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INTERVIEW: Minneapolis based Christian emcee F’RAEL

F’RAEL is a Minneapolis based Christian emcee, youth pastor, husband and father. F’RAEL aims to create quality sound that will minister to the hearts & minds of young people to draw them closer to their creator. He also aims to promote a musical atmosphere of love, healing, deliverance and relationship in Jesus. F’RAEL brings a Gospel message to the world in Hip-Hop form. His music has been featured on multiple sites and magazines including; USAToday.com, Rapzilla.com, ’Rep Da King Magazine’ and reviewed by iamentertainment.com, Afrockin, and more. F’RAEL was also invited to minister at the largest Christian festivals in the Midwest – Sunshine Music Festival in 2016. His new single ‘Summer Time’ is currently being play listed on radio, and is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Beats Music and Google Play.

  1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and when you first truly discovered your faith?

F’RAEL: I was born and raised in Minneapolis Minnesota. I’m the oldest of three maternal siblings, my mother raised us in the church. While working multiple jobs to make ends meet; my mother was very strict about our upbringing and only allowed us to listen to gospel music. She was a very devout believer. As a single parent she turned to God’s word for guidance on our upbringing and trusted the Lord to supply our needs. My childhood consisted of being in the church and only knowing the culture of believers. I was very sheltered, this did make me curious to know what the world was like outside of the church. Although I grew up in the church, I didn’t have the authentic relationship with Jesus like I do now as an adult. My mother’s faith was the first example for me of what it was to have a relationship with God.

I wouldn’t say that I “discovered faith” or had some huge epiphany. Shortly after my son was born I made a decision that I was going to try and be the best father I could be for him, and if I was going to do that, I needed to be a man of integrity, power, determination, love and faith. After leaving my mother’s house I strayed away from the church to try and discover what the world had to offer. It’s music (worship), its fornication (sex), its substances (marijuana & alcohol), it’s “love” (broken relationships), and I found myself quickly trying to fill an eternal void with temporal pleasures that could never quench my thirst. I knew deep down that only a relationship with my creator would fill that void. I knew the one who made me knows exactly what I need to be the person he created me to be.

  1. Tell us about the name F’RAEL and how you got started in music?

F’RAEL: As a teenager I had a love of poetry. Writing poems was very therapeutic for me. I didn’t discover my gift for music until after I dedicated my life to God. After two years of going to church regularly and building my faith; I started writing poems again, this time the poetry was different. It was no longer writing about myself, I was writing about my delight of God’s word and the fulfillment of being in God’s will. I wrote a particular poem and started to read it out loud, the Holy Spirit told me that this was a rap. I immediately called my cousin (TRYBISHOP) who I knew was a producer, he laughed when I told him I wrote a rap. He told me to come to the studio the next day with my “rap” and he played a track, I recited my poem to his track and I got a feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment so deep, I knew exactly what would come next. We recorded the song the same day. That very day I became a gospel rapper named M.O.G (Man of God).

After releasing my first album “Build Me” under the name M.O.G I noticed in the Christian Hip-Hop Community that the name M.O.G was actually taken by 10 other people. I prayed about a name change but didn’t do it until I knew it was something that God wanted me to do.

One evening I went to sleep and had a very vivid dream. In my dream I was back in a green room waiting to perform on stage at a very big music festival. While waiting the stage manager came back to my room and asked if I was “for real?” I quickly answered yes I am. I walked out of the green room and noticed many black T-shirts with white letters that all had the name “F’RAEL” on them. I woke up and immediately wrote the name down just the way I saw it in my dream. From that point on I went from M.O.G to F’RAEL, although my name changed I still have the same mission. F’RAEL was given to me in my dreams by God, it was God’s way of saying I will make your dreams come true.

  1. Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember?

F’RAEL: My first strong musical influences as kid were gospel groups like Commissioned, The Winans, The Clark Sisters, Bebe & Cece Winans & Kirk Franklin.

  1. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners?

F’RAEL: One thing I feel that sets me apart from other #CHH artists, is that I don’t have two songs that sound alike. I want the listener to feel like they have been invited into the most intimate parts of my life. I want the Spirit of God that resides in me to translate from the microphone to the speakers and live in the hearts and minds of my listeners. My goal is to always be deliberate about bringing my listeners to an intimacy with God through music. What I know to be true is that all music is worship, my music is worship to my creator and I invite my listeners to worship with me.

