Grammy, Dove and Stellar Award nominated Christian rapper FLAME, aka Marcus Gray, has a lot to be excited about in 2014. His seventh album, “Royal Flush” charted number 11 on the Billboard rap charts. He says his independent label, Clearsight Music is making its way as a company. And his much anticipated Blackout Circuit Tour kicked off this month. The St. Louis, Missouri native also recently received his Masters Degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. However, his pathway way was not always so bright and clear.
FLAME admits he lived a street-life of drugs and gangs as a youth. But he also started performing with local hip-hop groups. He says he wrote music in his basement.
According to FLAME, he faced life-altering hardships that led him to switch from secular hip-hop to Christian hip-hop. He survived a near fatal accident at age sixteen when the car he was riding in was struck by an eighteen-wheeler. He spent a year in therapy. In the midst of this, his grandmother passed away. He said, “This really made me take a look at my life. I had to make a change.”
It was at this time FLAME switched from mainstream hip-hop to Christian hip-hop. He said the change cost him some longtime friends. ”I was lonely. I didn’t have the brotherhood that I used to have. And I had to start writing lyrics differently. I had to start studying the Bible and rethinking everything I ever thought, and wording it differently.”
Things became clearer when he found the music of his musical mentors, The Cross Movement. FLAME remembers, “When I became a Christian, I was looking for new music. I wanted to fill my mind and my ears with music that talked about Jesus and things that I thought were important from the Bible and about life…. I heard about The Cross Movement. I listened to their music and instantly became a fan. I purchased the music, and found out they had a website.
From there, FLAME said he and his production partner, St. Louis singer, J.R. put together a four song EP. They tracked Cross Movement down at a concert in Chicago. In less than two weeks they were on the road with them.
FLAME released four albums on Cross Movement Records before branching out on his own in 2010 with Clearsight Music.
His wife Crystal Gray, PH.D, runs the label. “Currently there are two artists, including myself…a young lady named V Rose. She’s a singer. She has an incredible voice…she’s also a great writer…We‘re a boutique label. But it’s been going pretty well,” said FLAME.
He wants to give people who love hip-hop something positive to listen to. He said, “ When you think about hip hop, the things that come to mind probably aren’t holy. Most people who subscribe to hip hop culture have a view on society of manhood, womanhood, sexuality, authority…those types of things…they can be really negative…so what I’d like to do as one coming out of that culture…falling in love with Christ and writing music, rap music. I’d like to think I’m communicating God’s word in a language that makes sense to them…showing the relevance of the Bible and watching God use that to change people and save them from a criminal life style or a mundane, wasteful life.”
Fellow Christian hip-hop recording artist, syndicated TV and radio host, Willie Moore, Jr., is impressed with FLAME’s work. He said, “I think Flame is an awesome artist they way he can combine theological teachings with a hip-hop background…He makes God’s truth make sense to this generation.”
“Royal Flush,” FLAME’s current musical communication effort to reach today’s youth was titled after a card game. “In a game of poker, if you have been dealt a ten, jack, a queen, a king, and an ace in one suit, you have the highest hand. You win the game. So, I’m using it as a metaphor to say in Christ God has set us up to win. Second Peter chapter one verse three says, “For his divine power have given us all things that pertain to live and Godliness.” So, in that regard he has set us up to win, we have everything that we need in for life and Godliness in him.”
The 15-song album includes, “Sanctuary” featuring Mike Real, “Read ‘Em and Weep” featuring V Rose, “All In” featuring KB, and “Start Over” featuring NF.
While fellow artists like Willie Moore, Jr. praise him, FLAME said he is just happy to contribute to Christian hip-hop and perhaps change a life.