Worship style to THE STORY Tour.

Presented by World Vision, the event is billed as a Christmas celebration with carols and a musical journey from Genesis to Revelation. It features a full choir and orchestra led by musical director Bernie Herms and songs from Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall, Jeremy Camp, Natalie Grant, Matthew West, Nichole Nordeman, and Selah.

Renowned author and pastor Randy Frazee co-wrote THE STORY project’s book component with Max Lucado and will be on the tour each night to bring its message to life.

“My world collided with Eddy’s (Rawsrvnt) world at THE STORY Tour 2011. He introduced me to the wonderful space of hip-hop as each evening he brought the house down with his performance,” Frazee said. “But, what blew me away the most is the man I got to know off stage. Eddy Puyol is the real deal with a heart of heavenly gold.”

In addition to traveling with the group for last year’s event, Rawsrvnt also performed THE STORY medley on the 43rd Dove Awards national telecast.

“Last year I heard Natalie Grant say that I raised the ‘cool factor’ of the tour,” Rawsrvnt said with a smile.

“She’s super cool and I’m looking forward to celebrating this joyous season with the audience and some of our faith’s most talented musicians.”

To learn more about Rawsrvnt visit:

To learn more about THE STORY Tour visit:

2012 Tour Dates

11/23 Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY
11/24 Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC
11/25 Gwinnett Center, Duluth, GA
11/26 USF Sun Dome, Tampa, FL
11/27 Colonial Center, Columbia, SC
11/29 Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI
11/30 University of Illinois Assembly Hall, Champaign, IL
12/1 Independence Event Center, Independence, MO
12/2 Xcel Center, St. Paul, MN
12/3 Sioux Falls Arena, Sioux Falls, SD
12/4 Sears Centre Arena, Hoffman Estates, IL
12/6 Berry Center, Cypress, TX
12/7 American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
12/8 Freeman Coliseum, San Antonio, TX

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

NomiS: If the “Spirit In It” then “Christian rapper” label doesn’t matter

As I noted back in May, the “I’m-a-proud-Christian-rapper” versus the “I’d-prefer-you-just-say-I’m-a-rapper-who-is-a-Christian” debate has been freshly revived by artists like Lecrae and Trip Lee. Former Cross Movement Records artist R-Swift also recently weighed in on Trackstarz Radio, DJ Wade-O wrote a blog about it, and now West Coast vet NomiS has released a full song communicating his take on the matter.

I recently caught up with the Gallery Drive MC via e-mail to discuss the song, why he thinks the “Christian rapper” label is a more profitable career choice, and whether or not he believes the discussion will ever go away.

Sketch: What prompted you to write and record “Spirit In It?” 

NomiS: There wasn’t one specific incident. The inspiration to write this song was a result of many repeated incidents. As an artist, when something is on my mind a lot, I write about it. Initially I didn’t want to make a song because I kind of felt like it was a “dead horse” type of topic. But then I realized that nobody had really talked about it in depth in an actual rap song. Previous to this it was seemingly just a conversation that many were having amongst their own biased circles.

I really wanted to present my opinion in a direct, yet non-confrontational manner. I actually went back and re-wrote a lot of the song because I had to check my own spirit when writing it.


Sketch: You recently got some heat from conservative Christian rap fans for allowing a non-Christian rapper, Sadat X of Brand Nubian fame, to do a guest feature on your upcoming Searching for Alpha Trion album. Did that also play a part in sparking the idea for you to write this song? What did that experience (either recording with Sadat or having to respond to critics or both) teach you?

NomiS: It actually had nothing to do with that. I wrote and recorded the “Spirit In It” track about a year ago. I cut it from this new album because I felt it didn’t fit the vibe of the record honestly. BUT, due to the recent changes happening in “Christian Hip Hop” and due to the fact that I think the song is important, I was encouraged to put it out.

As for the song with Sadat, I’m honored to have someone who’s played a role as large as his in hip hop to be on one of my songs. As for the negative response I’ve gotten from that, sadly I’ve come to expect that from the “CHH” community.

For some reason, some people just can’t fathom the idea that their conviction for how a Christ-centered artist should go about his ministry isn’t a universal one. I’m not out here saying that “my way” is “THE” way to go about it. I’m saying that “my way” is “A” way to go about it. Tedashii is going to have a different approach than I would and that’s the beauty of the body of Christ. It takes all parts to do their job for the body to function properly. In fact Tedashii and I were just talking about this about a week ago. We share a mutual respect for each other’s approach.

