RECORDING INDUSTRY/ARTISTS AND MARKETING NEWS
CULTURE VILLAINS' TALENTS HIP HOP FOR CHRIST
Left, Czar Josh. Insets: Big Yae, top left, Kham, right, "Preseason" collection EP, bottom left, "For Your Heart" EP by Czar Josh, right.
▶ BY KEVIN SCOTT COLLIER
Christian Hip Hop music has been around for some time, but it didn’t always include Culture Villains. You could say the independent music company is engaged in Hip Hop Ops, special operations bringing Christ to today’s culture whatever the battlefront.
Czar Josh, one member of the Culture Villains entourage, stepped into the spotlight as a recording artist in 2016 with his debut EP release, Good Enough, which received a warm response for its introspective content. His latest EP, For Your Heart, was released a year ago, August 31.
Becoming interested in music around age 16, Josh embarked on a pathway to Christ in his senior year of high school that continued into college. He often feels the Holy Spirit present in venues where he performs and hears inspired tales from those in attendance.
“Yeah, that [His presence] has happened before,” Josh told CM. “I’ve had people tell me stories of how my songs have helped them in their walk.”
Culture Villains founder and owner, Travis James, launched the indie music company in late 2016. Prior to that, James worked behind the scenes as a producer and engineer.
“Culture Villains was established as a means to share the Gospel through media, as well as instill confidence in believers to be bold in their faith, despite societal pressures,” James explained for CM.
Culture Villains began in a rented studio room of a storefront music academy in Lynchburg, Virginia. It is currently headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland. From its humble beginnings, what CV lacked in resources and finances, it made up for with talent, hard work, and uncompromising passion. The goal was, and remains, to create content that speaks not only to the heart, but to the soul, as well.
Besides Josh, CV features Big Yae, a Hip Hop artist and music producer. Yae was introduced to Travis James by a friend and welcomed into the fold. His most recent CV release, the EP Yae Album Done, features four tracks by the artist.
“Travis saw my potential as an artist even before I knew my own potential,” Yae told CM. “So he decided to invest into me and my music.”
But it wasn’t like landing a job, more so it was landing in a fellowship.
“As far as building me spiritually,” Yae conveyed, “it has connected me with some truly talented and caring brothers in Christ who have developed into awesome accountability partners!”
Yae’s recording, We Gone Shine, crossed into mainstream radio and was recognized by Billboard magazine as “one of the most added songs to Christian radio” in 2017. The number, which became the title of an EP release, charted as high as #9 on Christian Hit Radio.
“Honestly, I was amazed!” Yae said, regarding the response. “It showed me that my music means something to people, and that if I keep going the Lord could use me to touch many more lives than he has already!”
Earlier this year, CV released a compilation album, Preseason, featuring the company’s terrific trio of talent, Czar Josh, Big Yae and Kham. An album tour followed.
Kham, who didn’t become aware of Christian Hip Hop “until around age 12-13,” made his recording debut with The Drive, an EP released in June, 2018. Subsequently, he partnered with the CV label that fall, with his debut release for the indie label in the works.
“Man, being with CV has been such a huge blessing,” Kham said. “CV has made more resources available to me, and given me the opportunity to foster real relationships with individuals who have access in this industry.”
Hard work and achievement is a CV model Kham appreciates.
“The thing I love the most about our team is how ‘hand-outs’ are never given,” he explained. “We push each other to constantly perfect our craft and stay true to our beliefs. I believe God has His hands on Culture Villains and I’m super excited for the future!”
Kham sees the direction of indie produced Christian Hip Hop potentially reaching more individuals on the outside of the faith.
“Which is ultimately the main goal, using our gifts and talents to make a kingdom impact,” he said. “The ability to make great music that anyone, regardless of their background or beliefs, can relate to is a skill a lot of the young artists I see in the game possess.”
Kham, CV founder Travis James, and Czar Josh were all Liberty University graduates.
Czar Josh sees that bringing Jesus into the culture creates a life-changing purpose.
“Jesus has given me an identity that is firm and that I can believe in,” he said. “The Christian Hip Hop genre reinforces that, relating to me in a context that is synonymous with my culture. That can help change people’s minds. It’s just the Gospel contextualized to relate to different types of people.”
CV artists have been featured in several music videos, one being Czar Josh’s popular entry “IDWCMH” (“I Don’t Wanna Comb My Hair”). The number features John Givez.
“I’ve always wanted to stand out and provide a different vibe that connects with people,” Josh said. “I just want to continue to be a voice for the voiceless and relate to people through my art.”
Big Yae conveyed it’s not just their music that keeps the devil on the run, it’s the power behind it.
“I say we do so by living out the Gospel in our everyday lives and trying our hardest to carry out the Great Commission,” he said. Yae also offered advice to those aspiring to become a part of the music industry.
“Don’t let your music consume your life,” he said. “Get out, go live life, meet people, do things, play games, and then come back to music and just watch how much you would have grown in your time away from it.”
The CV team is comprised of many other talented individuals, including KJ Carter, A&R, road manager and president of the CV Community, and CV production manager Jasmine Corbin, and Kathleen Fabien, head of marketing.
