How important is this new album release to you?
Very. I knew people were listening and so I wanted to deliver an album that was sonically appealing and would properly address some of the cultures issues with Biblical truth.
I wanted stir people toward going against the sinful stream of ideals, values, and lifestyles. I want the christian to be challenged in seeing that the fall of humanity has not thwarted God's intention for us. But since we are now corrupted by sin, we need to renew our mind. We still reflect God's image only now through a murkier lens, so it's important we learn to rebel by taking a stand for Jesus, and yet rebel by being a blessing to the unsaved and sinful culture. Non-believing listeners I pray will be attracted to the quality of the music and creativity, and prayerfully be challenged to look at God's holiness, repent, and turn to Jesus.
The inspiration for the album was largely realizing my own need for a biblical worldview. As I would navigate through arts, economics, politics, media, and culture as a whole I'd wrestle with a dichotomy between sacred and secular all the time. I'd either embrace aspects of secularism or the other extreme be very separatist in my views. I began read and listen to stuff by D.A. Carson, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, and Francis Shaffer, and taking another look at Genesis, Daniel, and Romans and I found a better grid to see the world through.
Over time I've worked to see Urban culture through a biblical lens and it's really helped. So I wanted to share with the listener the need to take a stand for Christ in culture yet still be a blessing and cultivator for the culture.
How was the recording process for the album?
Easy. I took my time and studied and then wrote songs. I got away for a while just me and my fam. By the time I hit the studio I had so much to say that it was like a few takes and I was done. The mixing and mastering was painful though. I felt like someone didn't want this album to come out! It was so hard to get it mixed and then get it manufactured.
What makes this album different from your previous releases?
Well sonically I was really comfortable. Real talk I was very comfortable with the music but as an emcee I was still learning my abilities and limitations. Theologically I was fresh off of 4 years of heavy discipleship and solid biblical community. So I had learned a lot and wanted to address it.
ATMS (After the Music Stops) I was experimenting a bit. I hadn't really rapped over other peoples beats much. I had done most of the production on Real Talk and 116 Compilation, so I had to figure out whose beats I could rap over. The ministry of that album was based off of me broadening my spheres of influence. That's when I was getting heavy into reading books and listening to other pastors sermons. I also grew a passion for discipleship and foreign missions and wanted to address that.
Rebel was a lot of books, sermons, convos, sharing my faith with gangstas, inmates, suburbanites, mission trips, trials, teaching, being rebuked, encouraged, and just growing as a man. I had a lot to say but had to find a way to narrow it down and I was excited about music. I loved so many tracks I recorded tons of songs. So this album was real personal. I wanted more than anything for God to hit the hearts of the listeners, so I worked hard to contextualize much of what I had learned to a pop culture influenced society.
Favorite songs and why?
I'm really excited about "Change". The song deals with the endless search for "happiness" on earth. The futility of chasing power, pleasure, and possessions. Also "Don't Waste Your Life". Very self explanatory. Dr. John Piper's ministry has greatly influenced myself and my crew so we crafted hip hop song unpacking the life not used for God's glory. Umm lastly I'd say "Got Paper". In urban culture especially hip hop culture, prosperity is constantly paraded as a badge of authentic masculinity, worth, and power. The prosperity gospel is also prevalent, so I wanted to address that in a song as well.
What inspired you musically for the album?
Hands down hearing Tedashii on his features, Flames "Our World Redeemed" , (which was such a monster), and then Trip Lee's phenomenal 20/20. Those guys set the bar High artistically. More so than much of what the radio was playing. Then Im surrounded by people who are honest with me about my music too.
How was the 116 Clique Tour? Any difficulties encountered?
The tour was...well it was a lot of things. Sho Baraka brought the house down with his concert version of "100". Tedashii parted crowds like the red sea nightly. Trip Lee fought to get people to see 20/20, but the best part is what happened AFTER the music stopped. Instead of our usual autograph signings we decided to spend time after concerts with people who were wrestling with the Gospel. We didn't do "alter calls" we met people backstage and unpacked the gospel. We labored with them. We shared until we were tired or people broke down crying in our arms. We worked to find them solid churches to connect with and we teamed up with churches to get the 13 letters curriculum going.
On the road the crew and I stayed doing group devotions wherever and whenever possible. We prayed...a lot. We slept...a little. I meditated on Matt 26:41 often peoples prayers kept us from being discouraged by Satan's attacks.
We laughed at how daily the airport found new ways to demolish our luggage. Sat nervously with random barbers from around the country. "You sure he can cut dawg?" And prayed for IHOP or Denny's in London. (God said "No" but said "yes" to KFC)
The highs - Meeting new people, growing in our faith, seeing people broken by truth, and growing closer to my brothers.
The lows - Miscommunication with promoters and artists. We learned to be better communicators before hand.
Any plans to tour for Rebel?
Not really. We are planning a tour for the summer in 09. But I'm going to rest, study, spend a lot of time with my family and my community.
What does Christian Hip Hop need more of?
In my opinion I'd say more...wisdom. So many cats are running around as the leading authority in their own lives. The wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, constantly tells us to seek wisdom. It only makes sense. Older wiser more mature believers pouring into our lives. Also biblical worldview. If we could see things through the lens of scripture and not the lens of culture, tradition, or assumption we'd be better at strategically impacting the world for Jesus.
What does Christian Hip Hop need less of?
Less self glorification, selfish ambition, self centeredness, and less self sufficiency.
You run Reach Records but also do Reach Life, can you tell us more about Reach Life Ministries?
Well Reachlife started as an attempt to give people more resources than just CD's. We offer DVD based Curriculum, resources, and bible study tools, and yet all in a very relevant way. So we are a non profit organization that is partnering with churches and ministries like Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, The LEGACY in Chicago, Plumbline Ministries in Dallas, and ISSACHAR Fellowship in ATLANTA, to begin Urban Reform. There is an upswing of young theologically sound and yet distinctly urban cats on the move. We want to be a resource in seeing Colosians 1:28 come to fruition. Check out www.Reachlife.org to help and join the movement.
What are your future plans as an artist and for the record label?
As an artist I want to continue to be available for God's use. I want to pursue humility and godliness. I plan to start seminary in the fall in order to gain more insight and perspective on God's word and find new ways to communicate it to an urban audience with music. Reach Records is still pushing forward. We have a couple new projects on the way. One is Tedashii's, which is already sounding RIDICULOUS, and the other is a special project that I'm very excited about but cant say too much on right now. (No it's not a Dwayne Tryumf album either.) We'll just keep pursuing the Lord man.
Does this mean you are denying the possibility of Dwayne Tryumf releasing an album with Reach? (View rumor of Dwayne Tryumf signing with Reach Records)
As far as Dwayne we think he's very talented but our heart was to see him and others in Great Britain grow in solid biblical truth. We wish we could have gotten more cats out here for a season.
Your thoughts on debuting high in the charts for a Christian Hip Hop album? (#3 in Hip Hop on iTunes, #11 in All Albums on iTunes, #1 Billboard Top Gospel Albums, #8 Billboard Top Rap Albums)
As far as the charts go. I don't know what to think honestly. They don't equate success to me really. They equate opportunity for people to hear another world, another mindset, another way of life, which is the ONLY way to really live. With a growing platform comes more prayer, pursuit of humility, and determination to stand firm for Christ. I think of Daniel and Joseph specifically. There is no record of their wavering or getting caught up with their own success. They stayed faithful to God and yet still influential in society. How can we be influential yet uncompromising in all our ways? Thats what I want.
Which song will you do for the next music video?
We are in talks to do DWYL (Don't Waste Your Life featuring Dwayne Tryumf).
Any last words?
Lastly... Christians please don't just get our music at Reach and sit on it. Use it as a tool. We have set up bulk discounts so people can pass them out in their communities, jobs, and schools. It's a great conversation starter and an opportunity to share Christ. www.reachrecords.com