There’s nothing quite like addressing the current status of society in America. Especially doing so through the medium of hip-hop.

For Menace Movement artist Cephas, his debut album does just that.

America Shall Be Saved is a 13-song journey through the eyes of Cephas. One that incorporates faith, politics, and lyricism. Recently, Cephas spoke with FiveTwenty about the project.

How are you doing now that the album has dropped?

“[I’m] feeling extremely grateful. Grateful that my latest album is no longer decaying away in my hard drive and finally got released.”

“Musically, [listeners] should expect a blend of jazz, funk, gospel, and vintage hip hop. Message wise, expect to hear an urgent call from the Holy Spirit to a deeper relationship with Jesus. A call to draw close and participate in a coming revival that’s about to sweep the country, directly following a great rise in persecution against the Body in America.”

Inspiration

“I took a trip to the Reinhard Bonnke School of Evangelism. I heard a sermon called America Shall Be Saved and it stuck with me. It’s estimated that Reinhard has won over 74,000,000 people for the Lord. So for him to shift from Africa (where he did ministry for 40 years) to America, and for him to say that revival was going to hit America, [it] influenced this album heavily.”

“I wanted to create a versatile palette of moods and vibes. Create a fluid listening experience from beginning to end. I didn’t want it all to just be boom-bap. There are heavy elements of Gospel, funk, jazz, and soul woven throughout. Even though I have a distinct vintage style, that doesn’t mean every song has to sound the same. I was very intentional in making sure every song was unique but fit into the rest of the project like a glove.”

Approaching Controversial Topics

“I’m not looking to offend people merely for shock value, [or] clout.”

“On the other hand, if what I believe is true ends up being controversial, I’m not sure I can stop that.”

“I pray over my material heavily throughout the whole creative process. That way He’s the one liable for any issues caused (lol).”

“[I] was a little shocked how divided we areally were once I started putting my own content out as an emcee. Equally surprised how many people felt like what I was saying was needed. [It] felt like could offer some balance to the game. Since I’m not a Democrat or Republican, it’s never a Left vs. Right thing with me. People can trust that I’m not just regurgitating the current divisive media headlines.”

Christians and Politics

“It’s mad important!”

“Probably more important than ever before in our nation’s history.”

“This is it. The last stand. Do or die. If not now then when? If not us then who?”

“I genuinely feel like it only takes a small handful of us to take a stand for the rest to follow. People just need to see others are doing it first. It’s in our nature.”

Being a part of Menace

“It’s been dope! D [Daitn] and I have been brothers for 7-8 years at this point. When he started Menace it eventually just became a no-brainer. Started off as creative director, just assisting where I could with different projects. The next logical step was signing. Its cool cause from the start D agreed I shouldn’t get rid of GO! Records, but co-brand as a collab with Menace for all my releases. That way, I can retain the GO! brand for when it makes sense to transition. He’s been mad supportive from the jump in that way.”

“He understood I had a vision for GO! so for him to allow me to co-brand was super gracious.”

“He’s been mad gracious with his platform in general. He isn’t just that way with me. He shares freely with his label and close friends too. Haven’t seen anyone else with his platform doing that. Another way we lead from the front. We are truly a community, not just a label.”

Goals for the Album

“America has a lot wrong with it.”

“Anyone following me knows I’m not shy about her flaws. But, it also has a lot going in its favor.”

“My goal was to restore faith in God’s heart towards the American church and the entire church by in large. Times are getting darker, but I think God wants us to shine brighter as a result instead of growing dim. This album was written to stoke the flame in hopes that we brighten up a bit. It’s a lofty goal.”

“People have been craving substance for a while, so I think this project fills that void. Also, people have been hungry for that authentic hip-hop sound. This seemed to fill that void too.”

Creation Process

“All the singles came out better than expected.”

“I made this album with zero singles in mind. It was meant to be, and is, a project you listen to from intro to outro. I had to go in and try to pick out singles from that kind of album. In the end, it was hard but, all of them were received well. I never focus on the singles; the radio; catchy hooks or trying to ‘make a hit’. I pray and seek God. He gives me downloads.”

