Albums can draw rave reviews, be used by Lecrae to explain theological concepts to Lupe Fiasco and still not draw concerts.
This is what Theophanies, the 2009 album of the Christian hip-hop duo Hazakim, embodied.
“Where do you place a couple of multicultural Messianic Jewish rappers who use Hebrew, who talk about theophanies, whose beats aren’t crunk and who don’t [make music] that necessarily is an alternative to T.I. and Lil’ Wayne?” Tony Wray, one half of Hazakim, said. “A lot of people saw the artistic integrity and uniqueness of the album, but it didn’t translate to events … because it was so weird.”
Weird enough that, after randomly meeting in an airport, Lecrae gave Lupe Fiasco, a Muslim, Theophanies to help Lupe understand atonement and the deity of Jesus—two topics addressed on the heavy-theological project.
After five years without an album, Mike and Tony Wray of Hazakim are back. They released Son of Man on Tuesday. But more than a lack of motivation stemming from a lack of support delayed the release.
Tony almost died.
In 2010, he ordered a chicken burrito for lunch at Taco Bell. All of a sudden, Wray couldn’t swallow the chewed fast food that now decorated his shirt. He could barely swallow anything.
A scan of his throat left a nurse scrambling for help.
“Oh my goodness. It looks like your esophagus has exploded,” she said.
Wray’s esophagus had just expanded, though—the result of a disorder called Achalasia. The severity of his condition not only threatened his music career but his life.
“Oh Lord, not again,” said his older brother Mike, who watched Tony flirt with death as a child, falling head first over a railing and cracking his skull open.
Tony couldn’t eat for months. He lost 50 pounds. His deterioration made his job impossible, which made paying for surgery impossible.
But his record label, Philadelphia-based Lamp Mode Recordings, asked for prayer and donations. In three weeks, it raised over $10,000.
Tony survived. And as a result, he and Mike are as bold as ever on Son of Man.
“I’ve noticed old people sometimes can say whatever’s on their mind, and sometimes they don’t have tact and rub you the wrong way,” Tony said. “But I think the closer you get to the end of your life, you don’t care anymore about making everyone happy. You just say what you think is true. I think I’m a little more honest with people. I’m still going to use tact, but there’s no sense in us all pretending that we always agree. There’s no sense in us pretending everything is fine, when it’s not.”
Hazakim again looked to the Bible, specifically Daniel 7, for the concept of Son of Man: the return of Jesus. The group believes Son of Man is also a unique album, but Mike and Tony explained to Rapzilla why they wish it wouldn’t be so different.
David Daniels: What inspired the concept of “Son of Man?”
Tony Wray: We just really felt like an eschatological album that focused on the coming of the Lord was so needed. In these days when we have Isis moving toward the Middle East, beheading our brothers and sisters in the Lord, we have racial tensions flaring again in the United States, we have sin and lawlessness being paraded in front of us and our children and we have a whole generation being indoctrinated, I’m just surprised that I’m not hearing more about the coming of the Lord in our genre. The Bible says this is our blessed hope. We would love to hear Christian emcees speak more about the coming king and less about how God is relevant through them. At Lamp Mode, we try to establish a platform that God is sufficient and relevant all by himself. It’s introspective to glorify the King because that’s what human beings were made for.
Mike Wray: We’re in such a time that I’ve never ever seen in my life, and you would think in this late hour, more people would start speaking up about these sort of things. We’re not necessarily talking about anyone in particular. It’s just the climate that we live in now within Christian hip-hop circles that has me concerned. There’s a war going on against our beliefs. It’s happening here in the United States, and it’s happening all over the world. I’m not saying that we’re the ideal ones, but if the apostles were living in our day and they happened to be emcees, what would they be talking about?
Listen to Hazakim’s brand new album right here on Rapzilla.com.
Follow Hazakim on Twitter at @Hazakim.
David Daniels is a writer for Rapzilla.com. He’s been published at The Washington Times, Bleacher Report, Christianity Today and The Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter.