It’s a party on television, better known as a music video. MC Flexx, known to his mother as Adrian Jefferson, is dressed in a white suit and carrying a cane. Friends with Jackson Five Afro wigs are all over the place on roller skates. Some are spinningof all thingssuitcases.
The spotlights are flashing. The music is pumping. And Flexx is testifying, about the Lord, that is, and why humanity must pay respect to the Creator of all things. A sultry female voice backs him up: Ooh, la la. Representing God, when I’m doing my thing ... Catch the flow, if you wanna see the king.
It’s his about-to-be-hit-single, Represent. Jefferson, or just plain Flexx for purposes of this article, is clearly pleased. That’s what’s going to be on MTV once my album starts selling and selling, he says, turning off the VCR.
A tape of Jammin’ Gospel Remixes sits on his desk as he answers occasional phone calls for TLC Records and Tapes, a gospel music store located on State Sreet. The shop is adjacent to his own TLC Hair & Skin Elegante salon, where he works as a cosmetologist.
That’s his day job. Flexx’s full-time calling is always God. He’s a family man, and an elder at the Faith Temple Pentecostal Church, where he plays drums for the church choir. Chances are good he’s the only gospel rapper in all of Utah.
Mixing rap with religion might sound as ill-advised as mixing peanut butter with chunks of salmon. Rap first made headlines through the salacious antics of 2 Live Crew and the hard-nailed, violent tales of Gangsta Rap. But it was black gospel music, married to blues, that gave us soul music. Listen to a good majority of today’s hip-hop or rap, and you’ll hear famous samples of soul music. In a sense, then, Flexx has brought African-American music full-circle by taking a gospel message to hip-hop.
Flexx’s medium of choice presents special problems, though. Traditional gospel crowds often recoil at the thought of a righteous MC, while old-school hip-hop rappers laugh you off the stage. Where’s the street cred?
The recording industry is more forward-thinking. After a self-produced first album, Flexx’s second full-length, So Real, is being distributed by Pandisc Music Corp., an affiliate of Sony Music. Listeners are catching on as well. So Real marked on Soundscan’s top-40 gospel chart and as well as Billboard’s secular chart.
The rhymes keep flowing. God has been good. In fact, it’s a challenge to get Flexx to talk about worldly subjects. A gentle nudge does the trick. Now, Mr. Flexx, rapping for Jesus is a bit out of the ordinary, isn’t it?
There are generations, he says. And you reach people through their generation. There was the blues generation. There was the Motown generation. Now there is a hip-hop generation. So we have to reach people through hip-hop. You think God can’t reach people through hip-hop?
Just playing theoopsdevil’s advocate.
Music is a huge influence on the world today, Flexx continues. Other rappers would say that if you ain’t from the streets, toting a 9-millimeter, then you’re soft, but God is the hardest thing, the toughest thing, the greatest thing that words can explain. They [other rappers] wouldn’t even have the breath to rap without God, so the issue is a little deeper than what they think it is.
Take that, Puff Daddy. Flexx says most of the resistance to his music comes from those in gospel, although it was his grandmother, Dr. Rosemary Redman Cosby, founding minister of Faith Temple Church, who first taught him the ways of the Holy Spirit.
She backed me up, and ever since then I’ve been rolling, he says.
As rap records go, Flexx’s So Real is a soulful journey of cautionary tales (Price, about a drug dealer who pays for his profession with his life), celebration (the aforementioned title track), fortitude through faith (Storm) and even a tune that pits Flexx against the devil in a boxing ring (Rumble). A bit monotonous at times, it still shines through as an effort of love and confidence. God himself must be nodding to the beat, chilling in heaven’s throne. A welcome touch is the voice of Elizabeth Watkins, who sings back-up on most of the disc’s 10 songs.
The very CD cover pictures Flexx among the clouds. Back on Earth, he wouldn’t mind if his album found its way into the CD collections of true rap fans, on the same shelf next to hardcore acts like Snoop Dog and N.W.A. Jesus spent most of his time among the sinners, where messages of hope and peace are rare. That’s where Flexx wants to take his message.
It’s that special zone, he says. When I’m in that zone you can’t touch me. Man can’t touch you. The devil can’t touch you. Nothing can touch you ’cause you’re in that zonethat secret place of God.
So Real is available where all righteous local music CDs are sold. MC Flexx will embark on a small national tour in April.