Category Archives: christian music

Rebel Jewish rocker went forward to receive Jesus as a joke, got surprised by joy

michael brownGrowing up in a Jewish household, Dr. Michael L. Brown believed Jesus was the God of Christians and had nothing to do with the Jews.

During his high school years he became a pothead and eventually earned the nicknames “Drug-Bear” and “Iron Man” due to his prodigious intake of drugs. He abused pot, hash, LSD, mescaline, amphetamines, cocaine and heroin.

“I would take massive quantities just to see how far I could go,” Brown says on a One For Israel video. ”I once did enough mescaline (a hallucinogenic drug) for 30 people — the equivalent of one ounce. I couldn’t distinguish between reality and hallucination.”

dr michael brownBetween 1996 and 2000, Brown led the Brownsville Revival, a Christian Pentecostal Movement at the Brownsville Assembly of God church in Pensacola, Florida. He is currently a radio talk show host and also president and professor of practical theology at FIRE School of Ministry in Concord, NC.

Born in New York City in a respectable family, his father served as the senior lawyer in the New York Supreme Court.

“My upbringing was typical of many New York, Conservative Jewish children. We moved to Long Island, I did well in school, I played lots of sports, and, like all my friends, I basically stayed out of trouble. But something changed. It all began innocently enough,” he said.

“When I was eight years old I started to play drums. There was no question that I had ability. In fact by the time I was fifteen I had played on a studio album. But my favorite music was rock, and after my Bar Mitzvah in 1968, I got interested in playing in a band. I wanted to be a rock drummer, and all my role models were known for their heavy drug use, rebellion, and flagrant immorality. I wanted to be like them!”

In 1969, at age 14, he was offered pot.

“I was only too happy to oblige,” he says. “Soon I tried smoking hash too. But neither one had any effect on me. So I tried harder drugs until I started using uppers, downers and LSD. I thought I wouldn’t do anything worse than that, but I was deceived.”

By age 15, he tried speed and heroin.

“I loved it,” he says.

His grades crashed. Drugs, rock and “filthy living” were his daily portion. He and his friends broke into homes and a doctor’s office just for fun. Snatching up drugs wherever they entered, they nearly killed themselves.

He was binging drugs, constantly pushing the outer edge of the envelope toward overdose.

At times, it was difficult to distinguish between hallucination and reality. “I would walk with my hand in front of my face at night because I didn’t know if the tree that was growing up in front of me was really there, or if the tree that grew up into fireworks, that they were really taking place,” he noted.

”I’d see a car coming at me, and suddenly it became a person: the lights became eyes and a mouth. I’d see someone walking their dog and they’d morph until they each became a little bit of each other.”

Brown wasn’t the type of person to fight, but he would bring people down with verbal volleys. He ripped into people until they were in tears.

He had been raised a conservative Jew, but wandered far from the faith of his family. He rarely thought of God, but when he did, he rationalized that he was a good person.

“If there really is a God, He knows I have a good heart,” he thought at the time.

Ultimately, it was the Book of Revelation that brought him to account. Some friends began attending church and telling him about the Beast with seven heads and 10 horns that emerged from the Bottomless Pit to rule the world. It sounded like an LSD trip.

“That’s in the Bible?” Brown asked his buddies. “That’s what they talk about in this church? That’s a cool church.” Read the rest: Dr. Michael Brown started as a Jewish rocker on drugs and came to Jesus.

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The ‘success’ of touring with Bob Dylan left her disillusioned

55f5f1677bb6c240d80aa9c18d034a4d_400x400Touring with iconic superstar Bob Dylan may have been a life changing experience for Jennifer Goetz, but that wasn’t the only transformational aspect of the journey.

After going on two 6-week tours with Dylan in 1975 in the U.S., rather than feeling elated, she felt empty, completely lost.

“It was like I had climbed a mountain and looked over and there was nothing on the other side,” Jennifer said. “I was so frustrated with life that I determined I would give myself 35 days to find a new way of approaching life. I was so sick of this brain inhabiting this body and just the way I thought about things.”

During those 35 days, Jennifer contracted Bell’s Palsy, which is partial face paralysis.

“As I was going to bed one night, I was brushing my teeth and water came squirting out of the side of my mouth, and I lived alone in an apartment at that point, and I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to go to bed and I’m going to wake up paralyzed,’ and sure enough when I woke up the next morning, half my face was paralyzed.”

The next day, Dylan’s girlfriend, an African American Baptist Woman, grabbed Jennifer by the hands and started praying for her in the name of Jesus.

Marty-Jennifer-Goetzs

With her husband, Marty Goetz

“I remember that when she was finished I walked out of that trailer and I was stunned, and I looked around and I thought, ‘What was that?’’ she remembers. “And the next day I actually started seeing an improvement and feeling an improvement in my face.”

After the first tour, Jennifer got to join Dylan’s six-week European Tour.

Her quest for truth was not over.

With a friend at a hotel in the desert, Jennifer opened a little drawer and found a red Gideon Bible. She “stole” it, brought it home and began to read.

Read the rest of Jennifer Goetz disillusioned with success in music industry finds Yeshua.

Almost aborted, Aaron Cole is one of the best Christian hip hop artists currently

aaron coleAaron Cole’s mom and dad nearly aborted him, but the breakout Christian Hip Hop star was too far along in the womb for the procedure to be legal.

“How does it feel to know you was unwanted… to know you was just one good late night pimping,” Cole raps on “Shouldn’t Be Here.” “It makes me asks is there any point of even living?”

Aaron’s dad was 19, his mom only 17, when he was conceived.

Today, Aaron, at only age 20, is a rap sensation signed to Gotee Records with three albums and other projects banging on the charts. His song “Right on Time” with Toby Mac has 7.4 million views on YouTube.

Aaron Tyrese Cole made it out of the womb in Bristol, Virginia, on February 28, 1999. Mom and dad stayed together and another baby was born. They separated and reunited when dad came with another child. Today, Aaron has three full siblings and one half sibling.

Aaron-Cole-abortionDad was a hip hop artist who got saved somewhere in there, and Aaron picked up on his musical ways. The tyke was performing in front of friends and family from age 4. His dad produced an album for the little one titled Fourth Period.

His father had his own recording studio in his apartment and has helped Aaron with his music.

Aaron discovered Jesus for himself as a result of getting bullied for being a good kid.

“I remember in junior high just enjoying being a regular kid, but I would get picked on because I wasn’t smoking, drinking or getting in trouble,” he says. “One afternoon I told my dad what was going on and why, and he shared that he thought I was called for a purpose and that this calling would cost me to NOT be like everyone else.

“It was that moment that I encountered God for the first time for myself,” Aaron says. “And I knew I was born to do this and began writing and putting my own songs together.”

In 2016, Aaron’s parents told him the truth about his beginning, that he was going to be aborted. It was a huge blow. There was rejection but also relief. He owed God his life. Read the rest: Aaron Cole abortion.

Musician found ‘ecstasy’ in Christian EDM music

capital kings cole walowac.pngTwo roads diverged in a yellow wood and Cole Walowac, a Washington D.C. native, didn’t know which to take: the assured but boring career path or to follow his dreams combining music and ministry.

He was two years out of high school, not holding a job, making music with his church friend, Jon White, under the band name “Capital Kings.” They were doing something completely unique: Christian electronic dance music. Prior to the Capital Kings, all EDM was secular and played at the raves — all night dance parties renowned for ecstasy consumption.

capital kings in concertCole liked the music, not the drug abuse.

He was living at home on mom and dad’s tab seemingly endlessly. Finally, his parents delivered an ultimatum: Cole needed to do something productive with his life. He needed to grow up, move out and be responsible.

It was a frightening prospect because music was his passion and he hadn’t figure out how to make money at it. Some friends encouraged him to move to the Christian music capital of the nation: Nashville.

“We took a leap of faith and did it,” Walowac says on a This is Me video. “I just trusted God was leading me a whole other direction in my life. Doubt is like a disease. Even if you don’t see results immediately, it will lead to something good eventually if you work hard.”

The duo signed a record deal with Gotee Records and released an eponymous album in 2013, which charted in the Top 5 of Christian Albums on Billboard. The Houston Chronicle noted that no other Christian EDM met with so much crossover success. Toby Mac, Mandisa and Group 1 Crew all took note and started collaborations.

Their second album, titled simply II, was released in 2015. They did remixes for Britt Nicole, David Crowder Band, Nathalie Grant and Colton Dixon.

“Musically, EDM is very youthful. I think it’s just… Read the rest of What happened to the Capital Kings?

Who knew Sheila Walsh suffered mental illness

12_SheilaWalshUnder the semblance of a successful Christian music career, Scottish-born New Wave singer Sheila Walsh hid a rumbling volcano of mental illness that started when her father suffered a brain aneurysm and lashed out at the 5-year-old girl.

The volcano finally erupted in 1992 when she checked herself into a mental institution to come to grips with the rejection, depression and suicidal inclinations. Her recovery — and the help of Jesus — are the subject of her book Honestly.

“I was very much a daddy’s girl. I thought my father was the most amazing man on earth,” Sheila recounts. The tenderness and warmth ended brusquely with an aneurysm he suffered one night. After he returned from the hospital a few weeks later, he was paralyzed on the left side of his body and could only make grunting, animal-like noises.

“Sometimes during acute brain injury, the person hits out instinctively at the one person they believe will love them,” Sheila says. “But you don’t understand that when you’re five years old.

1539097700001_5852439046001_5850381258001-vs“The only one my father would take his anger out on was me,” she adds. “He would spit in my face or pull lumps of my hair out. As a child I thought, ‘What am I doing wrong?’”

One night, dad approached Sheila from behind and raised his cane to smash it down on her skull. If not for the growling of her little dog Heidy, he might have achieved his twisted intent.

“I don’t know whether I pulled it or pushed, but he fell and hit the ground hard,” she remembers. “He lay there like an animal just roaring.”

Four men were needed to carry him to the nearest asylum in Ayr, Scotland.

He escaped the asylum, dragged himself to the river, where he entangled himself in the salmon nets to drown. Search and rescue crews found him dead the next morning. He had committed suicide.

Sheila’s mother arrived home dressed in black. She took down every photo of dad from the walls and stowed them in a suitcase under her bed.

“We never talked about him again,” she says.

“All I knew is that I had done something to make my father hate me, or he had seen something in me that he despised,” she adds.

Sheila Walsh husband and sonNeighbors would try to encourage her: “Sheila, you’re just like your dad.” They meant mannerisms or singing voice, but Sheila feared they meant she was mentally ill like him.

“What I heard was: ‘There’s a crack in your soul like your father, and one of these days, no matter how fast you run, it’s going to catch up with you,’” she says. “I spent the next many, many years trying to make sure that whatever it was my father saw, no one else would ever see.”

She finished studies in theology at the London Bible College (now called London School of Theology) in 1979. She studied music at the London Academy of Operatic Art. She also worked as an evangelist for Youth for Christ in Britain and sang in a group called Oasis.

In 1981, she released a solo album of New Wave music with Christian lyrics entitled Future Eyes. She toured the United States opening for Phil Keaggy. In 1992, Pat Robertson made her co-host on the 700 Club.

“I found the perfect hiding place: Christian ministry,” she says. “Outwardly it looked like God had really put his hand of favor on my life. But inside I was still the same scared little girl. It felt as if I was on the edge of this volcano and this distant rumble was getting louder and louder every day, and I didn’t know what to do.”

She stayed busy and constantly filled her world with music and noise.

One day while interviewing a guest on the 700 Club on live T.V., the guest asked her how she was doing. “I wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t get the chance to pull my guard up,” she says. “And that day I did what I vowed I would never do. I cried on live T.V.”

She went away from work that day feeling naked before the world. The ghosts from the past had finally caught up with her, and she didn’t know how to deal with them. She went to the coast and walked out into the water, with every intention of drowning herself like her father.

What held her back was the thought of her mother receiving the phone call that her daughter had repeated the curse of inheritance.

She checked into a psych hospital. “I felt I had gone to hell,” she says. She was in a simple room with a chair, and personnel checked on her every 15 minutes.

A man came in at 3:00 and gave her a stuffed animal, a lamb.

“As he was leaving, he turned and said, ‘Sheila, the Shepherd knows where to find you,’” she remembers. Sheila was treated for a month and never saw that man again. Read the rest of Sheila Walsh mental health and suicide.

Russian Armenian ex-atheist Christian rapper who signs black artists for his label

Ruslan Christian hip hopAt age 10, Ruslan became a decided atheist after his father, immigrating from Azerbaijan with the family, dumped his mother and married another woman.

“At the time, my mom was so distraught over this, she stopped going to this Armenian Orthodox church where we found a lot of community,” he says on a video on his YouTube channel. “I was 10, 11 or 12, and I was literally convinced that there was no God. I was saying, ‘I’m an atheist,’ at a very young age.”

But when Ruslan, who today is a top Christian hip hop artist, got to high school, he was torn between girls: one was Christian, the other was Jehovah’s Witness. He decided to settle the dispute of whether Jesus was God by studying. He read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and the encyclopedic New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell.

ruslan rapper wife child

With his wife, Monette, and son, Levi.

The verdict came in.

“I — based on a very intellectual rational experience — came to faith,” he says. “My faith wasn’t hinged upon an experience. It hinged on the evidence that Jesus was God and He resurrected from the death.”

Ruslan Karaoglanov was born in Baku, Azerbaijan to a Russian mother who had been adopted by an Armenian family and an Armenian father. As an infant in the 1980s, he contracted an acute urinary tract infection, and a doctor at a remote clinic on the Caspian Sea performed a circumcision to save his life.

Five years later, Muslim extremists fanned out through the region to massacre Christian men and boys. Toting automatic weapons, rebels fighting the Soviet Army very nearly killed Ruslan, but his mom argued they were Muslims and showed her son’s circumcision as proof (in that region of the world, Christians do not usually circumcise while Muslims do).

ruslan“No! No! No!” Marina shouted in Russian, as narrated by Christianity Today. “We’re not Armenians. Look, my son is circumcised!”

The ruse worked.

The reign of terror didn’t abate, and finally the family applied for visas to America on the basis of religious persecution. They settled in San Diego in 1990.

Little Ruslan spoke only Russian and was one of just five a few “white” kids mixed with “black and brown” youngsters at school. His apartment complex and community had roughly the same ratio.

So while he studied English, Ruslan also learned “basketball, break dancing, graffiti and rap,” he wrote to God Reports via Instagram DM. “My experience with the black community is they tend to be very gracious and welcoming of outsiders. Specifically black church folk. I’ve never felt out of place or anything. Always the opposite.”

Ruslan free-styled with his friends from age 10 and performed at open mic night by age 12. He bought as many hip hop CDs as he could and started gravitating towards the gang culture of the hip hop in that era. For attempting to break in to a house, he was arrested and put on probation at age 12.

ruslan christian rapperAs part of his probation, he was required to do community service, so he decided to perform it at a church where a lady named Charee, an ex convict who converted radically to Christ, attended. He cleaned the church but also heard the Word. People kept prophesying to him: “You’re going to do things for the Lord.”

Afterwards, his mom still worried and wondered how to help her son escape the bad influences, so she moved to San Marcos, to the immediate north of San Diego. Ruslan got better grades, stayed out of trouble and stayed in the rap game. “Yo, you’re really dope,” friends told him repeatedly.

“I was super into basketball and thought I was going to play for the NBA. In my sophomore year, I got cut from my JV basketball team” at Vista High School, Ruslan says on a video. “Ever since then, I made the mental switch that I was going to take music more seriously. I started entering all the talent shows. I won second place in our high school’s battle of the bands in 2001.” Read the rest: Ruslan Russian Armenian ex atheist Christian immigrant rapper.

Out of a dark place, Manafest found his call.

manafestChristopher Greenwood fell more than four steps when he attempted a kick-flip off some stairs on a skateboard while trying to go pro in high school.

Permanently injured, his dreams crushed, Greenwood fell into depression.

“My world just fell apart. Everything I had ever wanted to be was just taken from me,” he says. “I was in a dark and discouraged place for a while.”

Since he wasn’t skating anymore, he hung out with musicians and he made rhymes just for fun to while away the time. He discovered he was good at it.

One thing led to another, and today he’s a Dove-award winning Christian rap-rocker using the stage name Manafest (as in manifesting the truth). His daily passion of skating was replaced with singing for the glory of God.

Manafest was born in Pickering, Ontario. His father committed suicide when he was five-years-old, leaving him with his mother and sister. He accepted Christ into his heart a few years later at a Bible camp.

maxresdefaultHe started skating at age 14 and skated every day of his life. After high school, he took off a year from skating and tried to pick up sponsors. Then the fateful accident happened.

Life was doom and doom and gloom. But his buddies helped lift his spirits. Because they played music, he started tinkering. He wasn’t any good — at first.

“I really sucked at it for a while — at rapping. I had to work at it,” he says. “But God just gave me a dream and a passion for this music. I saw a picture of performing in front of a lot of people and sharing my heart on things.

“God did a lot of big things in my life and set me free from a lot of junk,” he says. “I was embarrassed about my past. I wasn’t proud about it. That was a turning point when I was starting to do music.”

Since 2003, he’s produced nine studio albums. He has won multiple awards for the GMA Canada Covenant Awards and GMA Dove Awards. Read the rest: Manafest, out of dark place, he found his call.

Christian drummer prayed for a penny to stick to the wall — and it stuck

Chuck on the DrumsHis love for drums started when he was two years old.

Charles Christian asked his parents for a drum set. Because they lived in an apartment complex, they thought the incessant banging beats would generate angry complaints from neighbors.

Confronted with his parents’ “no,” the tyke turned to prayer: “Jesus, Jesus!” were the only words his infantile mind could form to give voice to his frustration.

“Acknowledging my little prayer, they saw my faith in Jesus and bought my first drum set,” Charles says. “Miraculously so, we did not get a single noise complaint while living at the apartment.”

Not one complaint.

Christian drummerToday, Charles is known by “Chuck on the Drums” and plays and produces with the pros. The Scottsdale, Arizona, resident plays everything from alternative rock to funk/hip hop with both Christian and secular musicians, including rapper Murs. He uses his talents to shine the light into the lives of the stars who still don’t know the Light.

“I am called to lead people to Christ through music,” he says. “I view music to be my ministry. God will continue to use me as a light that displays to the lost in this broken world. He will create opportunities for me to share the Gospel with those who do not know Jesus.”

Chuck plays and produces for ARCiTEC, a hip hop/ R&B duo in Arizona. He is part of two other bands and plays worship at the Highlands Church in Scottsdale.

He grew up in Chicago, the only child of Bible-believing parents whose faith “never wavers,” he says.

“It was not until I went to my church’s middle school winter camp that I really got saved,” Chuck recalls. “In between the set during worship, the worship leader stated that we as believers should have our own personal relationship with Jesus that does not rely on our parents’ faith.

“That truly rocked me.” Find out how a penny encouraged a Christian drummer to faith in God.

She overcame lack of love of father: CASS

Cass synthesizer musicHaving a distant dad only heightened her teenage insecurities.

Cassandra Kanda, a Zimbabwe-born Christian musician making waves in Christian Hip Hop now, grew up in New Zealand where she NEVER fit in high school.

“I struggled with rejection. I was bullied pretty badly when I was 8 years old in school,” she says an exclusive interview with God Reports. “So by the time I was a teenager, rejection was something I didn’t want to ever experience. And when I did experience it, it would hurt more than anything because of all the baggage I was carrying from it since I was young.”

In her soon-to-be-released album, Cass (usually her stage name is stylized CASS) explores the perceived lack of fatherly love and its subsequent repercussions in low self-esteem. It wasn’t until she profoundly understood the Heavenly Father’s love that she righted.

Cass in christian hip hop“When I discovered God’s fatherly love, it revolutionized my life,” she says in email interview. “It’s something till this day that still makes me emotional because I’ve only ever experienced a Father’s love from God. That’s why I’m so passionate about it.”

Cass is the synthesizer wunderkind of Christian music. She was featured recently on Reach Record’s collective song “Light Bearer,” which was a mantra for the label starting 2018.

Who would have thought the immigrant would amount to — or surmount such hardships — to attain renown in Christian music? Her beginnings were humble.

She immigrated, with her family, when she was 7. She attended church unrelentingly with her family and accepted Jesus as a youngster and then rededicated her life to Christ when she saw the play “Heaven’s Gates & Hell’s Flames” at age 16.

cass in concert christian“That’s when I really started to walk with God fully,” she says.

The adjustment to a new culture was worsened by a hostile reception at grade school where she, as a small African girl, was bullied by the New Zealand kids so badly that her parents had to change her educational center.

Her father, perhaps because of the African culture, was emotionally detached, Cass says, and this further damaged her self-concept.

“I grew up with a distant parent. This teamed up with the fact that I was bullied pretty badly,” she says. “So I tried everything I could do to fit in (which never worked cause I NEVER did fit in in high school), and it would bother me so much.”

Fortunately, she was growing in the Word and prayer, and eventually she realized fully God’s love.

“It’s not until I realized who I was in Christ, that’s when that fear of rejection broke of me,” Cass says. “What I was looking for — that acceptance or approval from people I was never going to find from the crowd. I would only find it in God.” Read the rest of CASS Christian musician.

John Givez leaves Christian Hip Hop, smokes pot

john givez marijuanaAfter singing for Christian Hip Hop for two years, talented musician John Givez stepped away from faith and returned to smoking pot, as seen in his music video “After Hours,” filmed in 2017.

When the rhythms & blues artist from Oceanside joined with Christian rappers Ruslan and Beleaf, it was heralded as a huge catch for Christian music.

But his turning away brought the CHH world great sadness, with many praying for the return of a prodigal.

Growing up, Givez attended church five times a week. His dad was a preacher and his mom worked in the choir. But his church and home were in the rough east side of town, and he was constantly harassed about joining a gang — either Pozole or East Side Crip — inside school and even coming out of church.

john givez backslideAdd to that the fact that his dad suffered emotional issues of PTSD as a veteran and schizophrenia, and you have the perfect storm for a trouble-prone youth who had an uneasy relationship with his father.

“The devil really tried to have his way with my family,” he remembers. “It took awhile for him to be diagnosed. That took a toll on me.” He stopped attending church during his teen years.

“I started getting into trouble with the law,” he says. “I caught a case for burglary, and I got caught with some Oxycontin. The burglary was a misdemeanor, but (the drug) took my case to the next level.”

john givezGivez faced a three-year prison term.

His dad bailed him out of county jail in 2014. The gesture of love and compassion from his father paved the way toward reconciliation.

“I remember sitting in the holding tank with these other fools, I remember God speaking to me. That was the first time I heard Him” in a long time, Gives said.

Look around you, God impressed on his heart.

“I look around, and all of us in there hated authority, and I didn’t know why,” he remembers. “That right there was a life-altering moment for me, in my own life, having to learn, just being hard headed, being smacked by the way things go.”

When he was bailed out, his dad urged him to get a job to show the judge he was changing.

At that time, a Christian rapper named “Beleaf” started dating John’s sister. He invited John, then 19, to church and offered him a job.

“That took me off the streets to where I didn’t have so much idle time, you know, to be bored and get into something stupid,” he says. “The Lord really started working on me. I was still smoking and drinking.”

Givez started reading his Bible, which was hard because he didn’t like to read. He wound up reading the Bible for eight hours.

“I gave my life to the Lord right there,” he remembers. “This was real. I would start in Revelations. (I realized) I’m going to Hell, for sure. Then I learned that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. From that moment I was like, ‘I don’t know how my homies are going to feel about this.’”

When he finally emerged from his room, his mom looked at him quizzically and remarked: “It looks like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders.” Read the rest of: Is John Givez still Christian?

CHH artist came out as gay, then announced he had HIV

jgivens christian or notAfter “coming out” as homosexual in June, Jeremiah Givens, a gifted lyricist who stormed Christian Hip Hop, just announced he has HIV.

“As a man living with HIV, I’m taken aback right now,” tweeted the man whose Twitter handle is @pray4jgivens. In response, his peers in the industry have shown him love. “You are in my prayers bro,” responded DJ Wade-O, for example.

This is not a tidy gutter-to-glory story. This is a Christian tragedy in five acts, which includes the latest doctrinal assault on 2000 years of church teaching. Some may debate whether this story ends in glory or tragedy, but most will be praying a redemptive thread prevails.

Jeremiah Timothy Givens was born on May 27, 1987 in Los Angeles, California, but his parents moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, so that their son wouldn’t get ensnared in gangs.

huge_avatarGivens was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from USC when he was introduced to drugs.

