Hip-hop and Jesus: Artist uses music as tool to spread gospel
Jennifer Lee Preyss
July 1, 2011 at 2:01 a.m.
SAN ANTONIO - Hovering around a mixing board in the production room of San Antonio-based Studio M, Christian rap artist Jarrell Flowers bobbed his head to the beat.
Entranced in the production process of his upcoming song, "Save Us," Flowers glanced to the seat next to him, at Studio M producer Ron Morales, and said, "It's good, man, it's good. It sounds like it's hitting pretty well."
"It's gonna be hot when it's done, Jarrell," Morales responded, gliding his mouse over a duel monitor flat screen, playing around with various pitches of the word "holy."
Studio M's main recording room is gray and dim; a black leather sofa sits in the rear of the room, eager for spectators. In front of Flowers and Morales, and their oversized sound board, a soundproof glass partition separates the production room from the recording den filled with state-of-the-art instruments and microphone equipment.
For Flowers, the recording studio is a church; his raps, a tool to spread the gospel.
And while rap isn't traditionally synonymous with uplifting and positive messages about walking right with God, Flowers said hip-hop can be used as any other tool to spread the gospel of Jesus.
"People hear Christian and rap and think they just can't go together," Flowers said. "It's not mainstream, but there's a growing number of people who are increasingly wanting to hear something different."
Flowers, 28, has spent hundreds of hours with Morales at Studio M, laying down vocal tracks on his current album "The Freedom Project," and his upcoming album, which has not yet been titled. Each of the albums exclusively feature songs about surrendering to Jesus.
"Jarrell is one of the pickier guys I've worked with. We'll spend hours going over each thing," Morales said. "The way technology is these days, you can do amazing things in the mix process."
Flowers' passion for spreading the message of Jesus through rap sends him across Texas. And with many friends in the Victoria area, he's often invited to perform at various church events across town. Last month, Parkway Church invited Flowers to perform for a group of about 40 teenagers at their One Retreat hosted at the Spiritual Renewal Center. With a microphone in one hand, and aviator sunglasses on his face, Flowers rapped "White Rags," "Memories" and other songs from "The Freedom Project," introducing an excited group of teenagers to the message of God.
Many of the retreat attendees were non-Christians, yet they were able to get hyped about Flowers' rap beats, even spinning white rags above their heads as the music played.
"Through this tool, they can be exposed to some truths they wouldn't have been exposed to, otherwise," said Flowers, who works with youth in his own San Antonio-based church Faith Outreach. "The goal is to connect the dots behind the music ... to teach them the lifestyle of Christianity, not a religion."
It's easy for Flowers to teach that lifestyle because he lives his Christian faith every day.
Growing up in a Christian home with a minister father, confessing Jesus at age 4, and living most of his life walking as he believes God expects him to, has developed a strong role-model quality in the rapper that he uses to educate audiences.
And as a married youth pastor, and father to 20-month-old daughter Nyomi, he said his life looks a lot like any other family man's might.
"I'm not the typical rap story. I never did drugs ... I was a virgin when I got married," Flowers laughed. "It's God's keeping power. Some people have a testimony where God saved them from a lot of stuff. I have a testimony where God has kept me from a lot of stuff. Same God, same power."
And as far as living up to the rap "thug" persona, Flowers said he doesn't worry about it.
"I did feel the pressure at one point to have some sort of street story," he said. "But I'm not a thug; I've never been a thug."
As CEO of his own San Antonio-based label Freedom Music Group, the young rapper said he hopes to continue making music for God and attracting people to Christ. And he wants to generate a bit of fame - for God.
"I'm not really looking to be all superstar. The goal isn't fame. The goal is spreading the message," Flowers said. "As a Christian, you're more concerned with God's fame."