Hip-hop, rap artist returns to headline Franklin event

Franklin High School will again be the site of First Presbyterian Church’s Connect2Christ Spring Jam – a night of energetic Christian music and hip-hop – Saturday, April 23.

Returning is headliner and award-winning hip-hop and rap artist Derek Minor, this time paired with the popular 12-time Dove Award-nominated Christian band MIKESCHAIR.

The concert is free and organizers ask that attendees take at least one canned food item for the needy.

“Last year’s event went very well,” said First Presbyterian’s youth director, Tina Kaye. “Music is a great way to grab the kids’ attention. It’s an exciting ministry for us and for all who take part. The bands were great and Derek had a great message.”

Minor, who has been nominated for a Grammy Award, saw his latest album, “Empire,” nominated for two gospel music Dove Awards in 2015, including album of the year and song of the year, for “Who You Know.” Minor won a Dove last year for producing the song “Dirty Water” for his friend and top Christian rapper Lecrae.

Minor says the themes of “Empire” were birthed out of tribulation that had taken over his life. His manager, a trusted friend, had stolen thousands of dollars from him. His wife was in a car accident and he lost his father, all within a short period of time. It’s what he learned going through those trials that became the message of “Empire.”

“We put our faith in money and in popularity,” Minor said. “And as I and my family were hurting, I wondered what I could talk about on a new album. It was God and his kingdom. Whether on a grand or a small scale, his plan was much better than my hurts and frustrations and ‘Empire’ is about his kingdom.”

Mike Grayson is the lead singer of MIKESCHAIR. The band formed when Grayson and several others were freshman at Nashville’s Belmont University. The name came from a chair Grayson’s mates gave him, after he would often fall asleep on a dorm room floor. They named the band after that chair so they wouldn’t forget their beginning.

Grayson, like Minor, writes music from personal experience. He began writing songs when he was in fifth grade and he was given a guitar. At that young age, he became aware of a history of addiction that greatly affected his family. And he started writing songs that came out of that pain.

“I needed hope and to believe that redemption was possible,” Grayson said. “I fell in love with Jesus and with music.”

The group’s popular song “Let the Waters Rise” speaks to the trials that people face and how God can carry them through.

“We all experience a need for Jesus,” said Grayson. “And to know there is a foundation outside our surroundings that we don’t understand. Believers go through the same heartaches and emotions as anyone, but we have somewhere to turn.”

Minor and Grayson both know that young people today are going through things that show them they have a need for meaning and purpose in their lives. Minor points out young people have access to the immediacy of a culture that previous generations didn’t, because of social media and the internet.

“Young people live their lives so open in today’s culture,” Minor said. “We tweet and post to get likes and affirmation. We’re trying to get validation from people who don’t even know us. It’s easy to hide in plain sight. We want to be someone else.”

“But we need to be who we are in God,” said Minor. “There would be less murders because we’d see God in each other. There would be less depression because our confidence comes from God. Sometimes I don’t feel it, but God put me here for a reason.”

Minor says he can perform on stage with a “Godly swagger,” because he is identifying with Christ, giving him all the glory.

“We’re supposed to be humble as Christians,” Minor said. “But that doesn’t mean we should have a bad self image. I don’t have to boast, but I know my gifts make me who I am. Jesus knew he was the Son of God. That gave him strength.”

“The younger generation is yearning for something to be passionate about,” Grayson said. “They don’t want to just go through the motions. They want to make a bold statement. That’s where our culture is – they want to understand truth.”

Those issues are addressed in MIKESCHAIR’s most recent album, “All or Nothing.”

“In writing songs, it’s not always about what my life looks like, but what I want it to look like,” said Grayson. “I felt guilty about how I prayed all the time, that it was all about ME – what I want and need. I was whiny.”

“But if anything comes out of my life, it should be about thanking God,” Grayson said. “It should be ‘Thank you for everything I have, for what I don’t deserve.’ I want to surrender what I’m doing and say ‘Lord, let me focus on you.'”

Both Grayson and Minor want those who attend the youth rally in Franklin to be entertained, energized and given a message that helps them in life.

“Young people are more open than ever to spiritual things,” said Grayson. “But they can look to a denomination or a person instead of looking to Jesus. People will always let you down – that’s the disconnect. People have been hurt by other people or by the church and we have to point them to Jesus, not to MIKESCHAIR.”

“People will be entertained,” Grayson said. “We love what we do and we want them to enjoy that. But we also worship.”

“At last year’s rally in Franklin I met people like I’d never met in my life,” said Minor. “They were so kind and I felt energized. It was a game-changer for me, very rare and encouraging.”

“I want everyone to have a blast,” Minor said. “Come for the time of your life and just kick it. The whole movement is for them to know who they are in God – kings and queens.”

The Connect2Christ Spring Jam 2016 begins at 6 p.m. April 23 in the Franklin High School auditorium. Doors will open at 4:30 p.m.

Admission is free, but attendees are asked to bring at least one canned food item to benefit Community Services of Venango County.

More information is available at franklinpresbyyouth.org.