The Ministry of Hip Hop with Flame and PRo

Monday, 09 January 2012 03:55 Written by  Cicely V. Teal

More than 20 years ago, the genre of Hip Hop began as a form of expression giving voice to the woes of society, inner city life and economic inequality. Since then, it has become one of the world’s most prominent art forms, and subsequently morphed into a more commercialized entity where clubbing, drinking, sex and materialism are the focus.


Two emerging Hip Hop artists are taking the field into a more spiritual direction. PRo and 2008 Grammy Award nominee Flame use their own testimonies and, what they believe to be their God-given purpose, to not only fuel a new genre of Hip Hop and fans, but to bring those fans closer to God.

Flame, born Marcus T. Gray, grew up in a two-parent home in the inner city of St. Louis, Missouri. His family was influenced by Christianity, but like so many young people growing up in an urban environment he was exposed to drugs, alcohol, depression and schizophrenia in his household. However, he found an escape his circumstances at a young age––Hip Hop.

“I was in fifth grade and wanted to rap for fun to get attention,” says Flame. My environment was crazy but I was so influenced by the Hip Hop culture––Tupac and NWA,” he said.

At the age of 16, a chain of events forced Flame to stop and think about the path he was taking. He was expelled from school and had to transfer, and was involved a tragic accident where he was hit by an 18-wheeler gas truck three times. Shortly after, his grandmother passed away.

“These things made me think about life,” he commented. “I was invited to church during this time and I committed myself and my music to Christianity.”

Flame started writing raps; it was more on a personal level during his own devotional time. One day he saw the group Due Season. Flame approached them and proudly showcased his gift. They encouraged him to pursue his music full time. Flame admits he’s matured since his first solo project and self-titled album.

“I started to travel and meet new people,” says Flame. “I completed my Bachelor’s degree, got married and moved out of my home state, so all my new experiences made me a new person. With my fifth album, Captured [released on his own label Clear Sight Music], I love God more, love people more and learned how to be a better artist.”

What sets Flame apart from almost any other gospel artist is that he attended Seminary school. He was encouraged by his peers who instilled in him that if Hip Hop was going to be used as a medium, there had to be something that set him apart, a distinction. 

“In order to reach the culture as Christians, we needed to be educated so we can grow deeper in relationship with God,” adds Flame. Power is in the word, not the composition of the music. Communicate the word of God because it’s used to change people.”

In the Bible, Jeremiah said to God, “When I speak of you I get into trouble, but your word is like a fire shot up through my bones.” Flame’s name was a childhood nickname, but the name took on a whole new meaning as he became spiritually stronger.

“It’s saying what needs to be said in spite of the consequences,” adds Flame.

PRo, born Derek Johnson Jr., grew up in a very spiritual household where he says it was gospel music or nothing at all. Even though he was surrounded by religion, PRo faced the same pressures and temptations of most young people. The struggles he experienced in the past helped shape him to be who he is in the present.

“People tell you to be young, sew your wild oats, go to college and do you,” comments PRo. Well, I did. I mean I wasn't crazy out there, but I did my dirt.”

At a very young age, the Michigan native lost his grandparents and his godmother. He believed that the loss of those closest to him was a wake-up call.

“Being young I had experienced loss, but wasn't mature enough to understand its depth,” he adds. “By this time, I had grown and those losses hurt. The beauty is God, and His grace allowed those things to push me toward Him.”

Having no exposure to rap growing up, PRo developed his lyrical prowess living with his father during the summer. His father was a producer who invited rappers in his home. PRo’s unabashed testimony in his lyrics is a testament of his desire to say to his listeners that through all the things he’s been through, he’s still here.

“I want to say that yes, at some point I played my part in those things [I did in the past], but they are all behind me,” says Pro. I've been changed.”

After connecting with gospel aficionado Lecrea, PRo was introduced to Reach Records. His first studio project on the label was Redemption, and during the production of this album things began to click for PRo on a deeper level.

“I was being introduced to some interesting concepts,” he comments. "The fact that God was more than just this Sunday school or fly by night God, but he is a God who loves his people enough to sacrifice it all. I just wanted to share that with the world. That's where Redemption came from.”

PRo has launched an independent record label, Reflection Music Group, and his second studio project, Dying to Live, debuted #3 on the iTunes Hip Hop and Rap charts and #7 over all of iTunes.  It also was #1 on the Christian Billboard chart and  #2 on the Gospel charts.



Cicely V. Teal

Cicely V. Teal

Cicely V. Teal graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a B.A. in Communication and Depaul Univeristy with a M.A in Journalism. She contributed to and maintained a column at N’Digo Magapaper, and wrote for Urban Influence Magazine, Breaking Tweets, The DePaulia and The Independent. She also worked on documentary projects at WTTW channel 11, children’s television programming at WCIU-TV and African American programming at Central City Productions.

She is a blogger and studies web analytics, social networking strategies and integrated marketing at the University of Chicago.

She can be contacted at