Monday, February 4, 2013

Mixing It Up: Platinum-selling worship leader Chris Tomlin adds DJ Promote to ‘Burning Lights’ tour


Platinum-selling singer/songwriter Chris Tomlin is squashing stereotypes of contemporary Christian music by adding DJ Promote to his 34-city “Burning Lights” worship tour.

The traveling stage show will be in support of Tomlin’s new, same-titled Burning Lights album, which earlier this month became only the fourth Christian album to ever hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 sales chart.

“I strive to create a special night for people from the beginning moments to the very end. I want them to feel engaged with the music, to be inspired, to have fun, and to be lifted up. Having DJ Promote this year brings a new element to the tour that is perfectly in line with the heart of the night,” Chris Tomlin said.


The project’s lead single, “God’s Great Dance Floor”, sports a slight EDM (electronic dance music) vibe that fits in naturally with the type of environment Carlos “DJ Promote” Trevino has been used to supplying as a professional DJ for over a decade.

Promote’s role as part of the “Burning Lights” tour will be to “throw a party” via a DJ performance after opening act Kari Jobe completes her set.

“This is a really exciting opportunity for me personally and the DJ community at large,” Trevino said. “It’s quite a statement that an artist of Tomlin’s stature understands what a DJ can bring to this type of event.”

Trevino’s turntable talents have been a part of over 11 albums and tours with artists such as Lecrae, KJ-52, Tedashii, Propaganda, B.Reith, Knowdaverbs and bands like Shane and Shane, Starfield, Jars of Clay, and Thousand Foot Krutch.

His profession and passion have led him to DJ for over 250,000 people in almost every state and in places like South Africa, Slovakia, Sweden, The Netherlands, Canada, Panama, El Salvador, and Mexico.

DJ Promote fell in love with music as a young boy in West Texas. Growing up without the positive influence of a father (who was in and out of prison) also caused him to seek acceptance and validation outside of his family. Although he found his calling in graffiti art and hip hop culture, Promote was still driven by a desire to use his art and influence to improve the lives of others.

He worked as an urban youth minister for over six years, created audio and video projects with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has been an invited participant in the SXSW (South by Southwest independent music festival), and recently founded Table Turners – a resource and partnership for DJs who are giving back to their communities.

“I try to live my life by putting people and ideas before myself,” Trevino said. “I promote the things I enjoy. I love God. I love music. I love to create and celebrate stuff that inspires people, so that’s what you’re gonna get when you come see a DJ Promote show or hear one of my mixes.”

“Hopefully it will make you feel as free as I do.”

Click here for “Burning Lights” tour dates.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Christian rapper cash hollistah. to release “goRilla” video during Super Bowl halftime show


In a stroke of magnificent marketing, Kansas-based Christian rapper cash hollistah. (all lower case & a period) announced he will offer an alternative to this Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime entertainment by dropping the music video for his new song “goRilla” on his website right after the game’s second quarter is complete.

The track, which features soul singer Sean C. Johnson, has a runtime of approximately four minutes so viewers who want to see this AND Beyonce can have their “cash” and eat it too.

“goRilla” will be on the artist’s #savednotsoft EP which will be available March 26 through Unlabeled Music.

Here’s your tease:

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Christian rappers speak out on gun control laws and violence


In the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and other areas of the United States, the debate over gun control is perhaps more heated than ever.

Some blame assault weapons or violent content in video games for the violence in our culture.

But others, like Thi’sl, argue more gun restrictions are not the answer. Here’s what he said about the issue in a recent appearance on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Other Christian rappers have also responded to this issue. Shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting, Houston’s Bizzle pushed his song “Better Way – Part 2″ online.

Lines include:
“They like ‘Where is your God?’ / I’m like ‘I don’t know
When you kicked Him out of your schools / where’d you tell Him to go?’”
and in reference to the Sandy Hook shooter:
“Maybe he misunderstood / maybe he thought what he was doing was all good
Maybe what he heard was ‘School – and kill ‘em in the room’ / When you really said ‘It’s cool to kill ‘em in the womb”

And Cincinnati rapper D-MAUB released “Calm Down” as a reminder that outside pressures should never lead to a violent response.