He partied on weekends, but followed a pattern of cleaning up his mess so he could return to school on Monday. A friend introduced him to crystal meth, a potent and deadly drug, and it became nine-year battle to finally get free.

Towards the end, Givens was lying on a bathroom floor, not caring if he died. He walked away from that near overdose and eventually stumbled across the hip hop of Jackie Hill-Perry. She was a Christian rapper who had turned her back on lesbianism.

Because of her music, Givens started attending church. Eventually, he met Propaganda, a CHH sensation, and Prop helped him get signed on his then-label Humble Beast Records in 2014. His album Fly Exam, a takeoff of the Icarus myth, was an examination of the fallacies and enticements of drug addiction.

“It’s about being dope and struggling with doing dope while being dope in Hip Hop,” Givens told HipHopDX. “It’s kind of a chronicle of my life in that time period of writing it. It’s sad that the older generation can’t forewarn these teenagers about the comedown part” after getting high.

jeremiah givens rapperRappers who praise drugs should be truthful about the negatives, Givens said. They should say, “Yo if you go down this road, you’re gonna feel like a superstar at the party, but it’s gonna lead to this and this and this and this.’”

Fly Exam peaked at number 19 on BillBoard in the category of Top Christian Rap Albums.

After erupting in CHH, Givens broke the Internet when he announced his homosexuality in June 2018. He responded to a Twitter follower who said, “You gay bro. Instead of hearing form others, imma (sic) just ask.” His reply: “Yup.”

CHH colleagues were quick to express love towards him and suggest fans pray for him, but other commenters resorted to a more confrontational approach: “He just needs to get delivered,” one said.

Givens retorted with a flurry of blistering responses until 5:00 a.m., according to Jay from The Crew who monitors CHH.

“Y’all are in a cult and calling me the devil,” he retorted. “Zealots are insane.”

Again: “I see why people have disgust for self righteous. They’re so fragile & full of false piety… They can curse you to hell, attack your business, defame your character, while secretly jerking off to incognito browser tabs.”

Givens response contained some valid points: Most Christians would be wise to remember that Jesus says the one without sin should be the first to cast the stone.

But behind the conflagration is an even bigger issue: Should homosexuals be accepted in evangelical churches and doctrine revised to no longer see it as a sin? Intentionally or not, Givens became a beacon for those pushing for a major revision of the Bible. Read the rest of JGivens gay CHH artist.

Tori Kelly rejected?

tori kelly smileFirst she got cut from a record label. Then she got cut from American Idol.

Tori Kelly was told she wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t bubbly enough, wasn’t talented enough.

“This wasn’t just one door closing. This was ANOTHER door closing out of all these doors that have closed in my face,” Tori says on an “I am Second” video. “I was so devastated. I was this singer who if I failed, then people would be disappointed.”

Wut? Tori Kelly cut?

tori-kelly christian singerToday, Victoria Loren Kelly, 27, is one of the most heralded singers in pop music. The Capital Records-signed Christian gospel musician has won two Grammys after songs on her two albums “Unbreakable Smile” and “Hiding Place” charted Billboard’s Hot 100.

The painful rejections in her attempt to follow her dreams have led her to some insights valuable to young girls who think they don’t measure up.

“It might take a while but one day your going to grow into your own skin and be the woman that God uniquely made as you,” the star says. “You’re being built into the woman that God wants you to be. And you don’t have to compare yourself to anybody.”

Tori Kelly ChristianBorn in Wildomar, California, Tori had a dad of Jamaican and Puerto Rican ancestry and a mom descended from German and Irish blood. Her parents loved music, exposed her to every genre and encouraged her early interest.

At age 12, she signed with Geffen Records, but that deal fizzled. She taught herself the guitar and began composing songs, which she uploaded to YouTube, getting one million subscribers. She competed in American Idol’s ninth season but fell out before the final 24.

“That’s when I went back into my room and I started to journal a lot,” she confides. “I wrote about confusion, feeling different. I was getting out these emotions that I’ve never been really good at explaining. It was just kind of this messy book of all my thoughts and prayers. (I wrote down:) ‘Lord, guide me. I don’t know who I am without singing.’”

The downtime — the time alone crying with God — was unpleasant. But ultimately, they were good for her. Read the rest: Tori Kelly failed.

Wande Isola got her start in rap with a biology project in college

wande isolaFrom time to time, her Muslim family members kept Wande Isola from going to church.

“When I initially gave my life to Christ and became vocal about my faith, it was met with a lot of tension,” the Nigerian immigrant says. “I had to make the decision to pursue Christ even when my family didn’t understand. I think many people don’t know how much opposition I had to face to follow Christ.”

At a time when there are calls to expand opportunities for women in Christian Hip Hop, the 23-year-old is exploding across the spectrum. The battles she has faced have prepared her for ones to come. She is currently working for Reach Records’ A&R Department, has dropped a number of songs and become the go-to female rapper for features.

wande isola rapWande says she knew about Christianity in Round Rock, Texas, where she was raised, but didn’t understand her need for a Savior until she was a pre-teen attending a “Discovery Camp” in 2009 in Columbus, Texas. Only her mom was Christian and supported her decision.

“My mom was my ally throughout my journey,” she says. However there were seasons when I was asked to no longer go to church. There were also many times I was told that Jesus can’t perform miracles and can’t save and I was being brainwashed. I think my family environment forced me to be rooted in my faith and be unwavering in what I believe.”

As a teen, she struggled with typical American issues.

“One of my struggles was insecurity,” Wande says. “I struggled with the need to live for the approval of others. This desire dictated my decision making process and ultimately led to frustration and let down. I wasn’t always seen as someone who is cool or talented.

wande isola hip hop“I overcame all of my struggles of insecurity by filling my mind with the Word of God. I took my thoughts captive and my thoughts manifested into actions. When I reminded myself of who God says I am, I began to view myself differently.”

She double majored in journalism and public relations at the University of Texas at Austin. Ironically, it was her biology professor who nudged her towards her now-emerging career. As a freshman, she earned an A+ in his class and decided she wanted to be a surgeon. Her start in rap was a biology project: Wande Isola (continued reading here)

Colorful Johnny Cash, the outlaw, comes to Christ

10-73In 1944, Johnny Cash’s much-loved older brother got pulled into a table saw that nearly cut him in half. After lingering between life and death for a week, Jack tragically passed away. The 11-year-old Johnny was plagued with guilt because he had premonitions and failed to warn his brother.

The troubling tragedy set the tone for the tortured singer’s entire life.

With more than 90 million records sold, 1,500 songs written and 24 #1 hits, Johnny Cash is easily one of the most famous musicians in the world. The man who wore black, sang country music and got ensnared by amphetamine and barbiturate abuse would ultimately side with God at the end of his life.

34-53“I am not a Christian artist,” said the man who reignited his career by singing concerts in prison. “I am an artist who is a Christian. There is a spiritual side to me that goes real deep, but I confess right up front that I’m the biggest sinner of them all.”

Johnny Cash was born Feb. 26, 1932 into a family that received farmland under the New Deal in Arkansas. He was raised on Gospel hymns and joined the U.S. Air Force out of high school even though his dream was music.

He married Vivian Liberto in 1954, but she divorced him 12 years later because of his alcohol and drug abuse, constant touring, and infidelities.

johnny cash bad boyIn Memphis he signed for Sun Records in 1955 and made such hits as “Hey Porter!” and “Cry! Cry! Cry!” His bass-baritone voice, train-sound guitar rhythms and rebelliousness mixed with a somber and humble demeanor won the hearts of Americans.

With his notorious free prison concert at San Quentin in 1958, Cash exploited his outlaw image to catapult to even greater fame. His record “Folsom Prison Blues” hit #5 country music in the nation. Read how Johnny Cash came back to Christ after trying to commit suicide by descending into a cave in Tennessee. The story also details is amphetamine addiction, his arrests, his marriage to June Carter, his prison concerts , how he threatened to whip the KKK with 40 lashes and how he set 508 acres of national forest on fire.

Sevin, former gang member, now a missionary rapper to the hood

christian gangsta rapSevin was a rising star in Christian hip hop, and he was homeless.

Marques Adams, his real name, was born in San Jose but grew up in Sacramento. His parents, Tracy and Debra Adams, raised him in a church that emphasized rules to the point of excluding God from the picture.

“I didn’t understand God as personal,” he says on a Next Step film. “I looked at Him how you look at a police officer in your community: somebody who enforces rules, but he’s not somebody you really wanna ‘kick it’ with.”

His parents moved a lot, cutting him off from friends and always putting him into the awkward situation of having to make new friends sometimes with a rough crowd that rejected him.

“All I ever wanted was love and people to accept me,” he says. “I was being treated like evil, and over time it wound up hardening my heart.”

At age 13, one of his few friends died, and he reacted with self-mutilation and suicidal thoughts.

sevin christian outreach hood“I was always angry and hurting, and it was growing worse and worse and worse,” Sevin says. “I just kind of let go of any care for life or my future or anything. I fell into an abyss. I started self-medicating really young, 12, 13 years old stealing bottles of Nyquil out of the store.”

He discovered marijuana and prescription pills, “just anything to try to numb myself,” he says.

Because he longed for acceptance, he started hanging with gang members. The Oak Park Bloods took him and “treated me like their version of family,” he says.

“Not understanding what true love or God’s love actually looks like, the world was able to lie to me,” he says. “The streets was able to suck me in with that false sense of brotherhood and fellowship.”

His parents were oblivious to the signs that their son was getting lost. He went to the wrong people for advice, who pulled him “deeper and deeper into my own destruction,” he says.

Because of his depression, he went so far as to deny God to his father.

sevin christian rapper“I felt like if God is so good, then why are we suffering?” he says. “At that point I was so beat up and at that point so demonically influenced that I walked into my room and I ended up putting my gun to my head.”

But while he was turning his back on God, God never turned his back on Sevin.

“The Holy Spirit ended up falling on me, and I felt this overwhelming sense of love and peace and acceptance that I couldn’t deny,” he remembers. “It literally reached through my body and touched my heart and changed me. The God of the Bible that I always thought was this impersonal, fake entity that either wasn’t real or didn’t care about us, that God came off of these pages and jumped into my real life.”

The previous week, he went to school, as was his custom, with a gun. The next week, he went with a Bible and told all the “homies” at the lunch table that they needed to study with him.

“In my past I felt like I was in this black hole, isolated and alone,” he says. “Now I don’t feel that way. God’s in me, with me, around me everywhere I go.”

Being born-again, he had a burning desire to use his musical talents for the Lord. Having made a name for himself as a rising rapper on the streets, he wanted to dedicate to the Lord the talent he had used for Satan.

He almost immediately got involved in music, but he hadn’t completely left the world and wound up with charges related to drugs. Now he thinks he was put on a platform too early in his baby Christian faith. He should have concentrated first on his growth in the Lord without launching straight into leadership ministry.

But hindsight is 20/20. When he wound up in jail with a felony, the same people who embraced his turn to Christianity now turned their back on him and reviled him for his “hypocrisy.” It stung Sevin deeply that apparently nobody would stand with him in his court case.

The sting ran deep and formed the foundations of his current ministry. Now, Sevin says he doesn’t allow anyone to advance in ministry until they have served for a year. And he reaches out to those who backslide and fall into jail. When fellow Christian rapper PyRexx got locked up, Sevin visited and offered to pay his bills and watch over his wife.

In the meantime, his heart was growing hard due to what he felt was betrayal. When he was young, he was molested at church. Church people, he believed, would hurt you but not stand with you when you were hurt.

While he continued with that thought, he was still drinking and using drugs, even while he put out Christian music, he said.

“I was betrayed by people who were claiming to be the people of God,” Sevin says. “I had one foot in because I knew the truth, but I had no fellowship and didn’t have a real deep understanding of the gospel.”

He was “stuck in limbo.” Read how Sevin Christian rapper got unstuck and out of limbo.

Christian rapper Canon fell 30 feet and almost died

canon homeOn a pitch-black night, Canon couldn’t see he was on a bridge when he stopped to help a driver involved in a crash. As gasoline poured out from the vehicle, the driver turned his ignition without thinking. Panicking that the action might trigger an explosion, Canon leaped over what he thought was just a median divider.

