by Laura McKnight – Staff Writer
HOUMA — Christmas is about to get a sweet new beat.
Christian rap trio, Sons of a King, known as S.O.A.K., is set to perform at 6 p.m. Saturday in Talbot Auditorium on the campus of Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. The group, part of the holy hip-hop movement, includes (from left) Yung Semaj of South Carolina, Lunie 3:80 of Atlanta and Judah Man of the Chicago area. To watch a music video by the group, visit http://www.houmatoday.com. Local audiences can celebrate the season with holy hip-hop as a trio of Christian rappers stages its “Lil Rapper Boy” concert in Thibodaux this weekend.
Sons of a King, known as S.O.A.K., are set to perform at 6 p.m. Saturday in Talbot Auditorium on the campus of Nicholls State University. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $10 each.
“I’m looking forward to the people,” said Yung Semaj, one of the group’s rappers, in a phone interview, citing the warm welcome the group received during last year’s show in Thibodaux. “I’m also looking forward to the food.”
The group, part of a Christian rap movement known as Holy Hip Hop, features three rappers who mix their various styles and backgrounds for one gospel-inspired flow. S.O.A.K. members include Lunie 3:80 of Atlanta, Judah Man of Chicago and Yung Semaj of South Carolina. This weekend’s show follows the late November release of the group’s newest album, “Rags 2 Royalty.” The trio performs original rap music as well as Christian remixes of popular songs like “Crank Dat Holy Ghost” and their version of the hit “Walk It Out” by Unk.
S.O.A.K. performed on the Nicholls campus last December, drawing about 230 people from the Houma-Thibodaux area, Morgan City and Raceland to the show, said Mileina Battaglia, owner of Just Jazzin’ Dance in Thibodaux, the group organizing the event.
“I hope that this year we will have even more people come out and that we put on the best show for them,” said Lunie 3:80 in an e-mail to The Courier. “We want to see people walk away from this with a new outlook on life and know whatever you are going through today, it will be better tomorrow.”
Battaglia said she expects larger crowds this year as seats in the front and center of the auditorium have already sold out, and a number of youth groups plan to attend.
After last year’s show, crowd members told Battaglia they wished they had brought more people along for the performance, she said. Some had no idea what to expect from a set of holy hip-hoppers, but biblical lyrics and danceable beats won their affection, she said.
“People absolutely loved it,” Battaglia said.
S.O.A.K. created a music video during last year’s visit, using Talbot Hall, the Howard Johnson, a day care and other spots in the city as sets. The video for “Dance All Night” showcases dance and tumbling moves by Battaglia’s students as well as children and teens involved in Hope Extreme, an urban ministry in Houma.
The rap trio also staged a free pre-show performance for Hope Extreme, an act that fits in with S.O.A.K.’s mission to make a positive impact on youth, Battaglia said.
The rap group performs at churches, schools, events and outreaches across the country, but Yung Semaj said S.O.A.K. is eager to return to Cajun country.
“This is the one we’ve been waiting on,” he said.
Lunie 3:80 described the group’s last visit as “super great,” writing that Thibodaux “felt like a home away from home.”
The Atlanta rapper said he enjoys the food — “Hands down, and the fact that the community was so open in welcoming us like we lived there.”
He also likes “the rush of being on stage performing something that you created” and seeing audiences get touched.
“But the best part is getting to fellowship with the fans after the show is over,” he writes.
Yung Semaj also talked about the enthusiastic welcome from locals, the gumbo and his craving for more praline catfish.
“I’m a big seafood lover,” he said.
Battaglia and S.O.A.K. set up last year’s show after Battaglia contacted them to tell them how much their music had impacted a local student.
The dance instructor uses a lot of hip-hop music by Christian artists, including S.O.A.K., in her dance practices and performances. The studio includes a ministry team that dances and tumbles at local community events, such as the annual Thibodeauxville Fall Festival.
Battaglia and the rappers have kept in regular contact since the 2007 show, with Battaglia and her dance students traveling to various places to serve as backup dancers for S.O.A.K.
Battaglia and seven other dancers, including males and females ranging in age from 8 to 35, danced during S.O.A.K.’s performance of “Warrior” at the Holy Hip Hop Music Awards in Atlanta last year.
The same group danced for S.O.A.K. at Beach Blaze, an annual Christian rock and rap event in Panama City Beach, Fla. S.O.A.K. and the local dancers also visited five Florida schools during the trip, performing Christian rap and speaking to about 2,100 students about self-esteem, integrity and making good decisions.
“They said, ‘We didn’t know they had music about church that was this much fun,’ ” Battaglia said.
Battaglia traveled on her own to South Carolina to perform with S.O.A.K. at a Christian music event, then at an outdoor block party in a low-income neighborhood.
S.O.A.K.’s music falls under the label of Christian rap or holy hip-hop, but Lunie writes that their sound serves as “God-centered music for the masses,” often gaining more acceptance from the general public than the church crowd.
Yung Semaj said he hopes audiences see that God uses different — sometimes head-bobbing — tools to reach people. He compares S.O.A.K. to a contemporary version of the Bible’s King David, himself a songwriter and musician, and hopes crowds join in the beat-driven praise.
“I’m just like baffled at how my gift that God has given me, that others can participate in it,” he said.
For information on the show, call Battaglia at 447-8005 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.