Kayla Starks - K.La

How Christian Hip-Hop Failed Kayla Starks (K.La) Part 1: Underage Close Call & How Forgiveness has Reconciled Her Heart

Young and impressionable, that’s what we always say as a warning to dealings with people who are not yet adults regardless if the person is wise beyond their years. Well in this instance, a teenage artist then known as Kayla Starks, was in for a rude awakening and a bit frightening of an experience under the label of Christian hip-hop. This incident would shape the rest of her career, and in addition to a number of other factors would ultimately lead to their departure from Christian Hip-Hop.

This may sound like the beginning of a sad story, but make no mistake, leaving a genre does not equate to leaving the faith. The artist now known as K.La is on fire for God, she’s just not doing it within the community that rejected her and felt tried to take advantage of her.

As most people reading this know, last month some serious and credible allegations were hurled out against producer and artist GAWVI. At the time, one of the most recognizable faces of Reach Records was now painted as someone who let infidelity ruin a marriage and as someone who was sending unsolicited explicit photos to women. The label, Christian rap’s biggest, terminated him from his contract amidst the beginning of the Unashamed Tour. While GAWVI has been publicly silent on the issue, behind the scenes he’s stated his dealings have been consensual. Regardless of that being the case, a 15 to 16-year-old Starks, had her own unfortunate encounter with the producer but fortunately for her, she was able to avoid anything serious.

This is her story…

*GAWVI not available for comment.

GAWVI

When some of the allegations against GAWVI were being thrown around social media, a particular story involving an underage artist kept popping up. “I was one of the people some of those posts were talking about,” Starks said.

Kayla had attended a show where a number of Reach Records artists were performing. She was invited out because she knew the promoters of the event. She had been going back and forth between the crowd and backstage because she knew a few of the artists as well.

“I met him [GAWVI] backstage at that show and said ‘You did an awesome job’, then we followed each other on socials.”

She continued, “He reached out to me on socials. He pretty much pitched to me, ‘Yo come to the studio, I think you’re a star, you’re talented. I checked your stuff out’. Then he starts naming the people he worked with – Lecrae, Reach Records, etc…”

Starks said everything appeared to be official and legit and thought it would be awesome. GAWVI arranged a time and gave the address of the studio. Kayla told him she was on the way and he said ‘OK awesome, let me know when you’re close by’.”

This is when things started to get weird. Starks did not have her license yet and the studio was two hours away from where they lived in Atlanta. Naturally, a big opportunity like this, and for someone so young, one or both of their parents would come. As they set out, her father told her to check-in and to inform GAWVI that they would be there as well. He wasn’t sure if GAWVI knew and wanted to extend the courtesy.

“I told him I was bringing my parents with me to make things comfortable and because I was a minor,” she stated. “Then he left us hanging. The studio was two hours away, we were an hour in. ‘Does he know you’re coming?’ Have you heard from him? Does he know you’re bringing people?’,” her parents started questioning.

“I haven’t heard from him,” she responded. “Last thing I said was ‘you were going to come with me’.”

Kayla’s father then had an uneasy feeling and didn’t want to waste any more time so he turned back around and went home.

Kayla Starks never heard from GAWVI again to this day. 

Aftermath

Kayla Starks K.La

“I was finding out stuff around what was happening. He basically started deleting messages that he had reached out to me about it,” Starks explained. “He gave me his number, he said he ‘never gave me his number’. Said he ‘didn’t know who I was’.”

She continued, “His label sees his stuff. He tried to make me seem like I was this fangirl, young artist. It turns out he was doing this to many people around my age and others that are in CHH.”

*Note: There have been rumors, posts, and unconfirmed sources as to others making this claim. As of now, only one other woman has shared evidence of such besides Kayla Starks.

To further escalate the weirdness surrounding this, GAWVI blocked her on all his social media.

“He blocked me that same day. I didn’t even know how to get in contact with him. He initiated the convo and I never heard from him,” she said. “I tried to go back to DMs but I was blocked. Tried to call and it went to voicemail. He was definitely active and up to date and up to speed with what I was doing.”

The situation became creepy and jarring for the Starks family as they thought what would’ve/could’ve happened had her parents not gone? Are there any other young women that experienced this?

Starks said around the time this occurred she was pretty established in the Reach Records camp. She knew many of the artists. They followed each other on socials and she says there were talks of making her the first female artist signed to the label (This was before Wande).

“I was already doing background vocals for the camp. Riding for the camp. All of them followed me and they still do.”

The stuff with GAWVI happened in 2015/2016 but the weird part she says is that Reach and its artists kept contacting her.

“I continued my work with Reach Records which was weird. They had someone who was signed as a producer and DJ, was on salary, and I’m doing work with your main artist, and he travels and I do sessions, does my name ever come up? It was a weird situation to navigate moving forward.”

This whole situation aside from what happened was also extremely disappointing for her as a young artist.

“Someone like me who is very serious about what I do and to have someone recognize your talent, offer to help…moments like that are precious, and when they go the wrong way they can definitely scar someone for the future. Especially with wanting to work with anyone else.”

“That’s with anything in life, not just music, any promise made that means something to someone.”

Healing

Kayla Starks K.La

From there, Kayla said a lot of healing took place in her life. She best described it as “navigating” her way.

“Christian hip-hop is a big circle and you want to make sure you’re operating in love and in wisdom and making sure you’re not holding any grudges. It’s a lot of telling myself, don’t think much of it,” she said. “It led to my decision to take a step out. I had multiple conversations as of yesterday (January 31st) and was never asked about what happened that day.”

She said the label reached out to her but was also clear that this wasn’t their fault and they didn’t know about what happened.

“It brought back the suppressed memories of a lot of different trauma I experienced as an active member of being a part of CHH,” Starks shared. “I feel like, it took a minute until the end of yesterday to get relief when Reach Records released him from the label. You have someone who has so much access to so many resources and people based on the affiliation of Reach itself. It brought a lot of peace to me and I’m sure a lot of people who had certain encounters.”

Forgiveness

Kayla Starks, now K.La the adult, has not only grown in maturity but in spiritual wisdom as well. Her attitude and empathy toward all of this are not necessary, but she chose to have it despite how others think she should feel.

“One thing you have to understand, GAWVI is a human. The Bible talks about all falling short of the glory of God. No one is perfect. Our default is wicked. As disheartening as it is that it happened to me, my heart also goes out to GAWVI and anyone else who is battling with this same problem that he’s going through,” she stated. “They are human. There’s nothing more sobering than to be reminded of your human life state. Your gift is a magnet, people are drawn to you. You are reminded of your good and your works. Ground yourself and be rooting.”

Kayla continued, “Just as it’s bad for us, it’s probably very embarrassing and painful to have what’s done in the dark, come to the light. My heart goes out to him tremendously. Everyone goes through things. I pray for people who have direct access to GAWVI that they can minister to him at this time.”

“I pray for those who can be a direct mouthpiece, to have the words he needs to hear and hold him accountable.”

Starks shared an anecdote she heard from her favorite pastor. She said she was watching a video and in it was a beautiful, yet bitter/sweet message.

“We need to start holding our favorite Christian singers and rappers to the same doctrinal standards as a pastor. Right now, the pastor has just as much influence as your favorite singer or rapper.”

Kayla Starks (K.La)

In her own words, she expounded upon the message and turned it into her own sermon of sorts.

“The rapper can take a step further and have different platforms that the pastor doesn’t. We are responsible for the influence of our gift. If we are going to call it Christian hip-hop, not fill in the blank hip-hop,” proclaimed Starks. “We need to start living the life of standard and start holding our brothers and sisters accountable. Don’t wait for people to take the L or take the fall, it’s your duty as a brother and sister in Christ to say, ‘Hey, I noticed this about you’. I wish I had that when I was navigating not just Christian hip-hop but the faith.”

She continued, “We have to start getting a little more comfortable to get a little confrontational. And people say it’s not our job to do it, and absolutely, it’s not our job, we are not a judge, but it’s our duty to provoke our brothers and sisters to righteousness and that’s Biblical. That is one of our basic tasks as a believer. Iron sharpens iron.”

In part two of this story, Kayla talks about how she didn’t have any women looking out for her when she was just a girl in the industry. She felt alone and it was yet another way CHH failed her as an artist. Again, she learned from it and is who she is today because of it. 







Justin Sarachik

Written by Justin Sarachik

Justin is the Editor-in-Chief of Rapzilla.com. He has been a journalist for over a decade and has written or edited for Relevant, Christian Post, BREATHEcast, CCM, Broken Records Magazine, & more. He also likes to work with indie artists to develop their brands & marketing strategies. Catch him interviewing artists on Survival of the Artist Podcast.

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