In Southern San Antonio, Texas, in the same building as the local YMCA, there's a place called Tri-Point. At Tri-Point, you can hang out in their Grace Cafe coffee shop, drink a smoothie and play Connect 4, or you can use one of their computers to check your email or MySpace (or bring in your own laptop and access their free wi-fi), or even just come in and catch a break from the heat of south Texas. And, if you were there on July 8, 2009, you had another option, which was to catch a free concert featuring, Sho Baraka, Flame, Tedashii, Trip Lee and Lecrae on Reach Records' Don't Waste Your Life Tour.
We made our way up to the front, right at the edge of the stage, and waited for the show to begin. As seven o'clock rolled around (the official starting time for the show), we heard an audio clip through the speakers of a preacher speaking. I was then notified that there was a video playing too on the side walls (it may have been helpful to have them playing directly in front of us, as the people at the very front had a hard time seeing the video). The message was cool, about how God gives us all that He gives us (food, a place to live, money, toys, etc.) to be used in such a way that it is plain to the world that those things are not our treasures, but that Christ is. A powerful message, which then led to DJ Official taking his spot behind the turntable/MacBook, followed by all five of the rappers coming out on stage. One of them asked the crowd if they're ready for some Jesus music, which, of course, was the signal for one of Lecrae's bigger singles, "Jesus Muzik," to get things started. Lecrae did the first verse while Trip Lee took the second (which is how the song actually goes on the After The Music Stops album), then the music instantly switched gears into Trip's "Gotta Grow" from his If They Only Knew album. From there, the medley continued into Sho Baraka's "Maranatha," Flame's "I Been Redeemed," and finally Tedashii's "Off Da Hook." A great way to get the crowd pumped, with all five guys jamming to hard hitting beats and raps. After "Off Da Hook," the guys exited the stage, and a short video came on.
What's cool about the little videos (which were shown between each rapper's individual sets), were not only that they were funny, but they were also satire based on the world and sometimes the way the world perceives the church (or the way the church actually is when they aren't truly focused on Christ). The first video showed Sho Baraka hanging out with some friends, and he was trying out his new rap song that he wrote, which consisted of just the words "Murder murder murder sex sex sell drugs," an obvious satire on mainstream hip hop, most of which lacks any real lyrical substance. Sho then came out on stage and talked with the audience for a few minutes, giving a short little poetic testimony. He started off his set with "Music of Life" from his Reach Records debut Turn My Life Up. His second song, he told us, was a new song he was working on and he wanted to test it on us. The song was called "Word," and was all about staying in God's Word. After "Word," he spoke to the audience a little bit about the importance of knowing Jesus early in life so that you can get through the hardships of life with someone to walk with you. He concluded his very short set with another song from Turn My Life Up called "Higher Love," a semi-love song about our God, during which he had the crowd repeat the words to the hook ("I'm in love, I'm in love with a higher love, higher love").
The next video showed Tedashii sitting in a coffee shop with some friends, and obsessing over his Twitter page, updating it every five seconds with things like "Tedashii is on a bathroom break" and "Tedashii hates reading." Surprisingly, Flame was next on the list. I say "surprisingly" only because I thought he was one of the headliners, so I thought he would be out last or second to last. But he made his way out and said hey to the crowd, and then talked about how the Bible says that Heaven celebrates when even one person gives their life to Jesus. Then he said that he was told that there were some good dancers in the crowd that wanted to dance before the Lord. So he brought up four guys from the crowd, and "Go Buck," from Our World: Redeemed came on next, a song about the celebration in Heaven for when a person gets saved. The dancers did a tremendous job. It was obvious they had practiced and prepared, because they had really good choreography throughout the entire song. Flame went through the whole song with the dancers doing their thing, and then as the song ended and the dancers exited the stage, Flame talked about God giving us all gifts, and how we need to use them to glorify Him right back. "Shinin'" was next from Our World: Fallen, except with Tedashii's help as in the album version. Though he didn't actually perform the entire song, he spent the time during it displaying a lot of passion for the words he spoke and for his Maker. He spoke about Psalm 73 and then about Zaccheus, who climbed up into a tree just to see Jesus when He was coming through town, which led into a slower song called "See More Him." Again, it was only part of the song, followed by Flame encouraging us all to hold on through the sinfulness of the world - the message of his song "Hold On." Unfortunately, that was the end of his set, the second of what would be five short sets for the night.
