“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” -Ephesians 6:12, NIV
Where it regards the prevalence of worldly influences and ideologies, there is no more capable opponent than the army of the Lord.Detroit-based rap group God’s Army are the personification of the strength and victory that God has given his people in the war against the devil. From what began as the union of two separate gospel rap groups a decade ago emerges a unique and nonetheless anointed music ministry. In 2003, God’s Army released their debut project, Mission Not Impossible to an incredible reception.This year, they’re back for a second round with the promising and powerful 6:12.
God’s Army was my first interview as a Detroit Gospel writer. When they invited me to meet them at one of their rehearsals in the summer of 2004, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but whatever the expectations I did or didn’t have, I was somewhat shocked when I met them.They were genuine, incredibly humble, totally sold out to the very God they rapped about; nothing like the portrait that obstinate critics painted gospel rappers in general to be.Of all of that, one of the things that shocked me the most was that they were intelligent.They weren’t a group of thug-wanna-be’s masked with gospel and inwardly driven by champagne wishes and caviar dreams.They were smart.They knew God’s word.They loved God’s word.They lived God’s word.It was then that I realized that while so much of the church downplayed and wrote off Holy Hip-Hop as Satan’s attempt to infiltrate the body of Christ, I felt comfortable enough with them and other Christian rappers to say that I would rather sit down and talk with them than some preachers.
6:12 is an exceptionally inspired project; it’s a well-crafted volume of Bible-soaked messages and uncompromising delivery capped off with tight production.While 6:12 is on point musically and lyrically, God’s Army’s audience will be impacted in an array of other points with the inclusion of a book with the disc.Whereas the average artist may document the lyrics to the songs on their CD with the disc cover, God’s Army has stepped it up by including a book that not only presents the lyrics, but outlines them word for word, breaking down the rhymes that breathe life to the beats and giving a clear understanding of 6:12 ‘s messages.
This time around, I spent some time with and heard some thoughts from four of God’s Army’s group members: Godchild, Visionaire, the 1-N-On-Lee Rhodes Scholar, and Lo-Kee Manifest.
Conway: Professionally and musically speaking, how have you grown or what have you learned since Mission: Not Impossible?
Godchild: There’s a maturity level and a [sense of] professionalism that the group has taken on.It only comes with cultivation and being groomed.That cultivation has definitely been put to the forefront on [6:12].
Visionaire: We definitely had to be a little more aggressive as far as putting everything together. With the last album, we had a record company, and they did a lot of the work and we went in the studio and recorded everything.We’re not with a record company now; we’re putting everything out ourselves.We had to do our own promotion, marketing, investing, editing, writing,…the whole thing.This is our heart poured out.We put a lot into the last one, but we were just happy to have a CD.It was really good CD, but we were telling people about how we were out sharing the gospel; on this one, we’re teaching people the gospel. Every song is basically a sermon.We made sure that the lyrical content was packed with scripture.That’s why it was so easy for us to come out with this book, because all the lyrics were scriptures.
Rhodes Scholar:Timashion said that every song is a sermon.I’ve probably done a sermon on every song literally.It’s a lot more instructional regarding the things of God, and I know it’s because all of us are deeper in the Word.Before, we were ministers in music; now we’re really ministers, we’re all licensed ministers. We have the cards and paper to show that we’re for real.I say that to say that people in the industry look at gospel rappers like we’re just some young thugs.We’re professionals in our occupations and we’re professionals when it comes to the Word of God, and it shines through without a doubt on 6:12.There’s something on some song [on the album] that’s going to address an issue that you’re going through in life.[For example], if you don’t understand what the love of God is, “Love” breaks down what love is.If you’re being burdened and you just can’t let things go, “Let It Go” shows you how you can get that monkey off your back.
Lo-Kee Manifest: I’ve read articles in magazines about artists that are coming out with a new album, maybe it’s the sophomore album or the third album, and they’ll say, “This album shows my maturity and I’ve grown as an artist.”I don’t know if they meant that or if that’s just something that people say, but for myself and God’s Army, that’s really what happened.You look at the album, and everything from “Ride and Die” to “Love” to “Spiritual High”, these are life lessons.These are things that we’ve walked and are still walking now. We’ve had [group members] graduate and get promotions on jobs, and I just got married, so God’s really taking us to another level personally, as artists, and as professionals.
