SXSW: Datin on his aggression being rooted in battle rap

Listeners of God Over Money artist Datin’s new album, The Roar, likely wouldn’t be surprised to learn he once battle rapped.

His aggressive delivery stands out on the 14-track LP — aggression which he said stems from his start in that culture.

“I started basically in the battle rap scene, and you’re forced to be aggressive,” Datin told Rapzilla at SXSW 2016. “I don’t have to the meanest appearance. I’m not a big, giant, brolic dude, so I had to look the part in order to scare cats, and it worked. Once I saw the aggressiveness was working and scared cats when I was battling them, it’s kind of this thing I adopted.

“You get all the comments, ‘Why the mean face?’ I can’t help it. It’s trained behavior, the ice grill. That’s kind of why my music, my style, my approach is aggressive because being raised up, so to speak, in the battle rap scene, come on, you can’t smile, ‘Hey, your mother is a … ‘ You gotta go hard.”

After Datin became a Christian, though, he wasn’t sure how aggressive he should continue to rap.

“If you listen to Turn It Off, Vol. 1, I feel like it was aggressive, but I went halfway, 50 percent, because of that,” Datin said. “I didn’t fully understand the church and how people perceive things, or Christian hip-hop. I was new to it.

“The only examples I had weren’t aggressive at all. They were dope, and they got the message across effectively, but you didn’t see Da’ T.R.U.T.H. with [an angry face] or Phanatik or Ambassador, so I was like, ‘Let me tone it down.’ I toned down my wordplay. I toned down a lot of stuff for the sake of preaching the Gospel, spreading the message clearly.”

One-hundred-percent-aggressive Datin returned after conversations with people like Lavoisier, who encouraged Datin when listening to his old music.

“That’s what I want to hear,” Lavoisier told Datin, “not the content, but that Datin.”

“Yeah, I might have to turn up a little bit,” Datin said, “so I did. I started going hard again. That [old] Datin’s dead, but the aggressiveness is back, and it ain’t going nowhere now.”

Watch Datin’s three-part interview below, and buy The Roar on iTunes.


Written by David Daniels

David Daniels is a columnist at and the managing editor of He has been published at Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, CCM Magazine, Bleacher Report, The Washington Times and HipHopDX.

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