  1. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style?

F’RAEL: Early on I gave my ear to other Christian Hip-hop artists like Da T.R.U.T.H., Lecrae, Flame, Tedashii, Ambassador, Thi’sl & PRO (aka Derrick Minor). Many of these artists helped me develop a style for what it sounds like to flow the good news over a hip-hop beat. Although I listened to them heavily, I feel my own writing style and technique remains unique. I always think of myself as a poet who flows over tracks rather than a rapper. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a rapper. My first love for poetry remains.

  1. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?

F’RAEL: Many of those close to me know how strongly I view the influence of music on one’s life. I believe music is the soundtrack of life and whatever we listen to becomes our world. The bible teaches these truths in Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the good news about Christ”. What we give our ears to, will influence us the most. Music is the only element on earth that can activate both sides of your brain simultaneously. Music shapes culture, the way we dress, the decisions we make, our philosophy in culture, how we pick our friends, our goals, brings back memories, helps us get through difficult times, and much more. Music, simply put; is an outward expression of what resonates deep within our souls, music is worship. Music encompasses all aspects of life, its expression, entertainment, and solace for us all. I keep this in my view with each song that I write, my hope is that my music will be consumed to give life, hope, love, entertainment and solace to those who need it most.

  1. Do you ever write a song with current musical trends, formulas or listener satisfaction in mind, or do you simply focus on your own personal vision and message, hoping it sticks with the audience?

F’RAEL: Anytime I write music I have the listener in mind, however my writings are always intentional and inspired by the Holy Spirit. I have never written a song to peak interest or gain buzz with the listener. My music has always been and will be an outward expression of the things I experience in my faith. I hope it resonates past the satisfaction of the listeners and takes hold in their hearts and draws them closer to God.

  1. Could you describe your creative processes? How do start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a beat, or a narrative in your head?

F’RAEL:  My process varies, I don’t have it down to one formula. Sometimes I’ll get inspired by a phrase or a sound from a beat and go from there. Sometimes I’m asleep and hear words that I need to wake up and write down. Sometimes I’m driving in the car alone and come up with phrases that could be a part of a song. I look for God to inspire me with music in every aspect of my life to share with the world.

  1. Do you put your personal struggles in your music? Can you tell us about a time where you have overcome an obstacle and share it in a song?

F’RAEL: Yes, a lot of what my songs encompass are from issues I’ve faced in life. I think writing a song about a situation can bring clarity, release and healing. At a certain point in my life I was volunteering for a ministry in the inner city. The head pastor started out with great intentions to build his community and help those who were in poverty. Roughly 5 years went by and I started to notice everything change in the ministry when the Pastor placed himself under another Bishop. My ex-Pastor became very manipulative and condescending towards his members. He started changing his tactics to collect as much money as he possibly could from the congregation.  He became very driven by monetary gain. To the point that he would embarrass his members in public during services if they didn’t give what they pledged for his anniversary. Shortly after I made the decision to leave the ministry. Many horrible things followed when I left the ministry, my name was dragged through the mud and many of my “brothers” were no longer brotherly. Many of them wanted to physically harm me and made threats to do so. This experience inspired a song on my first album called “Devil’s Dollar”. It describes the love of money becoming the root of all evil and how it can tarnish the hearts of men.

  1. What would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your career so far?

F’RAEL:  My outlook on the entire journey is significant to me, there hasn’t been one point or another that has been greater than the others. My outlook on success is that it never stops succeeding. However without the journey there is no success to measure. The points I consider the most significant over this journey are the ones where listeners message me and tell me how much a song meant to them or helped them see things differently. Or the door opened to have a conversation about their faith that lead them to Jesus. No number of plays, follows, awards, accolades will ever measure to a life being changed.

  1. How do you prioritize your time between being an emcee, youth pastor, husband and father?

F’RAEL: The beauty in all of these roles I fill in my life is that they are not in competition with one another, they all flow organically. I’m constantly listening and seeking where God wants me to be when he wants me to be there. I’m naturally a minister to my wife and family, my ministry with youth is an extension of my ministry at home and my worship flows out from all of these things. It’s a flow of life that balances itself and one feeds from another. There is no huge degree of separation between them all because my goal in life is to be exactly who God called me to be. These roles encompass and validate the call on my life.

  1. With social media having a heavy impact on our lives and the music business in general, how do you handle criticism, haters and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?

F’RAEL: Whenever we are doing things that are deemed great we will run into naysayers, doubters, haters however we characterize it. This is a huge compliment to me, this kind of energy only confirms that I’m on the track I’m supposed to be on. Critics will always be around as long as creators keep creating. “I don’t feel no way” about that at all.

  1. Which aspects of the current modern music scene excites you most, and which aspects discourage you most?

F’RAEL:  I’m always excited to see new Christian hip-hop (CHH) artist hit the scene. Typically this is the newer generation of young men and women that have been impacted by the older generation to carry the torch and bring new sounds, new ideas, fresh perspective and new life to CHH. The things that discourage any artist is lack of support from peers or family. It can be hard to feel you’re in it alone at times. We need to remember why we started and know that if we are serious about what we do and it’s important to us then it could eventually catch on.

  1. If you had a choice to go on tour with any acclaimed international artist in the near future, who would you choose, and why?

F’RAEL:  My first choice for a tour would be with my favorite CHH artist of all time, Da T.R.U.T.H. I feel he’s got lots of wisdom when it comes to the industry, ministry, family, grief, artistry etc. I would benefit from learning how to avoid certain pitfalls that he may have had to endure. On top of that he’s a living legend in the CHH world.

  1. Could you tell us something about your latest project “Summer Time”? Does it have a back story, and who else worked on the track with you?

F’RAEL:  I collaborated with Mighty the Gospel Hip-Hopper on this track. Mighty and I have been a part of the Christian Hip Hop community in Minneapolis for some time. We’ve known each other and have many mutual friends. After conversing about how long Minnesota winters seem we both discussed that sometimes we have to create our own sunshine in life no matter the weather outside.  Summer Time is a summer anthem that celebrates the freedoms we have in belonging to Jesus. No matter how things may look in our lives our hope is in Christ. Our lives like the weather can be unpredictable at times and the long winter nights may be cold but those who are in Christ can experience summer time at all times.

  1. What has been the response so far, from critics and fans, to “Summer Time?

F’RAEL: Summer Time has been received well by listeners, social media & radio. My favorite CHH artist Da T.R.U.T.H. decided to show us some love on Instagram and comment a slew of wave emoji’s on our latest “Summer Time” post. The press release was featured on multiple online platforms all over the world including USA Today. We are overjoyed with the response and the number of streams we are receiving for “Summer Time”. We’re really glad that “Summer Time” is bringing joy and sunshine to all who listen.

  1. Creative work in studio environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excite you most?

F’RAEL:  I gain the most excitement when I’m creating. I love the creative process, seeing things develop from an idea to a song. I also enjoy interacting with my F”RAEL FAM and getting a sense of who the music is impacting them as well. I like a good healthy balance of both.

  1. What’s your favorite motto, phrase or piece of advice, you try to live or inspire yourself by?

F’RAEL: One of my first albums was titled “Build Me” the phrase that stays in my heart and my mind as words to live by are: “Build me until I’m strong, Use me until I’m gone, and I will give you all of me until you bring me home”. This is my credo.

  1. How essential do you think video is in relation to your music? Do you have a video you would suggest fans see, to get a better understanding of your craft?

F’RAEL:   Visuals are always important when it comes to telling the story of your music. Sometimes music videos are needed to really drive the point of the music home. I would suggest listeners take a view at our “Summer Time” lyric video to get a better feel of our song. I would also suggest they subscribe to my YouTube channel to view all my music videos and stay up on new visuals as new music will be coming soon.

  1. What do you find most rewarding about what you do with music? And do you have a specific vision or goal set in your mind that you would like to achieve in the near future?

F’RAEL: My greatest reward from doing music is that I can express myself through my faith, and write my heart on the pages that eventually get recorded and disbursed for all to hear. It’s a blessing to be able to speak into the lives of others with love, positivity, motivation and clarity. My vision for F’RAEL music is to impact the world with fresh new sounds that would help draw others to their creator to fill the voids in their hearts that the world can’t fill. My goal in life and music is to strive to be the best version of myself that I can be, and pray that it’s pleasing to God, and that it impacts people to be their best selves.

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