Rapper Kevin Burgess (better known as KB) talks about each song on his latest album 'Tomorrow We Live'.
The latest album from KB 'Tomorrow We Live', released on 21st April by Reach Records, is set to become the emcee's most successful release so far. The rapper, from St Petersburg, Florida, was born in July 1998. At birth, the doctor didn't think he'd ever be able to talk or even speak clearly. Fortunately, KB was able to overcome this ailment, but hip-hop was frowned upon in his household, forcing the youngster to seek a safer instrument for musical expression. KB explained, "I grew up in a structured military family. In my house, you couldn't listen to hip-hop. I used to hide in a closet and listen to it on my Walkman."
KB was barely a teenager when his parents divorced and seemingly overnight he was ripped from a structured safe family-first environment to a single parent household in a rundown community in Southside St Petersburg. Recalled the rapper, "All of a sudden it was just me and mom smack dab in the middle of the hood." It was an overwhelming stressful situation for everyone but especially for a teenager. KB struggled to find his place. A naturally skilled learner, he was at the top of his class. But for all his effort, both positive and negative, there came opposition for a young man trying to tackle his own demons - the biggest obstacle being the loss of a father to a nasty divorce. KB tried to fill the void with anything from sports and gambling to dabbling with drugs and everything in-between. Struggling with anger, he'd often get into street fights. It wasn't until he found faith and rediscovered hip-hop, the contraband music from his childhood, that KB would find his place.
Quite literally being the youngest man on a college campus made it difficult for KB to find friends with similar interests so when he heard about another student that was really into hip-hop, KB promptly sought him out and challenged him to a battle. KB said, "I remember him saying, 'I don't do that. I do Christian rap.' And I was struck by that and blown away that he didn't qualify it. I never in my life met someone our age that would lead with their Christianity." Two weeks later, KB approached the kid again in the lunchroom. He noticed a CD on the table. On the cover of the album was a rapper with tattoos everywhere, your standard hip-hop gold chain and dreadlocks. KB challenged his new young friend. "Dude, I thought you were a Christian, why you listening to Lil' Wayne?" He was shocked with the response. "No. This is Christian. This dude's a believer. Listen to this," his friend replied. KB took the album home and was surprised to experience his first Christian rap album. And it was good. In fact, it was great! The music was a bridge for KB. Through the music, KB discovered the message. And in that moment, KB realized that he wanted to know God for himself and soon after he enrolled in Bible College. Explained KB, "We find ourselves looking in dumpsters for food, but really the true bread is God. Nothing could make me feel safe, not even weapons. The very thing it's supposed to be providing which is safety makes you feel more in danger. When I discovered God, I felt safe for the first time in my life."
KB spent four years at Trinity College studying theology with plans on missionary work in Brazil. But in the latter part of his time at Trinity, KB would be pulled in another direction, back to the music that was the bridge to his salvation. With a group of friends, KB formed a rap group titled His Glory Alone (HGA).
HGA would create quite the following. Among the growing flock of fans were Reach Records' founders Ben Washer and Lecrae. KB was invited to join Lecrae on tour and within a year had inked his first recording contract with Reach Records. In 2011, KB released his debut mixtape 'Who Is KB'? He followed that debut with his first solo album, 'Weight & Glory' in 2012. He's been featured on his labelmates' projects including Lecrae's album 'Rehab' ("I Used to Do it Too"), Trip Lee's 'The Good Life' ("One Sixteen") and Andy Mineo's 'Heroes For Sale' ("The Saints"). And he's since toured extensively and released the EP '100'.
KB hopes that 'Tomorrow We Live' will be a soundtrack of inspiration for those struggling with hurts and problems. In fact, the rapper calls his album "a mantra of the struggle." He said, "On a grand scale that's along the belief that God is going to wrap up history with a grand finale that will make sense of all the suffering throughout human history and it will show that good overcomes evil where we'll be in perfection throughout eternity. But also the title works thematically in a practical sense. Nothing is devastating. Hope is bigger."
