From the Streets to the Pews: The Unconventional Journey of Christian Rappers with ETW founding member Elroy Forbes.
On this episode of Church on the Block, we had the pleasure of hosting a conversation with Elroy Forbes, a member of the group End Time Warriors (ETW). We delved into the history and impact of Christian rap in the church and the culture, discussing the challenges faced by Christian rappers and the importance of recognizing the OGs (original gangsters) in the genre.
The Origins of Christian Rap and Its Reception in the Church
Elroy and Pastor Phil took us back to the origins of Christian rap and its initial reception in the church. They reflected on a time when rap was considered worldly and even sinful in some church communities. Elroy shared his personal experience of growing up in an era when even chewing gum in church was frowned upon. Despite this, he and others had a burning desire to express their faith through rap and connect with their communities in a meaningful way.
Elroy and a group of like-minded individuals formed the Jesus Christ Crew and began performing in talent shows and community events. They faced resistance from the church, but they were determined to share their message through rap. Their determination paid off when they caught the attention of Toby McKeehan (TobyMac) from ForeFront Records, who was impressed with their track “Warriors” and wanted to sign the entire group.
Navigating the Challenges of Being Christian Rappers
Elroy also highlighted the support they received from influential pastors like Pearson and Jones, who helped them navigate the challenges of being Christian rappers. Despite facing pressure and skepticism from some within the church, Elroy emphasized the importance of staying true to one’s calling and purpose.
Elroy shared his experience of selling rap records to white churches in the early days of Christian rap. He mentioned that while rap records were being bought by white churches, it was hard to distribute them due to the lack of technology like cell phones and YouTube. Despite these challenges, the focus was on spreading the message of rap to the church and reaching out to people in unconventional places like maximum security prisons and deaf schools.
The Power of Christian Rap
Elroy highlighted the significance of taking rap and hip hop to different countries and experiencing the impact it had on people from all walks of life. He shared memorable moments like performing in front of a pope and speaking to students in a cathedral basement. Elroy concluded by mentioning the collaboration with the organization Mothers Against Violence and their joint effort to raise awareness about gun violence.
Pushing the Boundaries of Christian Rap
Elroy reflected on the response to their song “Ain’t Nobody Dyin’ But Us” and how it pushed the boundaries of Christian rap. He acknowledged that the majority of buyers of black music were from the white culture, so there was pressure to keep the music more mainstream. However, he appreciates that their label was supportive and allowed them to address important social issues through their music.
The Creative Process and the Business Side of Christian Rap
Elroy Force also talked about the creative process in writing songs as a Christian rapper. He emphasized the need to be clever and find the right words that will resonate with listeners. He also reflected on the financial aspect of being a Christian rapper in the past, where they had to recoup the money invested in their projects. He mentioned the importance of making strategic moves and being business-minded in order to succeed.
The Evolution of Christian Hip Hop
Elroy shared his experience of being involved in designing and selling merchandise to generate income. He also discussed the evolution of Christian hip hop as a culture and how it has provided a sense of identity for its followers. Pastor Phil added to the conversation by highlighting the diverse audience of hip hop, including a significant number of white listeners. He emphasized the power of good music and how it can resonate with people in different ways.
As we concluded our conversation, Elroy promoted his upcoming clothing line, True Hebrew Apparel, which aims to promote biblical principles and a proud walk of faith. This conversation was a testament to the power of music, faith, and determination, and the impact they can have on individuals and communities.
Enjoyed the discussion? Please leave us a comment to let us know your thoughts on the show. We want to hear from you. Remember you can catch Church on the Block, Sunday mornings at 10 am est. | 9 am cst.
The Challenges of Christian Rap in the Past [00:03:17]
Discussion about the difficulties faced by Christian rappers in the past and the lack of acceptance from the church.
The Emergence of Christian Rap as a Culture [00:06:58]
Exploration of how Christian rap evolved from being seen as worldly to becoming a recognized culture within the church.
The Journey of In Time Warriors [00:09:04]
The story of the formation of the group In Time Warriors and their journey in the Christian rap industry, including their demo being discovered by Toby McKeehan.
The impact of Christian rap in white churches [00:11:31]
Christian rap records were primarily bought by white churches, highlighting the genre’s influence in these communities.
Challenges faced by Christian rappers in the past [00:12:11]
Christian rappers had limited resources and faced difficulties in getting their message out without the support of the industry.
Taking Christian rap to maximum security prisons [00:15:18]
Christian rappers brought their music and message to maximum security prisons, including Rikers Island and prisons in Texas, to offer hope and peace to inmates.
The challenges of Christian rap in the industry [00:24:07]
Discussion about the challenges faced by Christian rappers in the music industry and the need to navigate between Christian doctrine and cultural relevance.
Support from the record label for addressing social issues [00:25:53]
The record label’s support in organizing events and forums to address social issues and make a positive impact.
Advice for young artists entering the music industry [00:29:24]
Encouragement to stay true to oneself, surround oneself with supportive mentors, and understand the business side of the industry.
The challenges of being an artist [00:36:09]
Discussion about the pressures and deadlines faced by artists in the music industry.
The importance of creativity in songwriting [00:36:34]
Exploring the creative process and the importance of finding the right words and clever lines in songwriting.
The business side of Christian rap [00:39:01]
Talking about the financial aspects of being a Christian rapper, including record labels, investments, and recouping expenses.
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