I was able to get it in recently with The Rep, an emcee from Phoenix, Arizona who deserves your attention. Read on as he talks about how he came to Christ, his involvement with Brian 'Head' Welch and The Whosoevers, life as a full-time hip-hop artist and more.
Jim: So for those who aren't that familiar with you, how'd you get to this point? What's your life story a little bit?
The Rep: Well I'm 31 now, gave my life to Christ when I was 18. Didn't grow up in a church, didn't grow up with any knowledge of a relationship with Christ but even more so I didn't grow up with knowledge of religion. I just didn't grow up in Church, didn't know anything about the Bible so the Bible was very foreign to me, I hadn't heard of it. If I had any relationship with Christ, it was a hatred for Christianity, a hatred for the Bible, it was stupid. And a lot of that was instilled in me from my father...my father had a lot of anger issues and a lot of his anger was directed towards Christianity. So naturally I started living a lifestyle that was really influenced from music. My brother brought home my first CD, I think it was Eazy-E then Ice Cube's 'Lethal Injection' then Snoop Dogg 'Doggy Style' and that really began to open up my mind to hip-hop, first and foremost, and then the lifestyle of the music. Then my brother introduced me to smoking my first joint when I was 13 and he ended up becoming addicted to meth. When I was 18 I was a full-blown drug addict. I wasn't necessarily shooting heroine or anything like that but I was smoking sherm and popping acid tabs and you know just whatever I could get my hands on, but smoking weed was the main deal. So I hit rock bottom, ended up living in a crack house. Then from there got my own apartment and started dating this girl and her mom bought me a bible. Took it home, and I was smoking a joint and reading from the Bible, I was doing that on a daily basis. And I was just reading it out of curiosity, wasn't trying to find Christ or get saved or anything ya know? Long story short, the word of God convicted me. Me, some marijuana and the Holy Spirit you know what I mean? And I don't say that like you know like hippie style like it made me get closer to God or anything like that, but God spoke to me through my high, through my sin. And it was just the Word of God laid bare on me in an empty apartment and I just realized man if I keep living how I'm living, according to what the Bible says, I'm gonna end up in hell and that scared me, you know what I mean? And of course I found out about the love of God through the word of God and so I gave my life to Christ.
J: That's awesome man. Was there a specific verse or passage of scripture that got you, or just reading it over time just soaking it all in?
TR: Yeah, it was, it was just one scripture after another. 'Cause I didn't accept Christ, but I accepted truth, so I would read one truth at a time and accept that like 'yeah, that's true, that's true' and accept that. One of the Scriptures was 1 John 2:3, like I always believed love was a feeling and I applied that same concept to God. So I believed love was a feeling then, you may not always follow God but you always have this deep felt respect for God in your heart, and there he says, this is how I know you hate me 'cause you disobey me. So God doesn't really think we love him just because we feel like we love Him, He says that he knows that we love him when we obey him. So I read that and was like dang so I don't really love God. And that kinda hit me, just one truth after another. And I'll say this one last part, Romans 7 was really a hard scripture for me as far as a hardcore scripture that really opened my eyes. Why do I do the things I know not to do and when I saw that I was like 'That's real!' Preachers don't talk like that, like the very Bible they preach from comes out raw and real and I was like this book is real.
J: Were you involved with hip-hop before you got saved, or was your salvation what started your career?
TR: Well you know I had a love for it, and I always had a dream, before Eminem came out, to be the first white rapper, then Em came out and killed it for me haha. So I always had these big dreams but I guess stuff didn't really start moving for me until I gave my life to Christ, and again I'm 31 now and stuff that I've been dreaming about for the last 13 years, just snippets of them are starting to come to pass right now.
J: What’s an example of one of those dreams?
TR: I don't know if you've ever heard of a guy named Mario Murillo, he's a world-wide evangelist, and I didn't even know what the term evangelist was, but he came to my church when I had just gotten saved. And I didn't know what he was, I didn't know what he did, but I just looked at him and thought man, whatever that dude does, that's what I want to do for God's kingdom. And then later come to find out that's what I was called to do was be an evangelist, and obviously my music plays a major role in that. And so know I'm literally traveling the world preaching the Gospel, and that was my dream. There's still so much more ahead that I'm believing God for, but again right now we're just scratching the surface.
J: Now I was reading your bio, and it talked about your miraculous birth. What's the story behind that, because I was real curious.
TR: Yeah, that was just because I'm a triplet. Now just because of surgery and all the medication being a triplet is not that big of a deal like it used to be, but it was miraculous then haha they had us on the newspaper and all that.