“Usually titles to songs or song concepts (lyrics, sounds, instruments, etc.). Then everything flows from there, with purpose. The end result is usually a body of work that all ties into itself with a cohesive them. As opposed to ‘expressing myself’ through music, I try to empty myself. So I can express God through my music instead.”

What’s next?

“Shows!”

“As long as society stays open, we’ll be rocking a city near you this summer.”

“Shout out to the Menace team and my creative team. Without all of us working together, none of this would’ve happened.”

What do you think of America Shall Be Saved? What are some of your favorite songs from the album? Let us know in the comments!

Check out the full, unedited interview from Season Three, Episode 01 of the FiveTwenty Collective Podcast (January 2021) with K-Drama.

 It started with eight nominations for our 2020 Rookie of the Year.

After a fan vote on Twitter, we had three finalists:

Hugh Holla, BRM, and Justcallmedt have all had amazing years during 2020. They made the final selection process one that was far from easy. It’s safe to say that the future of Christian Hip Hop is in capable hands.

Now, the electoral votes have been cast. The FiveTwenty Collective staff has selected our second annual Rookie of the Year.

Congratulations to Broward’s own Justcallmedt!

With several singles under his belt in 2020, DT turned up this past year.

We were able to talk with DT about 2020 and what it means for him to be the FiveTwenty Collective Rookie of the Year.

“It’s definitely an honor!”

“When I first started taking my music career seriously, I was never in it for accolades. I never wanted to be bigger than the message of my music. I wanted the attention on that and God.”

“The thing is, when you hone your craft, you’re consistent and do things in the spirit of Excellence, eventually people notice.”

“I really do take pride in the content I create. I put a lot of thought into what I want to say when I have the listener’s attention. So yeah, given the amount of effort I put into the music, it’s really dope to me that someone would appreciate it and want to recognize me for it.”

“I don’t take it for granted at all!”

What made this year special?

“Man, 2020 has been filled with surprises, both good and bad.”

“Ultimately, I set out to keep the momentum going that I created in 2019. That was a breakout year for me musically. I even landed in the conversation for the Rapzilla 2020 Freshman list. Although I didn’t make their final selections, it still had me really inspired.”

“I go from being really motivated to keep pushing to a worldwide pandemic, quarantine, and civil unrest across the country due to racism and police brutality. I was in such a bleak headspace at times.”

“It caused me not to put out any music for eight months. I was in a creative rut. One of the things that helped keep my pen sharp was rap challenges.”

“There was a wave of IG rap challenges as a result of quarantine shutting everything down. I did quite a few of them. It really helped me to find my voice again and tap back into my gift. The one I’m the most proud of is the Rumble Challenge that was started by J. Crum. The message of his song was so on time given the racist actions and statements I was seeing on a daily basis. It pushed me to a new level creatively and I wrote one of the most powerful verses I’ve ever created.”

“Ultimately I won the challenge.”

“After this, I kinda went on a fourth-quarter run.”

“I started releasing music and visuals left and right, starting with Breathe. [After that] Tunnel Remix and 1 am in Broward Freestyle. It really felt like I was on the bench catching my breath until the end of the year.”

“The thing is, God is so faithful.”

“It turned out, my streams and listeners doubled year over year even though I put out less music than the previous year. That was a clear reminder for me that God is in control. Yes, it’s true that faith without works is dead, so we must do the work but ultimately God is in control of the results. My job is to give Him something that He can bless.”

What’s in the works for 2021?

“Honestly, my main goal is consistency.”

“The fact of the matter is, people don’t care how good you are, they care how consistent you are.”

“When your talent/gift is combined with faith and consistency, you eventually become undeniable. It’s hard to ignore someone who is constantly in your face. So yeah, that’s my main goal.”

“As for any other plans for 2021, I’d rather not share that. I’ve learned that it’s much more effective to move in silence, just do the work.”

How about particular collaborations?

“Most definitely!”

“There are quite a few talented artists in our space that I’d love to eventually work with in 2021.”

“Artists like Scootie Wop, BigBreeze, Godfearin, seni., J. Crum, Thomas Iannucci, King Chav, Phil J, Mike Teezy. I really hate to throw names out because it’s a laundry list, but yeah, there are many.”

