What Comes Out

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If you’ve been a faithful follower, and read any of my work (all five of you), then you know what to expect when I publish something new. I’ll bet you didn’t know I moonlight a secret identity, however. You see, I not only write short stories and random thoughts. I also write song lyrics and produce my own music. In a business flooded with wanna-be entertainers and aspiring artists, I do it for the love of the Lord.

Even though I’ve been singing in the shower for 40+ years, I still can’t sing in front of anyone. It’s like some sort of cursed stigmatism I suffer from. But, if the spirit really moves me, I rely on my own mantra before I step in front of a microphone:

“Don’t be surprised what comes out, when you lend your voice back to the Lord.”

Even if the world hates my voice, I know God loves it when I sing to him and about him. Part of my moonlighting involves loosely maintaining another blog (here on WordPress) entitled, “Bro.E On The Beat“. I say loosely, because I rarely contribute unless I’m sharing written song lyrics or my take on a particular song I like. While writing is my passion, the music is a close hobby. I love to plug in my instruments and program beats and melodies. And when it all comes together to glorify the Lord, it sounds like this:

Did you feel that?! Goose bumps! My sons, my daughter and my pastor came together to lend a hand on this track, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. When we come together and sing for the Lord, something amazing happens.

Sometimes, all we need to do is sing unto the Lord and he brightens our day. I encourage you to try it friends. Don’t be surprised what comes out, when you lend your voice back to the Lord.

*Shameless plug time*  If you look to your left (on screen), you’ll see a music player labeled, “The Sheep In Wolf’s Clothing”. Click on any of those tracks to hear more of my music. God bless.

The Message Is In The Music

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Earlier this evening, I had a bible study with my 9 year-old son, Isaiah, and my 12 year-old daughter, Jordynn. Somewhere in the middle of the study, the subject of music was raised. My son Isaiah said, “Daddy, honestly I’ve listened to your song, ‘Judgment Day (Revelation)’ and it creeps me out. The music is sweet. It’s the story that’s scary.”

~ PAUSE ~

* SHAMELESS PLUG: If you have no idea of what Isaiah was talking about, look to your left; down a bit, just passed my “about.me” link. You see that music player below? Click on track number 5. If you like it, I sure would appreciate you supporting my music ministry by going to the link and purchasing my digital EP, “The Sheep In Wolf’s Clothing“. I’m spreading the gospel through my music. Thank you friends. *

~ UNPAUSE ~

I responded, “I can dig it, Zeek. It is a scary story to a lot of people, because it describes the vision the Apostle John was given of events yet to come. You have to remember buddy, The book of Revelation is not some fantastic fictional story created to scare people. It’s an account of what John actually saw in the Spirit; an account of things to come in the last days.”

Isaiah thought about that for a moment. Such a thing has to be hard for a kid to comprehend. I turned to Jordynn.

“Honey, that’s not exactly something you would be excited to read about, is it?”

“Not really,” she said. “But, I know I need to know about it because I believe what the bible says.”

“So let me ask you guys this: We’ve read through Revelation before. While listening to the words of the song, did you recognize some of the things we actually read about?”

Jordynn said, “Yeah! I actually found it easier to understand it after listening to your song, daddy. I don’t know; it’s weird how I just kinda learned the words from the song, and it made understanding the book easier.”

“It’s not weird at all. That’s actually how the influence of music works. Do you guys want to know why listening to certain music is dangerous for young minds like yours?”

“Yeah,” Jordynn said.

“Why?” Isaiah asked.

“It’s because you’re lured into the content by the rhythm of the beat and the sounds of the melody and harmony. 8 times out of 10, kids will follow the instrumental portion of a song, before they even understand the message behind the vocals.”

They both looked at each other inquisitively.

“The fact is, a lot of music on pop and R&B stations today glamorizes and glorifies some of society’s worse behavior. Kids your age don’t even realize what they’re talking about when they go around shouting, ‘Let me see you twerk it, girl,’ or ‘Bend over and touch your toes,’ and ‘Ride it ’til the sun comes up’. Jordynn honey, those types of songs are actually degrading to women! The sad part is, kids sing the lyrics as if they are proud to spout them.”

Isaiah asked, “Daddy, what exactly is ‘twerkin’? A lot of kids at school say that.”

“That’s a conversation for when you’re older, son. But believe me when I tell you, it makes women look like harlots. When a man is telling a woman to twerk it, he’s looking at her as an object, not as a virtuous woman. Some of these men have daughters. If a young boy yelled at their daughters to ‘twerk it’ there would be a serious problem.”

