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Daily Devotion and News
There’s something brewing in Chicago. It’s music that is eclectic, one of a kind and a true reflection of the ways in which we consume music nowadays. No genre is left off the table.
What this means is that the music produced here is a reflection of that. Other scenes in other cities play around with genre, but such Chicago musicians as Chance the Rapper or Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment or Towkio smash as many genres together as possible to create music that sounds utterly refreshing, dynamic and unique. It’s difficult to describe, but when you listen to it, regardless of what core genre the artist traffics in, you can identify it. And Sir the Baptist, born Sir William James Stokes, is the latest artist producing this particular sound.
Born and raised in Bronzeville, Stokes found a driving influence for the music he makes as a singer, rapper and producer in the work of his father, an influential Baptist pastor and activist. This includes everything from his stage name to the title of his album (“Preacher’s Kid”) to the many genres that form his sound.
“I’m inspired by him so much and inspired by his flaws and all of the good things about him,” Stokes said about his father. “He was the first person I knew, besides Bishop Ford, who was his best friend, to take church outside of the walls in Chicago.” Stokes splits his time between Chicago and Los Angeles and is preparing for the release of his debut album as he courts major record label offers.
None of Sir the Baptist’s songs sound alike, a fact that might be confusing on the outside but makes perfect sense upon further listening. Stokes’ music is complex, multifaceted and can’t be limited to any single genre. Much of it is rooted in classic styles, but it has a contemporary heart that feels unique. It is the sort of music that can translate to a variety of different ages and audiences if given the proper exposure.
“Converted to You” includes 70 choir vocalists and features doo-wop and early jazz elements, yet begins with samples from Redd Foxx and Eddie Murphy.
“Creflo Almighty Dollar” is a piano-heavy stunner featuring a chanting choir of 150 vocalists and layered vocals underneath Stokes’ rapping. The track is a mix of gospel and hip-hop, yet doesn’t bother with conscious rap conventions of overly preachy and unrelatable messages. “Creflo Almighty Dollar” addresses the capitalist goals of some churches, as well as the ones we hold within ourselves. It’s pointed commentary of the kind we don’t find in hip-hop, conscious or not.
What’s most striking about Stokes is his strength in knowing who he is and the kind of music he wants to make. Many artists waffle in finding a sense of identity, of sticking to their guns, of bucking trends. But Stokes is confident, almost (but not quite) too confident.
“This music is the kind of music that I’ll make for the duration of my career,” Stokes said. “It has a church theme because I’m a church boy.” In the end, it is refreshing and rare to see such traits in such a young artist, and it is that same confidence that will most likely pique curiosity for potential fans.
Stokes seems to have a mind that is always running, and it reflects well in his music. His thoughts jump from one to the next, though they all connect in the end. Likewise, there is no way to predict how one song of his will sound compared with the next in terms of instrumentation, tone and rhythm. At their core, they sound, lyrically, like songs for the socially and religiously repressed; sonically, like experiences in auditory experimentation, more than just straightforward songs.
“People don’t know what’s is like to be a church kid, so I’ll be giving folks a peek. There’s no messing around,” he said. “All of these records deal with that kind of stuff, but in order for somebody to talk about it, you have to be OK with being a preacher’s kid, which I am.”