It’s showtime

Published 8:56 am Friday, October 16, 2009

Capron native Donyelle Whitehead isn’t your traditional gospel artist.

Under his stage name, D’Ciple Da Lieutenant, he hopes to spread the word of God, through an unlikely genre­— rap.

His quest to minister in a non-traditional manner landed him a trip to the Apollo Theater in Harlem, N.Y., last month to perform his song “One” at a Gospel Amateur Night.

“It was an experience that I think every artist needs to have,” Whitehead said. “Apollo is a tough crowd.”

While it was overall a good experience, Whitehead’s Apollo performance wasn’t easy.

“When I first got out there, they didn’t accept me,” he said. Some people were immediately thrown off when he was introduced as a gospel rapper.

“They booed for the first couple of minutes,” Whitehead said. “But after that, they were into it and they gave me a standing ovation and everything.”

Whitehead, 35, said that he has been rapping since he was a young teen. He had plans to make it big as a rapper, but four years ago he made a decision that changed his plans.

“I gave my life to Christ in 2005,” he said. “I was in the secular world and God touched my heart.”

At the time, Whitehead considered giving up rapping.

After being pushed by friends he decided to continue to pursue a rap career, but instead of glorifying street culture, he would glorify the Lord.

“It was kind of hard at first,” he said. “I had to do a lot of fasting and a lot of praying, but then God just started blessing me with songs.”

Whitehead, a 1994 graduate of Southampton High School, is now working with Petersburg-based Zech. 8 Productions, under the direction of husband-and-wife management team, Timothy and Terri Flowers.

Zech. 8 Productions, named after the eighth chapter of the book of Zechariah in the Bible, manages all types of gospel artists­, including rappers, singers, poets and dancers. In fact, Whitehead’s wife, Tabitha, is a poet with Zech. 8 Productions.

“We’re like a month in, and God has blessed us with 10 groups,” Terri Flowers said.

Terri Flowers and Whitehead were classmates at Southampton High and ran into each other a few years ago and reconnected over their desire to minister to youth.

“We are living a generation now where kids are the young people aren’t afraid of anything,” Terri Flowers said. “They don’t care about anything. They could party all night with the devil and it won’t bother them.”

She said that artists like Whitehead could help draw young people to the ministry, because the conventional church atmosphere often turns them off. Timothy Flowers added that many churches focus too much on older people and don’t dedicate enough time to the youth.

“We’re trying to touch the youth,” Terri Flowers said. “We’re losing them by the handful.”

Contemporary gospel artists like Whitehead aren’t without critics, but Terri Flowers doesn’t think that the criticism is well-deserved.

“We need to use any tool that we can as long as it’s accepted by God,” she said. “God gave these young people a gift to rap…it’s still ministry.”

Whitehead now lives in Hopewell with his wife and children, but still has family in Capron, including his mother, Joan Whitehead.

He hopes to release a CD by early next year.

“But we never know, God may move quicker than that,” he said. Whitehead is ready to inspire young people to serve God.

“Look at what happened when they took prayer out of the schools,” he said, referencing the rise of violence in schools­–in particular the recent beating death of an honor student outside of a Chicago high school. “This is the right time for this.”

Whitehead and other Zech. 8 Productions artists are available for church or other events. Timothy and Terri Flowers can be reached for bookings at (804) 605-9963 or (804) 605-9962.

The music video for “One” can be viewed on