Da T.R.U.T.H for Da C.U.T: A Culture Redefined

Nicole Rappin

“Y’all sure you ain’t tired? Prove it!” Da T.R.U.T.H. shouts into a warm crowd of fans, followers, admirers, and believers. The room is packed, the stage is set, it is Sunday night in Rangos, and this has the makings of a normal Carnegie Mellon concert until you scan around the crowd and see more families and children than 20-something college kids. The MCs for the evening enter the stage ready to engage in some standard audience repeat-after-me excitement building exercises, but instead of the classic, “When I say ‘hey,’ you say ‘ho,’” the opening shout out is, “Who here knows my lord and savior Jesus Christ?” followed by the entire audience leaping to its feet and shouting at the top of its lungs. This exciting church-esque call and response is followed by a quick prayer and then the MC-ing husband and wife duo go on to preach about our culture’s submersion in music. But something is wrong with our radio standards. Our MCs challenge us all to “redo the way that we do music.”

Da T.R.U.T.H.’s charisma overflows from his body the minute he steps out from the wings onto the stage. The audience literally rushes the stage to fill the empty space in front of the first row of seats. Like a giant game of Simon Says, Da T.R.U.T.H. has the audience hanging on his every utterance, gesture, and dance move. The first song is high energy with the audience bouncing their hands in the air and the floor of Rangos swaying and bowing in time with the beat, but when the last chord resolves, Da T.R.U.T.H. is not fazed. “Y’all ready? That was just a warm up!” he yells, and the audience – men and women, black and white, young and old – praises him in response. In a time where those over 60 commonly curse those darn kids and that noise they call music, in a day when teenagers develop an unshakeable persona of being misunderstood, it is refreshing to witness a music that brings people together instead of pushing them apart. It is invigorating to hear a hip-hop that attempts to enlighten and educate instead of objectify and negate.

Are you sick of rappers preaching about the booty in their lyrics and then praising Jesus in their acceptance speeches? Are you confused by the hypocrisy of musicians who party hardy and get crunk in front of the photogs in da clubs all the while adorned with ostentatious crosses around their necks? Are you intrigued by supposedly righteous people who dress themselves in uncomfortably baggy pants – a style modeled after the ill-fitting clothing that criminals receive in prison? Da T.R.U.T.H., a gospel hip-hop artist from Philadelphia is part of a musical, social, and religious movement that is attempting to bring out the truth in music and trying to force our generation to rid themselves of this all-to-common insincerity.

Da T.R.U.T.H. was brought to campus on February 15th by the Impact Movement, a branch of Campus Crusades for Christ that is focused on the African-American community. The Impact Movement is alarmed by the messages that are proselytized on the top 40, “music no longer encourages people to better themselves and overcome negative situations, but seemingly glorifies everything that is wrong,” Chris Streeter, a sophomore Business Administration major and member of the Impact Movement, says. The Impact Movement has seen the hypocrisy in musicians and especially hip-hop artists and they are hoping that this concert can help to change your stereotypes, your opinions, and ultimately your lifestyle. It is the purpose of this concert to redefine what is hot in music and introduce our campus and community to musical expression that is fun, danceable, and encourages a respectable lifestyle. They are hoping that Da T.R.U.T.H. will help them in redefining the sometimes morally questionable culture of our generation.

When most people think of gospel music they think of church choirs, not the soundtrack to their next party. Da T.R.U.T.H. and the Impact Movement want to break down the stereotypes of this powerful art form. “We saw that people felt that gospel music is really just slow songs that you cry about or something and we wanted to transform people’s image of gospel music,” Chris says. Da T.R.U.T.H., a modern hip-hop artist with strong roots in gospel traditions, is just the guy to alter the definitions of rap, gospel, and Christian music. “We feel like since he’s a rapper, he’s hip-hop, he’s from Philly, he’s young, that he would be effective in setting the culture from where it is now to where it should be,” Chris says.

Chris and the Impact Movement feel a sense of sincerity with Da T.R.U.T.H. and other Christian artists that may be lacking from more mainstream rappers. They believe that students, hip-hop listeners, and gospel fans can all connect with Da T.R.U.T.H.’s music. “Everybody has these albums about stuff that they haven’t even been through really,” Chris explains, “and that’s the thing about Christian rap is it’s really what they’ve gone through, you know this is something that he’s really feeling.” It is the sincerity and honesty in Da T.R.U.T.H.’s music that adds the extra oomph that separates him from other hip-hop artists. Da T.R.U.T.H.’s set is split up into songs, preaching, and spoken word and it is undeniably heart-felt. T.R.U.T.H. alternately brought himself to tears and laughed out loud, proving that he feels every inch of his music.

Da T.R.U.T.H. treads a fuzzy line between minister and rapper, spewing out an unbroken sequence of poetry, music, rap, and spoken word. There is poetry and rap in his preachings and there are preachings in his rap. T.R.U.T.H. describes his musical style as a melting pot, an intermingling of gospel, hip-hop, R&B, soul, especially on his new record “The Great Wall,” “Every record I evolve musically because I get bored quickly. Once I’ve done it I want to do something fresh.” Though his music is gospel to the core, Da T.R.U.T.H. is inspired by both Christian and secular artists for different reasons. “I have a problem with Lil’ Wayne. His content I believe is godless. I think he’s a pied piper taking this generation farther away from where it should be – though artistically he and others are inspiring.”

Though T.R.U.T.H. doesn’t use instrumentals onstage, instruments were his first introduction to music. “When I was 10 I started playing fake drums. I would take a bunch of tin cans and plastic buckets and two pins and just play drums,” T.R.U.T.H. says of his musical beginnings, “[Music] was just something that I stumbled on to. It wasn’t even something that I knew I had the talent for.” Hard to believe given the number of people who memorize his lyrics and zealously sing along during every show. Music and preaching go hand in hand for Da T.R.U.T.H. When he was 16, T.R.U.T.H. watched make-shift preachers with their microphones sermonizing on heavily trafficked street corners in Center City in Philadelphia. “Watching them I remember thinking to myself that there is actually some truth to what they communicate, but it’s in the shell of a lie…I want to provide people with the whole truth.”

Music aside, Da T.R.U.T.H. refuses to succumb to the materialistic culture commonly associated with hip-hop artists. “I am not trying to be about the money or the clothes,” he says, “I don’t do this so the industry can know my name.” Da T.R.U.T.H. is about the counter culture, the flip side of the soul-sucking hip-hop coin. “I am about providing people with a countercultural philosophy of life...The secular rapper is about ‘you only live once so if it feels good do it.’ My message is to be self controlled,” he says. This is T.R.U.T.H.’s redefinition of what rap is about, of the message that rap can preach.

The Impact Movement and Da T.R.U.T.H. really want to redefine people’s preconceptions and introduce the minds and the ears of students to a new amalgamation of musical styles. “We really want to change people’s stereotypes. If somebody has a stereotype of Christians or gospel music they might not even be willing to hear anything that you have to say about it. So if we can tear down some of those then that’s a good start,” Chris tells me.

Da T.R.U.T.H. sees tensions and theological differences not just between religions and beliefs but within Christianity as well. “I think that we need to be more unified…music is the thing that bridges the gaps,” he says. No matter what genre of music you listen to, music has an undeniable power to shape and influence cultural standards. With this power comes a necessity to use music as a positive influence on those around us, as a tool for redefinition. The Impact Movement and rappers like Da T.R.U.T.H. are at the forefront of this musical and cultural revolution. As Chris says, “music must be redefined from a means of negative influence to a form of influence that can impact and change lives forever.”