The Lecrae protégé plunged 30 feet to the ground and nearly killed himself. Canon, whose real name is Aaron McCain, shattered his ankle, broke his jaw and suffered a concussion following a Dec. 20, 2014 concert.

His recovery took two years.

Canon, famous for his speed rap, returned from his death-defying fall with the third and final installation of his popular mixtap series Loose Canon (a pun). He’s followed that up with the album Home in December. The brush with death brought a new dimension to his ministry: it’s less about hip hop and fame and more about Jesus.

canon's fall

The bridge from which Canon fell.

Canon has come a long way since he was a rebellious church teen.

Growing up in Chicago, little Aaron began to see that churchgoers were often hypocrites. His mom worked at the Moody Bible Institute, and his parents forced him to go to an “old school” black Baptist church. Except for the pretty girls that attracted him at church, he didn’t like it.

“I hated church, that’s the truth, that’s the reality of it,” he declared in a 2103 YouTube video filmed at a small concert. “Church was all fake to me. Christians was (sic) all fake to me. Christians made me feel awkward.

“Every time I walked up to someone, I felt like I had to be perfect. Every time I went to church, they made me take my do rag off. They were like: ‘You look like a thug,’ And I was like, ‘Well you look like a pimp.’ I never liked the church culture. They made me feel weird.”

canon's wife

Just three weeks before his fall, Canon married

Momma forced him to participate in ministry. He didn’t want to be an usher because they had to wear fancy white gloves. Being a deacon had no appeal to him because he didn’t know what the Greek-derived word meant, so he opted for the less painful ministry: being in the choir.

He went to all the youth camps and activities, but he never contended for a miracle or a real encounter with God in his life. His life remained unchanged.

“I knew how people acted in church and how people acted out of church,’ he says. “When I was around Christian people, I knew what face to put on, I knew what words to say. But when I was around ‘my boys,’ I knew how to put on that face. I knew how to play the game but after a while I got tired of playing the game.

“It got old after a while,” he recounted. “I got tired of wearing that mask.”

He explored the party scene and sought only fun for a time.

canon's accidentThen he met some authentic Christians.

“I met some real believers who actually live out the faith,” he recalled. “They did a lot more than my old group of Christians did. They actually prayed. They weren’t fake. I was able to look at their lifestyle and say, ‘If your lifestyle looks like that and you’re a believer, then I may not be a believer.’”

He was unnerved because their testimonies upended his understanding of Christianity. Ultimately, he decided he’d better get right with God, and he made the decision of his own accord to accept Jesus into his heart and was born again.

Because of his penchant for hip hop, he began attending The House, a rap-culture church in Lawndale, a suburb of Chicago.

“I felt like I’d found something I’d been looking for my whole life—a hip hop church with kids around my age, doing things I wanted to do,” he told Christianity Today. At the time, he called himself MC Spook “ because I want my lyrics to be deep enough to spook people into really thinking about faith and everyday life.”

canon grateful

His comeback song after recovering from the accident two years later was “Grateful.” The video was filmed in a graveyard, where he could have wound up.

Eventually, he met Lecrae, who made him his hype man and took him on tour. His relationship with the Christian hip hop legend grew, as did a friendship with Derek Minor, another big name in CHH. Ultimately, Canon would sign for Minor’s Reflection Music Group.

“Canon is like a mad scientist,” Minor says on an RMG video about Canon’s accident. “He’s like, (changing to Dr. Jekyll voice) ‘Let me go to the studio, and I’ll bring you back a hit.’ You don’t hear from him for three months, and then he comes back with a Dr. Frankenstein monster of an album.”

Lecrae featured Canon on his album Rehab. Applying lessons learned through the mentoring Canon released “The Great Investment” in 2009 to widespread positive reception.

He was climbing the hierarchy.

canon-eagles-video-e1470357918356Then he plummeted — literally, not figuratively.

His death-defying dive resulted from him trying to help a truck driver.

He had only gotten married three weeks earlier.

The December concert was unusual because Canon was somber. He cut off the music, asked the fans to sit down and talked to them about being serious for Christ. “At any point, you could be gone,” he told the crowd, according to his road manager Brandon Mason.

Afterwards, he delayed hobnobbing with fans at the merchandise table, so Derek Minor got impatient and went ahead to the agreed-upon restaurant.

When Canon, his road manager and the deejay left in three separate cars at 10:30 p.m., they saw the flipped truck on a stretch of road with no lighting.

“I didn’t realize I was standing on a bridge,” Mason says. “That’s how dark it was.”

Both Canon and Mason parked and jumped out to aid the fateful truck driver. Canon kicked out the window and offered to help the driver get out. Canon warned about the fuel pouring over the pavement, but the driver was in some kind of shock and instead started the ignition, Mason says.

Canon jumped the median. He fell to the bottom of the ravine. Mason ran down to him.

“Man, I’m scared,” Canon told him. Read more about Canon’s fall.

Dad binged drugs. Mom was schizophrenic. Flame came out burning for Jesus

flame-picMarcus Tyrone Gray took care of his schizophrenic mom while his dad was in the streets, binging on drugs in the projects of St. Louis.

“I had the responsibility of really overseeing my mom,” Marcus told CBN. “There would be times where she wouldn’t even recognize me. She could curse me out or call me names or just start treating me as if I’m her enemy or something like that. My dad would be gone days on end, blowing time, you know, getting high. Everything was just unstable.”

flame hip hopUntil her death, his grandmother was the only solid foundation in his life. But with her untimely passing, 16-year-old Marcus began acting out, picking fights at school. It was a way of asserting control over a reality that was out of control.

It got him arrested and expelled.

“When (Grandma) passed away, I felt like I lost a part of my own soul, a part of my being had been cut off. Because she was my everything. I just remember trying to be strong, but not having the ability to. My natural bent was to check out and to retreat, you know, stay in the clubs, do whatever would distract me, block me, numb me from reality.”

His life was spiraling quickly toward becoming a hardened criminal, a pariah of no use to society.

flame offered $1 million to rap but no jesusThen he developed a crush on a girl, and she invited him to church.

“I decided to go because of the hopelessness. I felt like I’m trying all of these different things to bring about what I actually want,” he says. “I was overwhelmed with the Gospel message of Jesus’ love. Jesus loves you. And I was so overwhelmed with this love, you know, Jesus’ love, and I remember thinking like, he does love a bad person. And it sounded exactly like the things that my grandmother would tell me.”

As the Word and Spirit touched his heart, he was born again.


The next thing you know, Marcus was on fire for God. He would take his Bible to school and stand up on the desk in middle of class and preach to his fellow students (for this he wound up in the principal’s office). He would invite people to church incessantly and fill up a whole pew of 15 needy kids headed towards a life of crime if Jesus didn’t intervene.

From death and destruction, his life became an intense flame. So that’s his stage name today, Flame.

A Billboard topper and Grammy nominee who launched Clear Sight Music, Flame has nine albums. He was offered a million dollar contract from a secular label, with only one condition: no mentioning Christ. He turned it down.

Flame does outreach in the streets of St. Louis constantly. After a shooting on the dangerous west side, Flame was praying with sinners and handing out Bibles when he met gang member Travis Tremayne Tyler. The hardened criminal wound up accepting Jesus and became a fellow Christian rapper star, Thi’sl. Continue reading and find out about Flame’s fight against racism.

nobigdyl. is a big deal

nobigdyl and wife chelseaAs a church kid, Dylan Phillips thought all he had to do was be good.

“I just thought that getting good grades, not talking back, going to church, those were all the same thing,” he says on Jam the Hype.

But how good? When he got into his teen years, he started sneaking off and dabbling in sin. Then his pastor hit him straight between the eyes with a sermon titled, “Faith without works is dead.”

“There wasn’t an outworking of that faith in my life. That really started to be evident in my teens,” Dylan says. “My pastor at the time preached in James 2. That showed me that intellectual belief, no matter how factually that belief is held, by itself, if there’s no outworking in your life as Jesus as your Lord, doesn’t make you any different than the demons.”

nobigdyl_2018_press_photo-1000x750Now serious about his walk with God, Dylan Phillips is a red-hot Christian rapper for Capitol Records. His feel-good style and catchy melodies are enhanced by upbeat lyrics. Songs about purple dinosaurs and yabadabadoos! communicate themes of love and community.

Underscoring the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously and as a counterpoint for the secular rapper BIG whom he admired, he adopted the stage name nobigdyl. (dyl is the first part of his name). “The heart behind it is that my music isn’t about me,” he says. He insists it must be all lower case, the opposite of his collective colleague WHATUPRG?

His humility is a breath of fresh air amid the growing toxicity of trap rap pride taking over Christian hip hop.

nobigdyl christianDespite his self-deprecating stance, nobigdyl is a big deal.

His flows are oriented toward youth, about breakups, suicide, drug addiction and self-esteem.

But the dour broodings of NF may be contrasted with the buoyant optimism of nobigdyl.

Dyl was born in Hayward, California, in 1991, but his family moved to Bell Buckle, Tennessee when he was nine. He’s now based in Nashville. His dad secretly introduced him to hip hop (against Mom’s wishes), and he became a fan of The Notorious B.I.G. and Onyx.

He studied audio and production at Middle Tennessee State University before switching majors to focus on the business side of music. He grew academically, professionally and most importantly spiritually. “My faith didn’t really become my own until I went to college,” he says.

Through connections, he started managing CHH legend Derek Minor.

This led to his big break: he got fired. Find out how nobigdyl getting fired led to his success.

Kendrick Lamar’s Christianity

Kendrick Lamar Christian rapLeft dazed and reeling with fury, Kendrick Lamar was in a Food 4 Less parking lot after his buddy had just been shot and killed. Rage for revenge burned inside, but so did a gripping sense of horror at the evil in this world.

Seeing him in turmoil, a friend’s grandmother approached and talked to Kendrick about God, and the teenager accepted Jesus into his heart.

“One of my homeboys got smoked,” Lamar told the New York Times. “She had seen that we weren’t right in the head. That was her being an angel for us.” He got baptized a decade later.

Kendrick Lamar JesusToday, the seven-time Grammy winner makes frequent reference to God’s salvation and grace, as well as temptation and fear of judgment in his songs. While the rank and file of the church eschews him for his profanity and descriptions of sexual sin in other songs, his secular audience has no doubt about his faith.

“I’m the closest thing to a preacher that they have,” says Lamar, 31. But he adds, “My word will never be as strong as God’s word. All I am is just a vessel, doing his work.”

Vassar College professor of music Kiese Laymon calls him a “prophetic witness.” Revolt online magazine says Lamar “wears his faith, spirituality, and religious beliefs on his sleeve.” He doesn’t drink, smoke, use drugs or womanize.

Lamar is part of the bridge forming between secular and Christian hip hop. While Lecrae moves toward the secular side, Lamar and a host of other artists are pulling away from unbridled hedonism and exploring salvation themes. (Chance the Rapper, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West and even Drake also include songs that talk unashamedly about God and Jesus in their repertoire.)

kendrick lamar wifeLamar grew up in Compton, Calif. His father belonged to the Gangster Disciples gang. Little Kendrick witnessed his first murder at 5 and his second at 8. His parents didn’t teach him about God, but his grandmother instilled him with Bible knowledge.

Growing up on welfare, living in Section 8 housing, the youngster worried that he would succumb to the debasing poverty, drug-trafficking, violence and hopelessness of the hood, even though he was a straight-A student.

At just 16, he signed for Top Dawg Entertainment, based in Carson, Calif., under the stage name K-Dot. After opening for prominent artists and working with Snoop Dogg, Lamar broke through on his own with his second album Good Kid, MAAD City, which hit Billboard’s #2 in its first week in 2012. In it, he depicts vividly the urban fiendishness of the hood.

Kendrick Lamar Barak ObamaHe opens the album with these words: Lord God, I come to you a sinner, and I humbly repent for my sins. I believe that Jesus is Lord. I believe that you raised Him from the dead. I will ask that Jesus will come into my life and be my Lord and Savior. I receive Jesus to take control of my life that I may live for Him from this day forth. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for saving me with your precious blood. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

He followed up in 2015 with To Pimp a Butterfly, which went certified platinum and won a Grammy for best rap album of the year. Then in 2017 he came out with Damn, which fathoms the loss of faith in the light of a volatile world of malfunction.