I wrote this song last year, soon after the birth of my son. I remember thinking, this is what it means to be rich. It's a confidence that money is too cheap to provide, for it's much better than money itself. It's contentment, not excess, that makes a man happy. it's that worry‐free satisfaction in what God has given you. The Bible continually uses that analogy of "riches" to help us understand who God is and what he does for his people. Rich in mercy, the riches of his grace, rich towards God, etc, because everyone understands money - it's a perfect reference point to help us feel how incredibly blessed we are to know Jesus. Poor people are folks who need a lot, the truly rich have all they need because it's found in God. This is why I point out in the song that some of the wealthiest among us are often the most impoverished. because money, thought very good, comes with "wings." It's easily here and easily gone. It promises satisfaction, but often lets us down hard. To set your happiness on it is foolish. We believe to set your happiness on immaterial richness in God is what it means to live "rich forever."
"Sideways ftg Lecrae"
"Sideways" is a song for the strange. Those whose lives, for good reason, cause other people to do a double take, scratch their head and rethink their stereotypes. When people meet me, they find out I am very different from what they expected: I do hip‐hop, yet I have a degree in theology, I'm a young man, yet I'm married with children, I'm a Christian, yet versed in the culture. None of this because I'm so special. In fact, I'm not concerned about garnering hate because of my swag, status or affiliations. I'm the man I am today because I'm leaning on the grace of God. I "get turnt, get lit sideways" because I'm set ablaze by truth and shining the light in the dark. So with this song, I want to invite people to embrace the strangeness that comes with a love for Jesus and doing good.
" "I Believe ftg Mattie of For Today"
This song was inspired from the chant that team USA was using in the World Cup. It's an anthem that says, "We will persevere, we will stand firm, we will conquer." I wrote the song to capture that large stadium feel where a crowd is pregnant with anticipation and confident that their team will bring home the win. The chant was iconic and culturally moving, especially around the time of the World Cup, and while it isn't an original chant of mine, it does sum up the feel and theme of the album: it is one of hope. While it can feel like we are losing right now with the incredible amount of evil happening in the world, it can look like God is behind on the scorecard, we believe it is in this type of uncertainty and darkness that faith thrives the best. So it is when we are down, getting back up is the sweetest. So "I Believe" is a chant that looks to the future and does not let go of hope and will inspire people to hold on.
" (9 AM) "
Coming off my morning jog I walk inside, my wife is cooking and I ask where the baby is; the baby is awake and I pick him up out of his crib. From there it transitions into the song he inspired, "Fall In Love With You".
"Fall In Love With You"
This is one of my favourite songs! Shortly after my son was born, I had a trip scheduled to South Africa to work on my album and do some concerts and when we went out there, there was inspiration everywhere! I wrote it in my friend's backyard and just looked up at these incredible mountains and admired God's work. So the song is designed to replicate the emotion that I feel when I see or think about my son. Soft, passionate, relentless love for a child is something I have never felt before. I sing the entire song musically - first time I have ever done that. Cobra did the production and it came out precisely how I wanted it to. But the highlight was at the end of the song, I got to record my son's first word, "Papa."
"Always & Forever"
This is the wedding song! I go to weddings all the time and have walked a lot of brothers through the process of engagement and marriage. I myself am in a marriage that I love and it's a concept that is very near and dear to my heart. Cobra had a disco song and I heard it and wanted to do something with it. So Natalie and I tried to bring in all our wedding reception experiences into a song. Musically it is something different, it's a feel good, modern‐day funk record. I hope it will encourage people to marry when the time is right (of course). It's celebrating the beauty of marriage through song and trying to change the narrative of the "old ball and chain" into what marriage should be: a beautiful life-long union between two lovers.
"Ima Just Do It ftg Bubba Watson"
I wrote this track in Africa and we were literally going for some chicken one night - we wanted to make a song that's just a phrase, just something simple. Then in our conversation we casually started using, "Ima just do it." After saying it randomly for a few days, we invited natives to repeat the phrase and then we formed an entire song. It became about taking risks in relationships, and in life, living by faith and not by fear. I have a guest appearance by the great Bubba Watson, a professional golfer. While he is a golfer, he likes to rap, so I we worked on a verse and he came in and slayed it. The song is about risk‐taking and just "doing it," so we did just that, having a golfer on a hip-hop song!
