Interview with Allan Houston
Getting Into The Game
Allan Houston didnít intend to get into the world of Gospel music.
For sure, the imposing 6-foot 6 inch NBA All-Star and New York Knicks shooting guard has always been into music. Anyone checking out his AllanHouston.com website will quickly determine that.
And Houston is well-known for the serious energy he devotes to community work, charitable events and in promoting family value entertainment through his H2O Productions company, for which he is CEO.
He also leaves no room for doubt as to where he stands with respect to Jesus Christ. The fact that he has a personal relationship with Him is there for everyone to read on his own testimonial page.
But in December 2003, Houston caused a flurry of excitement in the holy hip hop community, letting it be known that H2O Productions has partnered with Camp 8, the award-winning holy hip hop duo, who were until very recently known as The Gospel Gangstaz. Houstonís production company will be providing creative support, as well as marketing and promotion to the crewís own label (Camp 8, Inc.).
GospelFlava.com caught up with Houston in the city of Toronto, the day before a game between the Knicks and the Toronto Raptors game. We asked him why he was venturing into the Gospel music industry, and why now, and what he considers it will take to succeed.
ďThe biggest thing is purpose. Itís Godís plan and His purpose, and Iím just being obedient. I met the Gospel Ganstaz theyíre called Camp 8 now a few years ago, and I was a big fan. Theyíre based in LA, and when I went there, I wanted to meet them."
"I wanted to be in a position, if it was right, to partner up with them, on the industry side. And it just kinda worked out. With me being based in New York, I have access to some people who have been able to help me [help others]."
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"So it was never really my intention to get into Gospel industry. This whole thing is just something that God put in my heart."
Houston explained the importance he sees hip hop music playing in todayís society and culture. Itís the dominant form of music, certainly for many in the NBA, and definitely for many youth today.
ďGospel music, itís not just music, itís ministry too. Some mainstream music makes your soul feel good for maybe a minute, but Gospel, it fills you up, because itís coming right from the Source. Gospel hip hop can do that too."
"A lot of us in the NBA love hip hop. We listen to it in the locker room, and in our cars. I grew up loving hip hop, itís simply the musical preference for a lot of people."
"Gospel hip hop gives the different lyrics. Iíve had some stuff playing in the weight room that people start bobbing their heads to, without yet realizing that itís Gospel."
ďAll lyrics are powerful. Thatís what people have to understand. Words are powerful and they do have an impact on your soul.Ē
As Houston describes his life as an NBA player who is also a professing Christian, it becomes clear that there is a consistency and a parallel between that and his intent in the world of Gospel music.
ďI live my life according to the standard, the Word of God. And itís only by Godís grace that I can do that. As an NBA player, I approach the game doing the same thing everyone else on the team does: preparing, rehearsing, being aggressive, etc. all these are things that a non-believer does too."
"But the way that I respond to others, and to adversity, thatís different. The way I play the actual game is really no different. Off the court, those of us who are Christians in the NBA handle things a bit differently. And itís a developing thing too. I do things differently now, compared to even 4 years ago as a Christian."
Moving to the topic of music, Houston acknowledges that he appreciates the artistry of mainstream hip hop artists such as NAS and Outkast. But at the end of the day, he finds his soul yearning for music that fills you up, for music that has an ultimate purpose.
ďYou look at Gospel hip hop, and itís about praising God, and putting Him first. Itís simply praise in a different form,Ē says the All-Star.
And then here comes that parallel that Houston alludes to. He explains that while you may not be able to discern a Christian on an NBA team by simply examining their on-court skills, or appearance, if you take a closer look, you will see that the difference is more fundamental than that. Similarly, he says that Gospel hip hop artists may have the same Ďsoundí as their peers on the secular circuit. On a superficial level, you might not see a difference. But that difference is there, and it runs deep. There are differences in motivation, in tone, in spirit, in lyrics and in the purpose of what they do all for the glory of God.
ďYou know, we often donít realize the power of our words, even our own words. My intention with this whole ventureĒ, says Houston, ďis to allow God to use me for His purposes in getting the Gospel out. There are just so many alternatives [to the secular artists] out there right now, but these Gospel artists donít yet have a place in the mainstream yet. Iím trying to move toward changing that.Ē
Houstonís musical taste isnít focused simply on the big names in Gospel. Check his CD player and youíll find plenty of music in there that even the most devoted fan of the genre may find unfamiliar.
ďThere are some artists that arenít really out there yet. People send me music. Thereís a group in Atlanta called Ziklag. I listen to Darwin Hobbs, Camp 8, Kirk Whalum I have a variety of Gospel stuff. Was even listening to a Gospel reggae compliation today. What I do is mix it up on my MP3, and throw some stuff together. Thereís also Canton Jones and my man Breathe Eazy that I listen to.
ďMy whole vision, and I hope it will come to fruition, is to bring out this alternative to whatís out there today. I want to enable people to have the choice. The Gospel music out
there is often the same quality as the other mainstream stuff, but sometimes the regular person just doesnít know how to find it. Thereís limited access.
Interview With Camp 8
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"When the Father destroyed the earth, He saved eight souls. Noah, his three sons and their wives...eight souls. It shows new beginning and they replenished the earth all over again. That's what we're doing. We're replenishing the music industry all over again."....
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And thatís exactly where Houston sees himself fitting in. Recognizing that God has given him a visible platform, as high profile NBA player not only in the New York area, but across the nation and beyond (Houston is a member of the Gold medal winning USA Olympic Basketball Team), his desire is to use that for Godís glory.
ďItís just a matter of being visible. Itís just another way that God is using me, to faciliate networking and relationships.
The obvious next question is, what does that mean on a practical level?. What needs to be done to make Christian Hip Hop more visible?
Houstonís response is blunt, and to the point.
ďIt needs money. Thatís what I really believe. Iíve seen this in some of the smaller projects that Iím working on. You have guys in the mainstream music business spending millions of dollars on albums. But Christian artists donít really have that much to spend.Ē
ďThe way Iíve heard it, is that Christian hip hop is in a similar place that Chritian rock was a few years ago. In fact, the world itself is in a place now where this music will be accepted a bit more. Yes, as Christians weíre in the world, and [by definition], the world is opposed to what holy hip hop is saying in general. So Christian artists are in foreign territory to begin with. And there are certain things in music industry that we, as Christians, are not going to compromise on, there are things weíre just not going to do.Ē
ďBut there ARE things that we CAN do. Itís just like being basketball player, who happens to be a Christian.Ē
So look for some interesting things to develop with H20 Productions. [In addition to the Camp 8 deal, the company is also working with Cheryl ďSaltĒ James and Chris ďPlayĒ Martin on a rap, hip hop musical titled RISE, that is currently on a major 20-city tour.]
With a hectic schedule and being very careful to avoid overcommitting, Houston explains the he needs to establish a firm foundation in his new ventures.
ďI need to make sure that the legacy is begun in the right way. So [Camp 8 and RISE] is where weíre puitting the focus for now, and I think that it can happen. In Godís timing, it will start to pick up momentum.
What more is there to say? Anyone who is familiar with Allan Houston knows that he is very unlikely to drop the ball. So hold on tight, this new game has just begun.
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— interview by Stan North —
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