Today, October 1st, I updated my Facebook status thusly:
Sometime around 1988, an enterprising urban pastor asked his youngest son to put together a rap for an outreach event. He dutifully complied, and although it was kind of awkward and he didn’t have any beats so he had to use his favorite EPMD instrumental, the twelve-year-old rocked his first mic. Mission accomplished.
Twelve years later, that young man was fresh out of college, living back at home again, and that same pastor asked his now aspiring rap artist son to grab a few friends and put together a rap group to perform for a mens’ conference at the church.
He did, and they did. And they kept performing, not a lot, but a few times a year, here and there. Even after they left the church where they started, they kept at it. Through their twenties and well into their thirties, when it felt like, “maybe we’re a little too old for this…?” … they kept at it.
Fifteen years after their first performance, they are finally ready to release an album of their greatest hits. And that album drops on Sunday.
Comment below if you want more details.
So these are the basic details:
Who: The Iccsters: — a rap trio of urban ministers — one youth leader, one worship leader, and one combo youth leader / worship leader.
What: Our first nationally distributed project, entitled Put This In Your Headphones: The Iccsters Greatest Hits.
When: Available SUNDAY OCTOBER 4th — that’s three days away!
Where: iTunes, Google Play, Amazon MP3 and several other online retailers. But if you REALLY want to support our ministry, stay tuned for a special URL where you can buy it directly from our store (and we’ll get a bigger chunk of the profit).
Why: Because we love to see the Word of God delivered in hip-hop form, we’re good at it, and we’re tired of people saying, “wait, so why don’t you guys have a CD out?”
To prove just how ancient we are, I’m going to employ a technique that was fashionable about twenty years ago, the FAQ (or Frequently Asked Questions):
How to do you pronounce “Iccsters”? And why do you spell it like that?
It’s pronounced like “icksters.” But not because we’re nasty, but because it stems from the church where we started: Irvington Covenant Church, or ICC. But it’s not written “ICCsters.” It’s just “Iccsters.” At some point we may change the name, but we haven’t yet. Also, we might just pull a Soup the Chemist and change the spelling so it’s more easily understood… but we’re not there yet.
So this is really your first album?
No, this is our first nationally distributed album. In 2001, we put out an independent project of our first ten songs or so, called De Facto. Then in 2008, we put out an EP called The Kingdom Livin’ EP. Both of them were small, limited-edition independent runs, available only on CD, and only locally. This release will be available online at all the major music retailers (iTunes, Google Play, Amazon MP3, etc.).
So it’s not available on CD?
No, it’s not.
So you still don’t have a CD out?
*sigh* … okay, fine, you got me. No, we do not. But I stopped listening to music on CDs in 2010, so I think we’ll be okay.
If I pay you $5 in person, will you burn a CD for me?
So… this is Jelani’s blog, but who are all the guys in the group? And didn’t it just used to be two guys? When did you add another member? And what’s with that picture? What are those things, headphones?
One question at a time.
The Iccsters are:
Sahaan “Sir-1” McKelvey: youth worker / mentor, former youth pastor, emcee, and married father of three.
Jelani “G*Natural” Greenidge: worship minister / emcee / producer / stand up comic, and husband of one fine lady.
Jaamar “J-MAC” McKelvey: youth leader / emcee / worship leader / guitarist & trumpeter / and single (ladies he’s available!)
Why did you spell “J-MAC” in all-caps?
Because it stands for “Just a Man After Christ.” And didn’t I say one question at a time? You didn’t even give me a chance to answer the other ones.
So yeah, J-MAC, who is Sir-1’s younger brother, was always a recurring special guest. He started filling in for me during the four years or so when I lived in Chicago, and then after I moved back to Portland, he would fill in when either Sahaan or I were unavailable for a gig. After a certain point, it just made more sense for him to be a part of the group than not. And actually, he was the catalyst to get this project moving again, so I give him credit for lighting a fire back under us again.
And yes, those are headphones. We have a song about headphones, and Sahaan and I especially have always had a love for headphones. So we called this joint Put This In Your Headphones, and that’s our headphones logo superimposed over the pictures.
That would make a pretty cool sticker. You should think about having stickers made.
Thanks… we might just do that.
So you’re a producer, does that mean you did all the production work?
Sort of. I created all the beats, but we also had some help from a good friend, John “Skippy” Lehmkuhl (aka The Plugin Guru), who remastered and remixed a few of the tracks. I would list them as remixes, but the originals never got wide release, so he’ll get some producer and arranging credit, and his mixes will stand in for the originals.
So how can you have a “Greatest Hits” project if this is your first project?
This is a new release, but only one song is really new (“Why Worry,” which we wrote earlier this year). The others are songs that date back years, like around a decade or so, some even older than that. But we’ve been performing them around the Pacific Northwest for years, and because they’re usually new to the people who hear them live, people really enjoy them. They really are our greatest hits.
This album is our chance to give our fans a chance to listen to our music on their own terms, as well as a chance for us to give the rest of the wider church community a chance to hear what we’ve been up to if they haven’t heard us firsthand.
Does that mean you’re going to be touring?
Probably not. We all have full-time jobs, to say nothing of family and ministry responsibilities. But if you’d like us to come to your church or your event, and we’re available and can figure out travel costs, we’ll probably come.
So you and J-MAC are worship leaders also… is there any praise-and-worship on this project?
No, but he is involved with my other group, Jelani & The Secret Five, and we do cross-cultural worship music that includes hip-hop.
Why didn’t you link to your other band just now?
Because at the moment, the JS5 website appears to be infected with malware. (Malware sucks.) I have to get that figured out. Maybe I’ll launch a Tumblr or something.
But in the meantime, yeah, we’re called Jelani & The Secret Five, or #JS5 for short.
Okay so back to the Iccsters… do you guys have a website?
Yes, but at the moment, it’s hopelessly outdated. I’m putting all our energy into making sure the album is done and ready by Sunday, and I’ll deal with our website later.
But you’re on social media, right?
How else would you have gotten to this post if we weren’t on social media? I’m on Twitter and Facebook, and Sahaan and Jaamar are on Facebook. I also have an Instagram account, but pretty much never use it. (See, I told you… we’re old.)
How will I know where to buy your music when it releases on Sunday?
Leave a comment on this thread, and I’ll make sure you get the link to our Loudr store where you can buy it directly from us (and we’ll get a bigger chunk of the income). Otherwise, if you’re busy or you forget, you can just look us up on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon MP3, etc.
Will I be able to stream it on Spotify?
Yeah, but don’t just stream it, bro. You know the artists don’t get paid squat from streaming. Have you learned nothing from Taylor Swift?
Why are you dropping Taylor Swift references in your FAQ?
It’s a desperate ploy to maintain the appearance of relevance to millennials. Is it working?
I’m not sure.
You didn’t say no, so… I’ll take it.
So will there be another album after this?
That depends on what God has in store, so … maybe? We’ll see.
EDIT (October 5th):
It took a few days longer than I thought it would, but the album is finally live! You can purchase it here.