There’s a thin line between rocking stages and rock bottom.
Da T.R.U.T.H can attest to that. Still basking in the success of his album The Big Picture, the popular Christian Hip Hop artist had a fall from grace after information came out about an extramarital affair.
It’s been an incredibly long and difficult road back, but the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-born rapper is back with a new album, The Whole Truth, which debuted on the Soundscan Top 200. Da T.R.U.T.H recently spoke to HipHopDx about his latest project, his failures, marriage, and the road to recovery.
HipHopDX: How do you feel about the Whole Truth project?
Da T.R.U.T.H: [Laughs] I’m really excited. I spent a lot of time and energy, made a lot of sacrifices for this record. It took me about a year or six or seven months to get it to the place where I really wanted it. From a lyrical standpoint, I feel really good. I feel like to a large degree I went back to my roots as an emcee. Musically, I feel really good man.
A lot of the music I made a contribution to, just building the music from the ground up. I’ve heard it said that this is my best record so far. I don’t know. I’ll let the public decide, but if I had to measure it against my other records, I would probably put it up there in that Moment of Truth and The Faith category.
I feel really good about it. It comes from a really sincere and honest place. I’m really geeked about it coming out. This record is a symbol for me and my family. It’s a memorial so to speak. It’s a reminder to me of God’s faithfulness and God’s grace, and God’s commitment to restore, giving another chance. This record, I’m excited about it on a number of different levels, and I think the people are excited about it for many of the same reasons; what it represents.
I think as they hear the music, they are beginning to get excited with basically how I’m bringing it and what’s happening musically. I’m really excited that I get to expose it to the world. I’m real stoked about it.
DX: On several songs, you speak about how tough things got for you. How bad were things at your lowest point?
Da T.R.U.T.H.: At my lowest point, you know I was sleeping on my mom’s floor, in my old bedroom, on my mom’s floor. My wife and I had to heat our house with the oven for several months, because we couldn’t afford heat.
You figure that I had cancelled all my engagements, so I went eight months without doing any travel, which obviously if that’s your primary means of income, once that dries up then there’s nothing left.
And so we basically didn’t haven’t have heat. We used the oven. We got behind in our mortgage. Just think about what happens when you don’t have money. You can not pay the bills. It’s not that you don’t want to. It’s that you can not. You are not able to.
I had lost all my friends… Well, I had lost them, because when I was in the season of darkness, I cut so many people out, so many people off. All my relationships were torn. Obviously, my wife and I were on the brink of divorce. I had been kicked out of the church that I was in. That’s pretty much it. I was stripped down to nothing. I had nothing basically.
Once I got out of my situation. The only thing I had at that point was me and Jesus. For the most part, that was it. Then aside from all the stuff I had lost – the monetary things, the tangible things – the relationship between me and God had been broken down during that time, too. That’s the worst part, because He is our life. Once we’re disconnected from Him, once we’re out of fellowship with Him, our souls are empty. So that was probably the worst part of all.
You can almost deal with losing everything around you if your relationship with God is intact… not almost… you can. You can bear up under the distress and duress, but if you’re disconnected from God, that relationship is out of whack, and you lose everything, that is the worst place anyone on Earth can be.
So when you say how bad was it, it was as bad is it could get. It was the darkest place of my life. I consider myself as having been in the pit, disconnected from God and having lost everything because of my trespass.
DX: “Alive” is your first video off of the project. Talk about why you chose that song for your first single.
Da T.R.U.T.H: The way we understand death naturally is when a person dies, that’s it. It’s final. Close the casket, you feel me? It’s a wrap.
But in the kingdom of God, we understand that death is not a period but a comma. The Bible says that the payment for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.
In other words, what God has done is He has given us Jesus. And what Jesus offers us transcends the power of death. I can speak for all Christians when I say that even when sin destroys our lives – sin ruins us, because that is what sin does – I think [HipHopDX.com] interviewed Thi’sl, and he talked about the beautiful monster. Sin is a killer. It destroys anything in its way. Anything it comes into contact with, it kills, it ruins, it destroys.
We know that that’s reality, but not everybody’s acquainted with the other side the Christian gets the opportunity to embrace. There’s a greater gift, and that there is one that offers life, the kind of life that overcomes death.
So I wanted my first single to be a statement that though I was dead, I am now alive in Christ. I know that the tabloids and the media all pronounced me dead, and rightfully so, because when they got wind of it, I was.
But I wanted to highlight the fact that Jesus had made me alive. We wrestled with whether or not that was the best song at first, because I didn’t want people to get the wrong impression and think that my heart wasn’t broken, that I wasn’t contrite in any way.