“I’d definitely say a dream collab would be Derek Minor. I feel like our sounds would mesh well. Plus, he’s one of my biggest inspirations musically.”

“I still feel I have work to do. It’s definitely not something that’s out of reach. I want to continue to put in the work to make a name for myself without a cosign from a larger artist.”

What do new listeners need to know?

“My sound is a combination of motivational trap bangers and soulful introspective ballads. It’s like southern trap infused with conscious hip hop. My musical influences range from Lil’ Wayne, Drake, Lecrae, Derek Minor, Andy Mineo, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, OutKast, Ludacris, and Bryson Tiller.”

“My motivation is when someone tells me how my music positively impacts their life.”

“I always save those messages as a reminder of why I do this.”

“The ultimate goal of my music is to motivate, inspire, encourage, and challenge the listener for the better. I make music for the people who may never step foot in a church or have even been hurt by the church. Although I’m Christian, my music is not overtly gospel, but it’s surely centered in Christ.”

“I believe our lives should be a true testament to the influence and power of God in our hearts.”

“My music is a tool, but my life is the true testimony.”

“Music is the soundtrack of our lives, people should listen to my music to feed their spirit and fuel their passion to achieve their goals. A lot of my hooks are daily mantras. I literally thought about how it would feel for the listener to say the words out loud. Words are powerful and I always want mine to be empowering to those reciting them.”

Follow and Support: https://linktr.ee/justcallme_dt

Drop your words of congrats for Justcallmedt in the comments below!

Also, check out the Sauce playlist on Spotify featuring our new cover artist:

 

Well, here we are. Officially less than one week from Thomas Iannucci releasing the third installment of his CHH trilogy.

You may remember that Iannucci joined me on the most recent episode of the Beyond the DMs podcast where we talked about Sleepless Nights and Makana, albums one and two.

In case you missed it, check it out here.

The new project, Doubting Thomas, releases on December 18, 2020, and features the new single “Rage” with Sonny Sandoval from the band P.O.D.

Now we dive into the finale, stepping out of the shadows of Christian Hip Hop, and what the future entails in Iannucci’s own words.

The Trilogy

“I’m a writer and all great stories are, generally speaking, broken up into three acts: The Beginning, The Middle, and The End. I have always liked trilogies and I’ve always believed that good things come in threes.”

This is the final album in my CHH trilogy. The completion of that story and that journey. The culmination of my time in CHH. After this, I will be transitioning into mainstream hip hop.

“This isn’t my first trilogy incidentally.

My first three projects in high school and early college were part of a trilogy that constituted the best I possibly could do making music on zero budget. I wanted to see how well I could push myself before taking the next step.

As for the CHH trilogy, I break it down like this…

Sleepless Nights, also called Notti Insonni, was the first in the trilogy, my first studio-level project.

After years of dropping stuff recorded at home, it was the first time I’d really invested time and money into a project. The quality was a huge step up.

Thematically, I was much more introspective than ever before, diving into my own head and my faith over the course of a short EP (structured over the concept of a restless night of sleep).”

“I followed that up with Makana, my introduction to the broader CHH and hip hop community in general.

It won me the Nā Hōkū Hanohano award for Best Hip Hop Album, but it also got me real fans for the first time.

It was the first album to capture the attention of blogs like Rapzilla, New H2o, Trackstarz, etc. Once again, it delved into my faith and really leaned into the CHH culture. I collabed with artists like 1kPhew, Swift, Je’kob, and Gemstones. [It] had production from Spechouse and Big Juice.”

Doubting Thomas is the culmination of my journey within CHH. It’s my sharpest CHH project.

The production quality has never been higher, my skills have never been better, and the features have never been bigger. It’s coming after my winning the fan vote and making the Rapzilla Freshman list as well as Trackstarz’ Next Up artist list. The timing was right and it made sense.

It’s an exploration of faith and mental health. An exploration of doubts, if you will, and also a love letter to the subgenre that has done so much for me. After that, I continue the work J. Crum and I began in Kuleana.”

NEXT: Can You Really Leave CHH?

Continue reading “Thomas Iannucci Discusses CHH Finale, ‘Doubting Thomas’ @thomasiannucci_”

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