Mike Rimmer went to a Black Country housing estate to meet hip-hop duo FRUITS
Somewhere in an estate deep in the heart of the Black Country, just outside Britain's second city, I have managed to meet up with the Birmingham-based hip-hop duo Fruits. Even with Sat Nav, this hasn't been an easy feat. HMD and Frikshun are busy guys running their own multi-media ministry and music is only one small part of things. With busy schedules, it's 10.30pm before we get to meet and chat and discover the talents behind their debut album 'First Fruits'.
HMD is the rapper, stringing up the raps and HMD predominantly works on the beats. I grabbed a look at them live at a showcase as part of the Gospel Summit in Birmingham and an energetic performance included Frikshun doubling as the duo's hype-man, interacting with the crowd and setting the scene for HMD's live work. It hasn't always been that way, Frikshun confesses. "There was a time where I wouldn't even venture on stage, I was really behind the scenes, doing my work in the studio, and I'd leave 'H' on stage by himself. But we kind of grew into a place where we seen a need for it man. Just the backing up and the support. Two's better than one, you know? So yeah, there was definitely a need for it."
The pair were friends long before either of them knew Jesus. HMD explains, "I never had a producer that was as prolific as myself and I really desired to have a producer. Whenever I had someone making beats, the best ones always went to other people. I was always getting the secondary batch, you know what I mean? Then I wanted to make music with someone where we're a duo and I'm a primary person in the group. I get first picks. That's what I desired. A mutual friend just introduced us really. He brought me to Frik's house and we just clicked straightaway. I heard the beats. I was just spitting raps over them and it was like I was test-driving his beats for him. He was just hearing and seeing the potential of a lot of his beats. I was just seeing the potential of a lot of the raps that I was writing. It was just big and from there we grew and became friends, doing what we're doing."
It was Frikshun who became a Christian first. "I gave my life to the Lord initially in 1999," he recalls. "It took place in my friend's flat, in the bathroom. We were just sat there doing some stuff. You know, smoking and drinking and just chillin'? One of our friends who was a Christian at the time, he left a video there. It was an evangelistic video by Barry Smith. We was very interested in it because he was talking about the whole Masonry thing - Luminati - and we was drawn to that. But for me personally, I never made the link to Christ. It's like I had the sum but never added it up. The way this guy strung it together, he added it up. It was so clear to me, the link between the two. I knew about the mark of the beast. I knew about all that kind of stuff but I just never made the link to Christ. That night the Lord really revealed himself to me and I was heavily convicted. I just had to go in the bathroom and sit down on the toilet and pray for forgiveness. I remember Barry Smith leading people on the video through the Lord's prayer, the prayer of salvation. I just prayed like I never prayed before. But it took me two years to really give my life to the Lord fully. To fully commit my ways to him. It was 2002 that I started attending a church and really walking as a Christian. So it was 2002 that I really gave my life."
So how did HMD feel when Frikshon became a Christian? "I hadn't seen him for a while. I can't remember what happened but I remember seeing him down at the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham and he was buying a ring. Getting engaged! I thought like, woah! Getting engaged? Right. Big move! But he'd been saved and he was moving in that direction. But he still never shunned me, we just never seen each other as much. We still was kind of moving together because he still was making music but then he started getting serious. He's got a kind of fix up and kind of more dedicated and that kind of made me feel like. . I felt a bit left out because directly, he was in a lot of my plans. Do you get what I'm saying? Like our lives was one. To say, boom, we're gonna make it like this! We had a record label together and it was all plans of grandeur and just making it. So when I found out that he was really serious about God, I felt left out. But for myself I was already on a journey. I was on a personal journey as well.
"We went to an event at the Bethel Convention Centre in West Bromwich and it was a Christian event. It was rappers and singers and all that kind of stuff. As we were sitting down there I just knew that we were meant to be doing this stuff. It was funny because we both knew that we were meant to be doing a positive thing; like a God thing. But we weren't IN God. But I was sitting down and Spanna was on the show and Witness was on the show. And I was looking and I knew that this was what I'm supposed to be doing. So gently that transition was being made in my heart. But in that January he took the step. In that January I started fixing up but I never took the step, you know what I mean? It took for me to go through that year and certain different things happened in my life; I just really got brought to a place of being a broken man and having a broken heart and contrite spirit. I was in that place and I had to really recognise the Lord as Lord and sought his help and he helped me. I turned back from then."
The first time I came across Fruits was on the 'Gospel For U' compilation which highlighted some of the talent in the West Midlands. The song they released was the memorable "Crackers", which really stood out on that CD because it was such a crazy song. Those CDs helped a lot of local artists and that kick-started Fruits a little bit. HMD responds, "That was the first song that we had recorded and the way it got written. I had to phone up my friend and ask, 'Jacob, was he in Canaan?'" He laughs, "It had to be Biblically sound!. . to get that understanding of it. Then the song kind of just wrote itself so to speak. Just a real in-your-face track. That's how I was led to write it. It's truly opened up many doors. It's been very effective in evangelism. Very effective in convicting those that are calling us crackers so to speak. So it has really opened doors for us."
