Gabriel shows up for his interview with that familiar smile on his face. He was literally one of the first two people Lawson and I met when we first moved here to Hamilton, Alabama for The Ramp church and ministry school. From the first meeting, Lawson and I always thought that this guy was full of life, enthusiasm, and most of all, love for The Lord and for people. Two years now since we first met him, that has only proven to be true and then some.
Last week, Gabriel released his first Rap Album or EP (Extended Play) on CdBaby and now it’s available on iTunes. During this interview, he was eager to share about his journey with music, his faith story and why he would adopt a pet lion if he could.
Me: Give us a bit about your background.
Your age, where you’re from, etc.
Gabe: Sure. I’m 21 years old, turning 22 in September. I’m from the Bronx, New York. I lived there with my mom for 15 years, then we moved to Georgia and then I moved to Hamilton Alabama for the Ramp School of Ministry. I attended two years there and graduated in May of 2014.
Me: Awesome. How did you first get involved with music? Was it something you grew up with?
Gabe: Definitely. Growing up, I always listened to music. It was always around, especially being in New York. The rap scene is huge there, but I never took it seriously until I got here (Hamilton). I was always interested and I wanted to sing but my singing voice was not good -laughs- so I had to quit that! But I remember writing a rap one time and thinking, okay lets see what happens with this. I actually performed it at a youth event at my church in the Bronx. This was when I was sixteen…
Me: Was that the first rap song you ever officially wrote?
Gabe: Yes. Then I came to Hamilton and didn’t know what to do music-wise but I tried the music electives at RSM just to see what would happen. Later, a few friends found out that I rapped. Then one time, Catherine Mullins (now Robbins) heard me rapping at the foyer and from there, she and Matt back (another RSM music instructor) began talking to me about doing it at the school more often. The first full rap song I did, officially officially, was done last year for The Ramp’s Songs Together DVD.
Me: How are you currently involved in the church?
Gabe: I’m involved in the kid’s ministry and I’m an assistant for the Hamilton Christian Academy. I’m also an assistant for the music department at RSM (the School of Worship) for Matthew Back and Catherine Mullins-Robbins.
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Me: Do you mind sharing a bit about your testimony? Your journey in the faith…
Gabe: Absolutely… so I grew up in a family where the two sides were complete opposites where the men were heavily into drug-dealing, witchcraft, and a bunch of other mess while the women in my life loved Jesus. The men were just not involved and there was no passion for anything in their lives. My dad was in and out of the picture. I grew up without a father-figure in my life and I didn’t really have that role-model of what it means to be a man so I had to fight my way through and learn stuff on my own. But I had an awesome mom who taught me about selflessness. She did everything she could to give me the best in life.
But as I got older, I had so much anger and frustration because my dad was not around. He’d call and say, “I want to spend time with you” but then wouldn’t show up sometimes or he’d cancel his plans. So as I got older, I kind of strayed away and got into dumb things; the popularity route, then fights and gangs -just dumb stuff ’cause I wanted to be accepted and I wanted people to hang out with. I ended up getting into addictions and a bunch of other mess… I was just so tired and frustrated. Then more baggage added up. I got to the point where I’m like, “I don’t know what to do with myself anymore. I have no purpose. I don’t want to live anymore. Whatever happens, happens.”
Around the age of 15, my mom and I started going to church. We hadn’t been since I was little but we really needed a change… After like, going to two services, this church (Church of Revelation at The Bronx) had a theatrical play called “Eternity” where the realities of heaven and hell were depicted.
What was funny was that, in my mind, I was already a Christian. My family was but I didn’t realize that I had to have a relationship with Jesus, and not just a church membership or a title. So I remember trying to invite people to come to the thing and I’m not even saved myself! -laughs-
But it really impacted me. It was very well done. They did an altar call at the end of it and my mom turns to me and asks, “Have you ever prayed to receive Christ?” All I remember was saying “no”, and the next thing I know, I’m at the altar! I had yanked my mom with me! In that moment, I gave my life to Jesus, my mom rededicates her life to Jesus. I remember literally feeling chains fall off of me. I had such a supernatural experience with the Lord. I remember crying every bit of pain from every aspect of my life, every bit of it. I had never cried so much in my life ever since that day. I couldn’t stop crying. I felt a real tangible love of God for the first time in my life. God really did love me and He was the one protecting and guiding me even when I didn’t know Him. I always knew He was real but I had never known Him like that. And now, nothing could ever move me from Him after I encountered Him like that.
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Me: How do you feel, seeing where God has taken you up to this point?
Gabe: God just blows my mind away! It’s his unmerited, undeserved favor. The goodness of God was leading me even when I didn’t know what was next. I felt like I didn’t have the ability or years of experience with music but I had the desire and I just told Him, “God I need you to do something with it.” My faith is in the Blood of Jesus, that’s why doors are opening in my life. Not because of gifts or talents, but because I’m placing my trust in God.
Me: What do you dream of seeing God do with this music?
Gabe: I want to bring an encounter to people… taking a worship encounter and a genre and then blending them together. I believe I could lead an entire worship set with rapping and that people will get healed, saved, and delivered -you know, taking with it the supernatural. Even when I write lyrics, I believe that I’m speaking over people’s lives and I get to minister in that moment, believing for it to happen for them.
