God works in mysterious ways and, often, the circumstances for him to find his way into our hearts is when we find ourselves at the lowest points in our lives.For gospel artist Sho Baraka, it took having the lives of close friends taken through gang life and incarceration to understand God’s calling for him.
Baraka decided to listen to his father’s advice to go to college, and it was there at Tuskegee University where his spirituality was elevated to new heights. He turned to Christ and, now, he has done great things — one of which was his debut from Reach Records, Turn My Life Up.
And great things have become even greater. Baraka’s most recent project, Lions and Liars, has topped the Gospel Billboard charts at No. 3 and, while on break from his tour, shared his story with ro. –ramone mack and cej
Tell me about your background and how you got started with music?
I am from southern California and grew up listening to music. I had two brothers, and all they did was listen to hip-hop. I started breakdancing when I was young and then realized that all the girls were into rap, so I started rapping. I loved poetry, so I used to read a lot of Langston Hughes. I noticed that poetry was kind of like a derivative of hip-hop, and I started writing poetry. After a while, I saw all the popular cats [were] rapping, and I was like, “I can do this, too.” That’s pretty much how it started.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Common, John Mayer, Janelle Monae and Kanye West.
What do you want people to take from your music?
The most important thing is I want people to walk away thinking about how they view life. Ultimately, my belief system teaches me to view life through the lenses of Jesus and the Bible. So, what I try to do is not preach sermons but take biblical principles and make them applicable and understandable for people.
Tell me about your album.
The album is called Lions and Liars, and it is a metaphor for how I think there are different types of people in this world. There are people who are lions who go hard and master their arena, and there are those people who are liars who just live a lie. They always try to stop those individuals who are lions. There’s a system. Sometimes, you can be a liar within yourself. Basically, I’m trying to show a parallel in these two worlds.
How do you balance your life as an artist and a Christian?
I want to be the best artist I can possibly be, but I know there are parts of that lifestyle that I cannot indulge in. We’re on tour right now and taking a three-day break, but, when we go back on tour, I can easily go and indulge in sexual activities and take advantage of people because people look at me as some type of celebrity or whatever. The reality is I have a responsibility as a man of God to honor these platforms and use them for good and not for my own selfish motives. I also want to make sure that my lifestyle matches the words I communicate on stage.
Tell me what you want people to take from the album?
Creativity and the glory of God. I think, when somebody picks up my album, they’re going to say, “This guy is an artist, but he also loves the Lord.”