Monday, January 28, 2013

INTERVIEW: Propaganda on the response to “Puritans” and camera phones at concerts


A month ago I had the chance to sit down with spoken word/hip hop artist Propaganda and discuss a variety of topics including:
  • The response to his “Precious Puritans” song
  • Why his poem “Be Present” resonates with listeners
  • Nuances in art made by Christians
  • Camera phones at concerts
Prop and the Beautiful Eulogy folk-hip hop crew (Braille, Odd Thomas, & Courtland Urbano) return to Houston and Ecclesia tonight with a performance at Taft Street Coffee.

Details and ticket info below:

Taft Street Coffee
2115 Taft Street
Houston, TX 77006
Monday, January 28
7:30pm – 9:30pm
Tickets: $10 in advance (plus surcharges) / $15 door

Buy tickets online here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Remembering MLK with I.D.O.L. King’s “Dr. King” from 1991


Today is the day America celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Christian rap pioneers also honored him with the song “Dr. King” from their debut album Explosion that was released in 1991.


To find out why it was important to include this song and others about black history alongside the message of the gospel in their music, check out my interview with I.D.O.L. King founding member C.O.

(The discussion about this song and black pride in the church starts around the 4:30 mark.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Second Christian rap showcase at SXSW ’13 announced


A second Christian rap showcase for 2013′s SXSW (South by Southwest) has just been announced.

The first round of artists lined up for this event include:
  • Jin
  • Da’ T.R.U.T.H.
  • The Digital Age (aka the Dave Crowder Band minus Dave Crowder)
  • Sho Baraka
  • V Rose
  • Eshon Burgundy
  • DJ DMD
  • Johnathan McReynolds
  • The W.A.R.R.I.O.R.S. ATX
  • Willie Moore, Jr.
  • Propaganda

The “Kingdom Experience” will take place on Saturday, March 16 from 10am – 4pm at the Carver Cultural Center (as it has been since 2009) and will be comprised of concerts and panel discussions about music ministry.

It is an official SXSW event and, as in the past, it will be FREE and open to the public. Attendees will NOT need a SXSW badge or wristband to get in.

A separate showcase by Reach Records (including Lecrae, Andy Mineo, and others) will also be held earlier in the week. The early lineup for that concert was announced in November.

Stay tuned for more details.

Christian rapper Brinson interviewed on National Public Radio


Christian rapper Brinson was recently interviewed on National Public Radio.

The owner/CEO of GodChasez Entertainment has over a decade of experience and training as an ordained minister and was invited to the station by Melissa Ross, the producer/host of the First Coast Connect show on WJCT FM/TV.

The nearly five-minute segment covered:
  • His role as an independent hip hop artist/entrepreneur
  • His ministry work in the Jacksonville, Florida community, and
  • The ways he is helping others duplicate his success.
“Brinson is a fresh exciting voice on the First Coast,” Ross said. “I enjoyed meeting him!”

Brinson brought along Juice 20/20 of Space Cherry Films along to document the media session and was even able to perform an acapella of his track “Hit the Floor.”

“NPR offers a great service to the community and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share with their audience what God is doing through me and hip hop music,” Brinson said.

First Coast Connect is described as a show covering the issues, trends and newsmakers that have people talking. This one hour program airs Monday to Friday at 9am EST on WJCT FM/TV and is available as a podcast on NPR’s website.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A discussion about “Talented Xth”, race, & faith


On Monday night I was honored to be a part of an online discussion about rap, race, and faith.

It was hosted by author Seth Tower Hurd and included hip hop artist/urban missionary Kareem Manuel and Ta-Tanisha Jordan, a Chicago-based actress who will be opening up a Children’s Theater Company this fall.

Our talk was sparked by the release of Sho Baraka’s Talented Xth album (which hit #3 on iTunes’ Hip Hop/Rap charts yesterday) and his “Jim Crow” song that uses the “n-word” and “b-word” – something that surprises and shocks people given Sho’s past affiliation with one of  Christian hip hop’s most visible record labels.