Me: Tell us about your EP titled Consumed By His Goodness. What inspired the title?
Gabe: One rap song I wrote while at RSM, the first line had that phrase in it. I remember just the impact of those words in my life… I realize the goodness of God is the theme of my life. I love Psalms 34, just the whole chapter. There’s a verse there that says, “the poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” And you know, I was the poor person in spirit and He delivered me even when I didn’t deserve it!
Me: That’s so powerful… so what are the individual track titles in Consumed By His Goodness?
Gabe: So it’s an Extended Play (EP) or Short Album. The titles are Alive, Fill Me Up, and This Is What You Do. They are cover songs we revamped, rearranged and changed up! We took out verses and made those space for my raps. We kept the chorus but drastically changed it! Micaiah Wesler produced it, he killed it in every way and I give him so much props. Andrew Dover played the guitar and sung, his wife, Britney Dover sung. We also had Mandy Moscato and Trinity Pierce for vocals. We recorded all of it in Hunter Mickelson’s room. He did all the technician stuff. It was fun making all these sounds together in this little room. We scheduled different times with them and they all came in person.
Me: What are some advice you want to give to other Christians who want to pursue rapping without getting discouraged or caught up in the “hussle” of it all.
Gabe: The first thing I’d say is, know your identity. ‘Cause I think a lot of the time, we can get so caught up in what we do and when its not working or its not successful, we feel down, get discouraged and we give up on stuff. I know in the beginning for me, it could’ve been so easy for me to get my identity caught up in rapping and when I didn’t have opportunities, I would’ve just quite and gave up. And I was there at that point, but I’m thankful I found out who I was in Jesus and knowing that I had purpose and identity because of Him and that He loved me regardless of whether I was good at this or not.
Also, you have the gift and the talent, just start writing. Write as much as you can. Listen to other musicians and other genres. It’ll definitely grow you. Start to freestyle, have fun, and enjoy it. Know that you’ll mess up but so what? God has a plan for you life and He’s gonna use you. Go after it, regardless of how long it takes. From my experience, God just opened the doors. I trusted Him, believed Him, sought after Him and he provided everything else for me. Trust the Lord to open doors and He will do it. He will take care of it.
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FOUR FUN QUICK QUESTIONS
ONE. Name your top favorite and inspirational musical artists.
Gabe: 1. William Matthews from Bethel in Redding, California. His freedom in the presence of God, his risks with musical sounds, the way he leads, and just watching his videos are amazing! 2. Catherine Mullins Robbins. She is like my big sister and a big mentor in my life. She’s the one who gave me the opportunity to share her platform and minister to the world. She’s helped me grow in my gifting and genuinely wanted me to grow and see me do well. She showed me how to put others before me and how to have integrity as a worship leader on and off stage. 3. Matthew Back. He has taken me under his wings and taught me the ins and outs of all things music. He has given me opportunities to grow and mature in ministry and in life and for which, I’m so grateful. Lastly, Boys II Men -laughs- But specifically, their Christmas Album. Its so old! But their mo-town Christmas album is my favorite Christmas album ever!
TWO. What is your favorite food?
Gabe: Sushi. I love sushi. I could live on that. Literally. I go to Tupelo to eat them. I should get it in bulk and freeze them. Also, I love Chinese Food but it has to be in New York. They know how to cook out there!
THREE. If you could travel to any country for the entire month next month, where would you go? All expenses paid.
Gabe: I’d probably go to the UK or Italy. Cause just… man, the food! -Laughs- And the fact of like, the coffee and the atmosphere. And Venice! Their streets of water. I cant even swim well but I just want to jump in there just to get in the water. -laughs-
FOUR: If you could have any kind of pet, domestic or wild-tamed, what would you get?
Gabe: I’ve always wanted a pet lion. Yeah, a lion… one time in New York, somebody actually had a pet lion. Actually it was illegal. In their apartment. I don’t understand how you get a lion in your apartment and get away with it. -Laughs- It was humongous! I don’t know how long It was there but it was on the news. It was crazy how nobody knew about it. You would definitely hear it roaring and stuff, but I guess nobody did. I don’t know how that guy got away with it but I guess it’s doable. Pet lions are doable…
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EXTRA! ALSO HEAR FROM MICAIAH
After the Interview, we ran across the street to where Micaiah (who produced the EP) was hard at work preparing his new shop in downtown Hamilton.
Gabe: What were some funny moments while recording this?
Micaiah: Every session was probably funny. There was always something crazy going on. Probably when we had to have a look out for the next door neighbor. They were getting legitimately furious. Flipping off the handle because of the drum. Like, off the handle, banging the door outrage! We had a spy yelling at us, so we could when the next door neighbor was home and we’d chill out for a minute. Just trying to work around stuff!
What is your advice to other musicians out there?
Micaiah: Don’t be afraid to step out in creativity. If it flops, it flops. If it does good, it does good. But you’ll never find something new or push any boundaries unless you try to do something crazy and dumb. And if you’re a Christian, flow with the anointing. -Laughs-
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DEAR READER, NOW THAT YOU KNOW…
… the man and the story behind the music, make sure to head over to iTunes by clicking HERE and buy this incredible album Consumed By His Goodness by Gabriel Martinez! You will not regret it!
And thank you for reading!