Pro-life Florida musician finds a way to evangelize using rap music
TAMPA, Fla. (CNS) -- For pro-life Catholic rapper John Levi, there's no secret that his music is about evangelization.
Levi has turned his love of rap music and his talent as a rapper into outreach to people on the margins of the church by building a community that promotes urban Catholic culture.
"There must be a triumphant counter to bad messages that destroy human dignity," Levi told Gulf Coast Catholic, news outlet of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida. "For me, it became clear very early on that all things can be used for the greater glory of God.
"Even hip-hop can turn the minds of the people to our Creator and the life-giving Gospel. Something as powerful as hip-hop must be used for the kingdom," Levi said, explaining how he infuses his songs with elements of the Catholic faith.
"I also stop the music during every performance to remind the crowds they are loved by an almighty God who wants nothing more than to welcome them home," he said.
Levi, a member of Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon, Florida, began rapping after working as a DJ and master of ceremony of events. He said at first rapping was purely a form of entertainment.
He was attracted to the music form by the "extremely captivating" words of rap lyricists. So he tried it himself.
"I enjoyed putting the words together and watching people's reactions. After I had my first child, I remember trying to get into DJing to earn extra income. It didn't take long for me to realize the popular music I was spinning, the music that I loved, wasn't for me anymore," he recalled.
"I remember asking myself, 'How can I ask for God's protection over my growing family while celebrating themes that contradict who he is and what he wants from me?' From there, I felt a convincing tug on my heart to use rap as a tool to bring more people to him and to the church that Christ founded," Levi said.
Recently, he turned his talent to writing a song about being pro-life and advocating the pro-life message. It stems from the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Women's Health Organization.
The court's ruling said there is no constitutional right to abortion in the United States, immediately returning abortion policy decisions to the state level.
Still, in the works, Levi's song also was inspired by the work of pro-life activist Lila Rose, who spoke at a fundraising event for a Tampa pregnancy center.
"Watching her speak about the issues in person was very motivating," he said. "On TV and in speeches she makes the most important points clear, and she does it with a level of conviction that politicians can only dream of."
Levi has invited other rappers to join the pro-life effort.
"I want people to understand that once God puts something on your heart, especially to help the helpless, you must push forward full speed ahead and don't look back," he said. "The enemy is going to laugh at you, try to humiliate you, and do everything he can to discredit you, but this only means that you are on the right track, serving God's purpose.
"The heaviest resistance comes when you're closest to the enemy's target."
He realizes that a pro-life message in a rap song may be seen as a contradiction to some.
"But this is exactly who Christ was," he explained. "He calls us to reach people where they are, and many people are drawn to the percussions, rhythm and rhyme of hip- hop."
Levi still finds himself tuning in to hear what's new in the rap and hip-hop genres. He said he hopes to influence the music industry in some small way with his message.
"Ultimately, I challenge any lay faithful fan of the music to pray for the artists, record labels and executives who produce the music," he said. "A general rule of thumb is if you couldn't recite the song in the presence of Christ himself, it's probably time to change your playlist. There's plenty of alternatives."
"If you find yourself drawn to the bad lyrics, bring this to a trusted spiritual director and just take it one day at a time," he added.
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Camario writes for Gulf Coast Catholic, news outlet of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.