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On the first day of its release, Flame’s new album, The 6th, soared to #1 on the iTunes Hip Hop/Rap Albums chart and to #9 overall. It also debuted at the top slot on Billboard’s Gospel Albums chart. Needless to say, the 30-year-old Grammy Award nominee from St. Louis is winning a wide hearing for the sake of the gospel.

You can stream one of the tracks, “The Great Deception,” here. (Album lyrics are available here.)

I corresponded with Flame [Twitter | Clear Sight Music] about his latest project, the importance of theological education, a Christian artist’s cultural posture, and more.

What’s the significance of the title The 6th?

Besides this being my sixth album, The 6th is a project that explores the topic of anthropology (the study of man). I address the most important and crucial issues concerning our humanity from a Christian worldview. God created man, both male and female, on the 6th day. It’s on that day he gave us the responsibility to rule the earth and to fill it with his image. It is there that God deposited purpose, value, and meaning into our race.

However, because sin entered our world through the disobedience of Adam, mankind has fallen far away from our original purpose. The album explores both the positive and negative aspects of who we were, who we are, and who we can be. The overarching theme is that only in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, can humanity return to its original state. Jesus re-established the image of God in the person and, by the Holy Spirit upon repentance and faith, continues to make them more like himself. In Christ, paradise lost becomes paradise restored and enhanced!

In a recent video interview, you said, “I take my life experiences [and] my theological training, and I get to smash it all together and make it rhyme.” How did your experiences shape your view of humanity prior to knowing Christ, and how have those perceptions evolved since your conversion?

The community I grew up in was very religious. Many people visited the church building occasionally. Before my conversion, I assumed that I was on God’s good side. I also thought good people who were churchgoers were guaranteed a place in heaven. Hell was reserved for all the bad people who disrupted the peace in our world. Post-conversion, however, I came to think in more biblical categories. Persons who reject Christ are cast away, and those who are drawn and are receptive to his call inherit eternal life.

You’re a recent graduate of Boyce College and are currently pursuing your MDiv at Southern Seminary in Louisville. Why, as an artist, do you think it necessary to pursue a theological education?

The Bible says in James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” It is my conviction that when artists hold the mic and seek to communicate God’s heart through music, they must be students of the Word aiming to share God’s Word as accurately and practically as they can.

What books influenced this project?

The two major influences for this project were Peter Gentry’s article “Kingdom Through Covenant: Humanity as the Divine Image” and Russell Moore’s book Tempted and Tried. When I wrote the song “Scripture Alone” I derived a lot of my material from James White from Alpha Omega ministries.

What do you hope to be the relationship between your music ministry and the local church?

My hope is that my music would be a supplement to the local church. I pray my music says things that would drive a person to repentance and permanent fellowship with the people of God through church membership.

You recently started a record label, Clear Sight Music. What has been the biggest challenge in transitioning from artist only to label owner?

The biggest challenge would probably be the increase in workload. I’ve always been hands-on as an artist, which has allowed me to experience a great deal of what it takes to navigate the music industry. Nevertheless, as a label owner the responsibilities double. Praise God for my wife and team who contribute excellently to keeping the machine rolling.

There has been a long-running debate about how Christian artists should reflect the surrounding artistic culture and seek to change it. How do you see your role as a Christian in the arts?

I’ve heard helpful perspectives from both sides. I also have dear friends who love Jesus and are passionate about ministry who stand on both sides of the spectrum. However, I believe it is virtually impossible to not be influenced by the surrounding artistic culture. There is beauty that God has established in this world that has fallen into the hands of non-Christians. To distance oneself from those good things is unnecessary, I believe. Having said that, I believe our responsibility as Christian artists is to show what the arts can look like once Christ gets a hold of a person. This is a call to be creative, to pursue excellence, and to demonstrate holiness with a clear and upfront gospel message and lifestyle. Prayerfully this will have an effect on people and lead them to the cross. As a result, the culture is changed. I suppose my perspective is “both-and.”