Artificial Christian on Hip-Hop, Hustle and Making Songs that Matter

There's part's of our testimony in every song. Narratives tell a lot. You're able to connect through narrative and connect with other people's stories.

I. An Introduction - Spencer Aubrey (P.S. Edicot), Warren Williams (Warren Christian) and Wesley Henderson (Satellite Kid) crowd into their home recording studio. The room is packed with the gear and equipment that makes Artificial Christan work. It’s past 9:30 p.m. before the interview gets underway because that’s how it works when you’re running a side hustle. You take the time you can get.

They come from all over the country and bring their widely different experiences together to create dynamic gospel-centric hip-hop.

Arizona meets Texas meets the Bronx. Classically-trained meets Caribbean-backyard-parties meets Jesus meets hip-hop.

II. On Hustle - Warren: “It's a lot of late nights. We choose a day of the week that kind of works for everyone. Cause even in addition to our jobs, we serve at our respective churches as well so the schedule can be very difficult at times. But this is very important to us so we pick a day during the week and we go to 2, 3, even 5 a.m.

“That may look different at different seasons in life but we feel like [music] is a calling, ‘cause this is a ministry. For right now, this is what God has [given us]. It's hard sometimes. We got different jobs and different schedules. People are working nights. Some people are working days. When it comes time to make a mixtape or we're working on a project together we'll zone in and get it done.”

Everyone in Artificial Christian is working full-time, most working 2-3 jobs. Uber, moving furniture, whatever it takes to provide for their families and create an opportunity to make music.

Wes: “My wife had to tell me to settle down. [I had a friend that] was like ‘Bro, look, forget all that music crap if you’re not tending to your wife the Lord is not going to bless you ‘cause that's your first ministry.’ It seemed like as soon as I started serving my wife in that manner, the music just came. It was a whole lot easier to write and I never have trouble just writing.”

Family, work, community. All of these things require effort. Cut out one, and we live a life that is incomplete.
How do you make room for a creative hustle when your life is already full? Vision, something that anchors the enterprise to make it worthwhile:

Spencer: “When you don't press in and work on those [creative] things, it's like, that's a part of you that's just sitting there. And so, for me, yeah, I work two jobs, whatever, it's cool. It might be difficult to balance all that together, but the motivation first and foremost is to glorify the Lord.”

“I got my dudes over here that have stories to tell and things that are on their hearts that they really want out there. And if we don't do that then that's painful for them. And maybe that’s something God really wants us to say and do. If we don't actually move in that, are we really being faithful to what He's asking us to do?”

Very few of us ever have the luxury to create, free of responsibility. It’s just not how the majority of humans live in this world. Life is blood and sweat and work and effort.

The search for realness drives Artificial Christian. They are hungry for the authentic. Songs are dreamt up on the walk to work, sitting in a parking lot, or over conversations with friends at church. Beats play through headphones into a lived and embodied creative process. Songs rooted in the community but framed by hope.

Is it a bummer that Artificial Christian can’t make music full time? Maybe. But the future of art is multi-vocational. We’re all going to be working 2-3 jobs. Maybe they’re just ahead of the curve.
III. This is how a track gets made:

Warren: “I'll hear something - and Spence and I will have a conversation or Wes and I will have a conversation about something and you know then I'll think, ‘Alright what would it look to communicate this now in a song form. How can we bring the light of the Gospel to this topic in the form of a song?’

“Usually I'll come up with some ideas or lyrics for a song and pitch it out to them and they'll come back and be like hey you should do this, or tweak this - I'll add this and blah blah blah, and you know a song comes together. From there, we get it mixed and mastered by our friend Dominick who is an integral part of this team. We got a lot of songs we sit on, and just ya know, figure out when the time is right.”

In the hours found between work shifts, family obligations, church and life, Artificial Christian has made over 100 tracks, all of this in the span of 11 months. 100 tracks that they could drop at anytime. Choosing what to share with the world and when is another thing altogether.

Spencer: “It's a process. For the first tape we had an idea in mind. We wanted the music to match what we were trying to communicate.

"There were songs that I wanted, there were songs that Warren wanted, songs that Wes wanted that didn't quite make the tape.”

Always leave good stuff on the cutting floor to make the best thing possible.

IV. Artificial Christian has seen their sound change and evolve from their first mixtape.

Wes: “We started in September, and we really had no direction. [When] we knew each other a little bit better and we started getting chemistry [we could say], ‘Okay this is what I want here and this sound goes here.’ Now we have more direction.”

The group is learning how to incorporate disparate sounds, experiences and visions:

Spencer: “What my eyes have seen living and growing up here is different than what Warren has seen, which is even different from what Wes has seen."

"Being able to give people different perspective from a Gospel perspective and [say], "Look this is what we've seen, this is how the Gospel applies, this is how God has walked us through".
Wes: “I really would like to show people what a "Christian" really is. I've been weighed down plenty of times by feeling the need to be perfect, but like the Lord is sanctifying me daily. Daily. It's a walk. You're never going to be perfect. I want people to be impacted by that.”

Warren: “We just want to be able to attack or touch on tough, uncomfortable topics and situations and be able to show people maybe how the Gospel speaks to this situation instead of avoiding it.”

Artificial Christian's music is not just a conversation about daily struggles of faith. Police brutality and other justice issues feature prominently in their new mixtape, Riviera Nights.

Warren: “I lived in New York City, I've been stopped randomly, my car's been frisked randomly, I've seen people get stopped and frisked randomly.

One of the major police shootings happened just around the corner from me so I'm there with that - you know- I feel that pain. I felt what it feels like when you feel you're being violated. It's not right.”

“When we talk about social justice a lot of times people separate that from the Gospel - but we serve a God who is a God of justice. It's not outside of the realm of the Gospel.”

Warren continues: “And we're not anti-police obviously, that's just silly. But we are anti-bad-police. As everyone should be. I don't think it's controversial. People in our society who we have given over our rights to steward, our security, they need to reflect fairness and justice. God's character [is] of justice and love and we're all image bearers and people made in His image. Those who have been given that position in society need to steward reflecting those things that the Gospel says. Respecting people, loving people.”
V. To make art that matters we have to say the honest, difficult thing. When Jesus cursed a fig tree on the side of the road [1], it was a prophetic act - guerrilla theatre aimed at undoing the corruption of the temple leaders in Jerusalem. Symbols that move the conversation forward towards the Kingdom of God - that is the mark of meaningful art for the Christian. It is how art moves from being something aesthetically-enjoyed to something that ushers in living that is just and inspires community transformation.

Creation is a dialogue made in community. That is how Artificial Christian creates. It's a conversation between friends. It's the Gospel made alive in story and hip-hop. It's a day to day creative process forged in the hours found in between the fullness of life. Inspired, worthwhile and something to learn from.

You can check out Artificial Christian’s latest mixtape, Riviera Nights, on Soundcloud or Rapzilla.

Words—Geoff Gentry
Photos—Bryan Chung