Our hour long conversation covers:
  • The “Jim Crow” song and its “controversial” language
  • Whether or not Christians (particularly rappers) can use the “n-word” and “b-word” in their lyrics
  • How music like this can motivate others toward positive action
  • How this type of music compares to hip hop pushed in mainstream media
  • What happens when marriages between Christians get strained
  • Whether or not music by Christians that uses strong language should carry parental warnings or offer “clean” alternative versions
NOTE: It’s challenging to talk about these issues (particularly which terms are okay and which are not) without using the actual language. 

So heads up that the “n-word” and “b-word” are spoken in this video.


Is the ‘n-word’ off-limits for Christian rappers?


Today, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, marks the release of Sho Barka‘s Talented Xth album.

The well-produced and though-out project comes from an artist who used to be signed to the biggest Christian rap label around (Reach Records) but who now says that, although he’s still firmly a believer in Jesus Christ, he’s no longer interested in making music for the “Christian market.”

It’s also garnering some buzz for the song “Jim Crow” that was previously titled “N—a Island” and uses that term within its hook.

The subject matter tackles the narrator’s frustration about what constitutes blackness in America – a topic publicly discussed as recently as last month when an ESPN personality called former Baylor University quarterback Robert Griffin III a “cornball brother.”

I talked to Sho Baraka about the song and its title a few months ago at the release party for Lecrae‘s Gravity record here in Houston. In our conversation, he explained why he changed the title and even gave a parental advisory that this particular song may not be one you want young children repeating.

You can stream the album in full with the player below. I’m also told there are edited versions (aka “Colored Island”) available on the physical CD format.

And while this song/album are buzzing because it’s being released today, it’s not the first time a Christian rapper has used the “n-word” on his record.

Plenty of MCs fresh off the street continued to use the term in an affectionate tone on their post-conversion albums and 20 years ago the group S.F.C. (Soldiers for Christ) featuring the Alliance of Light who would later be known as top-selling rappers Gospel Gangstas) even tackled the entire notion of the word on the song “Kill that Spirit.”

Question: Is the “n-word” off-limits for Christian rappers?

Friday, January 4, 2013

I’m speaking at the New Media Expo this weekend with deepspace5′s sintax.the.terrific and Just para-DOX

NMX Featured Speaker

This weekend I’ll be joining deepspace5 member sintax.the.terrific and Jeramiah “Just para-DOX” Giehl as presenters at the New Media Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The four-day event is described as the South by Southwest of new media and the world’s largest conference and trade show for bloggers, podcasters, webTV and video series creators.

Keynotes will be given by Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki, tech head Leo Laporte, and UFC president Dana White.

Giehl organized our session which will cover “3 Unique Ways to Build a Massive Community.”

It’s not a Christian or hip hop event, although all three of us come out of and represent that life.

Para-DOX has been involved in a number of Christian hip hop affairs over the years as a rapper and as part of Much Luvv Records.

And you might remember my reporting of sintax’s creative venture where, once or twice a week, he writes, records, and posts a rap song about a serious news story on his blog.

Prayerfully, we’ll make great connections there and learn about a grip of cutting edge ways to use new media for God’s glory.

To learn more about the event visit

INTERVIEW: Authentik talks about prison ministry, putting Bible stories into rap form, and unique band names


I recently caught up with Serge from the group Authentik via e-mail to ask about prison ministry, putting Bible stories into rap form, and unique band names.

Sketch: The guys in your group are from Florida but some of them spent time in Texas and the South basically being homeless evangelists after some training by the Global Gospel Movement. 

How did that experience impact the music? 

Serge: While on the mission trip, we saw the effects of sin on mankind first hand and they’re total and absolute hopelessness without Him. We ran into thousands of people, lost and found, who DESPERATELY needed the Gospel, so as we minister through music, we want to ALWAYS relay to the listener whether lost or found, we never graduate or go away from the Gospel, but instead we go deeper into the Gospel, as it is our only hope.


Sketch: You also told me this album, Groans Before Glory, is somewhat based on a pamphlet called “No Cross, No Crown” that was written by a Quaker named William Penn. 

That’s got to be a first for a rap album, right? How did you guys run across that piece of work that ultimately inspired your rhymes?

Serge: We actually heard about it from Gus Cruz (our manager). Somewhere in the pamphlet the writer mentioned groaning before glory and that just stuck with us. We decided to study more on that topic and what it means, so after searching through the scriptures we just found that that theme was all throughout the Bible, so we ran with it!


