(AllHipHop Features) “This album is actually a Gospel album,” posted Kanye West on Twitter about his The Life Of Pablo LP.
Three months after Ye dropped TLOP, Chance The Rapper returned with his Coloring Book mixtape which included elements of Gospel music as well.
Before either Kanye or Chance’s latest efforts hit the internet, another Chicago native was effectively combining Gospel and Hip Hop with tracks such as “Raise Hell,” "(Creflo) Almighty Dollar,” and “Wake Up.”
William “Sir The Baptist” Stokes, the son of a pastor, has fully embraced his lifework of further bringing those two styles together.
In part 2 of my conversation with the self-described Urban Hymnist, Sir discusses contributing to Chance The Rapper and The Social Experiment’s “Familiar” song as well as Kanye West’s turned toward faith-based music. He also explained his decision to ink a deal with Atlantic Records and his productive relationship with Jay Z’s Tidal streaming platform.
[ALSO READ: A Conversation With Sir The Baptist On Continuing Chicago’s Musical Tradition & Being A Descendant Of 2Pac’s Ghetto Gospel]
I didn’t realize you were on The Social Experiment album [Surf].
Chance, Donnie [Trumpet], and Peter Cottentale - those guys are super-great artists. I respect their artistry and thank them for giving me a chance to sing a little bit more on the chorus and give me credit.
They also gave me the opportunity to connect with a lot of different people. We're not the closest friends. I don’t hang with them every day. But what they did for me is an inspiration. It was dope as f-ck.
What did you think about the fact that both Chance and Kanye incorporated Gospel elements into their latest projects?
Chance, I appreciate the record. Kanye, I’m still trying to understand where he’s coming from. Mainly just because… message. It’s a difference between Gospel and moral standard. I think any Gospel should question moral standard.
Chance, I rock with the album. I get how he was inspired. Kanye… Didn’t he say, “Me and Ray J would be cool if we didn’t f-ck the same b-tch”?
Yeah, that was on “Highlights.”
That’s a different type of Gospel. Basically, there’s a difference between being inspired and prostituting the sound of Gospel.
It has a sound that gets under your soul and in your spirit, and it moves you. It don’t matter where you’re from, you’re going to get those chills. It’s in our chord progression. It’s in our vibrato. It’s in the choir. It’s in all the voices coming together.
I would love to sit down with Kanye and find out how he wanted to contribute to the Gospel industry and the religious world with this album. If he didn’t have that in mind, then I would just say to him - even a culture that’s our own - try not to prostitute it.
Why did you decide to sign with a major label rather than stay indie?
Everybody’s goals are different. Like most people would say, “I was listening to Chance and Kanye. They have the Gospel sound too.” My goals are different. I wouldn’t compare my goals to theirs.
I want to be the first NFL and NBA Hip Hop chaplain. I want to be the first Hip Hop bishop of the White House. I want to be compared to Rev. Run rather than your favorite rapper. I have cultural goals.
So building a relationship with Atlantic, they understand what those goals were. Music is just the beginning. I hope to take the dogma out of religion and blend the worlds of Hip Hop and religion in a way that surpasses our generation. I felt the label understood that, and they could come on as a team.
Ray Charles tried to do the same thing that I’m doing. Aretha Franklin, with her dad being a pastor, tried to do the same thing. We’re just trying to see if we can push it forward, and I think [Atlantic] gets the concept of what this is.
Is the theory of building a team in that way behind your decision to work so closely with Tidal?
Yeah. Tidal came out at a time when people were really confused on what Gospel/Hip Hop sounds like. Then they gave me a feature for the song “Wake Up.” From there, people started going, “Oh, okay. You know what? If Jay Z and Tidal could give it a nod, then it’s got to be decent.”
From there, it constantly became family, and [the relationship] passed me on to other places where I could do Made In America [festival]. Then doing Tidal Discovery put it on a different level. I feel like home there. A team? Absolutely.
I’m good friends with Jason over there. He took me to meet Jay and a little bit of everybody. I appreciate the whole team at Tidal. They told me, “If you need a video shot, let us know. You need this opportunity? Let us know.” They believe in me as well.
What was that conversation with Jay like?
I was a big fan of Emory [Jones] because of the stories. We were walking by, and they were like, “Get him a hat.” I almost got in trouble for that hat too, because people thought I signed to Roc Nation. “No, Jay just gave me this hat, and I’m not taking it off.” It was a crazy experience. Have you ever met Jay before?
It’s like [seeing] a unicorn. My manager is not an awkward guy. But when Jay got off the elevator, nobody wanted to walk in in front of him. Everybody was just like, “Damn, that’s Jay… uh, hold the door.” [laughs] Then you get in and talk to Emory, and Jay comes by like, “Yo, Emory. Wassup? Get him a hat.”
They brought the CEO of Tidal downstairs. He sat with me for a while. He said, “What can I do for you? How can I help you? What’s next? How can we make this bigger than life?”
They’re legit family. Any artist should look at them as a great partner. They’re like on the ground. I guess they watched what Jay went through with his building stage, and they built their blueprint off of his. It really feels like that. If an artist went into Tidal and they approve your swag, it feels like you got the Roc-A-Fella team on your side.