As I began hearing the heart-wrenching stories of the struggles of the women and men, sitting across from me on the couch of the Pregnancy Center over the years, I realized a few things. This wasn’t about counseling, or Theology, or even feeling good about myself. This was as real as sharing the human condition could get. This was about loving and walking “with” the person across the couch from me, regardless of the outcome.
As time went by, I better learned to love. I knew that I truly wanted the best for my sister and my brother in Christ. I also knew that abortion was not the best, and there were times when loving meant to be the shoulder, when all too late, they realized it as well.
Music has shaped every generation, and every culture. It has very much shaped me through the phases of my life. In working with many youth, and inner city women, music became a significant way of reaching them; through the lyrics of a powerful song. I can’t tell you how many lives were saved through the Nick Cannon song, Can I Live.
I would always get excited when I came across a quality rap song, with a pro-life message. I was always on the hunt to expand my communication through this language.
For this reason, I was thrilled when DC local, Anthony Kellems, shared with me his pro-life track, “I’m Countin’ on You,” off of his newly released rap CD, “Mixmaster.” You may not love this kind of music, but you should love this message, and respect the importance of its place in connecting with those who truly love it.
Here is my interview with Anthony Kellems himself, and a link to download the song, “I’m Countin’ on You“ for free!
–What is your faith background, as well as your musical background, and how did the two of those wind up meshing?
I am a Roman Catholic, and I have been all my life. While I picked up music as a hobby in high school, learning piano and then guitar, rap has been a part of my life since elementary school. I was always trying to learn how to rap with speed. I didn’t start truly writing and recording rap until college, though, and even then it was very limited. Over the years I’ve written and recorded mainly non-rap instrumental songs, but I just gave them to friends and family; they weren’t released as I’ve done with the current album.
My faith and music came together because of personal struggles in life and observing the world around me. I wanted whatever I wrote to have a positive impact. I wasn’t a big Christian music fan, usually finding a lot of it cheesy, so I wanted to make something that would stand apart from that. I think my first attempts, years ago, were mixed (some stuff was pretty cheesy!) However, they were all steps toward finding my authentic musical voice and style.
The major change that shifted my focus to faith-influenced rap music, was a shoulder surgery compounded with other difficulties. Suddenly, the things I loved to do (and took for granted) were taken away. The rehab for the injury was a long process, and I hated it. Feeling like the rug was pulled out from under me, I had time to think and process my emotions, and how I was living my life. This was the visceral experience that motivated me.
–Has music in the past, and does music continue to shape your own faith?
Music has always shaped my life, but not always directly informing my faith, and not always for the better. I have listened to music that I now regret, due to the content and message. As I’ve moved forward, I’ve tried to take what got me hooked initially; the beat, the instrumentation, and the technique, and infuse a positive and challenging message.
What particular music/songs have had the biggest influence in forming you?
Music started to affect my faith in high school, when I was first introduced to Christian music and also heard my first Christian rap album. It was by the Gospel Gangstaz, a group of reformed gang members turned Christian rappers. Their song, “Questions” has always resonated with me. It didn’t slap me with doctrine, but rather was about asking questions, having a conversation with God when we’re struggling, and in the end – putting it all in God’s hands. Although I can’t personally relate to having been a gang member who has done a 180 in life, because that isn’t my story…that’s not why the song resonates with me. It hits me, because they ask the same questions I do. In that way, despite great differences in our lives, we are united in trying to understand how God’s plan is unfolding, especially in our times of strife.
–What genre would you categorize your music under, and what has been the response from audiences typically gravitating to that genre of music?
This album is rap. Most of the time people who like rap dig the music once they hear it. They are often skeptical at first, because I’m not the person they expect to write rap, nor do I write what they expect to hear. I don’t fit into a lot of the rap clichés, and that isn’t what my music is about. My purpose is to write authentically good rap, and by that I don’t mean “feel-good” rap, but rather technically, lyrically, and instrumentally good.
Is your hope to elevate, assimilate, or challenge with your contribution?
I hope to challenge people, both those who are Christian and those who aren’t. I call out the hypocrisy of Christians (myself included) as much as I call out the secular world. I do incorporate a lot of Christian themes in my music, often explicitly, but I’m not writing for the purpose of education. Writing about Christian topics or teachings is easy, but it rarely makes good music when that is the end goal.
–Considering that there is a strong Christian message woven throughout your songs. Do you consider yourself a “Christian” artist?