One thing I noticed at about this time is that, unlike a rock concert, there was no need for time between sets to set up and change out equipment. DJ Official was the DJ for each rapper, and no rapper used any instruments during their set, so there was no need to change anything out. When one rapper finished, the lights went out for the next short video and then the next rapper came out and started their set. It was cool to not have to wait for more music and just get pummeled with artist after artist. The videos all centered around the night's overall theme of not wasting your life. The next one showed two of the guys (Lecrae was one, and I think the other was Sho Baraka, but it was hard to see) sitting in a public place having a Bible study/debate on the deeper theologies of the passage they were reading, and using words like "exegetically," when a guy comes in and says that his car broke down and it's freezing outside and he needs a ride somewhere. So, of course, they say "Well, we're kinda having a Bible study right now, but there's a service station down the road you can walk to, but you better hurry cause they close in like 25 minutes." They send him away, and then Sho calls him back and says "Sorry, that ain't right. Let's pray for his walk there." This is one particular video that was a little convicting.
The hard-hitter Tedashii was up next, starting off with "26's" from his newest album Identity Crisis. The hook for the song is a line borrowed from Lecrae's "The King" ("These self-proclaimed kings braggin' cause they on chrome, but 26 inches is a pretty low throne"), chopped and screwed, of course, and rightfully features a guest appearance by Lecrae, who joined Tedashii onstage for the jam. After the song, he mentioned that he was studying the Book of John at the time, and he was currently in chapter 8, which he spoke on a little bit, and mentioned that, before Christ, we were all slaves to sin. He followed that with part of his song "Work," then continued in his message about slavery to sin, but how, if you keep reading, it says the truth can set you free, and make you new and fresh, leading into the song "Fresh." He then told a story about when he was a kid, he wanted to be a superhero, and he just knew that one day his superpowers would come. But they never did. He equated that to a lot of Christians that sit around and wait for something amazing to happen before they decide that they'll be holy or who think that holiness just comes one day, but the truth is that it takes training, discipline and work to be holy and to be close to God. He concluded his set with "I'm A Believer," during which he was joined by Trip Lee.
The next video came up, with the guys standing around in a dark area, with little light (presumably outside) all wearing heavy coats (like gangstas) and battle rapping with each other. To make light of the battle rapping, they used some of the lamest rhyming and rapping that you would ever hear (one of them that I remember is "You cats like to watch Batman Beyond, but you don't even know what channel Batman be on!"). Then the wife of one of the guys opened the door (showing that they were actually in a bedroom with the lights off) and said "Sweetie, when you guys finish your little rapping game, would you mind helping me with the groceries?" I was kind of in awe of the geniusness and the comedy of the videos. Maybe I'm just a sucker for good satire.
Trip Lee was next, who came out and, before his first song, talked about actually being from Dallas, Texas (several hours from San Antonio, but close enough to get some cheers from the audience). He told a story about being in Dallas at the mall, and as he was just walking from store to store, he had someone look at him and say "Trip Lee?!" and run up to him talking about Trip being his favorite rapper and whatnot. He asked Trip about his life, and when Trip said he had to go and was about to get into his little Honda, the fan said "Naw, Trip you don't drive that, I bet you drive a Jaguar" and saying all these things about him, making him out to be a big shot just cause he's a rapper. Trip said, "So this is what I told him" and went into his song "Superstar (Eyes Off Me)," a song about not really being a superstar. He did that rap, and then told a similar story about a fan he met at a Krispy Kreme shop, who also thought he was a superstar, and asked him why he did Christian hip hop. For the fame, the glory, it's easier, the money? Trip responded with his song "Who He Is." After talking about how to know who God is, Tedashii joined him onstage to perform another jam from 20/20, "Real Vision." (FYI: the beginning of "Real Vision" can be heard briefly in the opening part of Lecrae's "Indwelling Sin" on his Rebel album). Trip talked a bit about Jesus as King, and how the world's kings can be corrupt and evil, but how Jesus is a King who is never corrupt, and He's the type of King that doesn't just tell us, but He came down to Earth and got His hands dirty and SHOWED us how it's done. He finished with "Inexhaustible," and then left the stage.
