PIQUA – Doc Hero was no hero at 18 years of age. During his teenage years, he aspired to become a secular rapper whose lyrics advocated sex, gangs and drugs. It wasn’t until the deaths of two siblings that the Philadelphia native discovered Jesus Christ and “made the switch” to Christian rap, providing his audience messages of “hope, joy and peace.”
Doc Hero, whose repertoire includes a mixture of hip-hop, rock and pop songs, said his current genre choice is “lots more fun” and makes him “feel great” because of the impact it has made on people’s lives.
“Secular rap (nowadays) tries to tear down people and make people feel they are not worth anything without sex and drugs. Christian rap is totally opposite because it gives people hope, joy and peace,” he explained.
“There’s so much excitement in this genre because there’s lots of energy and a really good message that I truly believe every young person should hear. Nowadays there are so many messages on television and the movies (teens) see. Everything’s watered down in negativity.”
The 30-year-old rapper, whose CD “The World Needs a Hero” is on the climb, will be one of four Christian groups performing at the Back to School Bash sponsored by the Greene Street United Methodist Church youth group from 6-8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28, at Hance Pavilion in Fountain Park.
The Rev. Kenneth Stewart, pastor of Greene Street UMC, said the event is free and open to all junior and senior high school students in the Piqua area. Besides music and games, there will be light refreshments and an 85-foot boot camp challenge obstacle course.
“We’ve targeted junior and senior high youth,” said Stewart, crediting the organization of the event to Teens Engaged, Empowered and Mobilized (TEEM), “who have a passion for this type of get-together.”
Stewart acknowledged Jason Frazier in particular for contacting the performers, adding that, “This (Christian rap) genre has really exploded over the past decade.”
In addition to Doc Hero, other performers include Scarlet Raven, a rock band from Fort Wayne; rapper J-NiBB, a Piqua native who currently lives in Columbus; and the band Paraclete of Sidney.
Joining Doc Hero will be a DJ and drummer from Philadelphia, along with another artist, Drew Smith. The rapper and his entourage perform a show every weekend in states such as North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, and Georgia. They’ve also made an appearance in Cincinnati.
It wasn’t until 2005 that Doc Hero began to “take the Lord seriously” and attend church more often. Two family tragedies occurred, prompting the rapper to reprioritize his life. The first occurred when his brother was shot seven times in the neck and murdered at 20 years old by a New Jersey gang. Secondly, his sister, a drug addict, died from an overdose of cocaine at the age of 33.
“Both events impacted me in a major way,” lamented Doc Hero. “Even now, I sometimes have a heavy heart and wish things could be a lot different. If they were still alive, I’d advise them that (gangs and drugs) are not worth it and that the end result is always tragic. God loves you and wants more for you.”
“The authenticity and relevance to students is the message that needs to be heard by more people,” Stewart noted. “It’s powerful and has the feeling of a concert but with less intimidation.”
Of the Back to School Bash, Stewart explained, “First, it kicks off the school year for students, showing them they are not alone and that we want to provide love, care and support. We’re investing in the next generation. Secondly, we want to have an event for them outside school.”
Stewart said “our religious culture has been part of our DNA” and that many youth have not been exposed to church. He blames both parents and churches for not meeting the real needs of youth. “It’s so easy to focus on the inside community versus outside community who need our support and love,” he said.
Summing up his vision for the Back to School Bash, Stewart said he “wants all students to start off the school year on a great note.”
Sharon Semanie is a journalist and longtime Piqua resident. She can be reached at [email protected] Belinda M. Paschal contributed to this story.