Successful rapper Kevin Burgess is inspired to be a better father and role model for the next generation
A top 4 debut on the Billboard rap album chart in 2014 capped off an amazing decade for Kevin Burgess of Reach Records, better known as KB, who admits he was once "struggling with living".
Fatherless and surrounded by the influences of drugs, violence and troublemakers, Kevin was not immune to the effects of his neighbourhood growing up but says he is determined to become a role model to those from a similar background.
His dad was a military man and taught Kevin the ways of a soldier but when he abandoned the family when Kevin was 17, things fell into disarray.
"I lived on an Air Force base for half of my life and then my parents divorced and I found myself smack bang in the middle of the hood and that was a big shift for me going from guarded gates to hearing people blowing off guns every night," Kevin remembers.
On his 2012 Billboard Top Gospel Album 'Weight and Glory', Kevin raps on Go Off, "I was a hot head, bad attitude, woulda, shoulda, coulda been shot dead / Always running my mouth, I'd rather die than be soft man / I'd been slammed on my back just to prove that I'm not scared."
“I want to be someone people can look up to”The divorce and fearful environment, Kevin recalls "was just very identity shattering for me and I sunk into depression and trying different things... drugs and exploiting women – things of that nature to find myself and I never did."
Although he was academically gifted, entering a university level program at age 15, Kevin says, "I wasn't able to do very well in school because I was struggling with living – I mean literally there were thoughts of 'it would be easier if I could just end my life'."
At this lowest point in his life, Kevin recalls, "I was given a CD with eight tracks on it, and I loved every one of them. I couldn't believe it was Christian music, because the dude on the cover looked just like me."
The eighth song was an explanation of the gift of forgiveness and new life purchased by Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, which would have a profound effect on Kevin.
Kevin says, "That day I believed [in Jesus Christ]. It's been a pursuit after the things of God ever since."
While gaining a theology degree, Kevin formed hip hop group HGA (His Glory Alone) with other Christian rappers.
Internet videos of HGA at churches caught Grammy-award winning rapper Lecrae's attention, leading to Kevin being signed to Reach Records in 2010. His debut mixtape, released for free, garnered 30,000 downloads within a year.
It is clear that material success and fame are far from Kevin's musical motivation, as he says, "I made it when Jesus Christ died for my sin, and gave me faith".
Instead he wants to be a positive influence through music as he believes music is "a spokesperson of a culture and it serves as sort of a reporter."
When rappers "talk about selling cocaine", Kevin told TheBlaze.com, "it's all contingent on a lie, that there's this free, fast life that you can live dangerous above the law ... when really there's another side of it ... that it's a very hard hell-like life to sort of live for the moment."
Kevin says that people rap about what they love, but rarely address their human struggles, and he notes that the rich and famous have more struggles with suicide than people realise.
"We're thirsty for something greater than we've been feeding ourselves for [the past] 50 to 60 years," Kevin says. "I think that the light of the gospel is bursting forth as a legitimate alternative."
Residing in Florida with his wife, Kevin continues to head up HGA, preach regularly at his church and he feels a sense of responsibility in what God has gifted to him.
"I want to be someone people can look up to and trust as a deliverer of truth. If I can accomplish that, then I will have been successful."
While he still has not spoken to his father for 17 years, Kevin says he would still love to have a relationship with him, love him and has forgiven him for abandoning the family.
"[We] can respond to that with hatred... or we can respond with forgiveness and love and redeem ourselves. If the Burgess last name has been muddied...I can actually redeem it by being there for my family, and also making sure my music is responsible and is consistent with my love for my kids." •