Certainly, because of the heavy Christian influence in my songs, I could be called a Christian artist. Fundamentally, though, I think I’m a Christian who is an artist. While my music includes sharing my faith, I’m not writing rap because I think it’s a cool way to preach the Gospel; I do it because it’s a part of who I am and it’s my form of creative expression.
Do you find yourself using your music to evangelize and share your faith?
Sharing my faith is a consequence of, and not the primary motivation for my music. I don’t want to make weak music, and think that talking about God in the lyrics will somehow make it good. I want people to say, “That’s some seriously good music, it’s challenging, and its got a great Christian message.” I believe there is a difference between somebody who is sharing their faith through music because it’s a natural extension and consequence of their experiences, versus somebody who is trying to merely convey information with a beat. I’m not saying I always succeed, but my goal is not to fall into that trap of the latter.
–In his Letter to Artists, St. John Paul II wrote, “With loving regard, the divine Artist passes on to the human artist a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling him to share in his creative power.” This powerful truth should rock every artist to their core! How do you find yourself sharing in the wisdom and creative power of the Almighty, through your own art?
This sounds like a dangerous question! Ha! I probably find myself sharing in His creativity and power when I write something and wonder, “How did I come up with that,” which happens quite a bit! Also, in cases such as the pro-life song, seeing how He has put so many people into my life to support its development, shows me that it’s really His project, not mine.
–Tell me about the song “I’m Countin’ on You.” What is the meaning behind it and where did the inspiration come from?
“I’m Countin’ On You” is a pro-life song in which I am giving voice to the unborn child, and speaking directly to the parents, begging them to choose life instead of abortion. I wrote it especially for those who are in that situation, with the hope that it can be a small instrument in helping them choose life. I wanted to write a song that focused on the people directly at the crossroads of the abortion decision, speaking to them as individuals, rather than in the abstract. I particularly want to reach and challenge the fathers, to stand up and do what is right in supporting the mother and their child.
The song did not begin so altruistically. When I was still rehabbing my shoulder, I attended a charity ball put on by The Northwest Center, a pro-life pregnancy center and maternity home in Washington, DC. Since I could not really dance with my wounded wing, I was sharing my recent rap work with a friend. It was there that I was challenged to write a pro-life rap. In the next week or so I tried to write one, and I failed miserably!
I only showed one friend that demo, much later, and it was terrible! I wanted to write from the perspective of the child to the parents, but it turned out cheesy, so I put it away. A couple of months later I was working on some new material, and was re-inspired with the line “I’m countin’ on you, Mama.” Then words started flowing. Within a few days I had a demo down that I thought might have potential, and from there began the real work.
–I understand that this particular song took you a significantly longer time to put together than many others. What was it about this one that caused you to continue to make edits?
I spent so much time on this one, because I knew that to reach people in the situation I was describing, I had to get it right. So, I did my research. I have not lived through these experiences, so I needed to know what made a difference and filter out what didn’t. I spoke with women who gave me insight into the personal struggles that the women and men caught up in this situation face.
It is tempting to just throw down facts about abortion, or get lost in cheesy baby puns. Not only do I think that doesn’t work in a song like this, but I consider that low-hanging fruit. It might make those who are already pro-life think that the song is cool, but won’t reach people who are really struggling and hurting. Because of this it took me almost two years to refine the lyrics.
–What is the hope or mission in releasing a song like I’m Countin’ on You? How will this song change/save lives/souls?
The hope and mission is to change hearts, and possibly even save lives, of anybody who is considering abortion, hears it, and makes the choice for life. I know this is ambitious, and perhaps the influence will not be so direct, but I hope it can help those who are facing pressure to have an abortion. Maybe it will impact others to make a difference, or plant the seed in someone’s mind.
The secondary goal, of being a source of encouragement to those who are already pro-life, may end up being the way that the song effects change the most. One song won’t change the world, but one individual who hears it has the power to do so. I personally found myself getting progressively more involved in pro-life activities as I wrote the song, and through that, I more vividly experienced the importance of pro-life individuals to be part of the solution. Get involved; starting with prayer, and asking for discernment on how to help. Augment (not supplant) that prayer with action.
–As a male, with a pro-life message, what can you say about the role of men in society when it comes to the abortion decision (which we have been told is a “woman’s” choice?) Do men have a legitimate voice on this issue?
