Christon Gray has had a whirlwind of a time the last couple of years. He’s seen his private, personal, and marital issues become public, he’s experienced changes in his music on the business side, and has also been through highs and lows as an artist. Through and through, these issues have been faced head-on by Gray with honesty. This singer and rapper had some things to get off his chest…he had to – Clear the Heir, and he wants you to do it too.
Gray’s latest project follows the highly touted The Glory Album which saw the artist reach his pinnacle of success. Although the album did contain parts of him that were revealing, Clear the Heir has made him feel free.
“Whatever is buried inside of you is eventually going to come out,” said Gray, about the process of this new record.
He had to take some time away from everything. His marriage had just ended. He was dealing with a porn and sex addiction, and he was now left to pick up the pieces of his failures. It’s something he’s open about, and still working on.
“People who have hidden their lives, we hide them because we were afraid of what the church would think of us more than what the world would,” Gray shared. “Like pastors are afraid to lose their job. I can’t honestly sit down with another leader in the faith and be upset with them because they are frustrated with something they can’t control. It’s a difficult space, we need to show much more grace.”
So back comes the line of – “Whatever is buried inside of you is eventually going to come out.” In this instance, the bad was buried and came out; He now had to exorcize it.
“I anticipated negative reactions from people who either don’t share the same life experiences because they don’t understand or judgmental people,” he said upon releasing the album. “Some people aren’t able to look into the good-side of expressing the truth and be honest.”
Gray said that reactions so far have been about 98% positive. He attributes that back to people who are living “hidden lives.” These are people who are struggling in secret and putting on a different face in front of others. This can range from any addiction – lust, drugs, drinking, self-harm, suicidal thoughts…these people are too afraid to “clear their air.”
“It seems like a lot of people are going through the same thing and need a soundtrack to express it,” he explained. “Ever since we decided as the church to embrace the world and mainstream culture – I remember growing up, there was an intense effort to stay away [from the world]. That’s how we got our own Christian programming and shows.”
*What he means by “embrace the world,” is taking ministry outside the four walls of the church. It also means, people, partaking in “non-Christian” things but still being able to walk with God. It’s not saying, “the church is becoming the world.”*
He continued, “There was an intense effort to try to stay separate. Now that we embrace trying to fit in, we need to make an effort, to be honest with what we go through in real life. We try to fit in and let people know we are just as cool as them. We don’t want to tell our business. ‘Well, I still never figured out that sex addiction thing when I watched porn at 11-years-old. I never figured it out, guys’. I know it doesn’t make me look great in some circles, but we gotta do that so people don’t wind up committing suicide because they are depressed and hiding their true feelings.”
Unfortunately, it’s something we see all-the-time. Flip that to the mainstream culture where society is losing celebrities left and right to suicide. These are the biggest stars in the world, and many of them have been able to live out their addictions publicly without too much condemnation. Put this back toward the Christian where one discrepancy can lead to an expulsion from the church. It can lead to lost jobs and arrows of insecurity questioning everything from salvation, eternity, and identity.
“The game isn’t changing, it’s over. You look at the landscape of music and we aren’t seeing anything that authentically expresses who we are that really exists in the mainstream. If we’re being honest about the Christian music market, it’s not hitting from many angles,” revealed Gray. “I will gladly take the position of being the big brother to any artist who needs someone to speak to, who needs resources creatively to get to the next level that they’ve been hindered from. I’m also going to continue to work on my recovery. This is what you’ve heard on the album. I’m going to continue to get better. I can’t stop that.”
He continued, “I got a beautiful wife [remarried] that I have to tend to. I have a beautiful six-year-old daughter that needs her dad. I gotta continue to work through these issues and be available to those who need my help as well.”
This trend toward revealing our humanity in a real way through “Christian rap” is definitely trending up rather than being frowned upon like the past. Andy Mineo’s latest two projects I: The Arrow and II: The Sword dig in on this. Mogli the Iceburg dropped Sad People Make Dope Music and Lets Talk About Our Feelings. Both of these artists have received praise for this moody and self-reflective music.
But perhaps the person sharing the most kinship with Christon Gray is Datin. The GOM artist recently released his album Hell in the Hallway which chronicles the death of his marriage. It resonated with Gray as his record deals with his divorce among other things as well. In fact, the two talked extensively about it.
“He is who is both on and off the mic,” Gray said of Datin. “I respect the honesty. He’s was being real with what he was going through and me going through the same, I could resonate. If you were to see all the DMs, letters, and messages him and I receive for people that relate and thank us…It’s helping people, it helped me.”
One problem Datin was having with Hell in the Hallway was how to perform those songs live. When Rapzilla last spoke to him, he hadn’t figured out how to translate it yet. Gray said he’s figured it out for himself.
“The turn-up is fun but it’s that safe happy music. I think some people it translates weird in a church environment,” he explained. “For me, I try to really incorporate it with a solid set list that takes you through highs and lows. I never want to end on a low either.”
As for right now, Gray hopes Clear the Heir continues to inspire people to open up about their struggles. He also hopes it inspires listeners as well. These are people who can hear the struggles of others and provide comfort and guidance instead of knee-jerk rebuke.
Gray’s new found freedom has afforded him more creativity to keep going. This is not the end.
“More music is coming out. I’ve had very important discussions with very big artists, we’ll see what it shapes into.”
Check back next week with Rapzilla for part two with Christon Gray where he talks about his relationships with Kirk Franklin and JGivens. He also breaks down a few of the tracks from Clear the Heir.
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