“Sometimes, I just listen to songs for the music,” Jordynn said.

“You still have to be careful, honey. The message is always in the music. Watch this for example. I’m gonna give you guys a few famous bars, from my time.”

I took a deep breath, and prepared to sensor myself at the right moments.

“F(bleep) the po-lice, comin’ straight from the underground.

A young N(bleep) got it bad, ’cause I’m brown.

And not the other color so police think,

they have the authority to kill a minority.

F(bleep) that s(bleep), ’cause I ain’t the one,

for a punk motherf(bleep) with a badge and a gun to be beatin’ on,

and thrown in jail, we can go toe to toe in the middle of a cell.

F(bleep) with me ’cause I’m a teenager,

with a little bit of gold and a pager,

searchin’ my car, lookin’ for the product,

thinkin’ every n(bleep) is selling narcotics.”

Jordynn’s mouth hung wide open. Isaiah clasped his hands over his ears and scrunched his nose.

“Who in the world would listen to that stuff?” Jordynn asked.

“Daddy did, faithfully,” I answered.

“What?!” Isaiah yelled. “Daddy! Not cool, man. Not cool.”

“Actually, it was very cool back in my day, because it was rapped over a tight beat and dope music. At least, back then, I thought it was cool. Imagine an entire neighborhood of kids your age, going around shouting, ‘Bleep the po-lice’. That was my generation. And you know what? Today, not only are some of the old guys my age still listening to it and emulating the music’s message, but so are their kids. We now have two generations of people behaving disrespectfully toward good cops, out there risking their lives to protect people. Folks like an old friend of mine, named Officer Johnson; and another good friend, named Officer Parks.”

“Wow. I never really thought about that,” Jordynn said.

“Now watch this.”

I took another deep breath, preparing to spit holy fire at the top of my lungs.

“Christian! I’ve got my faith on high.

Small stature in the world, but I keep my eyes to the sky.

I’ve got the heart of a lion, at 5-7, 153;

Protected by the Lord partna’, ain’t nobody touchin’ me.

Reclaiming everything he’s stolen from us,

The victory’s already won because in God I trust.

You can keep your agitations; forget your frustrations;

raise my hands up the heaven and commence the celebration.

Phony riches in the air they flaunt,

but the Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want.

I’ve got no need to roll with a crew to know I prevail,”

Isaiah chimed in, falling right in place alongside me.

“I stand alone,” we shouted, “I…do…not fail!”

“That’s sweet, Daddy,” my son said.

“Even without music?” I asked.

“Yup, even without music.”

“So let me ask you, how does that verse make you feel inside?” I asked.

“Like I can do anything, because God is with me,” Jordynn said.

“Like a superdude,” Isaiah said.

“That’s the power of the message in the music, guys. We can be tricked into receiving terrible messages that cause us to feel a certain way about people, or we can be encouraged to love others, push harder, run faster, or be better than we were before by the message in positive music. Garbage in, garbage out. Goodness in, goodness out.”

“Daddy, does anybody buy your music?” Isaiah asked.

“Nope. But that’s not really the point, Zeek. My music is for spreading God’s truth. If someone pays me for it, then that’s great. But the real purpose is to share the gospel through nice beats and sweet melodies. If I can get someone hooked onto the beat and have them begin to listen…I mean really listen…to the words I speak, then just maybe someone will begin to think about the truth of the Lord’s word. That’s the whole point of daddy’s music, buddy. That’s the message in my music.”

Jesus In My Beat

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I love hip hop music. No other genre moves me quite the way a pounding beat over a deep bassline, accentuated by flawless harmony can stir my soul. You give me that type of audio assault turned up to the maximum, coupled with master-crafted lyrics praising my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; WOO! Ennis is a happy Christian! It seems like every pair of headphones and speakers I get my hands on eventually explodes. I have a tendency to blow speakers because I need to FEEL my music.

Back in March, Lecrae came to town as one of several acts on the Winter Jam tour. I caught his performance at the Joe (that the Joe Louis Arena for you non-Detroiters). Boy, the acoustics in that place were so primed, my ears rang for two days straight, after the concert! The brother brings the total package to a concert appearance: high energy, deafening sounds, crowd interaction but most importantly, he brings the gospel.