“KJ is the backbone of deciding what music comes out from Culture Villains,” Travis James explained. “He is heavily involved in the production of all [CV] music.”
Summer is a busy time for the principal players at CV, but a change in season doesn’t mean a suspension of operations.
“If you follow us on social media, you’ve probably seen us all use this hashtag #CVSummer,” Kham pointed out. “All I’ll say is don’t think that summer coming to a close means we’re letting up by any means. A lot more content is coming as we close out the year!” 7/29/19
HIP HOP TRIO G.I. WONDER? RECORDING 1ST ALBUM
Christian hip hop trio G.I. Wonder?
The Christian Hip Hop trio G.I. Wonder? will be releasing its debut album this September, the band announced. Titled Paid the Price, the group, featuring the talents of Chris Cross, Mike Creammz and Willy Cook, will be offering the album free of charge available from all major streaming platforms and YouTube.
G.I. Wonder? structures itself on delivering the message of Christ through lyricism, creativity, and melodic music. The group was founded in May 2014 when Cross moved in with brothers Willy Cook and Mike Creammz. The trio has facilitated anything to serve as a recording studios since.
“We began recording together in closets, cars, our bedroom, anywhere we could,” Mike Creammz told CM. “I'd say we have relatively good responses from live performances. People seem to react and gravitate towards our flows/lyrics.”
The explosion of the digital age has been a real game-changer for G.I. Wonder? and the indie Christian music industry as a whole.
“Technology is so vital right now. I think it's helping Christian artists more than anything,” Creammz said. “The ability to distribute your work on multiple streaming sites in addition to promoting it with social media pretty much speaks for itself. The world has gone digital. Our message will never change, but the method has to be consistent with the times.”
Creammz told CM, "Paid The Price is a double entendre that is symbolic of Jesus paying the ultimate price for us, and the album itself will be free of charge. The number of tracks on this album is still uncertain at the moment, because the album in itself is not completely finished right now.”
Hip hop and rap continues to be a growing genre in Christian music, and while it may not appeal to everyone, it is all about someone--Jesus Christ.
“I feel like a lot of those Christians got too caught up in tradition and religion, and in doing so missed an entire window for a new form of ministry to be unveiled,” Creammz explained. “We understand that this method definitely isn't for everyone, but it certainly is for others.”
The trio’s album’s content will be all new, previously unreleased material. G.I. Wonder? plans to create a documentary video about the making of Paid the Price for release prior to the album. Be sure to check out their YouTube channel, and listen on SoundCloud.
Besides the planned documentary video, no specific events are planned for the release of Paid the Price, but that can change fast. The trio has a concert in October that undoubtedly will highlight songs from the album.
CULTURE VILLAINS SIGNS WITH EQUITY DISTRIBUTOR
Culture Villains Christian hit hip hop artists CZAR Josh, Big Yae and Kham.
Culture Villains, home of artists Big Yae, Czar Josh, and Kham, has partnered with Equity Distribution ahead of their upcoming music releases. Equity Distribution is a music distribution platform that enables artists to release music projects worldwide and allows them to retain ownership of their masters. The platform has partnerships with 125 digital service platforms in different territories across the world.
Chanel West Coast, Tameka “Tiny” Harris, Vado, Mariahlynn, and her son King Harris are among the independent artists that have signed distribution deals with Equity. Also Jadakiss’ label (SoRaspy) and Jaz-O’s organization (Kingz Kounty Media Group) have inked deals with Equity for their respective artists.
Equity’s goal is to give artists the tools to build their brands and maintain control of their content throughout the course of their burgeoning careers. To achieve that goal, the platform provides a handful of resources to its artists, including digital strategy support, in-house marketing services, synch and playlist promotion and publishing administration.
CV artist Czar Josh has announced the release of a new single, Mansa Musa, on August 16, features Rockstar JT. It will be available on a variety of music platforms.
Visit Culture Villains on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
SKILLET RELEASES TENTH ALBUM 'VICTORIOUS'
Skillet's new album, "Victorious."
Christian hard rock band Skillet released their 10th album on August 2, Victorious. While the group has been for more than two decades, the new collection is anything but old. John Cooper, Koery Cooper, Jen Ledger and Seth Morrison have delivered a solid and strong litany of anthems that address today’s upside down culture.
The album boldly blazes through 12 tracks, about confronting demons, facing adversity and fighting the battle to become an overcomer. We are reminded to emerge as winners in all things via the body of Christ.
In Terrify the Dark, John Cooper writes in lyrics, “No power on Earth, no power in hell, is gonna steal my peace. Ten Thousand enemies, they will end up on their knees, when I’m hopeless, I can know this, you’re with me.”
The album's title track, Victorious, is dedicated to depression victims, including Chester Bennington, of Linkin Park, who committed suicide by hanging in 2017.
Most of the production end of this latest album was accomplished by lead singer John Cooper and his wife Korey. Skillet has earned worldwide recognition garnering two platinum and two gold albums, and many successful hits. Their latest album is available on multiple platforms.