Selected Articles ArchivesSelected articles from my journalism career, with topics ranging from heavy metal to cold cases to samurai armor.
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Christian hip hop artist Lamar Callahan shares music and message
Meeting a musician in person is all about connections – knowing someone on the concert staff or within the musician’s entourage who can hook you up with tickets and backstage passes.
At a performance by Christian hip hop artist Lamar Callahan, that connection is made as soon as you enter the venue, and without the need for a middleman.
Callahan makes it a point to arrive at each performance an hour to an hour and a half early, not only to set up his equipment and perform a soundcheck, but to greet audience members as they walk in.
After the concert, he sticks around to sign autographs and answer questions.
“The professionals that we know today, they’re untouchable. You never get to meet them or anything like that,” he said. “It’s important to be able to connect with people that way.”
Audiences will have an opportunity to connect with Callahan at his performance at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at the Crown Hill Coffeehouse at the Arlington Street United Methodist Church, 63 Arlington St., Nashua.
Based in the greater Boston area, Callahan is represented by Patricia Maltz of Conquer Entertainment, who also manages Sheila Ray Charles, daughter of the late Ray Charles. Callahan is also the founder of Mandatory, a business and ministry that encompasses acting, speaking, preaching, teen mentoring and music.
“It’s gonna be done God’s way or it’s not gonna be done at all,” he said of the choice of name. “That’s mandatory.”
Though Callahan has been a fan of hip hop since Run-D.M.C. came on the scene, he believes the lyrics in mainstream hip hop have gone steadily downhill.
“It’s the message in the music that has contaminated the hearts and minds of the youth,” he said.
Young people may crave the “grime and grit” these lyrics glorify, Callahan said, but “it hits home when the things that rappers are laughing and bragging about are going on inside of your own household.”
Callahan’s lyrics target such individuals, offering them hope beyond their immediate circumstances.
“I get my inspiration from Christ and the people I walk by every day,” such as single mothers, drug-addicted teens and high school seniors contemplating their futures, he said. “They inspire me to write true music about real life issues.”
Unlike his mainstream hip hop counterparts, Callahan’s performances are family-oriented.
“I’m a husband and a father before I’m a recording artist and a speaker,” he said.
And the focus is consistently on connecting with the audience.
“My performances are always interactive,” Callahan said, describing how he encourages people to get up and dance and wave their hands. “I always share a bit of my testimony and my background, how I got into the music and the passion behind it.”
Part of the reason he got into music is its power to soften the blow of tough truths.
“It’s a universal language,” he said, “and a lot of people are threatened when you present a message that causes them to change or address things about their character or their life.”
Callahan can empathize, having made a number of these difficult changes himself. The youngest of three children raised by a loving and resilient single mother, he grew up in the Franklin Hill projects in Boston and the Chatham West apartments in Brockton, Mass., both troubled neighborhoods at the time.
Though Callahan first gave his life to Christ in 1988, he struggled throughout his teen and young adult years, making poor choices that led to his getting caught up in drugs, violence and sexual relationships. After hitting rock-bottom, he recommitted himself to God and has never looked back.
In addition to his work with Mandatory, he has worked with at-risk youth for the past 15 years, and hopes organizations like the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club will consider bringing their members to his performance at the Crown Hill Coffeehouse.
Callahan’s goal is for the audience to leave with an understanding that “the love of God is real, and that he has a plan for your life,” he said. “That if he can use me, he can use them.”
– Teresa Santoski
Originally published April 9, 2013 in The Telegraph, Nashua, NH.