J: Ah eight, that's cool though. Now you're latest album, "Alive," when did that drop?
TR: Near the end of last year....I think it was around October, yeah it was October.
J: What was your vision behind that record? What was the big message you were aiming to communicate?
TR: Yeah, you know interestingly enough the concept for that album came from a review of my first album that I think was on dasouth.com or something. And they basically said the album is nice and everything but he glorifies the struggle a little bit too much and doesn’t really talk about the joy of what it's like to be saved. So at first I was like man whatever he doesn't know who I'm trying to reach, but I thought about it and was like you know that's true, so this next album I'm gonna make it exactly that. I'm gonna make it about the joys of being alive. So the next album will probably not be the same, I'll probably go right back to addressing those that are in the struggle. But for this album, that was my goal.
J: Storytelling is your big thing, obviously. How much of those stories are straight from your life and how much of it is what you've seen.
TR: In a way, I'd say 100% of it. I'll give you an example, the "Alcoholic" song, that was a true story that was all true, every detail in it was true. I was the passenger driving in the car, got into a car accident, the girl who was sitting on the side of me ended up on top of me 'cause the car was just smashed, so every detail was true. Now the second part of that verse, that was a made up story but it was 100% true for somebody. So the whole concept is completely true. The whole first verse is completely my life and the second verse is where I'm talking about somebody else. Let's put it like this: When I'm talking about me, that's my life 100%. When I'm talking about others, it may be a mixture of stories I've heard or people I know but it may not be 100% word for word, if that makes sense. But when I'm talking first person, 99% of the time, that's all me.
J: Tell me a little bit about Dos, an artist you collar with a lot on "Alive." How long you guys been working together?
TR: Yeah, he's a good friend of mine, and he just has a dope voice. I've known him for a long time. I had heard him on stage again and I just thought "Me and this dude need to do something." Man, he comes up with hooks like that. As soon as he hears something. Some of the hooks on the album I wrote, but the ones he wrote he just heard the beat and immediately would just come up with a hook. So it was fun working with him. I'm not really sure if he's working on anything right now, he just moved to Jersey. I'm actually gonna be heading out there in a couple weeks to rock some shows together so I'm excited about that.
J: You were with the Humble Beast Crew in Vegas recently, right? How was that?
TR: It was good man. I won't really talk too much on the show itself only because it really was an outreach so it's hard to gauge how effective those things are, you're just planting seeds. But as far as getting to know Humble Beast, man I really admire their ministry and I really admire their heart. They're real men of God. And I got to hear a lot of Beautiful Eulogy's new stuff, which is Braille and Odd Thomas. Dude, fans are gonna love it. It's sick. And if they don't love it then they don't love hip-hop haha. You're always gonna have naysayers but I love it, I thought it was dope.
J: You're also a part of this crew, The Whosoevers, with some pretty prominent people, like Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D. and Bethany Hamilton of Soul Surfer fame. How'd you get connected with them and what opportunities has getting with them brought you?
TR: I got connected to them through Brian 'Head' Welch, formerly of Korn. He did his album release out here in Phoenix, someone asked me if I wanted to open up for him and I was like 'heck yeah' haha. So I was stoked meet him, I was a little star struck and all that, a little nervous and I was walking down the hallway, he says 'Hey, Rep!' And I was like what, he knows my name? And the first thing he says is 'Man, I can't get your album out of my car.' And I was like man, I didn't know what to say. At that point the whole Whosoever moment was just forming and he had handed my CD to some of the crew and everyone just thought it was a good fit as far as hitting the audience they were trying to reach out to. So from there we toured, we did a tour called 'Murder Your Flesh,' and we did a concert in Ramona, California, which was about 15,000 people there. Matter of fact, this weekend we're going to be at the Whosoevers Conference, and they're expecting to turn away anywhere from 35,000 people. So it's been good.
J: Now you're full-time in hip-hop and music ministry. When did you make that switch?
TR: I think it's been about a year and a half now, being full time.
J: What led you to make that decision?
TR: For the last four or five years, ya know I've been doing this for 13 years, it really was a tough decision, asking God 'How do you know it's time?' and asking all these questions. I ended up applying for a job, getting the job and sitting in the interview, sat in the training, like a four-day training, and come the third or fourth day in the training I realized that, if i keep this job, I'm pretty much kissing my music dream goodbye. So I called my wife, my wife said quit and I walked back into the training room and said that I can't do this. And it's hard because I'm a father and I have to provide so it's like Lord, what do you do? But I just did what I felt God was telling me to do. I quit the job, my wife kept working. And it eventually got to the point where enough calls were coming in, it was nothing that I did 'cause I don't know how to promote, but God just started opening up doors. And now it's at the point where if I were to get a job I'd be losing money so it just makes sense.