Sketch: You’ve told me before that although you attempt to follow the ways of Jesus, you dislike the term Christian rapper. Have you ever been called a coward or been told you’re ashamed of the Gospel (like the people you mention in this song) because you don’t identify yourself with that label? If so, what was that like?

NomiS: These days man, I gave up on that “don’t call me a Christian Rapper” battle. It really isn’t one worth fighting anymore. I would never refer to myself as that, but if someone else does, it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to.

I make honest music. I love Jesus, I carry a burden for social justice and I love hip hop. I want to focus more on always bettering my craft and living out the things I rap about. I’ll let people call it what they want.

I’ve never been called a coward or “ashamed of the Gospel” to my face, but I for sure have via message boards or in some form of online comments. When it happens I don’t get very mad, but I honestly feel pity for the people saying it. In my head it’s like, “These dudes have no idea that the fervor they’re using to insult me (they would probably call it rebuking me because that way they feel justified) is ridiculously misguided”. On another note, I find it highly comical when they “rebuke” me on Christian websites and use all sorts of profanity in the name of Jesus. For some reason, that legitimately makes me laugh out loud when I see it. Does that make me a bad person? (Laughs)

Sketch: From the song, it sounds like you believe that labeling yourself as a “Christian rapper” is an easier and more profitable career choice than being a Christian who doesn’t carry that title. Is that the case? Why?

NomiS: I definitely believe that but let me clarify something first. I don’t think there is ANY PROBLEM AT ALL with some artists taking that route. As I said before, for some people that is the way to go because they can reach and minister to a group that needs to hear it in that fashion.

But, the reality is this: Rap music is ridiculously over-saturated right now due to the overwhelmingly large amount of social media that gives any and everybody a voice. And the advancement in technology in the last six years or so has allowed home recordings with decent quality to be very easily accessible to the world.

Next I’ll use extremely large and round numbers to make my point, but you’ll understand the example. In “Christian rap music,” a new artist is like one more name amongst the million that already exist. But in the “secular” rap world, a new artist is more like one more name amongst the billion that already exist! Imagine that “secular rap music” is a pie and “Christian rap music” is a pie of the exact same size. Splitting the pie a million ways is MUCH easier to get a decent sized piece of the pie than splitting it a billion ways. You feel me? There are a large number of people that buy “Christian music” exclusively. Being that I am in fact a Christian, it would make much more sense economically to do what I can to tap into that market.

For those of you not involved in the industry outside of listening to music, please believe that “Christian music” is a legitimate business. Also, in my experience, the ratio of people who buy music instead of illegally pirating music is much higher in the Christian world. This is another reason why it makes more sense to gear what I do towards that. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I think I’ve made my point. I could talk about this stuff forever.


Sketch: As more artists like Lecrae, Trip Lee, R-Swift, and JR are taking this stance do you think the “Christian rapper” vs. “Rapper who is a Christian” debate will ever go away? Why or why not?

NomiS: Unfortunately I’m pretty confident that it won’t ever go away. I can’t imagine what it would take for people to change their minds because they seem to feel so strongly about their stance. Maybe if Lecrae wins a Grammy and does an alter call on stage and we see Lil Wayne repent before the world – then MAYBE people will start to loosen up a little. Haha.

NomiS’ next album, Searching for Alpha Trion, drops Tuesday, July 17 at all major digital download storefronts.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Rapper’s “Church In The Wild” reality show asks Houstonians' thoughts on spiritual issues


“Church In The Wild” is a new, web-based interview and teaching series filmed, edited, and produced by Houston rapper Albert Archie.

I recently caught up with the Christian MC via e-mail to discuss the project, find out how much hip hop plays a part in it, and to ask about the brawling housewives missing from his reality show.

Sketch: What sparked the idea for your new “Church In the Wild” web-series? Was it the Kanye West and Jay-Z’s song of a similar name from “Watch the Throne?”

Archie: I’ve gotten a lot of questions about that. The truth is I’ve always been involved in video production and a while back I had an idea to start up a reality series that was geared around doing exactly what I’m doing right now. Though I didn’t have a creative name yet, the idea and vision has been in me for a long time. Then when I started to put the vision into motion my eyes were turned towards the Watch The Throne project and one of the songs titled “No Church In The Wild.”

That song title seems to say that the Church (meaning: Christians) aren’t in the “wild” (meaning: amongst non-believers) I saw it as an excellent opportunity to combat that and show that Christians are called to amongst non-believers, loving on them, and shining the light of Jesus to them.

Sketch: You’re calling your new “Church In the Wild” web-series a “reality show” but I didn’t see any housewives having drunken brawls or anyone getting eliminated at the end of each episode. What gives?

