In anticipation of his recent visit to the city of Detroit, gospel rapper Flame spent a few minutes with DetroitGospel.com's Conway Norwood to talk about his latest project, his testimony, and the future of gospel rap.
Jesus has extended Himself as the answer to a cruel world. Through Him, there is no story about a fall without a conlusion that is redemption. Gospel rapper Flame is a voice crying in the proverbial wilderness telling that very story. His latest project is a duo of releases known as Our World Fallen and Our World Redeemed, and both chronicle a story inspired by the Bible that expresses the condition and hope of mankind. Flame was recently in town to minister at Word of Faith International Christian Center in Southfield, and he spent a few minutes with me to talk about his latest project, his testimony, and the future of gospel rap.
Conway: How did you come to know the Lord for yourself?
Flame: I grew up influenced by Christianity, mainly because of my mother and my grandmother, who was the pillar in our family. At the same time, I was influenced by hip-hop, so I always had a conflict inside. I got kicked out of my high school when I was 16, and on the way home from the orientation at my new school, I was involved in a bad accident with an 18-wheeler. I went to my grandmother and asked her, "Why did God let this happen?" She said that God was trying to get my attention. A week after that, she passed away. I ended up going to church six months after she passed, and I heard the gospel and got saved.
Conway: How have you been able to be young and stay saved?
Flame: I had a circle of [people] around me that were my age and running for the Lord, especially my homie, J.R. from Cross Movement Records. J.R. and I used to do secular music together and got started in gospel together. We also had a lot of older dudes that set the example for us and made us see that it was possible.
Conway: What drew you to gospel rap?
Flame: I used to do secular rap, so when I became a Christian, I wrote raps to the Lord, but I didn't think about going public with them. I found out about Cross Movement, and [in their music], they expounded on certain concepts that I hadn't heard of. I had never heard Christian rap like that. The way that I was exposed to it [at first], it wasn't attractive and something that I really wouldn't listen to.
Conway: You come from a long line of talented artists at Cross Movement Records. Are there any characteristics about you that help you stand out as an artist?
Flame: There are a lot of East Coast artists on the label, and at the time, there were no St. Louis artists, and that helped me stand out.
Conway: Tell me about your latest project. It's actually split between two releases, right?
Flame: Yeah, Our World is about me showing a [guy] that I haven't seen in a long time why the world is the way it is. Our World Fallen ends with a cliffhanger and Our World Redeemed picks up where that fell off. This guy goes to the cross and gets saved, then the story ends with Christ coming back and Christians [entering into] the new heaven, the new earth, and the new Jerusalem. The full story is from the Bible with the underlining story about this guy that I meet up with.
Conway: What inspired that concept?
Flame: I was talking to a guy who was about 15 years old, and I asked him if he had ever heard of Adam and Eve, and he didn't know who they were. That kind of rocked me. We're living in America, where you think everybody has heard of Adam and Eve, and [some] don't have a clue about them. I want to teach [people] about the whole Bible story.
Conway: What impact do you see your music having on your audience?
Flame: I think musically, people are appreciating the diversity. I did a lot of different things on this project. I think the concept is being received well because it's relevant. When people have broad strokes about what the Bible is all about, they find that useful.
Conway: Besides music, are you involved in anything else ministry-wise?
Flame: I'm involved in my church and we do a lot of evangelism. My church partners with other ministries and we do college outreaches to really reach people on the homefront. We take it to the next level where we can follow up with [people] and see where they are.
Conway: I'm always interested to get rappers' perspectives on this question. Where do you see gospel rap going as a musical genre?
Flame: I think it can either get better or it can get worse. [We need] to become leaders so that once we put the mic down, we can continue to influence people, but if we just maintain industry status and not become leaders, we become just entertainers, which is scary to me.