The final video was of DJ Official reclining in a chair at home, lazily stuffing Doritos into his mouth, when the angel and the demon on the shoulder thing came into play. The angel (which was a picture of Lecrae with a moving mouth) told Official to get up and stop wasting his life, while the demon (Tedashii's picture) told him to keep stuffing his mouth. The lights came back on, and the opening guitar riff from "After The Music Stops" came through the speakers, and while it warmed up, Lecrae made his way up on stage. He performed the first verse and hook, and then spoke more on the message of that song ("Will you understand that Christ is King, or will you just like the words we sing after the music stops?") He briefly mentioned something about being a rebel, to which the music from the "Rebel Intro" started and he gave us the first verse/hook of that one as well, and then spoke on idolatry. He said the heart has been called an idol factory, with the fact that it's always finding something to focus on and make us worship. And one thing it loves to worship, and something that we've been taught to worship in America since the day we were born, is money. He said, "But when they say they've got paper, they've got money, you can just say 'So what, who cares?' and then tell them 'I've got Jesus, baby!'" One of Rebel's highlights, "Got Paper," was next, which we got to hear in its entirety. He led into his next song by talking about his wife, who he finds beautiful, not just by physical means, but also because she is Godly, which was the message of "Identity." He performed the first and third verses, but left out the part that, on the album, is performed by da T.R.U.T.H. Afterwards, he gave some props to DJ Official, saying that he's a true servant, because while all the rappers get breaks and get to sit down after their set, Official stays on stage the entire time, doing the DJ thing for each rapper. Lecrae said that Official is serving his brothers and the Lord, and not wasting his life. Lecrae also mentioned TV shows and MySpace/Facebook/Twitter, etc., and how those things aren't necessarily bad for you, but if that's all you spend your time on, you haven't done anything to glorify Jesus, thereby you have wasted your life. This led into the song that we all knew was coming at some point, the tour's automatic theme song, "Don't Waste Your Life." He performed the whole song, including the verse that is originally performed by Dwayne Tryumf, but for the third verse, the music came to a halt, and he spoke the verse like a poem. He led into a short message about coming to God with your life as a blank sheet of paper for God to fill in, not a request form and asking God to just sign His name at the bottom. DJ Official started up the song "Send Me," whose hook says "Send me, I'll go." But Lecrae stopped it, saying that he's glad that there were some in the audience who weren't saying the hook, because he hoped that it was because they were thinking about those words and actually counting the cost of what "send me, I'll go" really means. He urged the audience to think about it, and said that it really is worth it. He then urged the crowd to go do what God has for them, and "to go hard, or just go home." And instead of "Send Me," Tedashii came out and they performed another song from Rebel, "Go Hard," in its entirety. They were joined by Flame and Sho Baraka near the end of the song, as well.
All four guys stayed on stage, and Trip Lee joined them, while Lecrae's "The King" started up. While Flame has a guest appearance in the second verse of that song, they didn't go through with it, and instead started up another medley, which jumped from "The King" into Sho Baraka's "100." Flame then joined Tedashii for his song "Make War," and then Flame urged the crowd to shout and cheer and make a joyful noise before the Lord. The closing track from Flame's Our World: Redeemed, "Joyful Noise," started up, with Lecrae taking the first verse, and all of the guys raising their hands to God during the worshipful chorus (and Sho Baraka playing a little air guitar too). All of the guys said their goodnights, and all exited the stage except for Flame who thanked everyone and spoke a little more about Jesus before offering a closing prayer. After the prayer, Tedashii and Lecrae were back on stage, and Lecrae talked about their new DVD devotional series they had for sale, based on the compilation CD called 13 Letters from the 116 Clique (a group containing Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tedashii and others). Tedashii then made mention that if anyone wanted to learn more about Jesus could come up to the front after the crowd cleared out and talk and pray with all the guys.
This being the first time I had seen any of these rappers in concert, I didn't know what to expect. I got a great show full of energy, excitement, passion and godliness. I honestly wished that there were at least a few more songs, and that there were more full versions of the songs played (with the longest individual setlist being six songs, only two of which in their entirety, it left me wanting more). Although, I do understand that if all the rappers did longer sets, then we would've been there till midnight or later. And also, the whole purpose of their ministry would be lost, because they wouldn't have had time to share their hearts and to speak about Jesus in between the songs. But still, I can't help but wish they had done more songs. There were a lot that I wanted to hear, especially from Flame and Lecrae, but from the rest as well, seeing as how the songs that they did play were straight up jams through and through. I wouldn't mind going to this show again if they came around near here before it wraps up. But I may just have to settle for waiting till another tour comes through. If you're planning on hitting up one of their stops, expect a night of slammin' beats and great messages, but also a lot of Christian encouragement. These guys are some of the most godly dudes you could ever meet, and hopefully you get a chance to meet and talk with them sometime.-- Scott Fryberger, 7/9/09
Lecrae, Flame, Sho Baraka, Trip Lee, Tedashii
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