Archie: It’s funny you ask that, I actually had it planned in the near future to hire a couple woman I know from down the street to grab a couple of Louisville Sluggers and go at it like there’s no tomorrow. On top of that, I think on some of the episodes we can squeeze in some college people “partying like its 1999.”

Just kidding! But in all seriousness and jokes aside, reality by definition is “The state or quality of being real” and I think it’s safe to say that a lot of “reality” shows that come on TV aren’t actually reality at all.

I think there is nothing more real than going to a random place catching someone of guard and asking them their thoughts and beliefs on a specific topic and have them give you a straight up answer.


Sketch: You’re currently five episodes in, but how long do you think this will continue? Are you looking to find a way to get it on television? If so, how?

Archie: That’s a good question. I’ve been really debating on how long this will go.

I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. I figure there are always topics that people want to give their opinion about and even more so, there are always misconceptions that people have or sometimes they just don’t understand about the Bible. So with that, there is always going to be the possibility of having an episode of CITW to be able to answer that question.

As far a broadcast TV, I honestly never thought about that. I’m not necessarily shooting for that, but if the opportunity opens up, I think it would be a huge way to push the point of the series and make it more informative to people on a much larger scale.

Sketch: How does hip hop culture play a part in the show?

Archie: The hip hop culture not only plays a part in the show because I’m a hip hop artist, but also because I think that the hip hop culture can be very naive to a lot of things that take place. And then in the Christian hip hop community it can be so easy to get involved into that community and not really understand any type of theology or doctrine.

This is geared to be so informative on what scripture says about specific topics that involve the hip hop community and regular everyday life as well.

Also as Christians, we should never allow ourselves to be caught in a “Christian Bubble” to where we don’t understand anything that anyone else believes. One of the best ways to reach our culture is to know where they are at.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying know where the culture’s at in order to conform into what the culture is doing – that would be unbiblical. But, I am saying that we need to understand where the culture is coming from so that we will be enabled to reach our culture better.

Sketch: What’s been your favorite experience or response so far?

Archie: This reality series “Church In The Wild” kills about seven birds with one stone for me.
A few birds that this Goliath size stone kills are the obvious: it opens the door for people to be able to see the truth about what scripture says about Christians, Jesus, and how we are called to live as believers in Jesus.

A lot of times people can have skewed views about Jesus because they’ve only heard about him from another person and perhaps have never actually heard about him from the Bible. Also, it allows believers in Jesus to see how people who don’t believe in Jesus believe in order for Christians to be able to reach out to our culture.

Now, a couple of the feathered friends who have been hit with these stones that people don’t really get to see is the fact that I get to build and work with other believers as I prepare each episode. Talking and getting to know them is such a joy to me.

I strategically wanted to have a different person featured on each episode to illustrate that this show isn’t all about Archie and that I am not the only believer who has a heart for the world and for making clear what scripture says about certain topics. But this also really lets me put in work alongside other people that are fighting in the Kingdom as well.

Like I’ve said in some of the episodes; I am not a guru, nor do I claim to know all the answers. I just know that the Bible does. That’s why I encourage people to dive into the scripture for themselves as well.
Finally, it’s also fun to just get out and interact with people. Everyone has an opinion and its really cool seeing how they long to express their opinions.

To learn more about Archie view other episodes of the show visit

Friday, July 6, 2012

Convict-turned-Christian-rapper SaulPaul returns home to perform at NAACP Convention in Houston this weekend


This Sunday, July 8, former convict-turned-Christian-rapper SaulPaul will perform at the 103rd NAACP convention held here in his hometown of Houston.

SaulPaul’s ability to make impromptu hip hop freestyles using words thrown at him by the audience have brought him notoriety and opportunities to take the stage at events like SXSW and Super Bowl XLVI.

But what is particularly special about SaulPaul is his story of reformation. Having been both a product of the Texas State Penitentiary and The University of Texas, he has gained a thorough understanding of what can be lost through incarceration and gained through positive life choices.

In 1996, after a short stint at college, SaulPaul was convicted of four felonies and sentenced to 10 years. However, after only two years of his sentence, he was released and paroled. He worked hard to get re-enrolled into The University of Texas where he was able to graduate with a degree in Radio-Television-Film.

SaulPaul has just returned from a 21 city tour where he touched thousands with his music and his message. His performance at the NAACP convention is just another chance for him to share his inspirational story. He will also be debuting a new song from his forthcoming album Dream in 3-D.

For more information on SaulPaul and his recent accomplishments, please visit his website,