When Joe and David Brewer stood at the sanctuary at South Columbia Baptist Church last week, they delivered the gospel in a fast, tongue-twisting, rhythmic manner that was not the typical church performance.
"I take a stage in a rage. I grab the mike in a birthright. I'm com'n to your town and God will take it tonight. . . .," the Brewer brothers rapped, jumping around and waving their hands.
"I'm a preacher losing ground, but not about to give up. . . .," they continued, rapping the lyrics from "Spiritual Graffiti," one of their original rap compositions.
Joe Brewer, 19, is known in local rap circles as Christian rapper "Sonkissed," which means kissed by Christ. The moniker is important to him because "it's just another way of saying I've been saved."
His brother, David, 16, is called "C. L. Faith," which represents his "child-like faith and trust in God."
Last week's hour-long concert of original Christian songs before more than 100 people at the Guilford Road church was one of several performances the Brewers have given at their family's church and throughout Columbia in recent years.
Dressed in denim shorts, T-shirts and athletic shoes, the duo looked like hip-hop artists last week, as they rapped over booming music tracks. But they had a different-style message for the mostly young audience in the church.
"I'm not trying to make you commit to some religion or convert," said Joe Brewer, a Hammond High School graduate who also performs raps at Furman University in North Carolina, where he'll be a sophomore in the fall majoring in accounting and political science.
"We don't want to be two preachers up here stiff-necked and stuffy. . . . We're trying to offer something different."
In a preconcert interview, the older Brewer said his interest in Jesus Christ and lyrics led him to Christian rap, which combines hip-hop beats with the gospel. He has rapped and written rap lyrics since he fell in love with rap at age 14.
At first, he felt uneasy revealing his interests in rap publicly, and only told his brother, a junior at Hammond High. But he later became confident and entered local contests and variety shows.
After a concert by Soldiers For Christ, a nationally known Christian rap group, in the winter of 1992, Joe Brewer approached SFC's disc jockey for advice. The deejay said to send him a demonstration tape.
"I sent him the stuff [in 1993] and called about a week later," Joe Brewer said. "He said, 'It was great.' "
He later flew to Los Angeles and recorded five songs for $500, about half the normal costs needed to make recordings, he said.
"He cut me a big break," he said.
Joe Brewer said he is unsure whether he will get a record contract and become a professional rapper. "I'm going to take this as far as God lets me," he said.
In one of his favorite original songs, also called "Sonkissed," Joe Brewer talks about serving God. Here are some of the song's lyrics:
"Here it comes, here it comes, Kissed and Jesus on a hit and run.
"Sharing, saving grace and bringing power from Jerusalem.
"Now that you've heard me, let me satisfy that urge within of how a man of sin could be a fisher for the God of men."
Christian rap is growing because of the positive messages that groups like DC Talk and Gospel Gangsta have delivered, Joe Brewer said.
"Most of the rap out there is filth in terms of what they're saying," he said, adding he likes popular West coast rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg's voice, but not his message.
He considers Christian rap to be his ministry.
"I want to use this style of music to outreach to Christians and non-Christians and tell them about the good news of Jesus Christ," he said. Nanette Taylor, of Ellicott City, brought four children, ranging from 1 to 12, to hear the Brewers perform. She had difficulty following the quick flow of the words, but liked the message.
"As a parent I'm much older, so I don't understand half the words," she said. "But I enjoy myself when I see kids enjoying it."