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DROPPIN' JEWELS

One on one with your favorite Christian celebs

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Blowing up the spot for this season is, Ramiyah. An energetic group of young women willing to shake up the Christian industry with the power of a Mainstream girl group. Backed by Matthew Knowles, the force behind Destiny's Child, Solange, Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams and Beyonce, these Detroit ladies look to be the best thing to happen to Christian female ensembles since the debut of Out Of Eden.

LaZeric: How do ya'll define Christian music?

Ramiyah: We define Christian music as uplifting,encouraging and a great way to exalt GOD!

LaZeric: Being that you ladies are backed by Matthew Knowles, your ministry is getting more exposure than the average Christian "girl group". Has that been at all overwhelming?

Ramiyah: Ramiyah looks at being backed by Matthew Knowles as more of a blessing and a privilege than overwhelming! One of our mottos is to reach the city,nation and the world for Jesus Christ so what better opportunity than to be
attached to a "powerhouse" in the industry.

LaZeric: On the Stellar's and The Bobby Jones Show, you're basically ministering to Gospel folk. But at the Trumpet Awards, you were performing for a predominately Mainstream audience. Do you anticipate having to adjust your performances to different audiences?

Ramiyah: We pray that wherever we go or whoever we minister to, that Jesus Christ is the head of our message and invited into every performance. Therefore, it doesn't matter what [type of]audience [we're ministering to] its all about Christ!

LaZeric: How would you encourage young artists who are big locally,but can't seem to get any love from record labels? Can/should a group rock just as hard without a contract?

Ramiyah: Definitely. We worked just as hard before our record deal as we do now. Your work ethic must start high and go higher. In addition, get with someone who is experienced in the industry so they can lead you towards a
good record deal. For Ramiyah it was the assistance of PAJAM(our production team).

LaZeric: There's a lot of music out in the mainstream. Some good, some not so good. If you could pick one album from the Christian industry that you wish you could play for a group of unsaved kids (besides your album), what would it be?

Ramiyah: Well, we have so many that we can't name just one! You have the great music of Mary Mary, Fred Hammond, and Kirk Franklin who all have the ability to reach the saved and the unsaved.

LaZeric: Where would you like to see Ramiyah in 10 years?

Ramiyah: We would like to see Grammy's in Jesus name. Knowing that our message has [influenced]the world in [a]powerful way and still singing and living for Christ.

LaZeric: Ya'll worked with the incredible PAJAM crew on your current project, as well as Karen Clark Sheard, Kierra Sheard and Dorinda Clark Cole. What artists/producers would you like to collaborate with in the future?

Ramiyah: Again we have soooooo many artists/producers that we admire so wherever God takes [us]we will be happy and grateful!

LaZeric; Thank you for takin' the time out ladies and continued success.

Ramiyah: Thank you for the opportunity and your support. God bless.

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In the electronics section of a local department store, a parent attempts to purchase the latest releases from JA RULE, EMINEM and MYSTIKAL that her kid has been whining for. A Christian cashier attempts to point out the parental advisory sticker. The parent responds, "Well, they gon'e hear it anyway and they all curse." ... Not all of them.
Mike Boyer a.ka. Knowdaverbs has proven with his releases, "Syllabus" and "Action Figure" (his latest) that a bumpin' beat mixed with a classic R&B sample does not have to equal to tales of killing your wife. Nor does he have to lace his cuts with expletives to "keep it real".
Individually, as well as with the members of Grits, Knowdaverbs takes his unique gift of storytelling, combined with his burden for youth and passion for ministry and turns the joint out time and time again. Get to know his heart in this exclusive interview.

LA ZERIC: How is The Action Figure different from your debut album? By the way, it took me two years to figure out where the sample used for "Syllabus" came from (Rufus featuring Chaka Khan).

'VERBS: Well, I look at The Syllabus as a project that was more centered around informing people of the benefits and the duties that we have as followers of Christ. An educational process on what God has told us as His people. The Action Figure is a project that is meant to challenge the listener to live out and put into action what the Word
says.

LA ZERIC: How is the record doing? Has the response been favorable?

'VERBS: The record been doing well and the single, "God Is Big", has been doing well on radio. All in all the response has been good, we're really trying to focus on getting it in the ears of the folks that normally wouldn't pick it up; create more of an awareness of the music. Don't want to get too comfortable with only pushin' it to the Saved kids, but also get it out to those who don't know Christ, and sometimes that in itself can be a challenge.