Before 2008, I had no idea Christian hip hop had crossed the barrier separating the desert of corny-boring song from the oasis of relevant, dope music. I had heard a number of attempts at Christian hip hop, but they all seemed forced at best. You either had some well-meaning pastor trying his best to rap over a beat that was probably created by his out of touch sound engineer, or you got a hard-core rapper fresh into the Christian walk, trying to bring his old style of rap into the faith. Both were usually total train wrecks of an attempt to bring the gospel of Jesus into a genre that clearly was not ready to hear what the Lord has to offer. And then, one day, I saw this kid from Atlanta step on stage for a Dove Awards performance. What I saw and heard would change my perception of Christian Hip Hop forever.

Everyone knows who Jay-Z is, unless you grew up on Mars. Everyone knows about Eminem. Right now, we have three generations of hip hop heads who understand exactly who Tupac Amaru Shakur was. But how many people out there know of Canton Jones? How many folks can testify to the truth flowing through the lyrics of KJ-52? How many people know that Da T.R.U.T.H. has such a wide pallid of musical taste for the Lord, that he can spit holy fire over a trap beat or a contemporary christian instrumental? Don’t even get me started on the lyrical skills of Andy Mineo! In all honesty, this white boy from N.Y. will run circles around any rapper out there currently, while educating his adversary on the gospel of Jesus!

Sadly, a lot of awesome christian hip hop music will never reach its potential audience because the world doesn’t view this music as relevant. If you aren’t a Lecrae or Andy, capable of generating millions of dollars in profit, your music just isn’t sellable. That’s no diss to those brothers who are currently crossing the mainstream barrier. Now that they are there, they have an opportunity to bring Jesus to an otherwise unsuspecting culture.

Lecrae is carrying the banner of christian soldiers the world over right now. While many of us have followed him for years, he’s now in a position to introduce Jesus to folks who would normally have no idea of his identity, or the message he speaks of through his music. In a sense, it’s unfair to him to have that much pressure placed on his shoulders. There are so many christian hip hop artists out there in the world just as talented and passionate that will never be heard because the world doesn’t want to hear them…yet.

My hope is that the day will come when christian hip hop finds a home among mainstream radio stations. Here in Detroit, gospel has its own station in Praise 102.7. Contemporary christian music has several stations in WMUZ 103.5 and Smile FM (89.1). Yet, none of these stations dedicates an hour to strictly christian hip hop music. I’ll tell you why that’s a tragedy.

Detroit was once the home of Motown. We live and breathe music in this city. Today’s generation of kids are growing up still listening to the tired lyrics, sorry hooks and violence infused beats that my generation transformed hip hop into. What’s worse is, the stuff is played around the clock everywhere! Once upon a time, it only had an hour slot on some station, in the wee hours of the morning. Now, you can hear, “Slap that b#$@! wit’ a back hand, homie,” at 7o’clock in the morning, while driving the kids to school!

Wouldn’t it be grand to have a radio station, in Detroit, dedicated to playing hip hop music with lyrics glorifying the Lord Jesus; real hip hop music. How awesome would it be to hear your son or daughter singing, “I got my pride on low; my faith on high; gave my sin over to God; Lord, let the nonsense die”. How cool would it be to have your kid hear “Romans 1:16” called out in a song, and then have them come to ask you, parent, what Romans 1:16 actually means? In God’s economy, it only takes one person for Him to catch the whole family. How marvelous would it be, to see young men walking around with their belts cinched around their waists actually holding their pants in place?! They’ve learned, through the music, what it means to act like men of God.

This could actually happen! Music affects people in so many different ways. You give the hip hop culture of today, a dose of kingdom music, the type of music they can relate to, and watch what it does for the community. Sure it may take time, but anything worth having is worth fighting for. I want to see this become a reality. I don’t where or how to get it started. Maybe writing this article is the catalyst. I can tell you, it not only works for me but also for my 8 year-old son. I love to hear him recite rhymes glorifying the Lord, while he’s playing. I love to hear him singing hooks glorifying Jesus. I love the fact that my son will never grow up singing, “F%$@ the po-lice, comin’ straight from the underground; a young n^&%$ got it bad, ’cause I’m brown,”. I want everyone’s kids to experience kingdom music.

When I put my own music up for sale through Tunecore, I had to give my tracks a label name in order to complete the process. I quickly coined the name, “Urban Praise Music” because that’s exactly what it is. Society loves labels. If I could run a radio program featuring nothing but christian hip hop music, “Urban Praise Music” would be my mantra: music for the urban community, praising and glorifying the Lord Jesus. We’ve gotta get at the kids on a level they can understand, y’all. That’s what I’d like to see. I think we could all use a little Jesus in our beat.