Sir The Baptist Brings His Church To The Wild [Interview]
Growing up as a preacher’s kid in Chicago, newcomer Sir The Baptist could’ve never imagined his life panning out the way that it has. As blessings continue to flow, Sir has become a vessel used to share the word of God beyond the walls of the church.
With his debut album Saint or Sinner leading him into higher places, the holistic lyricist has gained the support of Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder, and confirmed musical babe, Brandy Norwood.
Written and produced by Sir himself, Saint or Sinner is a milestone of work that touches upon both spirituality and the streets to create a powerful soundtrack for contemporary America. Songs like “Raise Hell,” “Dance With The Devil,” and “Wake Up” call for social change and boldness amongst the nation’s people. With features from Brandy, Killer Mike, Michelle Williams, Ray J, Keke Wyatt, and DC Young Fly the album has proven to be the ultimate urban gospel.
Taking off on The Revival World Tour with a performance at this year’s Broccoli City Festival and in between Essence Festival preparations, the emcee jumped on a quick call to discuss faith-based Hip-Hop, his duties as an ordained minister, what it means to be both a saint and sinner and what it’s like to head a church in the wild.
Describe Sir The Baptist.
I’m a preacher’s kid from Chicago, specifically Brownsville. I desire to be a Hip-Hop chaplain and I think I’m kind of doing that already, but a Hip-Hop chaplain consists of Hip-Hop music and spiritual guidance. It’s similar to like Kendrick and J. Cole — I hate to call it conscious music because then I’m calling everything else unconscious music but I’m that type of guy.
In your pitch to become a member of this year’s XXL Freshman class you referenced Tupac. How influential is Tupac in your music?
I have different parts of Tupac that are inspiring to me. One is Pac when he was more proficiency than profit. He’s very influential and in my music. Not as much as preachers, but just as much as any great, great rapper.
With you being a preacher’s kid how receptive were your parents in regards to your music choice? Your sound is a mixture of both Hip-Hop and Gospel, something that for a long time in the past was forbidden to mix. How did they deal with that?
Yeah, it’s a mixture between Hip-Hop and Gospel, but it’s absolutely not Gospel. Like it’s not Lecrae. It probably won’t be performed in churches. My mom took it as umm…have you ever been to a church where there was testimony service?
So it’s like that. You have praise and worship music where it’s like, “Oh, God. I love you.” Then you have testimony service where somebody might say, “My husband cheated on me. Pray for me.” It’s just the blunt truth that’s needed in order for somebody to know that God is real and everything is going to be okay. Once my mom got that, she was down for it. My dad died when I was 11 so he probably wouldn’t have liked it as much, but he would have liked the fact that I’ve become successful at being honest.
You’re still spreading the word, so either way, the message is getting across.
How do you think you’ve grown since the release of “Creflo (Almighty) Dollar” to now releasing your new project Saint or Sinner?
Before now I was only putting out singles and short songs, now I have an album coming that tells a story of every genius that came from the church and implemented their music into the marketplace of R&B, Hip-Hop, Pop…all of that sort of stuff. So the Whitney Houstons, the Michael Jacksons, the James Browns, a little bit of everybody. Everybody that was influenced by this album sort of tells that story. This album is the story of legends that come from Christian background or belief and spiritual backgrounds.
The title itself poses the question, Are you a saint or a sinner? Has there ever been a time where you’ve had to ask yourself that exact question?
Absolutely. When it was time for me to put out the album I realized that everybody buying trap music and drill music and music that I don’t feel represents me. When going to try to appease and be a part of the market I had to ask myself, “Hey, are you a saint or a sinner?” And I’m both. Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin; people that came from the church and signed to Atlantic Records and did their records they were both saints and sinners. And it’s okay. We all are if we are honest with ourselves. More than a question, it should be a connection between your higher self and your lower self. You are who you are whether you’re in a crack house or in God’s house.
How do you think your music can change some of the challenges seen in today’s society?
That’s my only hope. I don’t hope to be the greatest rapper. I would love to have a Grammy but that’s not my focus. I want to know about Peace Prize. I want to bring peace to the world — to know that this art and this body of work and many other things that I’m working on would bring peace to the world and advance us in economics, epistemology, growth, business, family, community, all of that sort of stuff. So yeah, this is what I am focused on.
How do you deal with comments made by those that think it’s unfair that you use profanity in your music while addressing talking about faith?
Well, one there’s cursing in my music and this is where epistemology comes in. Epistemology is how we acquire knowledge. When you go and ask yourself, is cursing a sin you have to look at the time in which we came up with that rule. […] and is it even in The Bible and then what language was that in. These words that we are using are alternatives of literature. It’s not necessarily a sin, but you let the politics of religion run your life they’ll tell you not wearing stockings or dresses above your knee makes you a sinner. You kind of have to roll with your gut and know that you were made in God’s image and every day try to be the best you can be and move forward. So when people say that stuff about me it’s hilarious because when they are in the dark and they wake up and they hit their foot on a corner of their desk or whatever they hit, they’re not gonna say, “Oh geez!” They are going to say, What the f*ck! or Sh*t! My mom does — she’s done great missionary for the world and at times she curses and she’s funny.
When did you feel that you were on the right path to achieving your life’s purpose?
I felt like it was coming. Like I wouldn’t be able to run away from my purpose in life, but I didn’t know that it was going to produce itself in my product as much as it did. Going through the album I was really able to fine tune what my purpose and mission in life was and it just became even crazier and so connected to God. even in those moments when I was smoking heavy and trying to figure things out smoking and praying is the same as worrying and praying. Either way, you’re hoping for something and you’re going through something. It was during those times that I found out that, you know what, when your faith is tried is when it really becomes made of steel.
You’re also an ordained minister. Have you been able to put your title to use yet?
Yes, I do a lot of counseling and sometime this summer I believe I’ll be doing my first Hip-Hop wedding. Isn’t that freaking cool?!
That’s really cool! Is it a destination wedding?
Yeah, it is and I’ll be pushing for all of my rapping friends to do the same. Like come on and get married fam. You can’t be out here your whole life fam.
That kind of ties into my next question — If you were to start your own church outside of your performances because that in itself is reminiscent of a sermon, who would sit on the board with you?
Kendrick, Jay-Z, J. Cole, Andre 3000, Frank Ocean. These are artists that I look up to, but as far as thinkers I’d have to say, Pastor Coleman, Ravi Zacharias […] a lot of apologetics and people that are a part of the Christian faith and moving it forward in a big way.
You’ve been able to do a number of great collaborations thus far in your career. Which happens to be your favorite one to date?
I would have to say my collaboration with Brandy. In the record we did together we embodied everything Ray Charles and Brandy was on Atlantic. I’m on Atlantic and Ray Charles was on Atlantic so it was a really Atlantic moment. I think they at the label were really proud of the record because it stands for what our legacy stands for there instead of just modern music. It shows you diversity.
When your fans or someone new to your music like myself listens to your album, what is it that you want us to take away from it?
That you don’t have to keep your gift in the church for God to bless it. I’ve never been able to quote or tell anyone really and I hope my publicist is listening, I didn’t even know that, but that moment just then sums up the album. You don’t have to keep your voice in the church. You can take your light to dimmed places. For example, why bring sand to the beach? God gave me the light that I have and he sent me to the wild and this is what you call the church in the wild. Shout out to Jay-Z for that line!
Malikka writes about your favorite entertainment and pop culture figures and events. Bringing her east coast vibes to Los Angeles, she can be found hard at work curating content, writing an article, or nose deep in media clippings. Follow her on all social channels @malikkamichelle.