'Rap-N-Granny': Ohio church deaconess spreads the gospel through hip-hop music
Ed Suba Jr., Mct
AKRON, Ohio — Loretta Brown, like many grandmothers, has a lot of good advice.
And she has an unusual way of sharing it: dropping rhymes to the beat of music.
"Check this out! Check this out! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Everything must be done God's own way or it'll only end up in disarray. You won't win, until you stop the sin. Check this out! You got to stop the sin!" admonishes Brown, 68, of Akron, Ohio.
Brown, a retired grandmother of 10, great-grandmother of 16 and mother of four, sports a white cap turned to the side with the word "Love" printed in pink letters outlined in red and adorned with rhinestones. The black airbrushed letters on her white T-shirt spell out who she is: "Rap-N-Granny."
She embraced hip-hop's rap genre about four years ago, after her church, Chapel of Grace Christian Center, began inviting young people to participate in "Holy Hype Friday Nights." The forum, designed to give people an opportunity to share their talents, attracted several young rappers.
As Brown, who writes poetry, listened, she got an idea that she might be able to arrange her poetic words into rap songs. When she tried the music style, the words seemed to flow naturally.
"This is a gift from God," Brown said. "I believe God has blessed me with this to be able to reach people who might not hear what he has to say any other way."
Brown said her pastor, the Rev. Barbara J. Lucas, first inspired her after they talked and Lucas discovered she liked to write.
"She's a phenomenal woman. All of her poems and songs are Bible-based," Lucas said. "God moves in many different ways. We can't put God in a box. Deaconess Brown is proof of that. God has given her a gift of writing and a gift of rapping to reach his people, and that is what she is doing."
Brown said she is thankful for a supportive church family. Some churches, she said, don't welcome the art of rap music, no matter how positive and biblically sound the message.
In addition to her rap ministry, Brown serves as a deaconess at the West Akron church. As a deaconess, she does whatever is needed, from cleaning the church to visiting the sick and shut-ins.
"My pastor pushes me to share what God has given me," Brown said. "God is truly my inspiration. I always pray before I write anything, and the words just seem to come to me. Sometimes I'm just sitting and something will come to me, so I always keep a pen and paper nearby."
At Lucas' urging, Brown collected her poems, had them copyrighted and is compiling them into a book called "Poems In the Key of Life." The poems cover a variety of life's topics, including having a personal relationship with God, politics, death, school, church, community relationships, children and words of wisdom to parents.
"Parents listen up! Check this out! Some of you parents don't know what to do! You let your kids run all over you!" Brown rapped. "They won't even take any of your lip. So when you go to them, you better be fully equipped — with God's word that you read and heard!
"I know that with God's help, my words will reach somebody. I thank God that he chose me and put me in a place where what he has given me is appreciated," Brown said. "It's all about trying to meet people where they are and helping them come to know God."
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