At the end of the day, we recognized this is the statement that we needed to make. There is a resurrection power in Christ, and we want to make that public. For me, my desire is that the restoration speaks equally as loud as – if not louder than – the scandal, you feel me?
That’s what that represents.
DX: The lyrics for the song “Whole Truth” are amazing. Talk about the writing process for that song…
Da T.R.U.T.H.: I wrote this record. Part of the reason it’s called “The Whole Truth” is because I chronicled the whole journey. So what people can sense is, you can almost hear the months go by between the first and second verse and then the second and the third verse. [Laughs] You can hear how many months went by.
The first and second verses speak of the tragedy of sin like we just talked about it, and the tragic consequences of sin like we talked about. The third verse speaks of Christ’s redemption, but obviously I didn’t sit down and write that all at once. It was a process for me.
The chorus provides you with the crux of what I wanted to communicate which is A., God made me alive, B., God made me strong when I was weak. C., God brought me up when I was down; all of those things.
That’s such an important topic. It’s so important for Christians to talk about it. A lot of times people hear about Christianity and they think it’s just about a list of do’s and don’ts. They immediately associate Christianity with legalism.
A large part of this record is “Listen, if you’re a sinner, I’m actually just like you apart from the grace of God.” I’m liable to do the same exact thing as the non-Christian apart from the grace of God, or if I abandon my connection with God, or abandon fellowship with God. I’m liable to do the same thing as any other person in the world.
I want to stress that on this album. I tell people that all the time, I want non-Christians to be exposed to this record. There’s no other record that I put out, besides Moment of Truth, and that was in 2004, and that shows you how long ago that was, but there’s no other record since then where I’ve desired for a non-believer or a non-Christian to take it home and put it in their CD changer or put it on their iTunes list.
I think this record expresses the vulnerability of Da T.R.U.T.H. It lays it all out. There’s no secrets. No pretending. It’s embarrassing at times, but at the end of the day, the world can respect the person who’s honest about their failures.
Basically, The Whole Truth is just another song where I’m opening up about my failures and the consequences of my failures. Then the last verse highlights the redemptive work of Christ in spite of my failures.
DX: As far as the album goes, there’s a lot of new guest artists and an absence from many of the artists that you had worked with in the past. What was the thinking behind that decision?
Da T.R.U.T.H: Anybody that knows me knows I pick my features based on the flow of the song. It’s got to be organic. I don’t pick out a feature, and build a song around a feature, you feel me?
I build my songs, and then say, such and such would sound bangin’ on this (laughs). That’s one way I determine who’s going to do what. That’s one way. The other way is let’s just say like Suzy Rock that’s on this record. Suzy and I started building in 2009.
I met her when I was on the road when I was on tour for the Big Picture album. She opened up for me at one of the shows. I liked her so much I had her meet me at the next show. She met at two shows following that and opened for me. We started building a relationship.
In 2009, as she expressed in the song, she started struggling with homosexuality, but God freed her from it. Not only was she fitting for the song, but I really felt like she had a story to tell. She had been entangled in something that God had freed her from.
As far as features go, I just have to hear their voice on the song. It has to come to me. I won’t try to manufacture it. If they have a story to tell that’s similar to mine, it makes a lot of sense, especially on this record.
The third thing is relationships. Like I said, it has to fit. When you think about the song I did with CeCe [Winans], CeCe and her husband, her son is actually in the “Whole Truth” video.
My wife and I started building a relationship with them in 2010. They really took us under their wings, when my wife and I were going through a really difficult season. From there, we just developed a relationship, a friendship.
When I started about doing this song for my wife, a song that would provide my wife with a fresh point of reference and something that would honor her on the record, I thought about who would best fit a song like that, who would my wife love to hear on a song like this.
And, this is funny, my wife calls CeCe a Rock star. She says, CeCe’s such a rock star. We love the purity of CeCe Winans. We all grew up on CeCe Winans. I called CeCe up and said “I need you for this record,” and she did it out of the kindness of her heart.
My point is that is has to make sense to me, and I like to introduce new artists. I like to leverage my power and the influence I have to give other people I believe in platforms. That’s another reason.
DX: How did you get hooked up with Xist Records?
Da T.R.U.T.H.: Oh, with Xist, basically I met Sean Simmonds in 2009. We toured together in Europe. We started building a relationship out there. After everything went down, he had called me and started talking about this label situation, which at the time I had no interest in, because you know the state I was in at the time he called, I wasn’t thinking about a label, an album. The only thing I was thinking about at that point was fixing my family.