LA ZERIC: Your desire is to incite a positive change in people's lives instead of just merely entertaining them. But are there times when you just go out on stage and just let the songs speak for themselves? Or do you feel like each time, that you need to encourage aside from the song
lyrics?

'VERBS: I usually like to set songs up then go into it. Just assure people the music is all Bibliocentric. I do try to write the lyrics as clear as possibe so you can pull out the message with no mistake about it. I guess it's kind of like watching T.V. with the sound up and the closed caption on, ya know? I do think that it is important for artists to minister as God has called them --what ever their style may be --along with having a on point presentation, though it is possible to make the package look dazzling, and have nothing of substance in the box.

LA ZERIC: You've been compared to Mainstreamers, MOS DEF and COMMON --some "deep" cats. What emcees on the Holy Hip-Hop side do you consider to be the lick? The ones that you personally wish were lighting up shows like "Rap City"?

'VERBS: Personally I tend to graviate to groups who really take the art or the talent of emceeing serious, because it definitely comes through in their licks. There 's a duo from Boston --brother and sister --called New Breed who are fierce on the mic. Emcee's like Solo from The Gangsters, Jurny from LPG, 4th Ave. Jones, just to name a few. I pay
attention to the the different components of emceeing, like content, delivery, word usage, rhyme patterns, stuff like that.

LA ZERIC: There are a lot of pop culture references in your songs. I love that kind of stuff. It makes the songs easier to get into. Was that intentional?

'VERBS: Definitely. I throw them in to hopefully make the listener relate, identify and bring them more into the song.

LA ZERIC: Did you write the lines on Grits' second album about "Patrick Duffy/Bobby Ewing" and "Starsky with no Hutch"? Or are ya'll just on the same vibe?

'VERBS: Being part of the same fam, that vibe starts to rub off on each other. Really that's sort of reflective of how we talk on a normal basis when we're just chillin'.

LA ZERIC: I know that there are projects in the works by Tonex, Carmen and some other cats. But in your opinion, what would it take to get more movies/magazines/tv shows that celebrate the culture of Christianity? Or do you even feel that it is neccessary?

'VERBS: Personally, I think we need to focus a little bit more on the QUALITY of the stuff we put out as Christians if we're wanting the world to take notice. As reps of the
kingdom, we need to show them something that looks significantly better than what they are chewing on now.

LA ZERIC: Any plans for you to infiltrate some soundtracks in the future?

'VERBS: Hopefully so. Gotee is active in trying to get the artists' music placed on soundtracks and television shows. There was a Brooke Shields movie that actually placed the songs "Good Measure" and "Equeena" (from 'Verbs first release) in the movie. I haven't seen it. So I don't know if I recommend the readers to check it out yet. Ya know? [editor's note: Recently, music from Verbs was featured on the FOX drama, "Boston Public"]

LA ZERIC: Is there such a thing as a Gospel hip hop groupie? What has been your experience with screaming female fans?

'VERBS: I would like to think that there aren't Gospel Hip-Hop groupies. Although there are people who will come out and support anytime you roll through their city. If there were any screaming female fans it was probably because I accidently stepped on their foot. Ha! Just kidding.

LA ZERIC: What's up next for the man of action?

VERBS: Myself and DJ Maj will be doing these high school anti-violence assemblies called, "Rage Against Destruction" in select cities. You can hit up, ragead.org or KNOWDAVERBS.com to see if we are coming through your city. Other than that, I plan to just keep advancing God's Kingdom any way I can. Wordup.

LA ZERIC: Stay up my brother and continued blessings!

VERBS: :) Appreciate the questions. Slay 'dem giants!

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TAMMY TRENT -- God and Basketball
by LaZeric Fridell Freeman


How many Contemporary Christian artists can you name that grow up on soulful acts like the Winans, Crystal Lewis and Jon Gibson? Who appreciates the musical production talents of Jam & Lewis and L.A. & Babyface? Someone who was a star basketball player in high school and loves to dance and crack folks up while in concert? Tammy Trent is one such person.
Bursting on the scene in 1995 with funky dance tunes like "Your Love Is For Always" and "Someone To Love", Trent quietly made her presence known. Now on her third release, "Set You Free", Tammy proves that she has staying power and that her call to minister through dance music is not to be taken lightly.


LaZERIC: What was it like growing up with a mom that was a
minister? Watching the respect (I assume) that was given to her?

TAMMY: It was awesome! I adored my mom and her relationship with the Lord as I watched her minister. And I know I learned a lot about the power of God and the way He loves us so unconditionally through her. I'm very proud of my mom and the way she has always served the Lord through the good and bad times in her life.

