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When he was a teenager, Baltimore-based rapper Troy Salmond won a talent competition rapping with a group of his friends. As he stood in front of the cheering crowd receiving his award, he said he felt an emptiness inside.

"As I looked around, I felt a bunch of confusion. I realized that my life and this gift have more than just continuing and repeating a cycle of foolishness," Salmond said. "God gave me this gift for a reason, and that reason is to spread a message of positivity. I told the other guys this, and, you know, they didn't really get it, so I had to go out on my own."

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Salmond performs as gospel rapper Praize. This weekend, Praize will be performing at Union Street United Methodist Church's annual Praise in the Park event Saturday, Aug. 23. The Rev. Daryl A. Foster, pastor at Union Street United Methodist Church in Westminster, said the event is designed as a way for the entire Carroll County community to come together and build faith and family, with live music, a praise team and food.

Salmond said his music is built around a positive message that can appeal to all people.

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"The main message that I have is one of trusting everything is going to be OK," Salmond said. "We all need to move into a positive direction by trusting each other and working together."

Salmond's songs include "Breaking Through," "Get Your Praise On" and "The Light."

"A lot of people, when they first hear me, they think I'm going to be corny," Salmond said. "Once I start rapping, something happens with them. They're surprised, and they listen and take in the message. It takes a moment to get past the initial block. Nobody wants to be told they're doing something wrong. I don't beat up on people. My main message is encouragement."

Salmond said he began seriously getting into music when he was 11, but his history in church choirs goes back further than that.

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"I started off by leading some songs with the choir. Eventually they gave me a part when I was still young, and they didn't know if I could do it," Salmond said. "I took it home and I just worked and worked on it. When it came time to perform, everyone was surprised that I nailed it. Like any other kid, I played a little sports and tried some other things to find my niche. I eventually chose music because I love it."

Salmond said his early influences included Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and John Legend.

"Of course being a teenager, I was listening to a lot of hip-hop," Salmond said. "Though I love to sing, I couldn't hold a note. The only thing I could do was rap."

Salmond worked for several years with a music studio as a producer, writer and rapper, but he quit in 2011 to carve out a path as a gospel rapper. With the help of his father-in-law, Matthew Fulton, he built up his own studio in his basement, where he now writes and records his music.

"I work the same on almost all of my songs. I'll pull a track up, turn the lights out and listen. Sometimes I turn the microphone on and get into a zone," Salmond said. "Sometimes it just comes to me. I'll just hum a melody, then get my chorus. That's when I start to write the lyrics from that point on. I keep my pad with me wherever I go, so I can write down all of my different thoughts."

Salmond said he loves having the opportunities to reach out to communities at these kinds of events.

"One of the things I want to emphasize for some of the youth there is that there is another way to be a part of the music business," Salmond said. "Not many of us do what I do. They think there's only one way to be successful if they want to rap or to do what I do. I try to be very clear in what I'm saying so that everyone gets the message."

Foster said one of the most important pieces of Praise in the Park is the openness to bring all community members regardless of race, gender or even beliefs together.

"There's an importance of bringing out these positive messages," Foster said. "I want folks to be able to see that we're able to worship and get beyond racial issues. We're able to come and be in this atmosphere where we're putting all of the things we have to worry about on a day-to-day basis and be together."

Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or jacob.denobel@carrollcountytimes.com.

If You Go

What: Praise in the Park

When: 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23

Where: Belle Grove Square, Bond and Green streets, Westminster

For more information: Visit http://www.unionstumc.org or call 410-861-5822.

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