Interview – Rawsrvnt: on his new album, Sade, hip hop worship and more
Rawsrvnt has been doing music in the Christian industry for several years. He has pioneered a Hip Hop Worship movement that has broken through religious barriers world wide. Traveling across the United States and treading international waters to Europe and Africa, he has impacted the masses with the truth of God’s unconditional love utilizing a delivery method that has been embraced by a wide range of people.
Rapzilla: So I’m really excited because I actually haven’t heard much about you until I was asked to review your album and, no offense man, but just being from the Northeast, we automatically think if a rapper is below Virginia they’re automatically wack, you know? So I was kind of expecting the worst. I was bracing myself to hear a really bad album. But I was pleasantly, and I mean very pleasantly surprised man. I was listening to your album at my job and I was blown away. Like I was walking around the office with a big grin on my face and they were like, Why are you smiling 9? and I was like, Yo, I thought this album wasn’t going to be that good, and it’s so dope! So I mainly just wanted to talk to you about the album and whatnot.
Rapzilla: So I definitely wanted to start out by congratulating you on the successful release of your album. How does it feel to finally have it out?
Rawsrvnt: It’s beautiful. The record’s like a dream come true because I’ve been really tapping into the whole worship vibe and just growing as an artist, a worship leader, and a man in the faith. It’s beautiful to see a lot of the things come to pass. And of course doing Sade’s “No Ordinary Love” has been a vision of mine since ’04, so it was beautiful to finally see it happen.
Rapzilla: Wow! So you had the vision of remaking Sade’s “No Ordinary Love” since ’04?
Rawsrvnt: Yup. I was cruisin in my whip with my boy Tony P., one of my producer’s back in the day. Sade’s song began to play and I was like, Man dog, I love this song! I told him, Yeah, I’m gonna redo this joint one day. You watch. I was so eager to do the remake, but time and time again, it had been delayed. I had the mindset of it’s gotta get done, now, now, now! But God’s time isn’t the same as ours. God’s timing is always perfect. So, six years later, the song is done and God reveals how fantastic His timing really is because Sade just released a record February of this year , and you know we dropped mine in March . It was dope releasing [the album] Tuesday, March 16th because on Tuesdays music comes out here in America. How many times are you gonna have 3/16 fall on a Tuesday? It was just great because we really got to tie it in with the whole message of God’s heartbeat, John 3:16 – God gave. He gave and gave – He gave His best man! That’s how much He digs us. He put everything on the line because He loves us that much and desires to have an intimate relationship with us. So it’s truly no ordinary love.
Rapzilla: Yeah, amen to that. So how difficult was it for you to get the song cleared though, can you tell me a little bit about that process?
Rawsrvnt: It’s really not that hard. My producer, Chuck Hemann, he’s been in the music biz for a long, long time and he just told me to contact the Harry Fox Agency and pay the applicable fees. It wasn’t very hard. You just have to do the research, instead of bootlegging and saying, Naw, this’ll never happen; I can’t do it. The same way we need to take time to understand God, His heartbeat, and His word, we also gotta take time to develop our craft. If God gives us a vision we gotta be willing to put in the work in order to see it happen. You know?
Rapzilla: Yeah, when I heard the album, Chad [Horton] from Rapzilla & I were talking about it and I don’t know, I just kind of assumed that you were hoping that nobody heard it, you know? Like who would go tell Sade like, Yo this guy, he used your song and he didn’t pay any royalties. (Laughter). That’s like my notion of hip hop, you know? That’s common.
Rawsrvnt: Yeah, of course. It’s common. Very common. So what happened? What did you and Chad think? ‘Cause I saw some comments on Rapzilla. I started laughing and was like, Yo, these jokers really think that I just took Sade’s track and rapped over it. So, I called Lisa [McClendon] up and said, Hey, big ups to you. We did that joint justice, because people swear you’re Sade! She was blown away. That ain’t even Sade’s voice on the track; that’s Lisa’s.
Rapzilla: Oh yeah, yeah, and I was actually wondering about that because first of all, Lisa McClendon’s an awesome artist. It just seemed like she was the perfect person to get on that song. I know y’all worked on a track before called “Breathe.” So what inspired you to bring her back for this joint?
Rawsrvnt: Actually “No Ordinary Love” was the song that Lisa was originally supposed to do with me. She and I’ve been friends for years and I gave her a call one day, like Yo, I got this song that’s heavy on my heart to put out and you know God just keeps bringing you to mind to get on it. You’re the one. She liked the idea, and said she’d be honored to do it. So she and her husband came down to West Palm Beach where I stay and while we were kickin it in the studio she did her thing on “No Ordinary Love” and we were all freaking out. We were like, wow, she really put a great spin on it. She sounded like Sade, but still kept her swagga to it, you know? After she was done I said, Hey, if you don’t mind I’d like to give a new spin on my worship jam called “Breathe.” She was in disbelief. I told her, Yeah, why don’t you get in there and see what you can do? And she said, Man, that’s my favorite song of yours. I listen to it every morning when I take my kids to school.