The duo go by the name Fruits because they are amazed by the different colours, flavours, shapes, tastes and textures of fruits. "It kind of represents what we're about," says Frikshun. "We were looking for a name for the group and we were searching different things and venturing down different avenues and it was all sounding so cliché. We just really didn't want that. I remember, it must have been late at night and I got a phone call from 'H' and he was like, 'I've got the name!' I got that he was excited; 'I got the name! I got the name!' He was like 'Listen to this. . Fruits!' And then he started like, I could hear him flicking through his Bible just drawing pure Scripture; 'You shall know them by their fruit', 'The fruits of the Spirit', 'The fruit of our lips'. . just pure Scriptures. I remember he'd gone through his Strong's concordance and he was saying, 'Look at how many pages!' And what we seen is that it's a concurrent theme throughout the Bible. I was like, yeah man that's the name! That is the name!'"
He elaborates, "We've been blessed with it. Since we've had that name it's kind of just landed and so much stuff has come out of it. It even sounds like a pun. So much stuff has grown from it. It's been a seed that's been planted and stuff's just grown and developed. It's big man!"
So before they were Christians, they were making music to make money. I tease them that like many in the hip-hop field, it's all about being hugely successful so that they get to make those videos with the big cars and the half-naked women. HMD replies candidly, "Definitely. For myself, when I got saved I got brought to a place where I'd lost my desire to do this music thing. In the week running up to me getting saved a Sony record company called me and said that they liked the material that I'd given them probably around two months prior in a press pack. They wanted to hear more and I weren't even fully on a spiritual level then but I kind of just discerned that it was the Enemy. I discerned that it wasn't God. I just sensed the irony in it. All this time I've been trying to make it and I haven't really had much breakthroughs, but now I'm being serious about stepping to God I'm getting these calls! So I thought, you know something, if it's God's will that I make it in music I know that heaven and earth cannot pass away without it occurring. So if it's a God thing that I'm meant to do this I'm gonna just carry on. I'm just gonna carry on past this and just let God do it in him. So basically I just moved past it. Kind of lost my desire for it. Kind of just found Christ."
He continues, "To tell the truth, to do music before was a sense of escapism. A sense of filling the void as well that existed but when Christ came into my heart and the fulfilment of his Spirit and just getting to know him and having peace with God just made me full as a person. So it was like, that gap was filled now so I never needed music to fill that gap so to speak. Really I decided if I didn't do music again, I'm cool! People would ask me and say, 'But you can do gospel rap. You can do this and you can do that.' For me it was like, I don't want to rap for God if God ain't told me to rap for him. I didn't want to just rap from the same old spring. You know what I mean? I wanted the spring to be changed. It's a different desire not a different concept because I could rap with new concepts and rap about the Bible, from the OLD well. So I wanted that uprooted and for it to be God-led. When I got to a place like, it was fully on the altar then I was detached from it because I didn't care. But I started getting too comfortable in that idea and then God started to really show me and lead me and encourage me and speak to me. I got confirmation so I knew I was meant to do this. So the game plan changed but it changed for the better because the old motive and intention, the old ethos of why we made music disappeared and now it is about worship and glorifying God. It's about more than us because it was quite self-centred before. Quite conceited before. But now it's about him and about others and about exposing the Lord to those that don't know him in a very urban and untraditional, very relevant way."
So where does God want them to minister? Frikshun answers, "We've ministered in many different environments. We've gone in young offenders' institutes and ministered to some of the hardest-to-reach young people. It's been challenging but through the songs it's broke up the ice. It's got their attention and we've had an opportunity to just speak the Word in a relevant way. We've also been in large churches in front of large congregations of Christians and taken a song off the album that has ministered to Christian folk."
HMD jumps in, "What I recognise is that every gift is given for the building of the body of Christ. At the start we was predominantly seen that we had a mandate just to evangelise and to share the Word of God with the lost and to reach those that didn't know Christ. But as we started to grow and mature in our walk and get understanding, especially for myself as a minister, I started to see that it's not only about people becoming saved but being maintained as well and being sustained and being built up and making disciples of all men."
HMD sums it up, "So it is a twofold thing in a way because Jesus said, 'Make disciples of ALL men.' So yeah, you evangelise to get them to come in but then they need to be discipled. Basically that's a twofold thing anyway. So for us, our ministry is about building up those that need encouragement, those that need to be released to walk in the fullness of Christ in their walk. But those also that are yet to know him, that are mighty men of valour in eternity but in real time they need to become saved first to become that."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.