The world has taken notice of KB. A Tampa native, Kevin Burgess (KB) has firmly placed his thumbprint on hip-hop while relaying messages of conviction for the cause of Christ. Taking a Dove Award for Rap/Hip-Hop Song of the Year (2014), and a Stellar Award nomination for Rap/Hip-Hop Gospel CD of the Year (2015), KB shares with YS the inspiration behind his latest 14-track album, Today We Rebel. You won’t want to miss it!
PM: Tell us about your story. How did you first meet Jesus?
KB: I was born in St. Petersburg, Florida, but spent a good bit of my upbringing up north. I lived on an Air Force Base, highly protected; there were guards at both ends of the base. I never saw crimes being committed. I always joke that the worst thing I saw up north was a high schooler smoking a cigarette.
My parents split and I moved to St. Petersburg, which is a very, very different place. I started really wrestling with my purpose, and my manhood, and my life in general. It became very clear to me that I didn’t have answers. Even though I had some cool things going for me education-wise (I was able to start college early), and I had a good support system around me, spiritually, I was dying.
It was one day in that really dark place that somebody gave me a Christian Hip-Hop CD. It had eight songs on it. I loved every single song. And the eighth song was a Gospel recitation. I’ve been walking after Jesus since that day.
PM: So, is that how you got into rap and hip-hop?
KB: Well, originally, I had no vision of being a Christian rapper. It just sort of happened that way. When I got serious about Jesus, the people who were around me were all rapping. They were using rap to share the Gospel with people in the community and Juvenile Detention Centers. I wanted to use that medium, as well. I wanted to do music. So I started making the type of music that I wanted to listen to, with this newfound faith. It was a combination of how we reached out to people and also that I enjoyed this type of music. Eventually, a Christian Hip-Hop artist emerged.
PM: Let us in on how you write your lyrics. What’s that process like for you?
KB: There is not a standard way I do it. Inspiration is hard to put a thumb on; it just happens. Sometimes the process is very difficult and strenuous, when you kind of fight to get to that place of inspiration. Sometimes the song just comes, as if you’re receiving it and not really writing it. Sometimes it comes from really dark places, sometimes pretty bright places. Oftentimes, I’ll be in church. A lot of my albums take shape just sitting in the Sunday service when the pastor will say something that resonates with me. I’ll think, “Oh man, this has the beat.” Ultimately, we’re trying to be a voice for the heart of God. We’re trying to speak the things that He will want people to hear.
PM: That’s great. You’ve said, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” Tell us what freedom means to you.
KB: I think freedom is obedience to God in every aspect of life. Truly free people think, “How is this going to land on the ears of God, before the ears of man?” And they speak that way. They make decisions like that, and they enjoy the fruit of godly character and faithfulness. There’s a whole world that this freedom affords you that, I think, ultimately is rooted in living for the direction of One.
PM: Amen. Tell us what inspired your latest album, Today We Rebel.
KB: What inspired the album was really wanting to give believers a renewed vision of their ultimate citizenship in Heaven—that above your ethnicity, your culture, your nation, there is a priority to the Kingdom. It’s not America first, it’s not your race first, it’s not your politics first. It’s the Kingdom of God first. And I wanted to give a real vision of what Kingdom citizens look like. What I found is that, looking at Kingdom citizenship through the eyes of the world, it makes us look like rebels. We look like folks who are not conformed to the ways of this age. Since that’s the case, I leaned into that. That’s the idea of Today We Rebel.
PM: Do you have a favorite song on the album?
KB: “Art of Hope” is my favorite song because I love how powerful the grace of God is—the great redemption that’s in absolutely any situation.
PM: Amen. You said, “The older you get, the more aware you become of the human struggle and the struggle in your own heart.” When life is a struggle, how do you get through?
KB: Life has a way of slowing us down. One of the things we need to remember is that we cannot try to avoid situations that would force us to trust God. When you take risks, when you live sacrificially, when you keep a sort of radical nature about your faith, you’re forced to, in that moment, to have to trust God. I think one of the ways we avoid the “cooling” that life has on our faith is to keep the red-hot risk taking and put ourselves in situations where we have to trust God.
PM: Wow, that’s powerful. What word of encouragement would you give to those who may be afraid to stand up against what society says is okay?
KB: I would say, first, that your Christian faith is not identified by the politics that it agrees with, but by its love for one’s neighbor. I really want people to get away from this status quo, national Christian faith, and fall in love with something more consistent with the New Testament and the character of God. We are marked by love for one another and our love for our neighbor. That is Christianity. It is not political affiliations.
If loving your neighbor means that you love people that look like you, think like you, and act like you, it is not your neighbor that you love; it is yourself. The heart of the Gospel is a God who descends to Earth to love people who do not act like Him, do not think like Him. Yet, He engages them anyways. That is Christianity. That needs to be recovered for us, as it’s been under attack through the politicizing of faith, through the sort of colonizing roots that Christianity often has in European settlements. We are called to recover a Christianity that is rooted in love and compassion and a willingness to suffer for the good of others.
Learn more about KB at WhoIsKB.com
—Captain Pamela Maynor, Editor of Young Salvationist