Rapzilla: Ah, are you serious man?
Rawsrvnt: Yeah! So she just jumped in the booth and after she listened to it for a few minutes, she just did her thing. She started with a little breathing melodic melody and I was like, Yo, you ill! And that was that One of them God moments.
Rapzilla: Yeah, amen to that man. It seems like you have a lot of those.
Rawsrvnt: Amen man, I love it.
Rapzilla: So if you don’t mind me asking, as far as the royalties you had to pay, I know that is a really, really popular and known song [“No Ordinary Love”]. So you don’t have to throw out any numbers, but did it cost an arm and a leg to get the song cleared?
Rawsrvnt: Naw man. It really doesn’t cost a lot, you just gotta be on your game. You gotta know how many copies you’re going to sell, because you gotta pay per unit pressed. And you gotta pay the royalty fee up front too. Listen, the bottom line is I’m a big believer that God is excellent. So, I believe that He deserves excellence in anything we do. He deserves our all. You know the story about the boy that had the two fish and five loaves? Well, he brought it all; that was his best. He didn’t keep one for later. It’s the whole first fruits thing. I bet a lot of people in the Christian hip hop genre probably think that I stole from Sade. But, I didn’t. We got the mechanical rights, which is the same thing we did when we remade “Holiness,” “More Love, More Power,” and “Refuge” on my first worship project In Rare Form. When my producer and I did that, we had to pay the chips to use that, but if you listen to them, they’re nothing like the originals. We approached this record the same way. We redid every sound, replayed every instrument, got a new singer, etc. It would’ve cost an arm and a leg and her record label might not have agreed to it if I would’ve asked for a sample of her voice to use on the song. And the cool thing about it is, I actually got a hold of Sade’s assistant out in the UK. I sent them the song so I’m anxious to hear the full review once she gets back at me and really gets to let me know what she thinks about it.
Rapzilla: And, of course, when that happens you will let us at Rapzilla know what Sade thinks, right?
Rawsrvnt: Of course! I believe in Rapzilla, 100%. Phil and I go way back and I tell him all the time, I commend him on how he’s approached this ministry, and how he started at a young age and he’s still doing it today. So, big ups to Phil and everybody at Rapzilla.
Rapzilla: And we definitely at Rapzilla applaud you so much for going about things the right way, the professional way. Because you’re right, as believers we should be giving it our all and going as hard as possible and making sure we dot every i, and cross every t, you know, so that people do not have a reason to look down upon us. So, it’s fantastic to see what you’re doing Raw and it is very much appreciated.
Rawsrvnt: Thank you. Amen.
Rapzilla: So another question I had is that you use Auto-Tune a few times on the record and I know it’s kinda been a backlash on the whole Auto-Tune thing after every rapper and their mom, sister, cousin used it last year. So with those tracks, were you thinking about that going in, like ‘Dag, people might not feel it ’cause it has Auto-Tune on it?
Rawsrvnt: To be honest with you, I’m targeting the mainstream audience. I’m targeting the pop culture that we live in. I think it’s just ear candy, to be honest with you. When we did that song “Jesus Jam” it was originally the theme song for the biggest Christian tour in the country called “Winter Jam.” They’ve been using the song ever since ’09 and since people are really feelin it, my producer and I got together and decided to let the song live on. So we just put a quick spin on it, ‘We wanna Jesus Jam’ instead of ‘We wanna Winter Jam.’ People are still really feeling it. We already have churches doing dance routines for it, using it in their main services, schools playing it during graduation ceremonies, etc. So it’s pop music. I honestly think that too many people shot at Auto-Tune ’cause it was being overused and I will say that sometimes people don’t do it justice. But we approached it from the perspective of Auto-Tune being another instrument. We used it to put a little flare to the song. It’s great because like I said, we approached everything from a mainstream perspective it made the record current.
Rapzilla: Another song you did called “Bow Down,” has Mr. Sean Slaughter up on there who has definitely been one of my favorite emcees for years now. How did you originally connect with Sean Slaughter?
Rawsrvnt: I’ve been a fan of Sean Slaughter ever since I got one of his first records The World is Not Enough (which is still one of my faves today). That was like one of the first CHH records I ever heard. I just love that track “Narrow.” He killed it! A few years later, I met Sean in New York at Rap Fest in ’03 and we just clicked. I’m big on relationships. Pettidee told me a long time ago, Listen, it’s not all about the music. It’s about building friendships…relationships. And throughout the years we did just that, we built a relationship. I know his pops [Alvin Slaughter], his wife and kids, etc. We’re fam! I wanted to take a stab at re-doing “Bow Down” similar to the way that I do it live. I told Sean and he was game. So he came and blazed it. You heard what he did, he murdered it.