While Lamar’s music is pioneering, it’s his vocal inflections and lyrical substance that earn him widespread respect. For Damn, he won the first-ever Pulitzer Prize not given to jazz or classical music. Former President Obama singled out Lamar as one of his favorite rappers. He’s called King Kendrick.

On Damn, an apparent endorsement of the Hebrew Israelite movement, an aberrant group with claims blacks in America are actually God’s chosen people from Israel, elicited a response from Christian rapper Flame, who in “Absolute Truth” exposes their flawed exegesis.

“A lot of people fall for it,” Flame said on the radio program of Vocab Malone. “It feels good. It puffs up your pride, the ethnocentrism.”

Damn is less uplifting than his earlier albums. By plumbing the depths of discouragement, Lamar is encouraging his listeners that platitudes should be discarded and that it’s okay to be real and raw before God. Read the rest of Kendrick Lamar Christian?

Spanish-speaking black rapper was spit on as a child

propaganda christian hip hopPropaganda always felt like he didn’t belong.

Born in south Los Angeles, the Christian hip hop sensation was raised in the West Covina area where Latinos were predominant and violence prevailed. He couldn’t join the gang because of his color.

“I was the one black kid, being teased because of my color, getting chased home, getting banged on when we’re walking home: ‘Where you from man?’” he says on an I am Second video. “I’d recognize (the) homie. And I’d say, ‘Paco, what are you talking about? I live two streets from you.’”

propagandaThen Propaganda, whose real name is Jason Petty, moved to the suburbs, where he felt like the poor kid among so many Caucasians.

“We were these weird black people that spoke Spanish,” he says. “They didn’t get us.”

His dad had been a Black Panther in the 60s, energized by fighting police brutality. Mom and Dad eventually got divorced.

Propaganda began attending church. Of all the kids, he felt God the most intensely.

propaganda family christian hip hop artist“I was getting convicted,” he says. “I felt like God had split the roof open and was talking to me directly.

Moved by the power of the Word and the Spirit, he was born again.

He was disappointed when his friends didn’t get it. “The guys at my age, I remember them not being affected at all. It tripped me out because I felt like nobody else felt like that. But in my mind, it went back to just the same way I grew up: I’ve been ‘the only’ my whole life. So if I’ve been ‘the only’ there, I’ll be ‘the only’ here.”

He never missed church, and mom forced him to take notes on the sermons. She wanted to make sure he was listening. People saw his sensitivity to God and predicted he’d be a pastor.

propaganda jason pettyBut he wondered about where he would fit in best — with the church boys, the college-bound students, or the tagging street thugs. What he really liked was not the typical man things; he liked art.

From the sixth grade until his junior year in high school, Propaganda examined his life and tried to figure it out.

“I always felt like I don’t belong,” he says. “Whether I was born the wrong color, in the wrong neighborhood, in the wrong decade, to the wrong parents. I was not an alpha male. I was an artist. I would draw all the time. I wrote poetry.”

Finally, his father tipped him off to Jeremiah 1:9 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” and to Psalm 139:14 “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” These verses helped Propaganda to accept himself as exceptional and different from everybody else, a unique gift from God to the world.

“It was there that I finally realized my value is not determined by some innate, particular quality that I have,” he says. “No, your value is because God was willing to pay the cost of his Son for you.” Read the rest of the story Propaganda hip hop

Steven Malcolm overcomes adversity to become hip hop sensation

steven malcolmHis father was a drug dealer, his mom an alcoholic, and his sister a stripper. So Steven Malcolm started life with a few strikes against him.

He grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and then Tampa, Florida. Malcolm’s dad got busted for dealing drugs and was deported to Jamaica. Mom, who struggled with drinking, moved back to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when he was in the fifth grade. His sister drifted into a life of easy money based on her looks.

“I raised myself. I call it the school of hard knocks,” he says in his video “Watch.”

steven malcolm cerealHis two main passions growing up were basketball and chasing girls. He memorized Snoop Dog lyrics and slid by with a 1.7 GPA in high school.

Malcolm wanted to play on the local community college’s basketball team, but the steady stream of partying interfered with his studies and he didn’t earn good enough grades to get on the court. In his first year at college, his mom moved away and he felt like an orphan, abandoned and adrift.

“Going into my freshman year of college, stuff just really hit the fan and life really smacked me across the face,” Steven says on his website. “My family was going through hard times and then I started having an identity crisis where I was looking at life and wondering ‘what am I here for?’ My grades were horrible that year, so I couldn’t play ball. My best friend and I fell out and my mom ended up moving, so I was really lost.”

steven malcolm watchThen a high school basketball buddy invited him to church. Steven had never ventured into a sanctuary of Christian worship, and the prospect put him off. But he felt so abandoned, and his friend said he would find The Edge Urban Fellowship relevant.

“I’d never stepped foot in a church before. Now I’m thinking I’m going to have to pick up my pants, it’s going to be boring and nobody’s going to speak my language, but then he told me it was a hip-hop church, and since I had nothing to do that night, I thought ‘okay, sure, why not?’” Steven says. “And it was like a breath of fresh air that just smacked me in the face.” Read the rest about Steven Malcolm Christian.

Rapper 1K Phew says shooting attempt brought change, appreciation for Christmas

andy mineo christmasFor Christmas this year, hip hop artist 1K Phew can thank God not only for the gift of eternal life, but just plain life.

That’s because he narrowly survived being shot to death. It was the turning point in his life that caused him to reexamine what matters most.

1K Phew, whose real name is Isaac Gordon, was raised a Christian but started getting into trouble in his teen years.

“What really got me in a real-deal relationship with Christ was when I got in a real bad situation where I got shot at,” he says on video for Jam the Hype.

“I was fortunate enough not to get shot. Once that situation happened, I knew right then and there that if I kept doing the things I was doing, I was going to end either dead or in jail. So I had to make a decision right then and there as to what I wanted to do.”

1K PhewHe surrendered his life to Jesus and was born again.

He says Christmas has always been special time of year for him and his family.

“When I was in school, I was getting in all kinds of trouble. I got through all the whuppings. When Christmas came, there was a certain spirit that came in the house,” he says. “Christmas was the time of year we all did things together. We all came together as a family. No matter what happened throughout the year, getting ready for Christmas was so powerful to let us know that we could still have joy, no matter what we went through

the gift a christmas compilationRecently, 1K Phew released a Christmas carol album on Reach Records.

Yes, you read that right. Christmas carols a la hip hop. In a world where fusion food marries irreconcilably different styles to tantalize the palette, why would this seem strange?

Even Reach Record’s Senior Director of A&R couldn’t envision such a union. “Honestly, I wasn’t sold on Christmas and hip hop,” says Lasanna “Ace” Harris on a Youtube video. “I thought Christmas and hip hop don’t go together.

“The only way this could work if you take classic Christmas songs and re-imagine them. We wanted to dial back on trendy sonics and put more nostalgic, lo-fi sound with warm textures. We pulled back to the classic vibe of hip hop because I felt this album was going to be something timeless.”

There’s plenty of “re-imagining” of such inmortal classics as “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night” on “The Gift A Christmas Compilation.” The 116 Clique does much more than just repeat lyrics to new music, as so many artists have done before (making country carols or Hawaiian ukulele).

Reach-Records-1000x750They actually enter new terrain with new lyrical concepts, and the vintage carols are reduced to a motif in their rendition. The result is refreshing and original, a mixture of pop music, rhythm and blues, gospel and rap. But unlike most “new” Christmas music, Jesus shines through like the old. Read the rest about hip hop Christmas carols.

Is Christian Hip Hop dying?

Lecrae-Ty-Dolla-SignChristian Hip Hop is imploding. Its stars, lured by secular money, are leaving. New singers are ditching hard-fought standards (like no cuss words) and marginalizing salvation. It’s become disunited and sexist.

From what you read or watch online, you get the feeling Christian rap has a bad rap and its fans are now singing the blues. But is it true that Christian Hip Hop is descending to a deplorable demise?

A survey of CHH conducted by God Reports suggests that, contrary to controversy, Christian Hip Hop has never been more robust or vibrant. It’s reaching growing audiences and diversifying its message. It’s getting played all over the place, from the gym to WWE.

“Andy Mineo and Lecrae and some of these guys coming in rap are as good as the top rappers in the game,” says Sway Calloway, the host of the secular shows “Sway in the Morning” on SiriusXM Shade45 and MTV’s TRLAM. “It gives me chills when I can hear someone rap as good as them and put God in it.”

Part of the “problems” of CHH can be chalked up to growing pains. And another part is simply click bait; platforms fabricate or inflate controversy to swell their views and, by extension, their bottom line.

better late than never tour los angelesAny discussion of the current state of Christian rap starts with its de facto father, Lecrae. A fusillade has been unleashed on him for being too political, for signing with a secular label, and for working with artists who punctuate their work with profanity.

“Partnering with secular artists is very, very dangerous. You don’t see that worked out in scripture,” Wil Addison said in 2015 on Trackstarz. “Lecrae’s grown on the back of the church, and it seems like at one point he jumped off… You’re abandoning what you built your platform on.”

Wil Addison is not alone in his concern for Lecrae’s direction. Dismay is expressed over his collaboration with Ty Dolla Sign; is Lecrae muddying his message by working with a secular artist who raps X-rated filth?

Lecrae Devaughn Moore is no stranger to muck. He was sexually, emotionally and physically abused as a youngster. He learned to seal up the pain and pretend it wasn’t there, he said recently at Yale University.

Without a father in the house, Lecrae looked to male role models in the community and took up drug trafficking as a teenager. His grandmother was a churchgoer, but Lecrae wasn’t interested — at first.

In college he responded to the gospel and was piqued by evangelistic rappers. At a time when nobody thought Christian rap would sell, he co-founded Reach Records in 2004 and started releasing albums. He won Grammies and topped Billboard charts.

When he was at his peak, he signed with Capitol Records, which has been making incursions into the increasingly profitable Christian hip hop market, snapping up the surest bets (also NF, Social Club Misfits). How could he own a Christian label and become an artist on a secular one (albeit their Christian department)?

bizzle warriors anthemIt seems Lecrae was turning into a missionary. He saw the chance to work with secular artists and rap at more venues as simple evangelistic math.

If the Capitol signing wasn’t controversy enough, Lecrae — who’s always been vocal for African American rights — joined the Black Lives Matter movement. There were a string of innocent blacks gunned down by police, and the long-suppressed feelings of rage and powerlessness from the childhood abuse reared its ugly head.

Lecrae found himself marching on the streets in protests — and in the cross hairs of a political reaction against ambushing cops and a tide that swept Trump into the presidency. Broad swaths of fans and Christian leaders threatened to bolt. Lecrae couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t support the cause of the oppressed and judge the sins of the oppressors.

At an October concert in Los Angeles, Lecrae admitted that the last two years have brought disillusionment and depression. He even contemplated turning his back on Christianity altogether, he said. But a wise old Christian asked him to consider if God — not his fans — had ever abandoned him. Days of meditating that question brought the man of God back to God.

At the October concert, Lecrae’s language and performance undermined the accusation that he’s ditching his faith. Lecrae spoke of struggle and confusion. But his words were a testimony in front of the church.

Lecrae’s failings are emblematic of the growing pains of the wider spectrum of CHH artists. There are hundreds of rappers who associate to some degree with Christianity. No survey could cover all of them, but among those examined in in this census, the conclusions award CHH a clean bill of health: souls are being won, disciples are being made and the cause of the Gospel is advancing. The good things outweigh the bad:

Influence on secular artists

One of the biggest proofs of the strength of CHH is its impact on secular rap. This is ironic because people keep worrying that CHH stars are going to be influenced by worldly stars if they cross over into the secular market. But they don’t see that CHH is exerting its own gravity that pulls on mainstream mike-kickers.

Today, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Chance the Rapper — all top rappers — have mentioned God in a positive way in their music. Snoop Dogg, saying he’s returning to his Christian upbringing, just produced a double gospel album.

In “Jesus Walks,” Kanye says:

They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, videotape
But if I talk about God my record won’t get played, huh?

Meanwhile, new artists like John Gives are returning to their parents’ faith and becoming a testimony through their music. Malice renamed himself No Malice and began spitting the Christian message. He saw the light: his previous music was leading listeners down the wrong path and he wanted to rectify it.

This is what is missed with the Lecrae-Ty Dolla Sign collaboration. While Christians bemoan the “loss” of their star, they’re missing the positive — the potential of gaining for Heaven a worldly singer.

