Tony Cummings spoke at length to rapper NU-CLEAR HODGE
The American hip-hop and the British grime and drill scenes are continuing to flourish and, over the years, the Christian rappers in these scenes have grown from a few sincere but often cheesy musical evangelists into a veritable army of emcees flooding the internet with their singles and videos. One of the most intriguing figures to emerge recently into this particular creative arena is Stoke-on-Trent-based rapper Nu-clear Hodge, whose "Scriptural" has made the xRhythms playlist. He visited the Cross Rhythms studios recently.
Tony: Tell me a bit about yourself.
Nu-clear: "I've lived in Stoke-on-Trent for about two and a half years. I was born in Yorkshire. I grew up in loads of different towns and cities within Yorkshire. I spent a lot of my life in jail, in fact I found God in a prison cell. I find that therapy - venting and understanding things - from someone to talk to, and I find that teaching as an adult going through lots of situations, I can educate younger people and people around me about stuff that I've grown on and also about wisdom as well."
Tony: I understand you became a Christian in Leeds Prison. How did that come about?
Nu-clear: "Before I knew that the Lord existed, I knew the Enemy, the Devil, existed. I had to test that first.
Tony: Those who are committed to the Devil claim he gives you power.
Nu-clear: "Yeah, they lofted the things of the world, they lofted the money, the objects of the world, the desires of your heart. But the thing is, he's not satisfying your soul or your spirit. And you'll have that void and that emptiness. You see it with a lot of drug addicts - they're looking for acceptance, they're looking for a family, they're looking just to fill that void and that emptiness. And drugs can fill that emptiness for a temporary time but it comes with a matter of control, with a matter of manipulation."
Tony: When you finally called on God in that cell, was there an instant answer?
Nu-clear: "I felt peace and I knew that this was real for me. I believe that God works in ways that you can prove to yourself when you're not at a stage where you can prove to others. Because it's not about other people knowing, it's about blind faith. You have to live by faith, by the things you can't see. At first it was trusting them things with God, so when I asked God to send his peace upon me and I confessed Jesus' name in my heart and I repented my sins and I cried out and I got on my knees, I asked him truly from my heart. And that peace that surpasses all understanding, it came over me. Even though I was in some chaotic place, where every couple of weeks someone's hanging themselves, people are dying, I had peace, People could tell I've been around darkness so they kind of left me. It's not about the physicality, it's about what you can't see.
"Understanding the works of darkness as much as I don't understand them at all, because it is all about confusion, death, decay, destruction. As much as you think you know, you wouldn't know anything. In a state of confusion, just trying to comprehend what step to take next. When I came under spiritual attack, it was hard to distinguish what was spiritual attack."
Tony: Sounds like you've had to eat a lot of humble crumble.
Nu-clear: "Yeah, it's best to always get a slice but I think it all comes down to the actions of your heart. If you've got a wicked heart, it will show from time to time."
Tony: When did the rapping start?
Nu-clear: "I've done it from a young age. I've probably been spitting lyrics and writing bars for about 17 years. I guess when I got into rapping and stuff, there wasn't even internet. People were breakdancing on cardboard at the back of shops and stuff like that. But I believe any sort of form of expression is a form of art, and the truth resonates. There's elements of hip-hop where it's about knowledge, about setting people free. I think speaking things, and not speaking corruption and stupidness in people's lives, that resonates.
"I wouldn't even see it as gospel rapping. I'd love to have some gospel involved in it, but I say the moment of truth is just seeking truth myself, and understanding that if I want people to listen, anybody to listen, instead of coming with anything flowery or anything superficial, I have to speak something that holds some weight, speaking from my heart and something that's strong. The only thing that I know to be truth is the Word of God. It isn't just the words of God in the Bible, but the words of God in social situations, within environmental situations."
Tony: Is there a particular moment when that was beginning to come through in the raps you were writing?
Nu-clear: "I just think the more time I take away from the old life, it says in the Bible you severed the old man and now the new person's here, I think the more I turn away from the old person I was before and walk in my new self, in my born again creation, and walk in my new life, I believe that's where I can. . . I can't take people where I haven't been.
Tony: Have you got a team around you now?
Nu-clear: "I've got a few people I work with, I work with. Venombase Studios. A lot of analogue equipment. The best sort of stuff I've done, I've tried all these studios around Stoke-on-Trent and as soon as I've made tracks with this guy Chris Dulson, we've got them on radio straight away. He's got that perfect sound. Sometimes you can have all the gear and no idea. It's more about keeping it simple.
"I spend a lot of time crafting. I just want to craft the message, I don't want to bring out quantity, I want to bring out quality. If the message is strong, the track might be one minute and 30 seconds long, I find the quality over quantity speaks louder, Jesus spoke in metaphors because people were hard of hearing. People didn't see the things they were supposed to see."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.