Gospel and Google move UK artist Dwayne Tryumf to rap in Chinese
Google search results rerouted Dwayne Tryumf’s rap career in 2013.
Tryumf, one of the most celebrated Christian hip-hop artists from the United Kingdom ever, needed a recess from music. The nearly two years he spent working on his album Live in Concert had drained him.
“I just became so delusioned with music because I had been working on this live album for so long,” Tryumf told Rapzilla. “I was like, ‘You know what? I need a change of scenery.’”
To determine this scenery, he typed the phrase “most widely-spoken languages” into his computer. Whichever tongue sat at No. 1, Tryumf would study full-time for the next year. His desire to be able to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible took precedence over maintaining his platform — just like it always had with Tryumf.
Tryumf meant to hang up the mic when he became a Christian at the age of 21, but a friend who had known him for years invited him to rap at his church. Tryumf did, which led to other invites, which led to other impressive performances. Before long, enough evidence that Tryumf should keep rapping had presented itself.
The evidence wasn’t a growing fan base. It was hip hop’s usefulness as a vehicle to spread the gospel.
“I didn’t intend to try and become this rap star or anything,” Tryumf said. “I was just wanting to share my faith, and rap was one of those outlets.”
Jahaziel, a UK rapper signed to Xist Music and a long-time friend of Tryumf’s, reminisced about evangelizing on the streets of London with him. They used to set up a small PA system on the sidewalk and perform before sharing their Christian testimonies with listeners who had congregated, and Tryumf still does.
“[Tryumf] is one of the most passionate dudes I know concerning the gospel,” Jahaziel said. “Music with Tryumf has always been a secondary thing. He’s an evangelist.”
UK Christian hip-hop pioneer Efrem Buckle, pastor of Calvary Chapel South London and former member of the rap group Ministri of Defence (M.O.D), called Tryumf’s use of music to engage non-Christians on the street with the gospel “prolific.”
In 2013, Tryumf’s Google search yielded Mandarin Chinese as the most widely-spoken language in the world by far. His plan to reach a larger audience excited Buckle, but knowing how difficult it would be to accomplish, the pastor didn’t know how long the resolution would last.
“That sounds like a really great intention and aspiration,” Buckle said, “but I was a little bit skeptical of how far he would pursue that and how effective he would really get to grips with [Mandarin].”
Tryumf is laying these doubts to rest.
Two years and hundreds of hours of studying Mandarin later, his plans remain.
“I want to rap in Chinese now,” Tryumf said. “I want to take what I do and bring it into a new culture and language … so I’m hoping to start writing full songs in Mandarin Chinese.”
Tryumf not only took language lessons. He dove head first into the culture, attending a church in Chinatown and routinely watching Chinese television series on YouTube. Over time, he became fascinated with the culture, which he believes could probably use him more than the U.S. and UK hip-hop scenes.
“When I tell Chinese people that I want to learn the language and use it to do music, they encourage me: ‘This is very good. You should do that. People would love it there,’ so it seems like maybe there’s a gap,” Tryumf said. “Rapping in English is becoming quite heavily saturated, so maybe going to China and using it in that culture, it wouldn’t be so saturated.”
This year, Tryumf is aiming to release a solo album in English and perhaps a collaborative project with Jahaziel. If he transitions to Mandarin afterward, his English-speaking fans may not understand what he’s saying, but they’ll still know what he’s rapping about.
“It is the Lord who is at work within you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” Tryumf said, reciting Philippians 2:13. “The Lord is just working in me and giving me these desires to reach out to different cultures. Even Paul was like, ‘I would like to preach somewhere where the gospel isn’t already preached, lest I build upon another man’s foundation.’ Maybe learning Chinese might open more doors for me to preach the gospel.”
Tryumf may have not known what new language he would rap in until Google told him, but as soon as he decided to learn a different dialect, he knew what he would do with it.
Watch Tryumf rap in Mandarin in the final verse of A Star’s song “DFMB (UK Remix).”