Best known to Christian music fans as a member of TobyMac’s Diverse City, Shonlock has been busy preparing to step out into a spotlight of his own. He spent much of 2010 on tour with TobyMac and Skillet for their record-breaking Awake Tonight Tour. And later this year, Shonlock will hit the road with Group 1 Crew. But what may appear to be an overnight success story has been a long time coming.
Shonlock’s career began when he was plucked out of his Chicago high school by R. Kelly’s management team, to join R&B powerhouse Aaliyah and hip-hop pioneers Arrested Development on tour as a chorographer and dancer. From there, his name spread throughout the industry, resulting in a call from Christian hip-hop duo GRITS.
“At first, I was using a lot of my gifts and talents for the wrong reasons, but came to a whole new outlook on life after I met Verbs, who was supporting Grits at the time,” recalls Shonlock. “One day after going over some choreography he presented the Gospel to me, which was really refreshing because it was coming from somebody who understood my background and had similar interests in music. I had been going to church when I was younger, but never really grasped it, so to have it presented in a form that I could relate to and at an age when I could understand it became life changing.”
Alongside that spiritual renewal came a chance to work with like-minded stars such as Nicole C. Mullen and The Katinas, eventually catching the eyes and ears of multi-platinum artist TobyMac. Besides offering his chorography to TobyMac’s Diverse City, Shonlock became part of Diverse City as a guest vocalist/performer, a role that he maintains to this day.
While touring with TobyMac, Shonlock demonstrated that he was more than just a dancer and choreographer with a self-released CD that moved over 15,000 copies without the assistance of retail distribution. His ability to craft a song brought songwriting opportunities with touring partner TobyMac, as well as artists like Mandisa, Verbs and Kierra “Kiki” Sheard. His pop/rock/hip-hop stylings caught the attention of Arrow Records, resulting in a partnership that spawned the Where Never Begins EP in late 2010, followed by the new full-length album NEVERODDOREVEN.
“There’s a play on the title visually where it spells the same phrase forward or backwards,” says Shonlock. “The message is all about my relationship with God, and when you’re walking with Him, I never find it odd when amazing things happen. But on the flipside with the ultimate sacrifice of His son, I could never get even, which makes me forever indebted to Him.”
Much like his mentor TobyMac, Shonlock desires to create a bridge for all audiences while breaking down radio formats and spiritual stereotypes. “My goal is to be a blend for the pop, hip-hop and rock loving crowd without ever wanting to get boxed into a certain category,” he explains. “I’m not eyeing a particular marketplace, group or clique. I’m just going to do whatever I can to make sure the people that need to hear this message get a chance. If the message is truth and the music is good quality music, people will be drawn to it no matter what genre.”