Rapper and R&B artist Sir the Baptist is the preacher’s son who’s bringing a message of love to the hip hop world. We got a chat with him after his show at Nalen in Stockholm and talked about distinctive influences, the importance of style and how to evolve the hip hop scene into positivity.
Your show is a dj-set combined with rap and insightful talks to the audience. I sense that you have a mission with your performances as well as your music, to influence your listeners and evolve a scene that might have been trapped in a destructive archetype. What’s your own thoughts on this?
“Wow, what an amazing question right out of the gate. The flaws in hip hop culture today are immense. But I more so want to try to tap into the good that exists in all of us to overshadow the destructive and manipulative culture that surrounds religion and hip hop today.”
How would you like to evolve the hip hop scene and the patterns within?
“I hope that I can be similar to John the Baptist – a voice crying out in the wilderness. In a scene full of misogyny and lack of morals, I simply hope to be an alternative option. Something that people can turn too when they are sick of the gimmicks and want a more holistic representation of their lives in their music.”
What do you want to achieve with your shows, as a completion to your recordings?
“The shows are very special to me because it allows for a dialogue with the fans. I love the recording studio and the production and writing of the songs. But being able to feed off of the crowd’s energy and really be able to have a discussion with them on society today, the music and more is special. My father was a preacher in Chicago. While I don’t preach from the pulpit, this is my version of being able to address powerful issues and hopefully benefit someone in the room.”
You grew up as a preachers child in the historic jazz district Bronzeville, in a neighborhood surrounded by violence. Tell me about this childhood full of contrasts.
“Growing up in Bronzeville was special. Bronzeville was the home of Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and many more legends after they migrated north in the Great Migration. So the music history is very rich. But then there also was the gang culture and street life that permeated the neighborhood. So I really grew up and lived in the church, but still heard the hip hop and 808s through the stained glass.”
Your mother went to a music school, now she’s touring with you and almost gets the most cheers when you bring her up on stage. How has your family’s interest in music influenced you?
“My entire family was musical and were a big inspiration on my growth as an artist. I have 21 brothers and sisters, so there were always plenty of influences around haha. But growing up in the church always helped me playing drums or singing or doing something musical. Now that I’ve been touring and on the road more, I just want to give experiences and moments back to my mother by taking her on tour. And she loves it!”
What do you bring from your childhood into your music?
“Mission. I try to create mission-driven music and this was instilled in me by my parents growing up.”
What music did you listen to as a child?
Early on in life, when growing up in the church, I listened to a lot of sermons and gospel music as you might imagine. But then after my father died when I was 11 years old, it allowed me to find a whole other world of music – Jay Z, Tupac, Outkast and so many others! My music today is really a blend of these two sounds and approaches, each of which is very personal and authentic to me.”
What made you start making music?
“I always had the bug to be a songwriter. From the time that I was 5-6 years old I was writing songs and performing. As I got older, I started to write songs for other artists in Chicago and also started writing jingles for brands. This led me to take a job at global advertising agency Leo Burnett, in which I scored music for Shrek, McDonald’s and many others. But ultimately I had so much music that was too personal and I had to release it as an artist.”
As you enter stage, you seem to have a scene personality opposite from your private person. How has your courage emerged?
“I think this was instilled in me by my father. He was a preacher and the best performer that I’ve ever seen. So this inspired me to try to do the same. But I truly just love performing and feel like it’s such an amazing opportunity to get in front of people, perform my music and speak my mind. Not only does it give me energy and happiness, it gives me hope for all of us when seeing the amazing crowd give/take that energy.”
Your music is complex, multifaceted and full of influences from both hiphop, r’n’b, pop and gospel. It can’t be limited to any genre in particular, but nevertheless it’s dynamic. What’s the core of your music?
“I think the simplest way to describe my music would be if Jay Z or Tupac were taken to church. You get the hip hop and pop culture, but always over stomps, claps, choir and all. I really was inspired by this same mix. On one side it was Golden Gate Quartet, Louis Armstrong and Aretha Franklin. And the other was Jay Z, Outkast and Tupac. All of these artists had an agenda and deeper message behind their music, which I certainly try to convey.”
I sense you have an interest in fashion and style. Why is that important?
“People might try to not judge a book by the cover, but image, fashion and style is very important for how you present yourself. This is true for anyone, but especially for a recording artist. Just like the music, I try to keep the fashion as authentic as possible. I came from a church with Baptist robes and church shoes. But I also come from urban streetwear and a nice new pair of Jordans on your feet.”
What do you want to communicate with your clothes and style?
“Excellence and originality.”
Is your style another expression of an urge to evolve the hip hop scene into another direction?
“I feel like overall, my style is unlike other hip hop and R&B artists. Some other artists are inspired by church. Or some artists might have a similar background to myself. But no one has the same experiences or has been shaped by my experiences in the same way. I hope that I can be a vehicle of change, just one piece of a larger movement, in hip hop to inspire a shift and progression towards more positivity and a focus on global issues. No one artist can take on this task, but I hope to be one spark in the fire that is about to come.”
#1/6 Blazer by H&M Studio, shirt by H&M Edition, trousers by H&M Studio
#2 Jumper by H&M Studio
#3 Shirt by H&M Studio, trousers by H&M Studio
#4 Coat by H&M Studio, shirt by H&M Studio, trousers by H&M Studio, shoes by H&M
#5 Shirt by H&M Studio, trousers by H&M Studio