The power of hip-hop

Artists with a positive message find support from radio DJ and promoter Troy Edwards

November 22, 2007|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,SUN REPORTER

On Good Friday 2006, Troy Edwards went to the offices of WFBR 1590-AM in Glen Burnie with a proposition.

Edwards, a 37-year-old maintenance worker at Holy Trinity Church, felt hip-hop needed to send a more positive message.

Though WFBR was primarily a gospel station and Edwards had no prior experience in radio, the station manager agreed to give him his own weekly Christian hip-hop and gospel program called Three Hours of Power. It airs 9 p.m.-midnight Fridays.

In the year and a half since, radio stations in other states have started airing Three Hours of Power, and Edwards founded his own label, 3HP Records.

Edwards oversees promotion and studio recording for more than 40 artists, he said. He also organizes occasional live performances such as the Reverse the Curse showcase Saturday at the Holy Trinity Church Hall in Glen Burnie.

Edwards named his musical endeavors Sacred Ground Ministry - because his work and the artists he deals with are like a gospel to him, he said.

"My ministry is my church," Edwards said. "People depend on me. They see my vision. They come in and I help them out. They see my passion of helping people."

Before founding the radio show, Edwards was going to church regularly and working on a solo career on the side. But he had little focus, he said.

"I was just floating around wondering what my mission was," he said. "I just wanted more."

After Edwards was on the air for several months, other radio stations in the gospel community started asking him to syndicate his show, he said.

"The word got out and people were calling me saying, `I want to do a show. Can you do a show for me?'" he said. "I said, `Sure.'"

Edwards enlisted the help of a couple of producers, including Michael Braxton, the brother of Grammy award-winning R&B singer Toni Braxton.

"Everybody saw my vision," he said. "They saw what I was doing, and they wanted to be a part of it."

Through Sacred Ground Ministry and 3HP, Edwards provides up-and-coming artists with free studio time as well as production, distribution and marketing.

"It's built on relationships and really helping people and caring about people," he said.

Edwards learned the ropes years ago as an MC. He was a "secular" MC, which means he rapped about the same things he is now trying to counter with holy hip-hop. He was once known as Box Cutter. Now, he goes by the name Bigbox.

"I think I can relate to the kids because I've been there with a passion," he said. "I grew up with hip-hop. It's still in my heart."

Though the artists on Edwards' label may create "holy hip-hop," they are aiming for a mainstream audience, he said.

"If it's preachy, only the people in church will understand it," he said. "A lot of my artists [rap] for the street."

Edwards said his artists can appeal to the average hip-hop listener because their beats are well-made and their messages are about overcoming the obstacles many young people face today. Some of them grew up making the same mistakes, and rap about learning from them in their songs, he said.

"If I see a youth that has a whole lot of talent, I'm like, `Clean up your music,'" he said.

"'You clean up your music, we'll give you free production. We'll give you free studio time. Just do it right. Do it positive. Make something your parents will be proud of.'"

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

The Reverse the Curse concert, featuring Mouthpiece, Da Fisherman, IQ and 3HP artists will be 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Saturday in the Holy Trinity Church hall, 7434 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd. in Glen Burnie. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 the day of the show. For more information, call 443-305-2389 or go to myspace.com/sacredground ministry.

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