Knowlij "To Die Is Gain"

Knowlij | “To Die Is Gain” featuring Believin Stephen

To Die Is Gain is a reference to Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

It is a reminder that our lives belong to Christ. As believers, we are called to die daily to our flesh and earthly desires. To seek first the kingdom of God. Ultimately, this Earth is not our home. Even in our trials and suffering we have a future hope namely that we will spend eternity in Heaven with our Lord and savior Jesus Christ which is a far more superior treasure than any pleasures this world can offer.

‘Glory Thieves’ is the latest full-length album from experienced Christian Hip-Hop artist Believin Stephen.

The album is incredibly solid, focusing on the glory God is owed and urging listeners not to detract from it. 

He does make some claims about present-day Christian music that some might find controversial, but I would encourage listeners to listen with an open mind to the viewpoint of this artist who’s been observing the game for so long.

Believin Stephen’s flows are stellar throughout, with only a few exceptions where I have noted them. Similarly, the beat selection throughout is on-point, with only a very few weak points.


Give It Up – “How we gonna kick God off of the throne when He’s the one who made the throne and He made it alone?” Believen Stephen sets the tone for the album by talking about giving up our pride and killing the flesh. Much more than just an intro track, “Give It Up” brings hard-hitting, biblically-laced, and convicting lyrics. If I had one complaint, it would be that the synth sample that is prominent throughout most of the beat doesn’t quite sit right (although another synth sound would be fine, so maybe I’m just nitpicking). Stephen calls the listener (and himself) to be more humble, drawing on Christ as an example.

Who Gets the Glory? – Stephen kicks off this track by asking, “who’s getting the glory when we make music? Is it us? Or is it God, yo?” The rapper calls Christian artists to give the glory to God over a head-nodding instrumental. The song is slam-packed with quotables, such as, “I don’t wanna argue whether God is mentioned, but we gotta ask ourselves, what’s our hearts’ intentions?” Stephen posits that the frequency that CHH artists explicitly reference God isn’t as important as where the artists’ hearts are. “No matter your content, examine yourselves – [do] you care about God, or just managing sales?” The track ends with some dope turntablism before fading into the next song.

Gospel and Justice feat. Chrys Jones – The track starts off with an attention-holding beat, followed shortly by thought-provoking flows. A few of the rhymes feel a tad forced, but all-in-all Believin Stephen stays true to form by displaying lyrical agility while addressing relevant issues. Specifically, the emcee calls Christians to renew their commitment to the Gospel, proposing that doing such is particularly essential in a society tainted by so much injustice. The hook is good, but I feel that it could be a little better. However, it does its job well and is far from uninteresting.

Glory Thieves – “I’ve been quiet too long. It’s time to speak up.” On the title track of the album, Stephen lays down hard-hitting bars without a hook (one of my personal favorite song formats). There are a few spots where I think he could have articulated a little better, but overall (probably 95% of the time or more) the emcee really brings the flames. It’s easy to see why the project gets its name from this track. On “Glory Thieves,” the artist displays a lot of the themes that are central to the album. “I’m all about people making the art dope and having a hard flow, but what about God though? When you write your rhymes is He even considered?” The rapper calls out artists who “drop the title” to “sneak more evil,” clarifying that “this song’s not about wishing ‘Jesus’ was said more. The real reason why I went and wrote this is ‘cause we all really gotta check our motives.”

While many listeners may be tempted to think Believin Stephen is aggressively calling out all CHH artists, it’s important to note that he is not criticizing particular content, artists, or strategies, but rather raising a reasonable concern about the intention in some artists’ hearts. “Go ahead and call yourself a rapping Christian. Just make sure you’re still acting Christian.”

Brokenness feat. Braille – “God is with the broken- He’s with me in my brokenness.” After discussing pride extensively in the previous several songs, the artist illustrates how God uses brokenness to tear down the old and build up what is ultimately much greater. He provides many examples, ranging from Jacob’s broken hip to Jesus’ body broken by the thorns and nails. The hook serves to drive home the point in a concise manner, and Braille, of course, kills his verse. Whereas Stephen focuses primarily on the historic solidarity of believers who have come before us, Braille hits things from a different angle, looking ahead through a heavenward mindset.

Sees Our Pain – “’I love you God.’ Man, that’s easy to say, but it’s harder to live in this season of pain.” On “Sees Our Pain,” Stephen continues to expand upon the reality of God’s presence in our brokenness, taking us through many of his past and/or present struggles and stumblings. “Am I falling in sin, or diving in it?” The rapper also uses this track to explicitly point out that he himself is not exempt from the title of “glory thief.” Turntablism on the hook acts as an effective “Selah,” allowing the listener to reflect upon the words spoken.

Answer is No – “Where do you go when the answer is ‘no’?” Believin Stephen begins rapping over a moody beat by asking a series of questions highlighting various situations in which one’s faith might be challenged. This song almost acts as an out-loud prayer, with the artist contemplating the nature of God’s provision.

Robbers of Glory – “Robbers of Glory” walks through examples of biblical characters who attempted to steal God’s glory for themselves, starting with the negative examples of Herod and Nebuchadnezzar, and continuing on to the ultimately positive example of Saul/Paul. Believin Stephen displays lyrical prowess through his storytelling over a phenomenally unique beat by Average Joe. The song is more than six minutes long, yet holds my attention throughout.

Crown Down feat. Ant Coughlin – “Put your crown down before He’s making it crumble.” It’s been a hot minute since I’ve heard anything from Ant Coughlin, so hearing him go in hard on this beat is exciting. The man kills several verses and the hook before handing it off to Believin Stephen, who likewise kills his verse. It’s interesting to hear a song where the primary artist only does one verse, but I find it pretty cool. Especially while listening through a 12-song album, hearing from Ant for a bit keeps things interesting. “What gets us rowdy? Soli deo– I guess we forgot it.”

Vain Glory Interlude feat. Brian Davis – “Because when someone lives for the glory of people, they’re in essence perverting the entire purpose of life.” “This is what Jesus did … He died as if He was a glory thief, when He was not.” This interlude features a clip of a sermon by pastor Brian Davis.

Glories of Heaven feat. Eric McAllister – As the album draws to a close, Believin Stephen turns his attention to heaven, pointing out that, in reality, everyone is a glory thief and doesn’t deserve the glories of heaven. It’s only through Christ that we can gain access. The emcee continues on to emphasize the God-glorifying nature of the end times, as portrayed in the book of Revelation.

“Glories of Heaven” is another solid track, which has turned out to be the norm for this project. On this song, in particular, Stephen lays down some truly impressive lyricism.

Glory Thief and Glory King feat. Timothy Brindle – Believin Stephen and Timothy Brindle trade verses on this track in which each personifies either the Glory Thief or the Glory King. Timothy Brindle displays his veteran lyrical prowess and, in turn, Believin Stephen brings bars to match. If you only listen to one song on this project, make it this one. The combination of incredible lyricism, thought-provoking content, and a feature from a legendary CHH artist make it an instant classic.

Believin Stephen is one of those emcees who has a profound talent for making words fit together in innovative and creative ways. This album is thoughtful and well-done throughout and is definitely worth taking a listen to.

My favorite tracks:
   1. Robbers of Glory
   2. Glory Thief and Glory King feat. Timothy Brindle
   3. Crown Down feat. Ant Coughlin