Once upon a time, secular rap artists and fans rolled their eyes at CHH, which they loathed like an embarrassing kid brother. But now such collaborations prove that secular artists have moved light years beyond the eye roll. They are more than giving the nod to CHH; it is now “game respects game.”

Saving souls in the streets

Getting celebrities saved is cause for enthusiasm. But we need to remember that God is no respecter of persons. The unheralded are just as important to Him as the BET idol. And here too CHH has a positive balance sheet.

Aaron Cole reported on Twitter that his music touched the son of a drug dealer. Shai Linne started a church in Philadelphia to create an ethos in which street sinners could relate.

One way for CHH to reach sinners is when its music gets featured in non-Christian venues. When CHH gets used in movies or played at the gym, the exposure has the potential to draw in unsaved, new fans much like a church picnic can draw sinners to church where they can hear the message of salvation.

On this front, it’s worthwhile to mention that Derek Minor was featured on Black Ink Crew, and Social Club Misfits got their music used on WWE. When the NBA Warriors wanted a new anthem for their basketball team, they tapped outspoken Christian rapper Bizzle for the job.

Even a Louisville strip club played Lecrae. When asked about it, he responded with the sarcasm that is becoming his go-to response to the controversy that hounds him as CCH’s #1 man: “I’m a real rapper now. Everything I’ve done earlier pales in comparison. I’ve made it,” he told Rapzilla in 2015. On a serious note he added that he supports ministry to the women trapped in the sex industry, and the power of the Gospel in his message needs to get where sinners are. Read the rest of Christian Hip Hop in controversy.

Christian hip hop artist Datin raps about pending divorce, pain and self-medication

DatinRapper Datin always encouraged kids coming out of the death and jail traps of drugs and violence foisted upon unsuspecting kids by secular hip hop artists.

Now he has a new people group to encourage: those coming out of a divorce.

In his September 2018 video “Hell in the Hallway,” Datin says his own ongoing divorce has him living in a dark and lonely hallway. He can see the light at the end of the tunnel (hallway). But until he gets there, he’s out of the room of marriage and left in a gloomy limbo.

When his marriage foundered, Datin submitted to pastoral guidance and sought counseling but his wife didn’t want to participate, he noted on Facebook. (Her version could not be found online; she deleted her Instagram pictures with him).

Datin Divorce

It’s over with his beloved Johely

Because Florida law allows divorce on the basis of only one of the parties, Datin — whose real name is Edward Berrios — found himself hapless and resigned to the heart-wrenching conclusion of a happy chapter in his life.

In all cases of marriage, Christians should seek reconciliation. But if one party is unwilling to try, your life is not over, Datin says. God has a destiny for you beyond your present tragedy.

“When God closes one door, he opens another,” Datin says. “But right now I’m in the middle. It’s hell in a hallway.”

datin divorce

From the video “Hell in the Hallway.”

Datin is the raspy-voiced rapper who delivers hammer blows. His mad dog face, he says, is not an imitation of violence-peddling secular rappers. It’s because he’s upset by their lies and deception that have been misleading America’s youth.

Like his label boss Bizzle, he constantly calls out secular artists, whom he blames for inducing tens of thousands of young men into trafficking and violence. These artists profiteer from their recipe for death. They entice kids by flaunting a flamboyant lifestyle of riches and women.

“Their songs are like cyanide; the more we listen to ‘em, the more our souls die inside,” he raps on “Pull the Plug.” “This is for the deejay killing us with the poison he plays. Let’s pull the plug on ‘em.”

Datin Hell in the Hallway

From the video “Hell in the Hallway.”

Datin grew up in Newark, New Jersey, not on ritzy Jersey shore but on the backside ghetto. He has every right to aim at hip hop artists for their false narrative because he himself fell for their lies. He and his friends sold drugs, treated women poorly and acted like thugs.

As a result of adopting the gang lifestyle, one friend was killed and another jailed, he says in his songs.

But while he was sinning, the Holy Spirit was afoot in his life. He first turned on to Christ when he watched Mel Gibson’s 2004 “The Passion of Christ.”

But since hip hop was his priority, he kept his nascent faith low key and compromised his walk with sinful stumblings.

When he graduated high school, Datin gained renown in the battle rap world and was expected to sign for a big name label. To the surprise of many, he declined signing with Eminem’s Shady Records and Ja Rule and Swiss Beatz, according to Christian Post. His neighborhood pal signed and drove up in a Jaguar to invite him to also sign, he says.

datin high school battle rap

Datin won the rap battle in high school.

“It was such a struggle to say no,” Datin told Rapzilla. “It took every bit of my being. My whole life was based around my music, my hopes and my dreams. To say no was like chopping off my arm.”

In 2007, he got fully saved and extricated from the ensnaring world of hip hop. He laid down the microphone first, grew in God, and then years later picked the mic back up only to outreach, he says on a radio interview DJ Tony Tone.

He dropped projects in 2010 and 2012. In 2014, he finally signed — for the Christian label God Over Money. This was a natural move because the label is known for never soft-peddling the gospel — or from shirking controversy. For Datin — who preaches hellfire and brimstone for rappers who sell their fellow people of color down the river — it was an ideal fit.

His much-anticipated first studio album Roar charted 18th for rap on Billboard and hit the top 10 on iTunes.

With such a sterling testimony, Datin’s sudden announcement in April of his pending divorce was as startling as it was saddening.

“I have fought for my marriage to the very end,” Datin says. “I’m scandal free. There’s no issue of adultery or abandonment or abuse. I have seeked (sic) counseling. I have put effort in. But the effort was not reciprocate. So therefore, this is the unfortunate outcome.”

Christian rap offers a stark contrast with secular rap because marriage is idealized and honored. Datin in November 2017 rapped “Fight For Us,” his pledge to work for his marriage.

“I’m submitted. I’m committed. He’s my witness. Before the Lord I stand, Ima give it all I can,” he says. “Baby, Ima fight for us.” Read the rest of the Christian Divorce – a story of Datin.

Social Club Misfits unite losers, rejects and nerds

social club misfits recording labelThey were bullied in school hallways and cut from teams. They went unnoticed, until they tried to get attention, and then they stuck out like sore thumbs. Girls weren’t content to just say no to a date: “Get out of my face or I’ll scream very loudly.”

Now, Fernando Miranda and Martin Santiago have turned all those moments of embarrassment and loneliness into gold.

As a rap duo, they’ve capitalized on their woes to build a huge following of awkward, shy and unpopular people. Their group, Social Club Misfits, is a Revenge of the Nerds 2.0, and they signed with Capitol Records CMG in 2016.

While the rest of America — and notably the rap world — was busy putting down others, Social Club Misfits was gathering all the outcasts into a massive group of friends, followers and family.

“I think God is about people and as Christians we should be about people and known for our love,” Martin told Rapzilla. “We wanted to have a band that was honest and real with people. It’s a safe zone. We wanted to share from our life and give you a Christian perspective on everything we do.”

social club misfits losers, outcasts and rejects

Both Marty and Fern — as they prefer to call themselves — started as church dropouts.

Fern was born in Puerto Rico. When his parents immigrated to Hollywood, Florida, he was a pastor’s son banging on the drums and the congas.

He was doing music and had generated some buzz in the local radio stations. So when he turned 18, he moved out, stopped going to church and dedicated himself full time to worldly rap. He was sleeping on friends’ couches and fell into the party scene that always seems to accompany the world music scene.

“That was the start of what I call the lost decade — ten years of being out there and mom wondering and crying and praying,” Fern says on a testimony video. “I wouldn’t tell my parents where I was. My mom would call me and say, ‘Where are you? I just want to bring you $20.’ And I would say, ‘Mom I can’t tell you where I am. I’ll meet you at the drug store, and I’ll give you my laundry and could you wash it for me?’ She would cry and say, ‘Your dad wants to see you.’

“But I was being prideful. I never wanted him to see me like that, being broken down.”

He was messing around with drugs and started hustling to make ends meet. One night some enemies burst into his apartment and held a gun at his face while they ransacked the apartment. The problem wasn’t with Fern, so he was allowed to live.

social club misfits concert“The Lord spared me,” Fern says. “Ironically enough, that was just the beginnings of the lost decade. I would go on and pursue regardless of what that was. I had a gun in my face another time after that. It was a repetitive cycle. It’s called insanity. You just do the same things over and over trying to look for a different result.“

The lowest point came when he very nearly threw himself from a hotel balcony when he panicked during an overdose.

“Jump!” a voice told him as he leaned over the railing. “Just go ahead. You did too much. You gotta go now.”

He drank milk to neutralize the drugs. Read the rest of Social Club Misfits testimony.

Hottest new Christian rapper is Latino WhatUpRG

WHATUPRG-Christian hip hop artist.pngWhen he was only 7 and already showed signs of liking hip hop, a woman at church talked to Raúl García’s mother to warn her that rap was of the devil.

It’s a good thing Mom and Son ignored her. Today Raúl — known now as WHATUPRG — has literally exploded on the Christian Hip Hop scene, signing with Reach Records at age 21 without ever having made an album previously. RG (his stage name reads “What up, RG?”) is the face of the next generation of Christian rappers who are ministering to a new generation of fans.

wesside whatuprg“My parents have always supported me in my music,” RG says to NewH2O. “I know in my heart where I’m heading and where I’ve positioned myself allows me to speak to people and let them know it’s not about a bunch of rules but about His grace and His mercy and His love. So when I rap I want people to know that they’re not alone and there is grace for them too.”

RG is born of Mexican parents who immigrated (illegally) to the United States. He grew up in Gwinnett County, Georgia, where he went to church, listened to Christian Spanish rap and loved to perform at church functions.

Despite doubters in the same congregation, RG’s parents supported his musical inclinations and even paid for his first album to be produced when he was 14, a recording he now calls “trash.”

WHATUPRG_REACH-RECORDSWhen he was 16, his dad was nabbed by immigration officers and deported to Mexico. This tore RG and led him to be outspoken on the divisive issue. “I’m still dealing with the emotional trauma to this day,” he tweeted.

It appears his dad is back home in Georgia, since RG tweeted about going vegetarian in 2017, only to be contradicted by his dad, who said they were eating carne asada. “I can’t be Mexican and healthy,” he quipped.

RG got noticed by CHH heavies when he filmed a video of himself and his friends at Walmart in 2017 with his song “Don’t Forget to Live.” The filmography was amateurish, but pros were impressed by the vocals and music. He started getting calls.

latino christian hip hop artistsSoon he was nobigdyl’s Indie Tribe and was featured on Mogli the Iceberg’s song “Ride My Own” and others. Just months later, Lecrae signed him. He was making waves but was still an unproven quantity since he hadn’t dropped a professional album.

“On my 18th birthday, I was getting a 116 tattoo on my knee,” RG tells Trackstarz. “When I was turning 21, I was talking to my lawyer about the contract.”

RG’s blitz to fame has surprised even him, and he says he’s focusing on staying rooted in God. “God honors humility,” he says.

he fact he wants to stay low is refreshing to hear, especially when one contrasts that attitude with the braggadocio rife in secular rap, with artists boasting about their knife wounds and talk in hyperbolic terms about being “gods.”

In May 2018, RG dropped his debut album Pleasant Hill, which created a sensation. He hit #7 on iTunes hip hop sales. A Trackstarz interviewer said there’s not a song he doesn’t like on it. David Livick lists him among the Top 10 artists of 2018.

There are detractors, many of the historic fans of the 116 clique who don’t like the new direction of the label and want the Old School material. RG’s not Christian enough, some say. “STOP Imitating and Start innovating… what’s the point of copying the World, sounding, Looking and acting like them?” comments Leveled Head on the “Wesside” video. Read the rest about WhatUpRG Christian.

Korean? Chinese? American? mother? wife? RAPPER? The many rolls of HeeSun Lee

Heesun_Lee_adopted christian musicianIf there’s anyone who could be confused by her own identity, it’s HeeSun Lee. She’s Korean by birth, Chinese-American by upbringing, a rapper who hangs mostly with African-Americans and Latinos.

But HeeSun Lee — her first name is Korean while her last name is Chinese — sees herself first and foremost as a Christian.

It wasn’t always that way.

Adopted when she was four months old in 1983, HeeSun grew up in a loving family with all her needs met in New York. But when she became a teenager, the idea that her birth parents had “rejected” her sent her reeling. Was she Korean? Why did her biological parents not want her?

heesun lee rap artist“When I got into high school, I felt so different. That was the beginning of my journey of not knowing who I was,” she says in a YouTube video.

Her identity crisis sparked a downward spiral because she couldn’t speak Korean and didn’t even know what kimchee was; her new Korean friends commented in their native language about her and she felt awkward, rejected.

She was drawn to the hip hop culture of Tupac at the time and learned to party, take drugs and sleep around, according to her lyrics and an interview.

“I remember there was a point in my life when I was just completely lost. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know who I was,” she says on a Jahrockn video of her “I’m Supposed to Be” song.

Heesun-lee adopted Mom

HeeSun (she was called Cynthia at the time) with her adoptive mother

At about the same time, she got introduced to Christianity when her grandmother, to whom she was very close, declined in health. A friend invited her to church.

“Once my grandma became sick I thought I’d find comfort in going,” she says. “It completely changed my life. I found God — I found my purpose.”

But her journey toward God wasn’t all smooth sailing. She stumbled.

“Through it all though, God was always with me,” she says. “He was just distant. But He kept me. He reminded me He was there for me. Finally I just realized, this is wrong. This is not where I’m supposed to be. So I just cried out to God.”

HeeSun Lee family

HeeSun with her family today

In college she could have gone either way — the world beckoned but God was fighting for her. Ultimately, she chose Jesus, marriage, and a family.

She also chose rap.

“When I started rapping, I wanted to rap about my own experiences, what I go through,” HeeSun says on a Korean American Story video. “I couldn’t picture myself rapping half naked and talking about sex. I mean, I partied and stuff, but that just wasn’t me. That wasn’t my character. At that time I was in and out of church. I believed in God. He was always helping me in some way. I was struggling. My songs are about my experience” coming to God.

That is how HeeSun became the Christian hip-hop artist who, perhaps, gets the most double takes.

Female Christian rappers are few and far between. So are Asian rappers, not to mention Christian Asians rappers. She’s even rapped while pregnant.

HeeSun married a New York police officer, and the couple have two girls.

Her first album in 2008 was Re:Defined on the Jahrock’n label. She found the definition of her identity in Christ, she says.

“I used to think I was unfortunate, unfortunate to live a life that could never tell me the origins of my story,” she raps in one song. “Most people know how they were born. Unfortunately, I was never given those details on my adoptions papers… I don’t know if I was a mistake” Read the rest: Christian female Korean rapper.

Dave Robbins’ double life almost doomed his marriage

Dave-Robbins brave confession“I thought my life is over. I thought my marriage was over. I would lose my family,” country star Dave Robbins was grappling with his own unfaithfulness in the living room with his wife.

His wife hit him with a surprise question: “Do you think you’re saved?”

He had grown up in church: “I thought I was saved. I grew up in a church, knew about the Bible, knew about Jesus, but I didn’t feel saved. I felt separated, ashamed, full of guilt, full of fear, tormented, just tormented.”

blackhawk membersDave Robbins is a founding member of the multi-platinum country band Blackhawk, but ever-burgeoning success only increased temptation for him.

“I have spent an entire lifetime struggling with temptation. I have struggled with alcohol. I have struggled with sex. I have struggled with pornography.”

For seven years in his marriage he struggled with porn and almost ended his marriage with infidelity.

Dave decided to become sober. “I thought that would fix everything and all the other stuff would stop as well.”

But it didn’t.

dave robbins wifeHe was living a double life.

There was another woman in his life. He tried to keep his wife in the dark. He was sexting random women.

For some reason, he thought the solution was to leave his wife and kids. That way, he would be free to pursue his wantonness. But as he pondered this “solution,” ultimately he felt miserable.

“It was sociopath stuff. It was crazy. I was just a dead person.”

Dave’s wife, Mary Lynn Robbins, finally figured out his secret schemes. Read the rest of how to save my marriage.

Tedashii lost child, fell into grief, experienced strain on marriage

tedashii grief strain marriageTedashii Lavoy Anderson was out to make his mark at Baylor University. He strove to be responsible and do the right thing, to be well-liked in school, in sports and on the social scene.

Then this random guy walked up to him three months into his freshman year.

“Hey, I heard you talk about yourself,” he told Tedashii. “I heard the jokes you made, the things you laughed about, the stories you told about the weekend.”

“I gotta be honest,” he continued. “I think the Bible would call that sin. Sin is when you disobey a holy God. There’s a real place called Heaven and a real place called Hell, and I don’t know if you’re gonna go to Heaven. You need a Savior.”

tdot-christian rapperTedashii’s competitive side suddenly flared, and he launched into a tirade insisting no one should judge him, especially someone who knew nothing about his struggles and background.

“I kind of shoved him down out of the way. I didn’t mean to put him on his back, but I did unintentionally,” Tedashii recounted in a YouTube video. “I kind of stepped over him and went to class angry because here’s this guy telling me I’m not good enough.”

Weeks later Tedashii was kicked off the football team due to injury, lost his scholarship, lost his girlfriend, and saw his parents separate. As a result, he couldn’t pay for college anymore.

Then the same random guy approached him and shared the gospel with him again. “God wants to have a relationship with you,” he told him.

tedashi family wifeThis time, there was a completely different response. “A light bulb came on. I felt like I got a hug from the Father. I just dropped to my knees on campus and prayed to God. ‘I get it. God, I need a Savior.’”

The random guy became Tedashii’s best friend, and later became the best man in his wedding.

He suggested Tedashii rap for the Lord, and the now-famous Christian rapper initially laughed if off. Only after the Spirit dealt with Tedashii did he whip up a terrible rap that evoked only laughter at a campus talent show.

It was a flop, but the infection had started, and Tedashii was intrigued by the possibility of spreading the gospel through the popular medium of hip hop. He’s now recorded five projects with Reach Records and hit #1 on Billboard’s Gospel Music. He’s on Lecrae’s Reach Record label. Tedashii also appears in videos with Trip Lee, KB and others from 116 Clique.

Also known as T Dot, Tedashii lives in Denton, Texas, with his wife.

In March of 2013, he lost his youngest son, a one-year-old, to a sickness the hospital couldn’t treat, and the untimely death triggered a crisis of faith that led to substance abuse and jeopardized his marriage.

He learned about the tragedy on a flight returning from a concert. “I literally broke… Read how Tedashii fell into substance abuse, experienced strain on his marriage and finally overcame the grief.

He just wanted girls, but God had other plans

royce lovettRoyce Lovett went to the Christian youth conference only to “score a girl’s number.”

But the sudden appearance of a stye on his eyelid put a damper on impressing girls. So he prayed.

“I remember saying God, I know I’ve heard stories of you doing things for tons of people, but I need you to do something for me. If you can remove this thing from my face, I’ll know you’re real,” the Tallahassee native said.

“So I prayed but I kinda forgot about it after I did. A couple minutes later a friend and I went to the bathroom, and the stye was gone. I was like, yo, God did something for me. It meant so much.

Royce, now 29, rededicated his life to God at that Acquire the Fire conference. He had grown up going to church. His mother and father were ministers. But he didn’t really get to know God until that conference.

what label royce lovettSuddenly God was real — and immediately Royce understood that he had a purpose: music.

For 11 years, he recorded five indie projects and performed concerts all over the globe while his family made ends meet with government aid. Finally, in 2014, Royce signed with the legendary label Motown Gospel.

It’s no mistake. Much of his music has the feel that it belongs to a different era, that of the heyday of Detroit with the start of so many African American music stars. But some of his music has rock influences (“Runnin”). His sweet ballad “Fly” is totally out of the loop.

royce lovett family

With his wife and kids today

 

Royce started in hip hop, but Christian rap pioneer Soup the Chemist encouraged him to give up predictability and blaze his own trail with his prodigious talent on the acoustic guitar. Royce also plays the bass, the drums and the keyboard.

While he was playing music at a park, a random guy came up and starting jamming with him. The guy told him his music was like “cerebral soul,” because it had the feeling of soul but made you think. The genre tag stuck.

If his genre places him logically with Motown, his message places him directly in the human heart. He’s never one to downplay his faith or love for Christ. And he’s willing to be brutally honest about the struggles of temptation. Read the rest about Royce Lovett.

Liz Vice nearly died of kidney failure

liz viceBy Hailey Johnson —

Since the 60’s, Portland has become home to a menagerie of zany indie (secular) rock bands, such as Blind Pilot, Sleater-Kinney (led by Portlandia’s Carrie Brownstein), and more.

But one artist has emerged from this conformity cloud to mesmerize audiences with another sound — Christian music.

Meet Liz Vice, the black Christian R&B singer converting Oregonians into provisional Christians with her luscious vocals.

A native of the Beaver State, Vice — along with her five siblings — was raised in Portland by a single mother.

During her formative years, she never envisioned herself as a singer but instead spent her days fantasizing about becoming a filmmaker.

gospel music liz viceAt 15, however, her inspirations came to a clamorous halt, as she was diagnosed with a severe autoimmune kidney disease that soon led to kidney failure.

For the next seven years, Vice faced dialysis appointments, hospital infections, heart failure and her own mortality.

“Instead of praying that I’d be healed,” Vice admits, “I was just so tired that I would pray for death every day. But every day I woke up, I decided to live that day to the fullest.”

After enduring all this, in 2005, Vice was favored with a kidney transplant, allowing her dreams to finally pick up where they left off. Read the rest about Liz Vice gospel singer.

After dropping out of partying, Mat Kearney took off in music industry

matannie1-350x233Skate-boarding teenager Mat Kearney spray-painted graffiti on trains and sold pot. He got into Cal Sate University Chico on a soccer scholarship but was a lackluster English major. Whenever his roommate wasn’t watching, he swiped his guitar and played for hours and hours — that’s how his musical career was born.

After shedding the vacuous party life and finding Jesus, Matthew William Kearney now has five top 20 hits on the Adult Top 40 Chart. He sings “Hey Mama,” “All I Need,” “Nothing Left to Lose” and more recently the haunting ballad about overcoming conflict in marriage, “Ships in the Night.”

d45f4838-11eb-41aa-8394-fe872d21df2c_575011_TABLET_LANDSCAPE_16_9-350x197“I guess I lived it up and did what everyone said you should do in college,” he said on CBN. “I discovered the depth of depravity, the bleakness of that lifestyle. It just wasn’t working. I finally started understanding there must be more to life.”

Kearney’s journey to success has been just as accidental as the misspelling of his name on his birth certificate that he discovered only in the eighth grade. He says the nurse got it wrong, so he spells it: “Mat.”

His grandfather ran a fake cigar shop in Rochester, New York, that was a front for a gambling ring. The mob shut down the business because it was encroaching on their territory, he said. This was during the depression, so Kearney’s father suffered hardship.

imagesHis dad served in Vietnam, followed the rock group Pink Floyd through Europe, and later became a lawyer in America. He moved to Hawaii where he worked as a deckhand on a boat and met Kearney’s mom, who was working as a mermaid for glass-bottom boat tours. They married and moved to Eugene, Oregon.

Kearney could roam freely as a kid in Oregon. He got into all kinds of trouble and loved soccer. By his own account, he “barely” was accepted into Chico State, which doesn’t have the highest academic entrance standards and is famous for being a party school. He received a soccer scholarship and was appreciated by his coach for intensity on the field.

But as he experimented for hours with a piano and practiced his singing pitch, he fell out of love with soccer.

A friend who would later become a music producer spontaneously asked him to go with him to Nashville, Tennessee.

Kearney could roam freely as a kid in Oregon. He got into all kinds of trouble and loved soccer. By his own account, he “barely” was accepted into Chico State, which doesn’t have the highest academic entrance standards and is famous for being a party school. He received a soccer scholarship and was appreciated by his coach for intensity on the field.

But as he experimented for hours with a piano and practiced his singing pitch, he fell out of love with soccer.

A friend who would later become a music producer spontaneously asked him to go with him to Nashville, Tennessee.

I helped him pack up his trailer and we put a mattress on the back of his truck. We basically drove cross-country and slept in the back.” Kearney said. “When we pulled into Nashville we slept in a school parking lot for three days until we finally rented this apartment where the roof was caving in and mice were crawling all over.”

Robert Marvin recorded with him all summer, and Kearney fell in love with the farmland surrounding the blue-collar city, so that’s where he stayed and made his fame. For his second album, he signed with Columbia Records.

