From The Inner-City Streets
To Christian Beats
It’s more than a music genre, it’s a way of life. Hip-Hop is the story of
the inner city. It is gritty and raw. Ultimately, it is a reflection of the
culture that bred it. However, Hip-Hop and Rap can also reflect a different
reality. This is the music of Flame.
Flame, whose real name is Marcus Gray, grew up on the tough
streets of St. Louis. He was surrounded with gang violence, drugs and crime.
These were the norm for a young man growing up on those tough streets.
“St. Louis is a good city overall but it has been infested
with crime, gang violence and drug culture,” Flame shares. “Those things
are normalized, especially in the inner city. You want to fit in and you want
to be a part of the culture. That culture is expressed through Hip-Hop and I
got excited about all the wrong things.”
Although he was excited about the wrong things, he never
went down the road that led many of the people he knew to ruin. Instead, he
found himself with parents and a grandmother who were strong forces in his
life. He credits his faith and his family as the reasons why he never walked
down a dark path.
“My faith and my family are the two pillars in my life,”
Flame explains. “Those two things really kept me grounded and put a certain
type of fear in me from going as far as I probably would of went if I was left
on my own. Those pillars were really strong and kept me up.”
“The funny thing is that while growing up I was always
influenced by Christianity because of
my parents and my grandmother,” Flame shares, “so I had this conflict in
my heart between wanting to fit in with the cultural norm while at the same
time I was learning about Jesus and sin.
I always had that tug of war going on. What really turned me around was
the passing of my Grandmother. That is what the Lord used to draw me to
himself and that is when I stopped doing secular rap.”
While in a Christian Bookstore one day, Flame was amazed to
find Christian Rap. In Christian Rap,
he found a different reality expressed in the style of the inner city. He
found that this music spoke of love, not violence,
kindness not anger. For Flame, music is a reflection of who we are. “Music
is a reflection of our hearts,” Flame offers. “Music, from a biblical
perspective, is a reflection of human hearts, thoughts and emotions.” This
is what he wanted to portray in his music as a counterpoint to mainstream Rap
For a man that has been in the top ten on both the Christian
Rap and mainstream Rap charts and has garnered Dove Award, Stellar and Grammy
Award Nominations, it would be easy for him to point to album sales, concert
tours or time on the charts as a measure of success, but for Flame, success is
something very different.
record sales and the recognition don’t tell the whole story. To me success
is the story I don’t hear. It is someone hearing the music and not just
someone saying it was a good song, but someone saying I am confronted with the
God that created me. I am confronted with the human condition, which is
brokenness, which is sinful and recognizing that they are in desperate need of
help. They are exposed to the Good News and then they see their life change.
Then they get in contact with me and say that your music helped point me in
that direction. To me, that is what I would call success verses all other
What would this incredibly talented artist say to teens?
Don’t be enslaved by appearances and the need to fit in. “Go back to the
Author and the Creator of the world and figure out who He is. A by-product of
that is that you learn who YOU are. Don’t be tricked by the allure of the
world. It is just feces covered up in sugar and looks sweet but it is not
healthy for you.”
The world is filled with things that look incredibly sexy and appealing. The glamour of the Hip-Hop world is appealing to most of us. Who doesn’t want to be rich, powerful and famous? As Christians, however, we know the danger of putting our treasures in clay pots. We know that true value comes not from the things of this world, but from our relationship in Jesus Christ, despite what our society tries to define as the cultural norm.