Category Archives: christian music

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.

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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.