Rapzilla: Yeah, speaking of Sean, I forgot where I saw it at, I’m pretty sure it was Twitter, he was pretty much saying that one of the things he loves about you is that you created your own lane and you’re just kinda doing your own thing. So I wanted to know was that intentional when you began rapping in earnest, making music, were you like Okay I see what everybody else is doing so I’m just gonna do something completely different. Or was it like you just being you?
Rawsrvnt: Truthfully it was just me being me. The first song I ever recorded was a song called “Extravagant” which was just like a love letter to God. People really fell in love with it because the hook was very easy. So I did the jam and people from all different backgrounds dug it and what was wild was that it was my first record I recorded since giving my heart back to God. I’m a hip hopper by default but I’m at worshipper at heart, so it was a response of my heart. The whole worship thing, is my way of communicating to God how thankful I am for Him loving me perfectly, always wanting the best for me, and giving me the victory so I can enjoy this life that He’s given me. So, my first few records I dabbled in it, but then I also wanted to get a crowd hype and crunk because I’m from the South. After awhile though, I gotta be honest with you 9, I was like, You know God this industry I’m just getting tired of it. The church really doesn’t respect our gifts and isnt so down to support hip hop and the street doesn’t really wanna listen to the message, they wanna just listen to the stuff theyre involved in. And I’m like Man at the end of the day Lord it just comes down to just You and me anyways. So I took time out to just do that a whole record designed to worship Him. That’s where the record In Rare Form came from. We put 11 songs on it because it was my one on one time with Him. Eleven. 1 on 1, just me and Him. I took my shoes off in the studio and we just kinda chopped it up. Since the release of that record in ’06 I’ve made it my mandate, to just really begin to focus heavy on this lane that He birthed in me. So now four years later you see a more polished version of what I tell people I am…”A Hip Hop Worship Dirty South Rock Star with a twist of Reggae.”
Rapzilla: Wow, wow. (Laughter).
Rawsrvnt: You know whats wild 9, back to what you were talking about when we first started this interview, if you’re not an ill emcee, people write you off, you know? I heard a long time ago that it’s 10% talent, 90% heart. Or whatever you wanna say, the 20-80 rule, whatever. And I’ll agree but Ill also tell ya that I believe it’s 100% heart, it’s all you got. So I’m not trying to be anybody else, I’m just Raw that’s it. Literally my name is who I am. You could ask anyone who knows me, family or even friends in the industry like Sean Slaughter, Lisa McClendon, Urban D., Pettidee, Lil’ Raskull, Canton Jones, Audrey Assad, Bobby Tinsley, Mike Donehey from Tenth Avenue North, Corey Red, Precise, etc. I’m not trying to be Corey Red or Canton Jones or Sean Slaughter. I’m friends with them and support who they are. I’m rooting for them to succeed. I believe if you do you, and I do me, when we come together, we’ll make a smash hit and we’ll impact even more people.
Rapzilla: Yea, most definitely man. And that’s the thing about us as the Body of Christ. We are supposed to be who God has made us be, you know? And in doing that, we edify the rest of the Body [because] I’ve been listening to a lot of hip hop stuff and I’m like, once again, I’m from New Jersey, so super lyrical is what I’m used to. Whenever I hear anything less than that, it’s weird to me. But I’m telling you, your album touched me in a way and in a place I don’t think many hip hop albums have, by these lyrical emcees, you know? And I think that’s the fruit of you doing what God called you to do.
Rawsrvnt: Amen. Thank you man I appreciate that, I can’t even lie. You don’t know how many times I’ve had cats come up to me from all different walks of life that have been blessed by what I’m doing. I’m giving adoration to God. I’m singing my love to Him just the way that I do it and just the style I do it. A classic moment I had several years ago was a dude with dreadlocks and gold teeth came up to me after a show and was Yo man, I love that “Holiness,” dog. I’m like, what? I’m thinking he was gonna say something about “Bows Up” or “Get ‘Em Up” or any one of my southern joints and he kept telling me Thank you for helping me worship in a way that I never thought I could. Man, that was beautiful. A moment I’ll never forget.
Rawsrvnt: You know what I’m saying? So that’s what has me continually pushing the envelope in this lane that I’ve carved out in Hip Hop. I’m doing music that y’all can enjoy while spending some time with the Lord like I enjoy time with the Lord.
Rapzilla: Amen to that man. Yo I just got a few more questions for you. And one of them actually concerns “Holiness” or at least the artist that was featured on “Holiness.” So Audrey Assad. I’m like, I know her name sounds really familiar when I saw it on the track list and then I was looking her up and she has done songs with Chris Tomlin, and you got her on your album. How did that relationship occur?
Rawsrvnt: She and I have been friends for well over 5 years. She actually lives in my area, West Palm Beach, and she does tons of things with my church, Christ Fellowship. We’ve just been kicking it and you know we’re such opposites. I’m a hip hopper, she’s a contemporary artist, but our love for God beats the same. She went to Nashville a little over a year plus ago, to do her thing full time. So right before she left I asked her to be involved in an event I was doing. I wanted her to bring her sound to the hip hop community. She was like, Raw, I’m not a hip hopper. [I said] that doesn’t matter. They’ll see your heart, I just want you to come through. So she came thru ’06 when In Rare Form, came out. We did an album release party down here in my city. She came 9 and everybody was mesmerized by the beautiful, angelic voice that she sings to God with. She was blown away at the response of the crowd. Audrey wrote a big blog on her website about it. And she was telling all her friends I never thought this would be possible, but I was at a Hip Hop concert and I witnessed the presence of God through hip hop. I was really excited that she caught the vision and we just kept building together from there. Right before she took off to Nashville I had her do another event with me and thats when I asked her to do “Holiness.” I jumped on stage and did my thing then I called her out to join me and everybody was like Ohhhh, roar of applause came in. People said we sounded incredible together. So before she left to Nashville we recorded the remake of “Holiness” and “Here I Am to Worship” for all to enjoy.
Rapzilla: Yessir and those songs are like so awesome because it’s just awesome to see contemporary Christian music being brought into a Hip Hop context. And it worked so well. I actually played the “Here I Am to Worship” song for my girlfriend Ashley and immediately after it was done, she was like, Yeah I think this is my favorite version of the song that I’ve heard from the churches that I went to where they have sung this song. I’d definitely say the same thing [Ive been] powerfully meeting with God while listening to “Holiness” and “Here I Am to Worship,” and it’s so odd to spend intimate time with God playing a hip hop CD, you know?
Rawsrvnt: Isn’t it crazy?
Rapzilla: Yeah, it’s crazy it’s dope though man.
Rawsrvnt: I love it. I feel like a little kid at Christmas every time I hear that. I stand behind my statement, I’m a hip hopper by default, (because of the era I grew up in) but I’m a worshipper at heart. And if you think about it, if you grew up in the 60s you were a hippie. If you grew up in the 70s you were more disco; 80s you know that pop, funk and all that kind of stuff. 90s [you’re] hip hop. I’m glad that I could really bring more people together and show everybody how to love on the Lord. However you do it baby, just do it. It just goes to show you that when you share your heart and let people really see your heart behind what you do [again, it the whole Raw thing] they catch it. Even if it isn’t their flavor if it isn’t their style they’ll catch it. I get it often. [They say] There’s something different about you. I love what you’re doing. You know and I’m not really into hip hop but I like the music you do. I’ve met 90 year old ladies that come up to me and say, I can’t stand the hip hop my grandsons listen to, but I like your hip hop. I’ma bring them your albums ’cause this is the hip hop they should be listening to. Praise God.
Rapzilla: That’s what’s up man. Just remember people are being affected and impacted. I know a lot of times dealing with the not so glamorous side of things can be tough and make you feel like we’re not getting the kind of response that we want but I’m telling you, lives are being affected and impacted. Keep up the great work.
Rawsrvnt: Thank you. That’s why I do what I do. You got anything else for me man? Anything else you want me to touch on?
Rapzilla: No just if you have anything to say to our readers and just to believers in Christ out there.
Rawsrvnt: Listen, God loves you with a love that don’t go away. Embrace the fact that God loves you perfectly, always wants the best for you, and has hooked you up so you can enjoy this life He’s given you. He’ll give you wisdom beyond measure; all you gotta do is ask Him. He desires an intimate relationship with you. He wants to bless you in more ways than you could even imaging. He doesn’t care about what you’ve done He doesn’t care about your past He already knows your future. And He literally smiles every time He thinks about you. So embrace the fact that God digs you with a love that don’t go away. A love that is not based on your performance but is based on what He’s done for you. Now your performance can just be a response of the gratitude that you have towards Him. That’s it.
Rapzilla: Amen to that.
Rawsrvnt: Apart from that, if you wanna enjoy some more music, Rawsrvnt.com baby.
Rawsrvnt: Follow me on my journey man. A lot more things are in store
You can follow Rawsrvnt on Twitter @Rawsrvnt
** Editors Note ** Rawsrvnt is on the upcoming reality TV show “Donald Trump Presents: Omarosa’s Ultimate Merger”, which features 12 bachelors considering a merger with Omarosa. Omarosa is infamously known for her role on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” reality TV show as well. Rawsrvnt is going to do a follow up interview with us first, as soon as he is able to release details! Until then check out our previous news post with the commercial for Omarosa’s Ultimate Merger here.