He felt convicted. But he had too much to lose to become a Christian.
By 2004, Datin had established himself as one of the best battle rappers in the nation. His resume included victories at 106 & Park’s Freestyle Friday, Monday Nite Fight Klub and End of the Weak’s MC Challenge.
“He was getting a crazy underground buzz,” said Lionel King, a member of Datin’s group Divided Minds.
Datin started to work with record producer Megahurtz, who had worked with Jay Z, 50 Cent and Nas. Then Datin met Riggs Morales, the Director of A&R at Shady Records—Eminem’s label. Several flights to meet with Bizarre and Proof of Eminem’s group D12 later, and a bidding war for Datin between Shady and Colombia Records had begun.
Woooow! Old '06 pic w/ Bizarre , The homie Big Proof (RIP), and myself... pic.twitter.com/XE5wqO5y— Dãtin aka Triple D (@Datin_TripleD) November 18, 2011
This is what Datin didn’t want to lose as he opened up a Bible the day after watching The Passion of the Christ. Two chapters into reading, though, the annoyance of “thou shalts” and “thees” made him toss his King James Version across the room.
Datin wasn’t ready to become a Christian. Lionel King was. Datin had mentored him into the next best rapper on Divided Minds, but King quit because of his newfound faith.
Datin didn’t understand and tried to talk King out of it saying “it’s just music,” but without success. Disappointed but respectful of King’s decision, Datin continued to pursue a record deal. Then Proof was murdered.
“The last thing Eminem was worried about was signing an artist,” Datin told Rapzilla.
Then contract talks with Colombia soured. Then Datin’s girlfriend had a miscarriage and left him.
These dreams, which were almost reality, vanished. He felt God calling him. Instead, he medicated not “making it” with sex.
But Datin couldn’t escape Christians. King introduced him to Pamela Long, former member of Diddy’s Bad Boy Records R&B group Total. Long told Datin she left Bad Boy for the sake of her Christian faith and offered him advice.
“She [essentially] warned me, ‘Look, if you sign this contract, you’re basically forfeiting your soul. The industry will suck the life out of you,’” said Datin.
Long sacrificing fame for faith shocked Datin, especially because, “She’s seen the top and walked away from it all,” he said.
Datin still believed he could justify his lifestyle if he beat King in religious debates, but he repeatedly lost. Datin was soon influenced by another Christian rapper, Lavoisier.
Years prior, Datin had formed the group FYL with Lavoisier’s former associates. Lavoisier had become a Christian and left before Datin arrived. But Lavoisier heard about his successor and found Datin on Myspace.
“He was the illest unsigned rapper I had ever heard,” said Lavoisier. “You don’t hear dudes this good everyday just walking around.”
When Lavoisier shared the gospel with Datin, he didn’t know he had help. Some of the women who Datin pursued shared the gospel with him. One took him on a date to Da’ T.R.U.T.H.’s release party for his album The Faith.
Another, who was engaged, Datin tried to impress by attending church. He walked to the altar and said the sinner’s prayer after the worship service. But when the preacher told him, if he died today, he’d go to Heaven, it offended Datin.
“Bro,” Datin thought. “I’m about to roll this blunt up when I get home. I’m about to try to take this dude’s girl. I ain’t going to Heaven. You don’t know my life. You’re trying to make a show for these people.”
Datin didn’t return to church the next week. But then the same girl who cheated on her fiancé with Datin recommitted to her faith. She ended her relationship with Datin the same day his best friend died in a motorcycle accident.
Once again, the life that Datin refused to lose put him on his knees. He felt guilty about his friend’s death, as if he died because Datin didn’t go to church and pray for him. When he joined King in church the following week, a habit began.
One of the first people who Datin told he became a Christian was Lavoisier. He provided mentorship for Datin, along with King who became a youth pastor. And Datin needed it.
“Some people have 0-to-60 moments with God,” said Datin. “I wasn’t one of those. I dragged my feet.”
He had no interest in becoming a “wack Christian rapper.” But when he recorded his next project The Grand Entrance, it became an odd mixture of braggadocios rhymes and church slang. King advised him to temporarily put the mic down to grow in his faith, and Datin did.
As soon as he surrendered, though, doors started to open again. Datin had defeated Iron Solomon, Swave Sevah, Poison Pen and Diabolic in rap competitions. He had worked with producers The Alchemist, Lord Finesse, The Heatmakerz and Charlemagne—his resume hadn’t disappeared.
Check out my homie @Datin_TripleD 's music. He's a DOPE MC!!— KUNIVA of D12 (@KunivaD12) May 17, 2013
An artist who Swizz Beatz had just signed to Full Surface Records drove to Datin’s neighborhood to tell him Swizz Beatz had interest in also signing him. Another friend told Datin that Ja Rule wanted to meet him. The Director of A&R at Virgin Records Chris Anokute appeared at Datin’s church to recruit him.
Datin turned them all down.
“It was such a struggle to say no,” said Datin. :It took every bit of my being. My whole life was based around my music, my hopes and my dreams. To say no was like chopping off my arm.”
Datin’s refusal to compromise his faith impressed King. The rapper who once rolled his eyes at the idea of Christian hip hop began to write for a higher purpose. Only after extensive discipleship did he release the mixtape Turn It Off: Vol. 1.
“Where Datin is now,” said King, “I had no clue he would be so sold out for the Lord.”
It also impressed Lavoisier, who introduced Datin to Bizzle. After bonding, Datin offered his services to Bizzle’s record label God Over Money as an A&R. Datin held the role until, on July 30, the record deal he had worked for years for was announced.
“Lyrically, [Datin] can compete with anybody, Christian or secular,” said Bizzle. “Even the features you’ve been hearing him on lately … he’s been bodying them. Somebody is going to sign him, so I went ahead and did it.”
Bizzle featured Datin twice on his album Well Wishes.
Datin shares the same mission as God Over Money. The following Bible verse is featured on the about page on the label’s official website, 1 Timothy 6:7-10.
“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Datin was eager for money for most of his hip-hop career. Not now. And where he came from makes his mentors Lavoisier and King believe he has much to offer as a mentor in Christian hip hop.
“I’ve been around Christian hip hop for a while, and I think Datin brings a different voice to the game,” said King. “He might be new to a lot of people, but he definitely comes with a vast portfolio. At one point, he was an underground legend … I really think Datin is going to be a mentor to a lot of these rappers coming up.”
David Daniels writes for Rapzilla.com. He graduated from Geneva College and lives in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter.