Kennedy Wrose: The message

Sacramento rapper expands the scope of Christian rap.

Photo by Serene Lusano

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“Christian rap has, honestly, up until the last seven years, been kind of corny. But now we want to give people truth, and not just replace every F-word on the radio with the name Jesus. Now it’s about the message, giving who you are and seeing how people respond.”

This is the aim of Eugene Kennedy Clarke, more and more well-known as Kennedy Wrose, a rap and hip-hop artist who grew up in Sacramento. Though most of us know how we feel about Christian rock, we probably haven’t heard enough Christian rap to form a strong opinion. The most I’ve heard about religion on 102.5 lately was in “God’s Plan” by Drake, which doesn’t really count.

Kennedy Wrose has set out to change this. He wants his music to be a kind of truth we’ll crave, with a message we can resonate with. On his album B.A.E., released in September of 2017, and Abstract Heart from 2016, Wrose weaves themes of trusting God and finding truth through every song, in an exceptionally unpreachy way. His songs make you feel cool driving in the car with your friends and sunglasses on, like most great rap songs do, while also keeping you grounded and motivated.

“I fell in love with East Coast rap—it was so heavy with metaphors and punch lines and deep concepts,” Wrose recalls. “I was so intrigued by it, I started breaking it down thinking, ’Why is this cool? Why does this stand out to me or other people?’ That sparked my interest to really do my own thing and see how it worked.”

Wrose’s thing is rapping with fearless honesty, and living in truth and positivity every day, and it’s definitely working. On Abstract Heart’s “Can’t Save Myself,” he raps: “No matter how hard I try, I end up with my hands in the sky” and “Addiction to the past makes your visions somewhat hazy, so I focus on my future.”

Wrose’s first mixtape from seven years ago, Destined to Rule, is a hidden gem that can only be downloaded from his Facebook page. Though the tape is less polished than B.A.E. or Abstract Heart, it feels so natural.

“I learned how to rap in high school and a bunch of my friends were all decent rappers. I was really bad, but I could write way better than all of them. They couldn’t sit down and write, but I could. So I thought, ’Let me try to do both.’”

In his song “Son of A King,” Wrose tells us: “I don’t rap for fun, I rap cuz I’m called to.” This simple statement reflects a mature understanding of what Wrose wants for his life and why. Listening to more of the songs on Destined to Rule, I pictured Wrose as a high school dreamer first finding rap, sitting in the car with his friends, writing and freestyling a few bars at a time.

Wrose says he wants rappers like himself and others from Sacramento to feel they can aim high. “I would love to be able to bring something back home to the city, a Billboard Award, or a Grammy, so that people and artists from Sac can see that it’s possible. I don’t feel like we’re any different from Atlanta or other places superstars come out of.”

If Wrose continues with music that’s unapologetically his own, with the sense of authenticity, I believe his success is something Sacramentans can look forward to.