Veteran St. Louis-based artist FLAME wanted to spark conversation with his eighth studio album Forward.

“There’s an agenda, I believe, to secularize the American culture; our nation in general,” FLAME said. We’re seeing that in politics. We’re seeing that just on a lay level. A lot of people are moving away from concepts of God and the supernatural component. It’s putting the Christian in an awkward position because we’re having to think through how to exist in that type of terrain, to still be normal, to be tactful, to be nice, not overbearing, but to confident and bold about our faith in Christ. The record is just bringing that type of dialogue to the forefront.”

FLAME released Forward last July, and he told Rapzilla that a variety of events burdened him to address such weighty subject matter — including the Mike Brown tragedy and the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage. He also credited inspiration to Dr. Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, as well as his book Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel.

“We both had similar things on our heart,” FLAME said. “We were just observing the culture. I was just digesting a lot of that material, and just in my every day experience, I’m encountering people who are questioning Christianity or questioning the reality or necessity of God. So I said, ‘Man, I have to articulate a Christian vision of reality in a hip-hop context, so that people who live this type of lifestyle can understand God’s heart, can understand where the Christian is coming from, but also encourage the young artist who’s a believer to be thinking through how we’re going to engage culture without losing the gospel as well.”

Watch FLAME’s two-part interview about Forward below.