Eshon Burgundy was a young Christian when the boldness of fellow Philadelphia-based rapper Shai Linne changed him.

“Jeeesus!” Shai screamed into the mic on stage at a church event over a decade ago, Eshon recalled.

“He just screamed it so loud and unashamedly. I was like, ‘Yo, that’s amazing. I couldn’t do that at that time. I said to myself, ‘I could never do that.’ But him doing that — being unashamed with it and just totally giving over to his love and devotion for Christ — it really impacted me. I never forgot that moment.”

Though Eshon doubted his ability to be bold then, he has since proved himself wrong.

On Tuesday, he released his Humble Beast Records debut album The Fear of God, which he intentionally approached with the same boldness about his faith as Shai did that memorable night.

“That’s when the desire began,” Eshon said, “the desire to be outright with my faith, devotion and belief in Jesus — at that moment. I saw his, and I said, ‘I want to be able to do that. I don’t think I’ll be able to do that, but I wanted that.’ … In my career, that’s where I am right now.”

‘The Fear of God’ Goal

In 2013, Eshon was fed up.

He had heard enough biblical references in hip hop that were not biblically sound. In September, he responded, dedicating an entire mixtape to combating these errors, For God’s Sake. The Fear of God is his follow-up — an effort to proclaim the truth in a culture content with lies.

“I just wanted to deliberately remind myself and all who would listen to the music of the fear we should have for the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings,” Eshon said. “I wanted to be blunt. I didn’t want to leave any room for any speculation. … In terms of who I am as an artist, as a man, as a husband, as a father, just as a person, I wanted to make it very clear that this is all grounded in my love, devotion and relationship with the Father.”

Eshon felt burdened to take this approach on The Fear of God after experiencing the music’s influence first-hand growing up. The combination of music’s influence and rappers’ insistence on inaccurately referring to God obligated Eshon to articulate his faith, he said, which Humble Beast values.

“The state of music is a reflection of the state of the world we live in and the cultures within it,” Braille said. “Music is one of many means that Christians can use to clearly present the gospel to a world that is perishing apart from Christ. There is never a time when an accurate representation of God isn’t needed, and yet there are moments when that need is felt more intensely. … When the culture is aggressively speaking about God in ways that are confusing and deceptive, it’s important to have bold voices in the mix speaking the truth.”

Eshon hasn’t always fleshed out his faith on the mic. Around the time he collaborated several years ago with prominent secular artists DJ Jazzy Jeff and Rawkus Records’ Hezekiah, Eshon admitted to having “watered down” lyrics. Since he started to flesh out his faith, though, he’s witnessed impact that was previously non-existent.

“I’ve gotten a lot of emails and messages on social media from people saying how much my music has impacted their lives — how much the use of scripture in my music has just been like gold to people,” Eshon said. “When I started getting that and understanding the impact the music was having, I realized this is only happening because of my relationship with the Father and the things he allows me to see, and therefore say. It becomes a song after it becomes a reality to me.”

Knowing this, Eshon said, centering his album on a concept like the urgency to fear God was only logical.

“I need to give honor where honor is due, credit where credit is due,” he said. “Credit goes to the Father — not me. I’m the same artist today that I was when I was 16, just sitting in the studio for the first time in my life. I was a fairly good artist back then, but there was no way the songs that I would make back then when I was 16, 17 years old would have the same impact on a person’s life like the ones that are being made today.

“The difference is that God’s word is in what I’m doing now, and my word, my perspective was in what I was doing before. And here we are: night and day. The reason why people learn and get impacted with the music now is because of God’s power and God’s word. I’m just a vessel being used. I’m just the means in which the words are coming available to these people.”

Eshon hopes The Fear of God inspires Christians to be overt about their faith in music. However, he added that if artists feel led by God to refrain from calling themselves Christian rappers or including Bible references in lyrics, he can’t tell them they’re wrong.

“All I’m saying is,” Eshon said, “it’s a privilege to be associated with God in any capacity and we should embrace it.

“I just want to be unashamedly, completely devoted to Jesus in public, in the music. I want people to call me a Christian rapper. I want that. I desire that. I want to be connected to God when it comes to this music. Music has been mine literally all my life. I’ve been pursuing music since eight, and it was always my thing. It was always my drug, so to be outright about my relationship with God through the music is liberating to me. For people to attach what I’m doing to the Father is the biggest hooray, biggest reward, biggest award I could ever imagine.”