My family was in shambles. It was during that time my wife and I were going through counseling. I was seeking God for personal wholeness. That was my only point of concentration at the time Sean started to reach out to me regarding the label.
And at the time, I was still signed to another label [in Cross Movement Records]. And so, at first, I really said, “Okay cool. Thank you.” And there were a few other offers on the table from other labels. But I wasn’t thinking about anybody’s label at that time. I wasn’t thinking about anybody’s album.
When I first started work on my album, I wasn’t working on an album. Everything I was writing was therapy for me, you feel me? I wasn’t writing to make an album at that time. It was in my heart to do. It was cathartic. [The song] “The Whole Truth,” I didn’t write that to music. I wrote that in an airport, you feel me. It was the abundance of my heart.
When Sean started calling me about this label situation, I’m like, “Dude, I’m not in that space at all. I’m not even really making music for an album.” And I didn’t know to what degree I was disqualified or not, you know what I’m saying. I didn’t know if I was coming back to ministry in the same way.
I didn’t know if I was coming back to ministry that was high-profile. I wasn’t thinking about a label. That being said, Sean and I started to build. And he was very persistent, that’s the thing I like about Sean. He was very persistent. He was like, “Yeah, you’re saying that now, but three months later you’re not going to feel that way.” And he was exactly right.
After about three or four months of conversations with him, I was like, “You know what? I actually want to do this.” And one of the things that made me want to do it was, I wanted to be part of a family for one. It can get lonely being out there by yourself in a sense, you feel me?
I know how lonely it can be to be out there solo. And I knew Ambassador was on board. I knew Sean was on board. I was starting to develop a relationship with T Black. I was thinking about all the other pieces that would eventually be added, and I said, “You know what? This is what I want to be a part of, you feel me, a family. There’s strength in that.
Number two, I wanted to be part of something I could build from the bottom up. I wanted to be a part of that process of partnership in a sense. Because I also got a label deal out of it. That’s the other thing. They offered me a real sweet deal, but I wanted to be part of something I could build from the bottom up.
The third thing was that the deal they offered me was so sweet, I would be a fool to not take it. Those are the three things.
DX: How did you know when it was time to come back?
Da T.R.U.T.H.: You know what, that was very hard. That was a difficult process. You have to think about all the embarrassment, the shame, the guilt, that I had to carry for a long time, you know what I’m saying. There’s remnant of it now. There’s residue of it now, but for the most part it’s not an issue.
At that time, I was like really reluctant to come back on one hand. At the same time, I still sensed that I was called and I had been sent by God. I knew I couldn’t tell God no, but I also knew I had to face the people again. Because when I stopped doing ministry, I went into a hole.
Like I said, concentrate on personal wellness and wholeness and work on rebuilding my family and relationships with people.
My wife and I had people that we counseled with, pastors and friends that had wisdom. We counseled with them just to see when was a good time. I remember asking Ambassador and Bishop Coleman and the couple that was counseling us, and asking my wife also.
My wife to me was the main voice. Her voice spoke loudest in my life. I was really depending on their counsel to determine. I never wanted to come back out if nobody else agreed with it.
The thing that helped me determine it was, I thought I was going to quit. I thought it was over for me, but I kept running into passages in the scriptures that basically said the opposite.
Everywhere I looked in the word of God, there was also something about somebody who had fallen, or the nation of Israel that had fallen. And in every case, God restored them and re-sent them. He re-commissioned them every time. It was never just He restored them. He restored them and then re-commissioned them.
And so those passages basically debunked the idea that I wasn’t called to the ministry. Once I realized I’m still called to do this, still uniquely crafted for this specific thing, once I got to that point, I got closer to coming out of it.
But when I got to a month before I was supposed to come back, I was nervous. You don’t understand. You know that kind of nervous where you’ve got to go to the bathroom. I’m so serious. But what God did was, he used the pastor that I’m under to come up to me literally out of the blue.
And I’m not a spooky guy. I’m not a guy that’s always looking for something mystical to happen. But God is spirit, and we do believe that God is mystical. He does do things that are supernatural.
With that being said, I went to all-night prayer. It was literally a month before I came back out. I was literally losing sleep over this. I was like, “There’s no way that people are going to accept me. What are they going to think? I’m carrying so much shame. What do I have to say?” I have all these things running through my head. I can’t sleep at night.
I never told my pastor about any of this. I haven’t even spoke to him since I had been at the church, and I had been at the church about six months at that point. The pastor came down to me during all-night prayer and he says to me, “Son, it’s time for you to go back out there. There are young men that need to hear from you. There’s marriages out there that God wants to use you to strengthen.
