KB: “One Day Struggle Will End and #TomorrowWeLive “

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By: Gordie Tamayo

Coming straight off the momentum from his latest EP 100 which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Christian Album Chart, #4 on Billboard’s Rap Chart and respectfully at #22 on Billboard’s coveted Top 200 Album Chart, South Florida native KB is ushering in his latest endeavor #TomorrowWeLive slated to hit the market 04/21/15. With a sound he is dubbing as ‘World Trap’, KB ventures into the reality of human struggle within 13 tracks, ultimately encompassing the truth that hope trumps any form of devastation.

‘One day the struggle will end and #TomorrowWeLive

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Who is KB? (Bio courtesy of ReachRecords.com)

KB Tomorrow We Live Perhaps the most influential jazz musician ever, Louis Armstrong was born to a mother who often turned to prostitution and was son to a father who abandoned him soon after he was born. Johnny Cash, the “Man in Black,” was born into a family of sharecroppers and by the age of 12 was spending his days hauling heavy loads of cotton. If one inspects the formative years of artists and musicians often a common thread he would find is that early on, music appeared as the last thing on the list as for an ultimate destination.

Kevin Burgess, now better known by his stage name KB, is a rapper. His first album would debut at #1 on Billboard’s Christian Album Chart, #4 on Billboard’s Rap Chart and respectfully at #22 on Billboard’s coveted Top 200 Album Chart. He’s won a Dove Award (Nominated twice), been a Recording Academy featured artist on Grammy.com and has received critical acclaim from his peers and media such as Billboard Magazine and The Blaze. He’s toured nationally with Tenth Avenue North and is scheduled to join Trip Lee for the upcoming “The Rise Tour.” But like so many musicians that came before him, KB, the rapper, almost never happened.

At birth, the doctor didn’t think he’d ever be able to talk or at the least, 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. “I grew up in a structured military family. In my house, you couldn’t listen to hip-hop,” KB explains. “I used to hide in a closet and listen to it on my Walkman.” KB hails from Tampa, FL by way of an Air Force base close to East St. Louis. Along the way, KB, thirsting for an outlet for his love of music with a desperate need for expression, picked up the trumpet. Fast forward to the present and KB has already released a mixtape, a widely successful debut album and is working on his second hip-hop studio album. And in what was once considered the disfavored music of his childhood, KB has discovered redemption.

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, FL. “All of a sudden it was just me and mom smack dab in the middle of the hood,” KB recalls. 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. Ironically, at first, it came in the form of dreadlocks.

Despite his personal struggles, and with the love of a strong loving mother, KB was a gifted student and through an accelerated program, he entered college early while still technically only in his junior year of high school. “My mother is and was an incredible women, who I respect deeply and her faith has had a profound impact on me,” KB explains.

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 says, “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. “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,” explains KB.

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 studio album titled, “Weight and Glory” in 2012. He’s been featured on his label mates’ projects including Lecrae’s album Rehab (“I Used to Do it Too”), Trip Lee’s The Good Life (“One Sixteen”) and on Andy Mineo’s Heroes for Sale (“The Saints”). And he’s since toured the world over. His last EP, titled “100,” a message focused collection, had fans celebrating the belief that what you do isn’t nearly as important as who you do it for.

And as they say, the rest is history except in the case of Reach Records, KB and his label mates, it isn’t. It’s history-making. Reach Records sales are approaching two million records and the label has acquired a distribution deal with Sony Music Entertainment’s RED. Its success rivals any contemporary hip-hop label. Reach Records dominated 2014 with three Grammy nominations, chart topping releases, high profile television appearances and performances and worldwide touring success.

KB is currently recording his next highly anticipated album titled Tomorrow We Live. He calls its theme a “mantra of the struggle.” And since no one is exempt from the struggles of life, he hopes it’s a soundtrack of inspiration. It’s this idea that one day the struggle will end and Tomorrow We Live. “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 t 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,” KB excitedly shares.

He’s traveled as far as South Africa to get perspective for this album. Together with his production team “Cobra” and the incredibly talented songwriter Natalie Lauren, KB escaped to Capetown and began working on Tomorrow We Live. “We went up into the mountains overlooking the ocean and just started writing. We’ve been working with local musicians too. We created this beautiful sound that I’m calling World Trap. It’s a combination of a big world global sound combined with a South Florida trap element.” Through music, KB has found direction, a mission and a calling. Tomorrow We Live just may be someone else’s bridge to salvation.

Tracklisting.

TomorrowWeLive_Tracklist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-order Tomorrow We Live on iTunes or Amazon

KB’s New Album “Tomorrow We Live” Coming 4.21.15

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#116 Life with Brad Smith

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An Unashamed Interview with Brad Smith

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Bio

My wife, Priscilla, and I are part of what I would call, “the overlooked”: people you may never see or know that make up the “action” of the bride of Christ. Called by God to serve and love the tattoo industry/culture, and the body of Christ (church bodies), we are seeing a rapid acceptance in the community that our tattoo shop works in and the acceptance of fellow believers that support us from all types of denominations!

I LOVE to love my wife. I love to take her on adventures to different places all across the nation, and it’s a joy to have been blessed with such a great woman of God. She runs the tattoo shop, and she will be the best mother one day. I look forward to many adventures with her as we get old.I have such a desire and passion for the tattoo culture around the world. I love tattooing, meeting new people, and creating life-long friendships. I am a neo-traditional tattoo artist, studying both realism and illustrative works in tattoo culture.