It was in Nashville that he met and married his wife, Annie Sims, who was an actress but worked at Anthropologie. He was smitten by the Southern belle and wrote “Hey Mama!” after seeing her. Today they have a one-year-old, Olive. Read the rest of Mat Kearney Christian.

Bullied as a child, singer Jamie Grace now invites everyone to her wedding

jamie-grace-bullyingJamie Grace knows about being bullied.

Her eyes and neck twitched, her hand involuntarily hit her chest – all a product of Tourette syndrome. Kids in middle and high school made fun of her.

Once at a youth rally, Jamie Grace, a mere 13 years old, approached a cluster of guys. Her first crush was taking hold.

jamie-grace-atlanta-georgia“They were having a lot of fun,” she said in a YouTube video. “But when I got closer, I realized they weren’t just making any kind of noise and weren’t just saying anything. They were actually mocking me and mimicking me. They were taking their hands and hitting their chests and slobbering at the mouth and calling me a retard.

“All I wanted to do in that moment was disappear,” she added. “I just stopped in my tracks. This was the worst. It was overwhelming.”

When she was a new adult walking around a mall, she saw teenie boppers pointing fingers at her and taking out cell phones to film her tics.

“Here I am like 19 or 20 years old running from girls in the mall because I was so overwhelmed and frustrated,” she said. “I was trying to get away. I was so embarrassed.”

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Adele was wowed by her voice

Today, Jamie Grace Harper is a Christian pop singer, whose “Hold Me” featuring Toby Mac earned her a 2012 Grammy nomination and a Dove Award for New Artist of the Year. The Los Angeles-based singer is using her fame to fight bullying.

“Throughout “my middle and high school years, I would deal with a lot of people bullying me because of my Tourette’s Syndrome and because of having been homeschooled. It was a difficult thing to face,” she said. “There was never any hardcore bullying like kids hitting me or putting me in a dumpster, but anything where someone treats you badly, it hurts.”

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Jamie Grace and Toby Mac have parted ways

The solution for the victim? There are truths in being a “bigger person” to not take the cruelties to heart. There is emotional release in understanding that “hurt people hurt people,” she said.

But ultimately, she realized one needs to find acceptance in God.

“How do we recover? I believe I was created by the same God who created the mountains and the seas. I know that when I chose to focus on the rude teenager who called me retarded, I can get easily defeated and roll my eyes and watch a Law and Order marathon and not leave my room. But I instead choose to focus on what He thinks of me.

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Once she thought she never could be loved. Now she’s engaged to Aaron Collins and invites everybody to her wedding.

“There is Someone greater and more powerful whose words mean so much more. No matter what they say or do, realize that you are not their words. No human has the power to define your worth. Find your worth in the words of Someone greater, and know that your value has been established by Someone so much greater.

“It doesn’t matter who you are but whose you are. Find your identity in Christ, not about what other people say about you, not what billboards say you should look like. You were made in His image. Psalms says, ‘You are beautifully and wonderfully made.’”

Jamie Grace was born into a Christian family in the Stone Mountain suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Her dad was the jazz-playing pastor of the smallish Kingdom City Church, where the family showed a lot of love to people. She was precocious and breezed through school. But since she was sometimes isolated, she turned to the guitar.

Her talent was evident. Starting in 2006, she posted videos of herself on YouTube – and bullying reared its ugly head there too. In the comments, 50 of 70 were insults about her Tourette syndrome, being female and being African American.

“It does get to you. It does hurt us,” she remembered. “It’s irritating and agitating and it’s evil and it’s cruel.

Comments assured her she would never succeed in the music industry.

Then in 2010, Toby Mac saw her videos and signed her for his label, Gotee Records. Her career catapulted.

“Hold Me” was the first of slew of hits that got played widely on Christian radio stations. With happy-go-lucky lyrics and a candy-apple voice, Jamie Grace fused hip-hop, folk and pop to wow audiences.

In 2016, Adele called her out of the audience up onto the stage. Jamie Grace sang “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,” earning Adele’s admiration. Read the rest of Jamie Grace on bullying.

6 albums, tours, pastoring, a family — and Trip Lee sleeps 18 hours a day due to chronic fatigue syndrome?

triplee_rise1In the middle of his sophomore year at college, Trip Lee got hit by overwhelming exhaustion that caused him to sleep 18 hours a day. He started failing his entire academic course load.

After seeing many doctors they discovered he was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, a mysterious debilitating disorder that afflicts a million Americans. Ultimately, he dropped out of college.

Trip-Lee-95% preacherIn spite of the ups and downs of his condition, Trip Lee has managed to grind out six rap albums, pastor a church in Atlanta, write books, tour and still have time for his wife and two kids.

The fatigue “is the hardest part of every area of my life,” he told Parle magazine. “It’s the hardest part of my marriage, it’s the hardest part about my music, hardest part about pastoring, everything.”

Born William Lee Barefield III, Trip grew up in a well-to-do family in a part of Dallas where everybody said they were Christian. He asked Jesus into his heart as a tyke but didn’t understand it until at 14, under the preaching of his youth pastor, he comprehended the concepts of sin, judgment and atonement.

trip leeHe confirmed his earlier decision to be a Christian and began to voraciously read the Bible to understand how it would apply to his life.

He had a knack for whipping out rhymes and gradually felt he should dedicate his hiphop talent in service of the Lord. In 2004, when he was in high school, he met Lecrae at a concert, and the godfather of Christian rap took him under his wings and mentored him. He signed with Reach Records and released his debut album, “If They Only Knew,” a few days after his high school graduation in 2006. He became a founding member of the 116 clique, a Texas group of rappers who took their name from Romans 1:16 in which Paul boasts he’s not ashamed of the gospel. “Unashamed” became a song name and a motif through their music.

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With his wife and kids.

He enrolled in Philadelphia Biblical University, now Cairn University, where he enjoyed studying. “I’m a little nerdy,” he said.

But he was still afflicted by Chronic Fatigue. Sometimes his body would shut down and he was forced to lie prostrate in bed for long periods of time. His health challenges severely impacted his Biblical studies major. He wants to be more active, but his body rebels.

“At times, it’s been a disaster,” he told the Washington Times. “My body’s wrecked. My family’s strained. Church life is strained. People don’t see me for weeks when my body crashes.”

trip-lee-press-2012-2There have been times when he’s gathered his favorite talent to help him in the creation of a new album — and he has to put them all on hold. When he’s sleeping 16 hours some days, how does he get anything done?

“He was a trooper,” Gawvi said in Rapzilla. “He really worked so hard where, there were moments when everyone in the studio would tell him, ‘Trip, you need to go take a nap. You need to go rest your body.’ … I haven’t seen a man work so hard on an album.”

While he didn’t pick up a degree in college, he did pick up a wife. Jessica took some of the same classes and walked in the same circles. They saw each other at church. He admired her passion for Jesus. He was passionate too — so much so that she was a bit taken aback by his commitment to purity and the steps he took to guard his heart. The couple married in 2009. They now have a daughter, Selah, and a son, Q.

Trip’s songs regularly rank in the top Billboard 200. He was nominated for two Dove Awards and won the Stellar Award for Best Hip Hop Album in 2011, according to Wikipedia. His penultimate album Rise chugged through iTunes sales at 3rd.

Christian rap slaps you across the face with a refreshing candor. Rappers hit head-on the issues facing their communities; they confront sin without apology. And Trip is no exception. Read the rest of the article about Trip Lee Christian.

Lecrae escaped gangs and drugs through Jesus

57th Annual Grammy Awards

Lecrae backstage at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015. (Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

As little Lecrae sat on his uncles’ laps, guns and alcohol were passed around. He never met his father, so he followed his uncles into gangs, drugs, sex and hip-hop.

But after he turned his life over to Jesus, Lecrae Devaughn Moore became one on the biggest Christian hip hop rap artists worldwide.

“I grew up wrestling with significance,” Lecrae said in a video. “I didn’t feel like I was gonna get it from being this manicured, good all-around person. My uncles were young and wrapped up in the streets, gangs and drugs and just promiscuous. I idolized that life and wanted to be just like my uncle. I chased power, pleasure, possessions – just something satisfying.”

lecrae-concert-768x512.jpgAs a little tyke in southern Houston, Lecrae listened to his uncles’ braggadocio, a steady stream of tales of shootings, stabbings and partying. This, he surmised, must be the essence of manhood. He decided his family members were heroes worthy of emulation.

His grandmother took him to church, but he quickly inferred that church services were for old people.

His mother, a single mom who had to work and couldn’t watch him, urged him to read the Bible. He defied her good wishes.

“I remember ripping the pages out of the Bible and throwing them on the floor, saying, ‘I don’t want this Bible,’” he recalled.

Still, Lecrae kept the Bible in his car as a good-luck charm. When a cop arrested him for trespassing, the police officer happened to see the Bible on the passenger’s seat and decided to let Lecrae out of the cuffs.

“I’m going to let you go,” the cop told him. “And I hope you discover the meaning of the words in that Bible.”

At the University of North Texas, a friend invited him to a Christian conference. In all honesty, he went for the girls and the good times, but he was taken aback by the Christian hip-hop and testimonies of ex-gangsters. He wound up giving his life to Christ.

“Someone got up and told me the story of Jesus on Golgotha, Him carrying the cross, Him bearing all of my sin on His back, and I thought, ‘Wow. Somebody thinks I’m significant enough to die for me.’”

Finally, he had found the Father figure missing in his life.

“God just loved me unconditionally even when I felt like I didn’t deserve to be loved,” Lecrae said. “I feel very fortunate to have a huge family that is beyond race, creed, culture – and have a Father who shepherds us all.”

But Lecrae didn’t immediately walk in God’s grace very well. He was living a double life of partying and church – and he knew he needed to cut out the sin.

He cried out to God, “Get me out of this anyway. You need to. Just don’t kill me.”

When he failed to negotiate a turn, his car went over an embankment and rolled several times. The car was totaled, with mangled metal and glass shards sprayed everywhere. Even his glasses got “molded” into the car frame. But Lecrae walked away unscathed. Read the rest of the story.

They’re not really “stressed out.” Twenty One Pilots is reaching out to lost youth

twenty-one-pilots-stressed-outTop Ten Christian band Twenty One Pilots declared its musical manifesto three years ago in the song “Car Radio,” “I will try with every rhyme to come across like I am dying to let you know you need to try to think.”

Twenty One Pilots’ hit “Stressed Out” is currently played on secular radio stations across the country and in Europe, and the duo is selling out concerts at every venue. Even though they are open about their faith, the band continues to sneak like a hacker through the world’s default gospel-rejection mechanism.

While the dialectic voice confuses secular reporters, the message of salvation carries through to their listeners.

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Tyler Joseph SAYS the black makeup on his hands symbolizes oppressive stress. But it’s likely more a symbol of sin for his adopted touring persona “Blurryface,” who is a representation of the Romans 7 alter ego.

“When I first listened to their music I was like, I’m not alone. I thought I was the only one,” wrote Mattie on a fan site in August 2015. “Twenty one pilots really did save my life in more ways than one.”

Twenty One Pilots is a genre-melding duo composed of vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun, both 27-year-olds from Ohio. They attended Five 14 Church (as in Matthew 5:14 — “You are the light of the world”) in New Albany, just outside Columbus. Josh now lives in Los Angeles.

The band was formed when Tyler ditched basketball in the eleventh grade to become a musician. He tore through learning piano to bass and ukulele.

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“I had identity issues. I didn’t like being the guy who played sports,” he says in a YouTube interview. “So I set up a microphone and a little studio. My mom’s trying to do the dishes and she hears her son screaming his head off down in the basement trying to record vocals, and she’s gotta be thinking, ‘What the heck is going on with him?’ So they were really confused.”

Tyler’s crazy dream is today paying big dividends, not just in terms of downloads and crowds, but also in terms of souls. Their angst-riddled lyrics are resonating with Gen-Y’ers and Gen-Z’ers, showing them a way to hope and faith.

While “Stressed Out” is an innocuous ditty about young adults yearning for the carefree days of childhood, other songs on their two albums – Vessel and Blurryface – pack plenty of gospel punch.

The duo signed with a secular label (Fueled by Ramen) and gets played mostly on non-Christian radio. But make no mistake. Though subtle at times, they are unequivocally Christian. Read the rest of the article.