And I just broke. Completely broke. I broke all the way down. Then he called me in his office after that. When I went to his office, it’s like [3 a.m.] in the morning, he said, “You know it’s time for you to go back out there, right?”
Now you’ve got to think. I haven’t had this conversation with anybody but myself about this. And so for me man, that was it. God has given it to me through the scriptures. Then He used my pastor and my counselors to confirm it. Then I was like, “Let’s go.” I was ready to go at that point.
It was still difficult. Like I said, coming back I still had to face the music. I had to face the people again. But it’s been beautiful, so many people have embraced me since I’ve been back.
DX: How would you say your marriage is right now?
Da T.R.U.T.H.: I would say our marriage is in a really healthy place and getting healthier with every day. We’ve both learned a lot from just over the past three years. We’ve learned a lot about God. We’ve learned a lot about each other.
Unfortunately, it was on the heels of a tragedy that we had to learn some of the lessons that we’re learning now. Thanks be to God that we’re learning them. That’s the main thing. I think we’re in a healthy place.
There’s all types of books out about how to affair-proof your marriage and things of that nature. Those books are actually really good, but when I think about it in terms of how to affair proof our marriage, I think the key is affair-proofing your heart. I think that’s where it has to start.
For me, the biggest thing is not so much putting up boundaries around the marriage so much as putting up boundaries around my heart, you feel me? If your heart is not right, it doesn’t even matter.
For me man, I’ve had to do a lot of self-examination in light of who God is, because I could examine myself in light of myself, or I could examine myself in light of other people. There’s nothing like examining yourself in light of who God is. He’s the only non-fluctuating standard by which we live.
I’ve had to do a lot of self-examination and self-evaluation, having to challenge myself on being a husband. Being a husband is hard. That’s why people quit man. But you know what, put it this way, it doesn’t have to be hard work, but it is work, you feel me?
I feel about marriage how I feel about my music. I have to work hard, make a lot of sacrifices, so forth and so on with my music, but it’s not like its grievous work, you know what I’m saying. It’s the kind of work that I actually enjoy doing.
The same is true for my marriage. And obviously when you’re making the music and you have to make sacrifices, it’s not always fun. You don’t enjoy every minute of it. The same goes for marriage, but overall we love the process because in the end you know what’s going to be produced as a result.
My wife and I, man, we’re in a real good place. We have a lot of hard talks. We had a hard talk yesterday, you know what I’m saying. There’s times where I just have to listen to her as she vents about some of the pain that she may still carry, some of the memories or things that plague her about the affair or whatever.
You know, that’s par for the course. It’s not always easy, but it’s necessary. But it’s what it produces at the end that is most important. And it’s interesting, because like I said she vented for about an hour, but last night she came to me and said, “Thank you so much for listening to me.” And I didn’t expect that.
Men, we’re not talkers in that same kind of way. Just to talk and let her get it out helps in the healing process. Overall, man, we’re doing really, really good. She’ super excited. There’s nothing like having your wife behind you. She’s on the record on a song called, “Forgiveness.” It’s just an awesome season for both us.
The beautiful thing is that we get the chance to be a model for other married couples to be, or couples that are already married, and maybe having a hard time in their marriage. A lot of people look at our situation and say, “If y’all can go through what y’all went through, and God can hold it together for y’all, then we know we can make it.”
And we want that, because we live in an era where divorce is readily accessible. You can get a divorce for free. You can get a divorce for 250 bucks. It’s readily accessible, and they have all types of user-friendly methods to get you there with ease now.
And so we want to stand as a picture of what it looks like to have been as close as anybody could imagine, but God preserved us and kept us from going all the way through with it.
The Bible says that God holds all things together through the word of His power and in Him all things consist. Everything is held together by Him. If the world and universe are held together by Him, how much more two people?
So that’s what we believe. God can hold any marriage together, and that’s what we’re out to stand as the poster children for.
DX: What’s next for Da T.R.U.T.H.?
Da T.R.U.T.H.: I got a booklet coming out, called The Whole Truth as well. It talks about my journey over the last two years. Also, the Misfit Tour coming up with Sean Simmonds, Ambassador, Mali Music. I’m super excited about that. We’re out for 59 days. We’re home for the holidays, and then we go back out. Then the tour goes international next year. We stoked about that as well.
Actually, we just developed a relationship with Thomas Nelson, which is the largest Christian book distributor. We’re excited about where that relationship is going to go. My wife and I are looking to do some stuff together as a team to go out and make some noise and stand as a picture of hope for couples to be and couples that are already married. That’s all I can really think about right now.