Rapping the Good News

Julie Cole | Jun 23, 2014
Rap artist The Journalist (Andrew Russell) performs before an audience at Briercrest's Aboriginal Awareness Week. Submitted photo by Susie McCallum Rap artist The Journalist (Andrew Russell) performs before an audience at Briercrest's Aboriginal Awareness Week. Submitted photo by Susie McCallumRap artist The Journalist (Andrew Russell) performs before an audience at Briercrest's Aboriginal Awareness Week. Submitted photo by Susie McCallum

Rap artist Andrew Russell, known as The Journalist, is excited to share the Good News.

One of the ways he’s doing that is through his recently released album entitled First Entry which was originally recorded eight years ago

A lot has happened in the Briercrest student’s life since that time.

“When this album was recorded . . . it was all about getting on a label, getting a producer, getting signed and putting it out in stores,” he admitted. “It’s not that at all anymore. God really worked in my life and I realized ‘That’s (my) own dream. That’s not what God wants.’”

That realization put Russell on a path that led to a season of soul searching and personal growth.

“The project and my whole part of the label all fell apart and I actually took a long hiatus from rapping and ministry and worked on my marriage and in general just being a follower of Christ,” he explained. “That’s why (the album’s release) is kind of cool because I thought it was written off. I thought it was a waste of time.”

“It was put on God’s reserve shelf, pretty much,” he said with a laugh.

“That’s why it means a lot to me,” he continued. “Because I really see God’s hand in it – bringing something back after eight years.”

Russell now sees the release of his album a bit differently.

“It’s not about making money off of this at all,” he exclaimed. “The biggest thing was finally getting it in people’s hands. I can actually hand something to somebody now. But everywhere you can get music (online) you can actually download it for free – for kids who can’t afford the album. I really wanted to do that.”

A couple of the songs on Russell’s album have special meaning for him.  One of them is a song he wrote for his wife when they were newlyweds.

“I really wanted to have a song for Sue on there,” he said.

The second song is about an experience Russell had as a camp counsellor.

“’Plant a Seed’ is a really special song inspired by Art Thiessen who used to be the director of Dallas Valley Ranch Camp,” he explained. “He would always say (to the camp counsellors) at the end of the week when we were all worn out, ‘At least we planted seeds in kids’ lives.’ The song’s pretty much about that. It’s all about the people in your life – just keep praying for them no matter what. God’s the one who does the work.”

The Journalist says his music differs from most rap music because of its message.

“I want to use hip hop – something that’s normally seen as negative, especially to Christians – and show how it can be used for ministry. I want them to know that I’m really trying to be part of the redemption of the culture – because that’s what hip hop is, a culture. Rap is the music of the culture.”

“My music is never designed just to be a fun song,” he continued. “I have fun songs but they still all have a message in it. That’s very intentional. I like people to listen to it and say, ‘That’s me,’ or ‘That’s someone I know.’ So they pray for that person or reach out for help. I like it to go deeper.”

Russell’s Briercrest education has helped him in his ability to minister to others in a deeper way.

“I would rather speak and preach than rap,” he admitted. “I think that’s my true calling and gifting. They all cross over, but that’s why I’m here. The rap was totally put to the side when I came (to Briercrest). It’s come up again so God’s using it but (pastoral ministry) is where I’m headed. I know God’s going to use rap still in that. I just don’t know how.

Besides a second album which is in the works, the future is wide open for the rap artist.

“I’d still love to do more gigs,” he said. “I’m still all about getting the music out there, but I’m not ready to go on a nation-wide tour unless my family can come along.”