I first came across Mark Arthur back on a former radio show that I use to host. I knew nothing about him, but that his name stood out to me “Mark Arthur,” it was classy for hip hop. So obeying the Holy Spirit I invited him on as a guest. Who would’ve known that he would be affiliated with some CHH veterans such as DaTruth, R-Swift and J. Johnson, who would not only encourage him to get started in ministry, but even be willing to co-sign. Thinking back on the importance of a name and co-signing, if you’re name stands out when you’re unknown, how much more of an effect will it have when you are?
Shine: Give us a little of your background on how you got started?
Mark Arthur: Well, my name is Mark Arthur Crawley and I was born and raised in West Philly. I’ve been rapping for a long time, I use to do it B.C. (Before Christ) I use to do it in the world. (Laughs) You know a lot of people got that story. When I got saved I gave it up totally, but after a year or so while just seeking the Lord’s face and just trying to grow as a believer, I was encouraged by 3 people that had an impact on me in my wilderness phase when I didn’t really know what I wanted to do as far as after salvation. J. Johnson, R-Swift and Da-Truth were the people who impacted me when I wasn’t rapping at all. J. Johnson was one of the first ones to encourage me to keep doing it. We use to perform a lot at cafes because a lot of us kind of all went to the same churches out here. Da-Truth was the guy who invited me out when he was on tour with CMR. His wife and my wife are real cool and we have a lot of mutual friends. But when he was on tour with CMR, he would invite me out to see a couple of the shows they did in Jersey, New York and Philly to kind of see how things went ministry wise. R-Swift was the guy who would open up some major doors to help give me my name, you know.
Mark Arthur: From there Swift would open up some doors and I got to meet J.R. and build with him, Mac (Mac the Doulos) I met through Swift and from there Iz-Real. So yeah, just meeting with people I got a chance to build with everybody on a personal level first so when the time came for me to put the pen to the pad and get some co-signing and people behind me, it wasn’t much of a problem.
Shine: I’ve known that building relationships is one of your anchors, why do you think that it’s so important?
Mark Arthur: There’s a Baptist pastor out in Texas who I love that I used to listen to a lot named Joel Gregory and he said that “God has placed in the heart of man the desire to know and the desire to be known…” Now when I first got saved I was totally unaware of the process of building relationships, now in hindsight I can see that building was one of the key things that helps me as a believer. It kind of lets you know who you are. You’re exposed to somebody else with a like mind, kind of like Jonathon and David when they disrobed in front of each other. There’s something very therapeutic about being transparent and exposing your self to someone else and just getting to know who people are. So just getting to know who people are as The Body, I feel like we could function a lot better within music and outside of music. They’re some relationships that I’ve built that have been music based, but have definitely extended way further than music, you know what I mean.
Shine: Let’s talk about the album, what’s the concept behind “The Obligation”?
Mark Arthur: “The Obligation” basically is an album full of songs I felt obligated to speak on. When I say that, I mean that some are personal like “Sweet Symphony” which is a song that I felt obligated to do. It’s based on my mother in-law passing away from cancer, R-Swift’s son who died at six months of age and then my wife’s best friend’s mom who died of cancer just a year after my mother in-law. So, I felt obligated to all of them and even my young friend who got shot and killed back in the day, I still feel some of that grief. So I‘ve always tried to get out some type of song in remembrance of him. So the song is kind of like a dedication to him too. So on the album you’ll see that I dedicated the album to those same 3 people plus him.
Mark Arthur: The next music video, that we’re brainstorming now called “Away from here” talks about the social ills. I tried to be as frank as I could because I think that we tip toe around some of the real issues, you know what I’m saying. “How can a man’s belief reflect joy, when you have priests that molest boys…” That stuff really happens you know what I mean. You got catholic priests doing it and you got Eddie Long doing it or being accused of doing it. So it happens, it happens in the faith unfortunately. So, The Obligation is just songs I felt obligated to talk about: spiritually, personally and practically.
Shine: Earlier you mentioned co-signing. There’s a myth that says having a certain amount of features on your first project can either be a plus or a negative. What do you think?
Mark Arthur: I think for me it’s been a plus. Everybody that has heard the album has said that it’s not over done. (Pauses) And honestly with some creative license, I didn’t care what people had to say…
Mark Arthur: Imma be real with you. (Laughs) Don’t get it twisted; I got some of that from some well known artists here in Philly like “That aint going to help you really sell no records…” I’m like you know what, I’m a fan of the game and I’ll be honest with you, I feel like it’s a blessing and I feel honored to be able to do something I love. And though I would like to see the album do well, I’m a critical care technician at a hospital and I don’t have all of my stock in this so I’m just happy creatively being able to do what I want to do. I’m content with that. So If I want to have an album with 50 features on it, as long as the artists are cool with it , I’m going to do it because that’s what I want to do creatively.
Shine: (Laughs) I feel like I can go in with you a little on this hip hop thing. You have a certain sound that is not the snap, click, pop that we hear today, why didn’t you add any of that to the project?
Mark Arthur: Because that’s not who I am. I’ll be honest with you I can’t stand that type of music. Maybe I am old school in that sense. I come from the era of Illmatic & Reasonable Doubt you know. I come from that era where lyrics were like…the thing. (Laughs) Like I said I use to do it in the secular realm and when I got out of it, I’ve got friends who went on to do stuff for Eve’s television show, movies, worked with Sting, all that. I’ve been in sessions with The Firm you know what I’m saying. So I’ve been around the game for a while, and I don’t necessarily think that works all the time for us just because it’s popping in the world. And I’m not knocking anybody that decides to do it, but that’s just not my twist.
Shine: What do you want people to walk away with after hearing your album?
Mark Arthur: (Pause) I like to promote balance. Definitely from a creative standpoint I’d like them to say “Wow.” If I get a wow out of it creatively, that would be dope. It aint got to be a classic, but if people just like the album that’s enough for me, and spiritually that they’d know the Lord Jesus on a fundamental basis and in a very practical sense.
Shine: What’s something we don’t know about Mark?
Mark Arthur: I’m a big kid and that I sucked my thumb well into my adult years…
Mark Arthur: I’ll put that out there, I was a thumb sucker well into my 20’s. (Laughs) And don’t get it twisted dog, you put me next to the right blanket its lights out, thumb in my mouth.
Shine: Well Mark, congrats again on the album release and thank you for taking this time out to talk with Holyculture.net and continued success.
Written by Shine