J: What advice would you give to rappers who are considering full-time music ministry as they contemplate that decision?
TR: I would just say be faithful where you're at. Seek first the Kingdom and its righteousness and all things will be added unto you. Lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he'll direct your path. I think God has to be the one to open those doors. I know for me personally, I tried to open a lot of doors and had not been successful. Even to this day, I try to open up doors and I feel like the Lord keeps leading me back to trusting him. If it's the Lord's will, he'll make it painfully obvious. But definitely, if you have family, providing for that comes before ministry 'cause they are our first ministry.
J: While we're talking about that, what does life outside of hip-hop look like for you?
TR: Yeah, well maybe I'm traveling on the weekends, or maybe even for a week or two weeks, come home and try to catch up on family time. As an example, this week, I'm taking my wife out to eat, make sure I'm spending time with my kids, maybe take my son out for a movie, like last night I took him out to McDonalds and headed to Church. I did the Tuesday night youth thing at the Church. Today I'm just catching up on e-mails, got hit up by a dude on facebook who I've been trying to reach out to so I may catch dinner with him tonight and just try to pour into his life. I think he's at a point where he's really seeking the Lord right now. But at the end of the day man I just try to be used by God in any way so I just try to be available. But first and foremost, my family is everything. If I don't have my family right, then i don't have nothing right. At the end of the day I don't think God's going to judge me on how many people got delivered by my music, but how my family was affected. Music is a given, it's what he's given me so it's going to be effective. Sometimes I wonder if it'll even be accounted to me on judgment day. But how successful is your family, 'cause that's where you're reward will be.
J: That's a dope perspective. What about you, personally, what has God been teaching you recently?
TR: Yeah, I can't always say that I know what the Lord is trying to tell me, but I can say at this point in my life God has been speaking very clear with me on a very particular subject, and that subject happens to be the tongue. I talk a lot and the Lord has really been checking me on it lately and brining a lot of confirmation of it too, ya know? First I read it in his word, then I heard it from the pulpit, then I heard it in another pulpit, then I saw it in the word again haha so he's been teaching me how to tame my tongue. And then believe it or not, on top of all that I got asked to preach on it at my church. They were like 'Hey, can you speak on James 3.'
J: What does the next few months look like for you and your ministry? What are ways that us who are reading to this can be praying for you?
TR: I have some local ministry stuff, I'm going to be going out to the Navaho reservation, an Indian reservation, and doing an outreach out there. A lot of guys out there are getting into gangbanging and drugs so definitely keep me in prayer in that area. And then I’m going overseas to the Cayman Islands, doing some prison ministry out there and going into schools. Then flying from the Cayman Islands to New Jersey where I'm gonna be with a brother by the name of Runway Diaz, and we're gonna be doing a hip-hop outreach event. So prayer-wise, two things: 1, that God keeps me health-wise and Gospel wise. Ya know, to preach that with boldness. Then foremost my family, I'm gonna be gone from my family for a good two weeks so that would be awesome if you could keep them lifted up.
J: Will definitely do that. Is there anything in closing that you want to share with us?
TR: Yeah, I'll just throw this out there, if anyone listens to my music and wonders why do I talk about the things that I talk about or don't talk about, like some people will say that he doesn't quote enough Scripture or whatever the case may be, I just want to remind everybody, especially because this is a Christian forum where mainly Christians are going to be reading this, just to remind everybody that I believe my goal at the end of the day is not to give people a deeper theological understanding of who Jesus Christ is. I think a lot of rappers rap from that perspective and that's a great perspective to rap from, however for me, my goal is just to plant a seed. For two gang bangers to be listening to my music and one turns to the other and says 'You know man, I've been thinking maybe we should go to Church.' If I can do that, I feel like I accomplished my job. And not everyone's going to understand that, and that's fine. But for those who do understand it I just ask that you would keep my ministry in prayer and that God would use it in that manner to bring people to Him, to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
J: For sure. Where can people either get in touch with you or keep updated on new music from you?
TR: So if you guys want to see any new videos or purchase the album, you can go to www.therepmusic.com.
J: Cool. You got twitter and Facebook too?
TR: Yeah, and that's all connected on the website.