LaZERIC: Like the Winans family, your parents only allowed Christian music in the house. Was that a hard pill to swallow or did you embrace it?

TAMMY: I embraced it! I loved Christian music growing up and so did my friends. It was something that kept me passionate for the things of God.

LaZERIC: You played Varsity basketball as a freshman in high school. What's your game like these days?

TAMMY: What game! (smile) I never get to play much anymore
and when I do, I just about die after a few sprints up and down the court! But I love a good game of pig from time to time!

LaZERIC: Is it true that no one's broken your father's old high school basketball records? How long ago was that?

TAMMY: Yep, he's still amazing! I think that was, like, 1965 and remember they didn't have the 3 point rule back then and many of his shots would have been considered 3 pointers.

LaZERIC: I first heard of you in '95 when I had the chance to review your debut album on R.E.X. Music (now defunct). How excited were you putting together that first record?

TAMMY: I was thrilled! A dream come true and a lot of years of hard work getting to that point in my life. When the first radio single, Your Love Is 4 Always went #1, 6 weeks later I just sat and cried and thanked God for giving me this blessing in my life....I was ready to serve!!!

LaZERIC: Your next album featured production by Fred Hammond. Were you aware of his track record at the time? What was that experience of working with him like?

TAMMY: I was totally aware of Fred Hammond and his track record and that's why I called him personally to see if he'd be interested in working with me on my new project. He was familiar with my work since I had sent him my demo tape a few years earlier and he had expressed interest at that time. He said, "yes, let's doit", and it was truly an honor working with the best. And I can't wait to work with Fred again some day.

LaZERIC: I remember that you covered the SPINNERS' classic, "I'll Be Around" on that disc. Whose idea was that? Was there a good response from that choice?

TAMMY: A friend named Rodney Gibson had the idea for me and the response was great. I rewrote the lyrics with the permission of the original writers, which made it more of a reflection of my relationship with the Lord...Whenever I call on Jesus, He is always there for me...He'll always be around. No matter what I've done. Because His grace and mercy and forgiveness is never ending. Thank God!

LaZERIC: You were with Platinum Entertainment then (Light,
CGI). Since then, they've phased out their Christian music
entity. When it was suggested that you do a Mainstream album, were you interested even for a minute?

TAMMY: Not even for a minute!!!!!!

LaZERIC: I've described you to others as a mature BRITTANY
SPEARS. How would you describe your musical style and
ministry?

TAMMY: I'm not completely sure...It's always interesting to
hear how others describe me. Especially after they've seen me perform and minister. I always have people say "...If this artist thing doesn't work out you should be a comedian". I think that's because there's generally lots of
laughs at a Tammy Trent concert ... Mostly at myself. I love being real and sharing my life with people. My music is Pop/R&B/Dance and I'm thrilled to hear people describe it as mature. I'm not 16 years old anymore and hopefully I have some mature things to share in the Lord through my music and message....Brittany Spears? I'm not sure, 'cause I keep my clothes on! (laugh)

LaZERIC: Who were your musical influences --besides Amy Grant?

TAMMY: Cyrstal Lewis, Tim Miner, Jon Gibson, The Winans .... and the production talents of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and Babyface and L.A. Reid

LaZERIC: As a recorded musical minister, what are some of the exciting things that God has allowed you to see since 1995?

TAMMY: I think seeing people coming to the Lord through a song that I wrote or just at one of my concerts...It's an amazing feeling to be used of the Lord and see the fruit of that right before your eyes...Especially in the midst of my own weaknesses and failures.

LaZERIC: How has Tammy Tent the artist/person grown over the years?

TAMMY: Hopefully I keep growing in my music and my stage presence and most importantly in my relationship with Jesus. I have seen the growth in all area of my life as I have continued to open up my heart to Jesus and find truth in my life....Freedom in the Lord is a wonderful feeling. I truly have been set free and I hope I continue to grow in that and challenge others in that also.

LaZERIC: God bless you Tammy Trent.

TAMMY: God bless you, too (smile)



LaZeric Fridell Freeman is an accomplished teacher, writer and DJ. His written work has appeared in GOSPEL FLAVA MAGAZINE where he served as contributing writer and is featured on contempogospel.com. His interviews have included: Tim Bowman, Knowdaverbs, Crystal Lewis, Anson Dawkins, Papa San, June April and Sackcloth Fashion.