Mr. Del: The Changing Face of Gospel, The Hip Hop Revolution

by Louise M. Moore

(July 30, 2009) Grammy nominated Christian rapper, songwriter and producer Mr. Del, formerly of the Academy Award winning hardcore rap group Three 6 Mafia, is making his own way in the music industry. His method is not conventional but at a time when radio airplay for Urban Inspirational and Holy Hip Hop artists is expanding, yet remains limited to a select few, Indies like Del have created untraditional avenues for getting their music heard. Born Delmar Lawrence, he certainly doesn't look like your grandmother's Gospel favorite, but the unorthodox avenues he has chosen to follow have proven effective for him. For the June 30 release of his third solo album Thrilla, Del partnered with Universal Music Group for distribution and introduced his new label, Dedicated Music Group, Inc. Under DMG, Del recruits new talent and has already signed Urban Gospel artists Mali Music and MOT. His first solo effort, The Future (2005) on EMI Gospel, debuted at #15 on Billboard's Gospel Chart and his sophomore CD Hope Dealer (2007) on his Holy South label was a successful effort as well. "I take all of my expertise and savvy from secular and channel it for the Kingdom," says Del. "I'm constantly traveling, gaining new fans and creating my own infrastructure just like Punk Rock or Heavy Metal." "Whenever you're underground, you have your own audience," adds Del who employs a dynamic marketing fusion that includes MySpace, YouTube and podcasts as well as radio and TV exposure.
With such clever marketing, Del stays current and visible not only through his own musical performances but also through collaboration with other artists who share a similar vision. Urban Inspirational artist Canton Jones and Gospel rapper Irocc collaborate frequently with Del. "We have formed an alliance," says Del. "These are people I have a spiritual connection with," he acknowledges. "It's not about record sales but it's about us teaming up and laboring together. We have a covenant and respect for each other." Del has also been featured on music with Christian artists Debra Killings, Lisa McClendon and Out of Eden. Additionally, Jazz recording artist and saxophonist Kirk Whalum was featured on Hope Dealer. Perhaps the most prevalent of Del's collaborations is with Holy South, a Hip Hop movement he founded that includes Christian artists like MOT, True and 4Given. "Holy South is my movement, my crew. They travel with me." Despite all of his musical accomplishments, Del insists "music is just a by-product." "The main thing is ministry," says Del whose ministerial duties also include pastoring City of Refuge Church, a non-traditional place of worship in Memphis, TN with a membership consisting of primarily high school and college students. "Success is you being obedient to your calling. Each man is given a measure and your measure may not be the same as mine." "You cannot look at yourself and say I'm successful by looking at someone else's success," says Del. "I'm successful because I'm faithful with what I was given."

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AIRPLAY 360 is a monthly published digital magazine designed to inform, empower and motivate independent inspirational musical artists by offering a soundboard of information provided by artists, producers, label executives and other industry professionals.
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