Sketch: Your group is working a series of songs/videos that illustrate famous Bible stories including like Abraham and Isaac and the Fall in the Garden of Eden. 

Which one has been the most challenging so far? Which story are you most looking forward to fleshing out via hip hop? 

Serge: Both stories we’ve done so far actually came pretty easy, however we have a list of Bible stories that the ministry wants us to do for them and it looks like the story of Joseph in Genesis will be the toughest. Its such a long and

interesting story so its going to be a challenge trying to pack all of that into one song!

The story that we’re looking most forward to doing has already been done, The Fall of Man, we’re most excited about that one because we felt it came out pretty good!

Sketch: You guys do a fair amount of prison ministry as well. How well would you say that hip hop is accepted in that environment? Why is that? 

Serge: Hip hop is very well accepted in the prisons! People just in general love stories, so when we go into the prisons we try to do some Bible stories to get them to reflect on scripture and then we like to turn it up after that, the inmates love loud bass and dope lyrics.

Sketch: The record company you formed for this release is called CTF or “Conformed to Facts.”
However, I can’t help but notice you didn’t conform to the fact that the word “authentic” is spelled with a “c” at the end and not a “k.”What happened there when it came to naming the group?

Serge: Haha! We just wanted our name to be easier to find when people search for us! SO many different bands and random videos pop up when you search “Authentic” with a “c” so we wanted to better serve the people while they search.

To learn more about Authentik visit:

Titans’ linebacker sets record with two pick-6 TD’s while wearing #IMONFIRE wristbands from Christian rapper Rawsrvnt


It appears that Tennessee Titans’ rookie linebacker Zach Brown truly is “on fire.”

After achieving two sacks in a recent Monday Night Football game against the New York Jets (where he was seen sporting the #IMONFIRE wristbands from hip hop worship artist Rawsrvnt) he followed it up with a record-tying two interceptions for touchdowns against the Jacksonville Jaguars on December 30.

“It’s awesome to see an athlete like Zach who is so upfront about his faith do so well on the football field,” Rawsrvnt said.

“His passion for the game is evident and even though I’m from Miami, it feels like I’m starting to become a Tennessee Titan fan,” the rapper joked.

Fans wanting to get their own #IMONFIRE apparel can order them online here or ReTweet this story (including tags for @Rawsrvnt, @ZachBrown_55, and #IMONFIRE) for a chance to receive a wristband or two from the artist himself.

5th Ward Boyz rappers reunite and organize a Stop the Violence Unity Concert in their old neighborhood


The three founding members of the 5th Ward Boyz, a group whose hardcore gangsta raps helped make Houston’s Rap-A-Lot Records a nationwide brand, will reunite on Sunday, December 23 from 2pm – 6pm for a “Stop the Violence Unity Concert” at Brewster Park in their old neighborhood.

The free event will feature music, a memorial time for victims of violent deaths, and “empowerment moments” of inspiration from community leaders including Houston City Councilman Jerry Davis who represents 5th Ward’s district B.

Andre “007″ Barnes

5th Ward Boyz member Andre “007″ Barnes said he organized the affair in response to a rash of violence in the area – a reported eight murders in a two-month span, including four that took place back-to-back.
“When we were releasing records the 5th Ward used to be unified. But now, there’s some Hatfield and McCoy stuff going on with retaliatory shootings and killings,” Barnes said. “We just felt the need to talk to the brothers in our community and tell them there’s a better way.”

For many of the members of the 5th Ward Boyz that way includes a 180 degree life change through a faith in Jesus Christ. Barnes, who once served felony time for a bank robbery, now owns a Christian bookstore, serves as a youth mentor, and records and performs gospel rap music. Richard “Lo Life” Nash and Eric “E-Rock” Taylor‘s lives and music appear to be following similar paths.

Barnes said that on Sunday he anticipates appearances and/or musical contributions from artists such as Bun B, Gifted da Flamethrowa, and Derrick Chism. The day will also serve as a toy drive for underprivileged youth.

Here’s an example of what the 5th Ward Boyz are about these days: