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Holy hip-hop - CD aims to spread God's word with rap

May 25, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Today, youth pastor and rapper Tyree Sterling holds a Bible in one hand and a microphone in the other with hopes that words in rhyme can bring young people closer to the word of God.

Longtime Christian rapper Sterling has been promoting his latest venture, his first solo rap EP, "Voice of Triumph," under his rap moniker Shaddai - pronounced Shoo-die - Sons.

The 13-track EP of full-length songs and samples of works-in-progress was put together by Sterling, his wife, Glory, and one of Sterling's former rap collaborators, Spencer Jackson, who produced the beats for this EP and encouraged Sterling to pursue Christian rap.

Now that rap is not necessarily a pejorative in Christian-music speak, and the quality of Christian rap has evolved, fledgling artists like Sterling are trying to find their places in Christian music's widening boundaries under a genre known as holy hip-hop. Like any other form of gospel music, the aim of holy hip-hop is to spread a religious message, bring people to God.


"The music is like bait, it comes on and gets their attention," says Sterling, 31, of Hagerstown. Sterling is a youth minister at Gateway Ministries in Williamsport. He also leads seminars for public school students in Washington County.

"Voice of Triumph" is a Christian rap album, but it's not a Kool-Aid Christian rap album. The music is on par with any other self-produced rap albums out there, be they Christian or otherwise. The album gives Christians who happen to be rap fans something to listen to without being what Sterling refers to on his album as "cooler than Christian" - Christians who act worldly just so other people will like them.

"God is not into being cool," Sterling says on the track, "Why An EP Mix," one of several tracks he devotes to talking - not rapping - about his outlook on Christianity.

By his own account, Sterling was the grade-school chubby kid with asthma, who grew up in a middle-class, two-parent household. But when he reached adulthood, Sterling said he was a drug-dealing, club-hopping ladies man who dropped out of college.

He said the turn for the worse came because he felt God had let him down. His father died in a car accident when Sterling was 18. Rap music, the type with unsavory lyrics, filled the void left by his father's death.

"It wasn't like he was sick in the hospital and we could prepare for it," Sterling said. "One day I kissed him on the cheek and told him I loved him and watched him walk out the door. He never came back."

It wasn't until Sterling was 21, when a friend invited him to an early morning church service, that he decided to change his life. The pastor's sermon was about using your talents and abilities for the good of God. He realized he couldn't continue living the life he was living.

"I had come to a place where I just needed him," he said. "It didn't take a bullet or an overdose. I just needed to find God."

Today, Sterling is a husband and a role model for his 2-year-old son, Eli. He's using rap music as a way to encourage people to "rock your mic" - his way of telling listeners to nurture their God-given talent. Sterling said his talent is rapping and making music.

"We all have a gift, we all have a talent that we like to do and we do well," Sterling said. "That's your mic and you have to rock that."

Hear it for yourself

You can hear a few of Shaddai Sons' new songs at

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