For the longest time, I kept my passion for hip-hop and the craft of lyricism stowed away in my heart. As a former gangsta rapper from Oakland, my experience with the art form was always marked by negativity (violence, drugs, illicit sex, corrupt communication and arrogance). So when I dedicated my life to the Lord, I walked away from music along with all of those ills. I even walked away from a potentially prosperous career as a protégé of rap legend Too $hort.
Fortunately, the Lord blessed me with a few friends in my life who encouraged me to use my skills for Him. They believed in me enough to donate their energy, time, talents, money and support. The results have been a mind-blowing testimony of how God works things for good.
I have been blessed to start a label dedicated to producing and promoting urban music that glorifies the Lord. We call it Kerusso Music.
Kerusso Music is a burgeoning ministry. It is grass roots. It is genuine. It is positive.
I released my first production as an artist guided by the Spirit of the Lord last May. The New Ant Diddley mixtape (my former rap moniker was Ant Diddley, part of a duo known as Bad-N-Fluenz) served as an introduction to the new me and a thank you for the fans who supported me. My team's goal was to provide a free album with good music to give people a taste of our talent, professionalism and seriousness about this endeavor.
The best part of Kerusso Music is that it is driven by altruism... from the benevolence of God, my wife, and our team of supporters and co-laborers. It is humbling and profound to see what is accomplished by regular people with daily 9-to-5s who are determined to use their passion to glorify God and encourage others.
That is why I am excited and emboldened to ask for your generous support. We are endeavoring to shift paradigms and change a culture. The mere thought of the possibility has prompted a swell of supporters to contribute.
So far, we've put together one video. And the reaction to it was amazing!! It has more than 12,000 views on Youtube despite being relatively simple and minimally budgeted.
The New Video
My debut single Send Me is set to release this month. It features former American Idol star finalist, LaToya London, who is an Oakland native but will fly in from her base in Atlanta. We also want to arrange it so Andre Ward -- a local championship boxer and fellow proclaimer of Christ -- can be in the video as well.
Send Me is dear to me because it professes my desire to serve the Lord. God has done so much for me and has been so good to me. This song is my public proclamation that I am ready to go into the world and do God's bidding. It also echoes the sentiment of our movement: #TeamKerusso is a group of people who are standing up and volunteering to take goodness and love into a culture that desperately needs it.
Similarly, we reverberate the declaration expressed by the Biblical prophet Isaiah:
"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me." - Isaiah 6:8
We're looking to take this message to another level with Send Me.
Our goal is for the single to be on iTunes, played on local radio stations and all over the internet. We anticipate that it will be heard by thousands of young people who are routinely bombarded with music that is negative in nature. Our vision is to create a video that punctuates the message of the song.
We want a production that tantalizes the mind, encourages thought and reflection, plus entertains without half-naked women, the esteeming of materialism or the enticement of drugs. It is our wish that the artistic value and quality of the production will make the video memorable while conveying the depth of the message.
The New Album
Send Me is the first single from the coming album, The Proclamation, a project that has been years in the making. The Lord has been working on me and opened up avenues to get this ministry off the ground. We're now at the point where we're ready to put together the kind of album that people need to hear.
Famed theologian Martin Luther once said “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” That is the spirit we bring to this new album.
The Proclamation is a lyrical testimony to the awesomeness of God. It is proven people love good hip-hop. It is for that reason we are adamant about putting together good music. We want beats the people will listen to, lyrical craftsmanship they will appreciate, music people will feel.
On top of that, the content of the album will be positive, uplifting, encouraging, relevant and liberating.
My team and I learned a lot putting together the A.Doulos mixtape, which we funded ourselves and has prepared us for The Proclamation. We found a studio that has the high-quality equipment we prefer and have already invested in many of the beats we will use, though we still need a few more.
The key, though, will be to find the right engineer to mix and master the album. This is the part of the recording process that we don't want to shortchange. Our standard of professionalism, our passion for this ministry and our desire for excellence is too high to settle for a bad mix and master - which jeopardizes the overall quality of the music.
Additionally, we would like to solicit the talent and presence of some of Christian rap's respected artists. A couple of notable features will give our album credibility and help in our marketing efforts. Plus, that will give us the opportunity to support other artist's ministries in other parts of the country as well.
Brian Bradley, the videographer we have chosen, is based in Oakland. His film company produces the kind of quality and professional work that we desire for Send Me. Choosing a local videographer cuts down production costs, as does filming locally.
Here is breakdown of the video project expenses:
$850 - RED Scarlet Camera
$160 - Camera lenses
$500 - Director/Editor
$500 - Gaffer
$200 - Camera assistant
$400 - Grips (2)
$500 - Lights
$450 - Food (3 meals for whole crew)
$150 - Equipment transportation
$80 - Crew transportation
$1000 - Miscellaneous
$4790 - Video total
As previously stated, a large investment in the album has already been made. But some expenses remain, especially if the album is to meet the standard we have established. The two remaining expenses are what we really need help with:
Studio time: We do not have our own studio as of yet. The place we want to record the remaining eight or more songs charges $85 per hour for studio time. The plan is to devote a week to get in the studio and crank out the last songs. Based on what we've learned, a song typically takes about five hours to knock out. Some take longer depending on the complexity of the hook. However, if we are efficient, we know we can average five hours per song. That's at least 40 hours ($3,400) of studio time (possibly 10 hours more if two other songs I am wavering on are scratched from the album and need to be replaced).
Mixing & Mastering: The hardest and lesson my team and I had to learn in this process was about the importance of quality mixing and mastering. This element of music production is one I never personally had to contend with as a secular artist because the label provided this service. I learned that to attain a polished sound production it takes an engineer with the right equipment, who is willing to invest time with the music, and has an ear for the craft. We surveyed a number of options regarding this last critical element. Based on our research, for an average quality mix and master the cost is around $2,000. However, for the exceptional quality we desire, it will be closer to $3,000.
So here is the breakdown of the remaining album expenses:
$3,000 - Studio time (anything over, we will handle)
$2,000 - Mix & master (anything over, we will handle that amount)
$800 - Would like three more features, the most expensive is $500.
$5,800 - Help desired for album (cost is greater, but we'll handle rest)
That is how we arrived as $10,590.
Will You Help?
I consider it a wonderful privilege, to have to rely on the generosity and dedication of people who simply love the Lord. Kerusso is up, running and thriving because of the considerable devotion of people who want to participate in spreading God's love and positivity through the medium of urban music.
We happily invite you to be part of #TeamKerusso even if you are unable to donate to this project. If you have any questions, please email us at email@example.com.
Risks and challenges
CHALLENGE - LaToya London is working on an album right now in Atlanta. Our window to get her to California for the video shoot is tight.
RISK - The amount we're asking you to fund is to cover the video and promoting the event. There is still a hefty expense to fund the production of the rest of the album. That could delay the release of the album by a couple weeks. As long as we stick to budget, it shouldn't be a problem.
CHALLENGE - I am slated to perform in San Diego in April. My desire is to have the video complete by then.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (37 days)