FLAME Talks Music Plans and Strategies; Reveals How He Stays Focused
FLAME has been killing it in Christian rap music since the early 2000s. From his very beginnings until now, the emcee has stayed consistent and relevant in a genre that sees lots of change. Our own Luc DiMarzio had an opportunity to chop it up, and see what he’s been up to.
Rapzilla: I’m stoked to be talking with you man. Been following you since you were with Cross Movement. CMR records and all that
FLAME: Thank you bro yeah that’s tight. CMR – classics.
RZ: Classics. Yeah, a lot has changed since then though…
FLAME: Well in a way, yes and no. Only because when I first started listening to Cross Movement it was Heaven’s Mentality. They were still kinda like underground and the dudes that dominated the charts were like Grits, T-Bone, KJ was on the rise… So in the terms of what the content and style that dominated CHH back then, it’s similar to now. You know what I’m saying? As far as exposure and momentum I think things have definitely changed. As far as who has the position of dominance in the market it’s kinda similar.
RZ: It’s also kind of this trying to figure out what kinda works in this kind of market. This “what have you done for me lately” culture. This “I’m ready for a new single and you just put out 5 songs last week. There’s a lot that goes with that now too. People just don’t ride through a CD for a whole summer. They’re always ready for the next thing.
FLAME: Yeah and that sucks too for the artist.
RZ: So what else is God doing? What’s been going on with you, your ministry and Clear Sight?
FLAME: A lot man. I just finished my master’s degree. That was something I really had in my sights for years.
FLAME: Yeah I was able to get that done. I’m still traveling a lot and learning the ways the culture changes and how to navigate the gospel in the middle of it. That’s been interesting. A lot of transition.
RZ: So you’re an artist that sees your music truly as a ministry. What does that look like?
FLAME: Really initially it started off with me feeling like my music and the nature behind it was that churches would bring me out not only to do music but to speak or teach classes. Then we would couple that with evangelistic efforts in the community – a juvenile detention center or adult prison. So that’s kinda been the path I’ve been on since the inception is really not only doing music but getting booked to speak, teach and evangelize. It’s always been a package deal. I’ve been aware of that since day one. That this is the lane the Lord has carved for me. I’ve always enjoyed it, creating change and impact.
RZ: Clear Sight music is still going strong?
Flame: Yeah, shout out to the homie Mike Real. He’s the only act on Clear Sight outside of myself. For me, it’s pretty exciting in terms of me watching Mike Real as a young artist in St. Louis. Watching him and seeing what he’s developed on his own, and continuing to encourage him as he came up. Now I have him on my label and I’ve put him on my platform without much competition per se. I’ve let him move at his own speed, his own rate and let an artist like him flourish.
RZ: Let’s talk more about the music. God Knows came out just a little over a year ago. You won a Stellar Award for album of the year.
FLAME: That’s crazy because I’ve been nominated so many times for a Stellar Award and I’ll go to the event just to enjoy the festivities and the networking and meet new friends, link up with old friends. So I kinda like never really saw myself winning. I just never had an appetite for the competitive side. I just enjoy being in the conversation. For me that was always a win, to be nominated and mentioned.
They would also invite me out to do extracurricular things like, “Hey FLAME we love your ministry would you come out and speak or perform here?” So we already had a great relationship. So for this year when the album won it was super dope. Especially because it was a later project of mine. Typically you get your wins earlier on in your career/ministry and you kinda wane or taper off. It felt good that my most recent project was acknowledged so that was super dope.
RZ: I really feel like you’ve been one of the more consistent artists in CHH. Obviously, your early work was highly regarded and then with The 6th you blew up with that, and now last year God Knows had success too so you’ve been able to keep the brand and keep your name top of mind for people for years. That’s something that’s hard to do. You probably never set out to do that either. What is the process? What keeps you fresh like that so that you’re continuing to say things that people wanna hear?
FLAME: Yeah I think it’s two things probably. One is that I try to keep in mind that the content will always win. People always wanna hear something that is creative, challenging, thought-provoking and done well. The second thing is that I’m never mad at the new wave. I don’t spend a lot of energy being upset with things like, “Oh they wear skinny jeans now.” Or.. “Why are they using so much autotune?” I don’t spend a lot of energy being mad at the new wave so for me, it’s pretty easy to see things about any new wave that I like and try to assimilate why maintaining my own authentic self. I still grab portions of what’s new thinking “I can own that, make it my own.” People like that and give me that space to be creative and move that way.
RZ: That’s awesome. You’re doing great. Honestly, I wrote a review for NewH2O last year for God Knows, and I didn’t rate you too high so maybe I don’t really know what I’m talking about.
RZ: But like I said, I’m a fan, so I’m following you this year, putting out these videos that are like a minute long, but I need more. “I woke up this morning I’m feeling blessed” I’m like give me four minutes of that, I need that.
FLAME: Again that’s one of those things. I don’t spend a lot of time being mad at the attention span changing for the listener at least the younger listeners. Most songs now are about a good two minutes, if that. A lot of times, and this is really how I first learned short videos are okay. I would post clips of videos on my IG, and I’d say “full link in bio” and nobody would click the link to watch the full video. They just liked the thirty-second clip. People are okay with short visuals so it’s things like that that show me it’s a different day. I don’t spend time being mad at it and it works.
RZ: Who’s your video producer?
FLAME: Most of my stuff is done by Will Thomas. He used to be with Space Cherry and his name was Juice twenty twenty. As of late, I’ve been looking for new talent and I’ve been linking up with a guy from Orlando – Demarco Films. He’s super talented too. It’s been cool.
RZ: That’s good, so do you have new stuff coming out? A new project you’re working towards?
FLAME: What I’m doing this year is just releasing a single every month. Mike Real and I will tag team back and forth. So he’ll release one then I’ll release one. At this point, I’m three singles in. “Woke Up This Morning,” “Next,” and last week I put out “Superhero.”
That’s really the strategy obviously in terms of streaming. People want back to back hits. We’ve been focusing on singles. At the end of the year, I’ll collect it all and put it out as a project. It really helps in terms of how people consume music. It keeps the appetite wet, keeps them on edge. Me as an artist who does enjoy a full project I hope to create an appetite doing this. I like to starve them out a bit so that when I do put it out they’re ready for it. However, they only end up liking a couple of the songs anyway. Then financially you have to consider the best way to use your money and shift the income so it makes sense.
RZ: Is there anything else you need to let people know?
FLAME: Look out for the singles dropping each month. We’re still touring heavy so get at us on the website www.clearsightmusic.com to see where we’re gonna be. I did a survey at the top of the year asking people what do they want from me. Live streams? Q&A’s? The answer was that the fans just want more music and to see me in live shows.
RZ: Let me know the next time you’re in Vegas and we’ll meet face to face.
FLAME: Yeah I’ve been to Vegas a few times for the Stellar Awards. I know in Vegas, not only are you there, but In N’ Out is there too.
RZ: Yes, definitely. Tell you what, next time you’re in Vegas, In N’ Out on me.
FLAME: Alright deal! I appreciate your time Luc.
RZ: Thank you for your time. God bless you and your ministry.
FLAME: Yes and you likewise.