'Hip hospel' merges church, soulful sounds

On Sundays at St. Paul's Antioch Christian Center, faith in a higher power takes center stage. But mixed in with the hymns and sermons, the sounds of the streets are also used to praise the Lord.

Photos: Stills from performance

One of the ministers behind the mic is Rob Cinque, one of the sons of the church's founder, bishop Charles Messenger.

"I always had a love and been musically inclined. I had a love of hip hop. I used to rap secularly. I used to say a lot of things the devil had me say. I wanted to see a change, and i decided to be the change I wanted to see," Cinque said.

Eight years ago, with his father's encouragement. Cinque and his crew started incorporating their spiritual brand of hip hop into the church's services.

"We call it ‘hip hospel.' Gospel hip hop is such a long title. You know black people, we like to shorten it up," Cinque said.

They've been so well-received, they've been performing ever since.

"A lot of people say they listen to that music for the beats and not the lyrics. Well, you can listen to the beats and get different lyrics -- godly lyrics that give you good advice not the sex drugs and rock and roll," he said.

"We have a mission to attract people who don't like a traditional church or don't feel comfortable in that setting, so we wanted to attract those people and give them a place to worship in their way which might be hip hop."

With the pounding beats and flashing lights, the performance seems more like a concert at a nightclub than a church service, but the message in the music does more than just move the body. It feeds the soul.

"We're not reinventing the wheel. We're just adding a little more flavor to it. Spaghetti is great, but we're going to put in some oregano and Italian seasoning, little cheese so everything works out," Messenger said.

Recently, however, there have been a few more empty seats on Sundays since their father passed away from diabetes in August, but his sons believe using rhymes and rhythms to rebuild their father's church is the best way keep his memory alive.

"I want to make a mark so big the devil can't erase it. It's definitely carrying on his legacy; inspiring people and being the change we want to see," Messenger said.

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