Conway:Do you have any plans to promote 6:12 in a way that you weren’t able to promote Mission Not Impossible?
Godchild:Because there’s a book with the CD, there are avenues that the CD can get into that it wouldn’t normally have.For example, we’re scheduling a book signing tour; we want to hit libraries and book stores.
Visionaire:Our website is a little beefier, but we’ve also been putting a lot of our sermons on YouTube and we’ve been getting a lot of [good] feedback.Also, youth ministries have something exciting that they can talk to their youth about.They can take the book and the CD and use them as a study course.You have a lot of real life subjects that youth can talk with their parents about, and the parents will love it because the Word is in it.
Rhodes Scholar: We’ll also be able to do workshops, which is something we’ve longed to do.We don’t have to just do a rap concert, but we can go in and do focused ministry.
Conway: You mentioned a little bit about how gospel rappers are lumped in the same group as secular rappers.What steps has God’s Army taken to downplay those expectations from people?
Rhodes Scholar:We’ve learned how to [approach] certain venues.We know how to change our attire, our language and our behavior so we can be all things to all people.We were on a [particular] forum about Holy Hip-Hop, and it turned out to be a persecution of Holy Hip-Hop [instead of] trying to find out what it’s all about.One of the things that was said about us was, “Why does he have to have his hat on backwards? Hats were made to block out the sun.” If a man chooses to wear his hat backwards, what does that have to do with a man’s salvation? Absolutely nothing. We as the mature Christians are supposed to develop the relationship with them to help them grow.We in the Holy Hip-Hop realm who match something that they think is bad, they put us down when they look like the people on the streets where I’m from.Where I grew up, you knew who had the power by the way they dressed, and they look just like today’s high-profile preachers. I don’t mean this negatively; I’m a pastor myself.[My point is] where did they learn to wear the flashy jewelry, drive Bentley’s, and rock gators?When I was little, for the most part, you didn’t see pastors like that, but now you do.They put on blinders when it comes to that and they don’t see that.That burns my heart.
Godchild: Everybody is a worshiper.Secular artists worship. We were created to do that.There’s nothing wrong with having [things], but when you point people to your Land Rover or your Sean John hookup or your jewelry as opposed to God, that’s a problem.It’s not just worldly people that do that.There are Christian artists that will point people to their Rolex before God; that’s the first thing you notice before you [realize] that it’s Christian music.Our mission is to point people to Christ.
Conway:What doors have opened up for you where it regards the exposure of your ministry in rap?
Godchild:Things have definitely picked up for us.We just won the Holy Hip-Hop Award 2007 earlier this year in Atlanta.That was big for us; it was our first award.We’ve been in and out of town.Just about every weekend, we’re busy doing something.
Visionaire:We were on Deborah Smith-Pollard’s show, and she was really impressed with the CD-book combination [of 6:12].She believed that we would be the perfect representation to someone who isn’t into Christian rap, [specifically] Marvin Winans.She took us to him while he was doing his show on 92.3 FM, and she told him, “You gotta hear these guys.”We played the song “Great God”, and he liked it and invited his listeners to call in, and they were saying that it was anointed and good.[Afterwards], he just looked at us and asked, “Why don’t you come minister at my church today?”When we were on stage at his church, people were [amazed] that we were actually rapping at their church knowing how their pastor felt about rap.You can see their expressions.By the time it was over, everybody had their hands raised worshiping the Lord.It’s not that they don’t like rap; they don’t understand rap, but they do understand the Word of God.We also got a call from a company that hosts book conferences, and we were invited to be on a panel with other authors at one of their conferences and then rap afterwards.We can [push] our CD because of the book and [push] our book because of the CD, so they’re complementing each other.
Rhodes Scholar: Another door that’s opened up with 6:12 is us crossing over.We don’t like to use black and white terms because it’s not a black thing anymore.[White people] have taken a love to our music as well.We went to a white church in the south, and the Lord went forth for the whole weekend, and they loved it; they saw God and they experienced God.We thank God for a larger audience.