"Cruising" represents leaving the wedding reception on my way home and cruising through the city and being introspective. It concludes with a chant about going to bed with no fear. it was originally called "Thoughts Before I Sleep". The song talks about, even while there is great terror and evil and issues in the world that threaten my tomorrow, I can sleep fine because I know God is in control. I think it gives the listener a sense of ease and rest to face the night.
This song would take place around 3AM and it's about a guy from my community named Craig who came back from the war and is struggling with suicide. He lost his family, his kids, isn't fighting in the war anymore, and is struggling to fit in with civilian affairs. He texts me and says he is ready to end his life. I call him, he isn't answering his phone and so I go to his house. this song is me telling the story about what happens. It was actually inspired by a true story of a friend who was a part of my community before he went to the Middle East. We were close for some time and I would find him at my house just reading the Bible and then he went overseas and our friendship changed. When he was away, it became hard to communicate, whether it was due to timing, connection issues or what‐have‐you. So when he came home he was angry and felt like he was betrayed. Then one night after being home for several months, he took his life. I went to his apartment right after it happened and met with his family and was utterly at a loss for words. I had no idea he was so far gone. I wasn't as sympathetic as I wished I would have been when he was alive, and so I wrote a song based on that incident and explored some of the intricacies of that night.
"Save Me" is an interlude that goes right into "Drowning." There is something very intense that happens in the previous song ("Calling You") that stirs the listener, so this interlude gives listeners a moment to breathe.
"Drowning" is about the universal feeling of being underwater, under pressure and needing to be rescued, and pointing to Jesus to pull us up. At one time I got to a point where I didn't want to live - so this song is really about turning to God to lift us out of those dark situations.
"Lights Go Out ftg Blanca and Justin Ebach"
As an artist, it's common to personify a thing, like fame or money... so for me, I wanted to do that for my love for God's people, so I named a woman Cece and rapped about my love for Cece and my commitment to her. It is also a response to everyone's claims about the hypocrisy of Christians and using it as a reason to throw faith out with the bath water, not considering that "the existence of hypocrites doesn't prove the nonexistence of true believers." And besides, the reason we are all at the church in the beginning is because we need help with our hypocrisy. I understand that, and I'm saying I am going to commit myself to her no matter how bad it hurts. I'm saying, "So what? I love her and I'm never going to leave her." Not just the church, but the world. I want to bear with them, love them and sacrifice for them.
"Crowns & Thorns (Oceans) "
This song is sampling Hillsong's "Oceans" - they miraculously let me use their song and I just made a hip-hop track version of it. The song is about how we should no longer "pad the cross" and make Christianity more comfortable and less sacrificial. As an American, I value security and middle class status. you very easily get to a place where you structure your life so you never have to sacrifice anything. Every decision is filtered through what puts me the most at ease, when it should be about what can I do to further the Kingdom of God, whether it be with my money, time or life. We are told to believe in Scripture that sacrificing is more valuable than holding on and so that is what this song is about, and my struggle with it. Because in all honesty it is difficult, I love myself - we all love ourselves, so thinking of surrendering it all to Christ is sometimes hard - you want to do what is easy (ie, sacrifice Sunday morning but not the rest of the week). It's a constant challenge for every believer. So I tried to write it from a perspective where the listener walks through it with me, but we resolve it by taking it to the Cross.
"Find Your Way" " This song is my tribute to my sisters. We live in a world where there are so many ways for a woman to define herself and find herself and I want her to find THE way - God's way. In the midst of magazines and media, I believe women are probably the most attacked people group in this nation. They are assaulted regularly with impossible standards and are over-sexualized. I believe womanhood is in great trouble and I have always felt a sense of brotherly love for my sisters, so I wanted to make a song about it.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.