Interview

Tell us a little bit about the path to where you are today.
I grew up in church, but couldn’t grasp a relationship with Christ at my young age. If I was a Christian, why did I want to do everything I wasn’t supposed to? I was supposed to be a new creation in Christ, but always fell short. I had no knowledge of how to live and fight spiritual battles, let alone understand God’s abounding grace; church seemed very fake and rule-based. I was deceived to think Christians were hypocrites and decided I didn’t want any part of it. During my early 20’s, I destroyed my life and other lives by ruining my first marriage with alcohol abuse and living selfishly. I found my identity in money and possessions. By the time I was 27, I was done running. I never stopped believing in Christ, but realized I also was not dying to the flesh and living for Him. I became sold out to His Word and Will at age 28, which spawned a reckless way of loving people that most would deem unlovable.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

I try to go with His flow as much as possible. I wake up with some form of worship or study, and I do my appointments that my wife schedules for me each week. I believe I am there to speak into people’s lives when needed or to listen and be a friend. If led by the Spirit, I will pray over people, or sometimes they just need to know you’re okay with where they are right now and not judge them. (Ephesians 2:4-5) If I can’t accept a non-believer as they are, how will they be able to believe Christ is accessible to them in their state?

Being a shop owner is part of my work as well. I currently have 2 apprentices and 2 other full-time artists in the shop, so teaching is part of my everyday schedule. Whether that’s letting an apprentice tattoo my own leg, teaching how to price tattoos, or talking selling strategy, I’m always here to help. I want to leave a legacy – not just with my art and my own work, but through the artists that I help raise up and teach.

Do you have a specific moment when you realized that you wanted to be a tattoo artist?

My specific moment is more of a time period, maybe 5 years ago, when I decided to become a full-time artist. My family was very much against the idea, through no fault of their own – parents tend to want the best for their kids (security, good jobs, etc.). Two years into living for Christ, I became restless. I was working construction full-time and at a shop part-time. I saw it as an open door to radically change a subculture supernaturally. One day, I tattooed my knuckles and quit my day job. Since then, I have been tattooing full-time.

What risks or hard decisions have you had to make to live unashamed?

The biggest risk for me has been the fact that some people may not like me. I am a recovering people-pleaser. Anytime you stand up for Christ or are led to pray over someone, whether they are saved or not saved, you risk looking foolish. This is a growing process and being covered in tattoos makes this even harder! Many circles associate the tattoo culture as demonic, and it can be. Music, for example, when inspired by the Holy Spirit is life breathed, reviving us and building one another in the Love of God. Likewise, it can be perverted to breed the opposite. This is no different in tattoo culture. I believe all my tattoos are God-inspired regardless of contrary opinions(Matt 15:11). My best friend Josh says “dead people have no reputations to uphold”… If I’m truly dead to self and alive in Christ, I shouldn’t be too scared to take risks for Him.

What does the unashamed life look like in your context?

Living 116 for me is knowing who I am in Christ and releasing His glory and love into people constantly. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, I am called to live like Christ. His love doesn’t stop flowing out of me because of what a person looks like, is dealing with, or if they are saved or not. I was given a revelation recently on my self worth. “Your self worth will dictate how high your ceiling of potential is.” I believe that was God-inspired! Let’s start looking at ourselves how Christ sees us, instead of our own experiences and circumstances. I am not my past, I am not my struggles, I am truly wonderfully made, and God thinks that about us all.

How have you worked through success? Failure?

Every step for my wife and I is success. It doesn’t always look like it from the world’s standards or point of view (money/fame), but to us it’s just living and loving from one place to the next. Different seasons come and go and look different. The only failure I struggle with is when I want to quit, live a normal life and have security. Before long I end up at the top of my bio with Jesus again!

Have you had any mentors along the way?

Chris Taylor, the first tattoo artist who was a Christian that inspired me and was motivation for me to believe in myself as a career tattoo artist. Junior Purvis was the first to hire me and gracefully taught me through some bad tattoos I did. Spiritual mentors…too many to count. Tony Costa and my best friend Joshua Rickard have grown me spiritually from the position of brother to pastor/teacher. Mattie Montgomery from “for today” found me through social media and told me God had directed us together and I was to tattoo him. This was very critical to the path of the tattoo shop my wife and I were opening at the time and an answer to prayer. Mattie always guides me with God’s word and is a great encouragement.

Do you have any favorite books?

These books changed my life and still break me: the Bible, When Heaven Invades Earth by Bill Johnson, Divine Nobodies by Jim Palmer, Experiencing Father’s Embrace by Jack Frost, and Twilight – just kidding. I’m sure there have been more, but these have been key to everyday 116 Life.

What verses or passages in Scripture have sustained or encouraged you?

John 13:34, 1 Corinthians 14:3, Ephesians 2:4-5, 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, and 1 John 2:6.

Can you offer some encouragement to other unashamed believers out there?

Don’t be afraid to love people. Some may look at a person and say that they are beyond saving or don’t deserve second chances (or third or fourth chances). But it may be your acceptance and kindness that changes their life – when no one else would give them the time of day. Our own righteousness is like filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6), but He has made us righteous through Christ! (2 Corinthians 5:18)

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:58