Men are called to be leaders, but we fail in that responsibility if we do not stand up for the women and children in our lives. Men have a voice, and a responsibility to use that voice. To stand for life, and to do everything we can to support our children and the mothers of those children. Claiming that abortion is a “woman’s choice” is not merely to take away the legitimate voice of fathers, it is to undermine fatherhood itself.
–What line from the song hits you the hardest, has the greatest impact, and is something that lingers with you? Why?
The first few lines of verse 2 hit me the hardest, especially about needing “a good example of the masculine,” because those lines call out many of the ways that men fail in their responsibilities as men and as fathers. Those lines talk about things that not only enable abortion, but also enable the breakdown of families. You may not know somebody who has had an abortion, but you probably know more than one person who has had an absent father, and you know the wound that leaves.
“I’m Countin’ On You” is on the album “Mixmaster” on CDBaby, iTunes, and Amazon. I was able to make it free as a full-length preview and download on CDBaby, so if anyone needs to hear the message, please direct them there. I hope that whoever most needs to hear this song, will not only be inspired to choose life, but will know that there are so many people who are willing to support them, who are praying for them, and who love them.
For anybody who decides that they want to support the music by buying it, all proceeds that I receive as the artist from sales of “I’m Countin’ On You” on iTunes or Amazon will be donated to pro-life charities.
–Please share any other words of wisdom or inspiration that has come from the writing and recording of this CD, and particularly this song.
Don’t wait for someone else to make a difference: you are the difference. The world needs you to be an example of what it means to be truly pro-life, and what it means to be a true Christian. It doesn’t need people like you; it needs you.
“I’m Countin’ On You”
I’m countin’ on you, Mama and Daddy, abortion ain’t the right way
Got so many bright days that are waiting ahead of me,
I may not be what you planned but I hope you understand there’s a better way
I’m countin’ on you, hey can you hear me, listen everybody
Got so many bright days that are waiting ahead of me,
And my life is in your hands, so take a stand for my life
I’m countin’ on you, Mama, to be the one to give me my first breath
I never thought my first act in life would be to avert death
And I know that I ain’t been here long
But my soul wants you to take me home
I’m countin’ on you, Mama, protect me, I can’t fight ’cause I’m unborn
Not done for, I need your support as I look toward my life
Not a loss, but bad choices will cost us
It’s nonsense, you’ve got other options
I’m countin’ on you, Mama, don’t hang your head in shame, know you’re cherished
The guilt and the grief is something we donʼt need to share in
Though you never thought that this was when you’d be a parent,
I believe in you and know that you can bear it
I’m countin’ on you, Mama, please believe that I need a first try at life
You’re the one I’ll seek when I give my first cry
I can’t fight back against the would-be villains
They deny I’m alive, but I’m kickin’
And I’m countin’ on you, Mama
I’m countin’ on you Daddy, I need you to stay around
Be a man and stand up, take responsibility for gettin’ down
Be my captain, not absent
Supposed to lead our family ‘stead of leavin’ us abandoned
I’m countin’ on you Daddy, I need a good example of the masculine An alimony check and blood sample ain’t adequate You say you love Mama, why don’t you prove it?
The trauma that you want to put her through is just useless
Bein’ used by the system, don’t confuse it with truth
It’s abuse, just refuse it, it doesn’t hurt just one or even two it’s
Me and you and Mama the whole crew,
Bein’ left with the wounds of the cruelest
Tools and utensils, permanent you canʼt erase whatʼs written in stone
Try to run away but never can forget so
Please don’t take me out this earth
55 million dead before birth
I’m countin’ on you, Daddy
I’m countin’ on you, Mama, even if you’re hearing warnings from your own mother
Single parent home, daddy’s gone, it’s a long struggle
Livin’ life grown in your teens
Know abortion is a thief, it’ll steal both our dreams
I’m countin’ on you Daddy, this wouldn’t be an issue in the first place
If you respected Mama from the first date
Instead of trying to get yourself past first base, step up to the plate
And give me more than just your last name
I’m countin’ on you, Daddy, save my life and be my first aid,
Don’t rob us of each other, that just hurts us in the worst way It’s not my first birthday, but I’ll make my first wish All life is precious without measure so I’m stressin’ this:
From the womb to the tomb, from the cot to plot
From my birth to the earth, from my dawn till I’m gone
From the unity of two to me all the way to my eulogy
In lieu of beinʼ through with me
Choose me I’m countin’ on you
Words and music by Anthony Kellems, 2013–2014. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2015 Kimberly Cook
Photos provided by Anthony Kellems and used by permission. All rights reserved.