Performer Sir the Baptist is singing pop praises and raising hell for hip-hop in the process. Hailing from the South Side of Chicago, he took over this summer's festivals at Lollapalooza and Market Days. He also played Pitchfork Music Festival with Chance the Rapper and Jay Z's Made in America event, where he was backed by a choir. He is on Chance's Surf album featured on the track "Familiar."
His new album, titled PK: Preacher's Kid, features songs like "Raise Hell" and "What We Got" that smash barriers in traditional music.
Windy City Times stopped in at a VH1 Save the Music event at John Spry Community School to talk to the emerging artist.
Windy City Times: What part of Chicago are you from?
Sir the Baptist: Bronzeville. It is where Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke and Ella Fitzgerald all played. Bronzeville was the Black metropolis for jazz music.
WCT: Are you into jazz?
SB: Heck, yeah! That is my first love.
WCT: How did you get started in the music business?
SB: I worked at Leo Burnett, which is an ad agency. I got out of the commercial business and into the music business. I figured I could give it a try instead of being chicken, standing behind the chicken!
WCT: Where did the name come from?
SB: My dad was a baptist preacher. My name is Sir William James Stokes.
WCT: Hence the name of the albumPreacher's Kid.
SB: Yes. Preacher's kids are usually the worst morally or they struggle the hardest. It is because your dad is not yours to have. He is more a pastor and a preacher first for everyone else to service the community.
Preacher's kids feel emotionally shipwrecked and should just be themselves.
WCT: What does your motto "cleansing the culture" refer to?
SB: I believe in bringing holistic healing to hip-hop. There are a few things we are missing. We are missing inheritance. We are misinterpreting what industry is. We don't know ourselves or how to move it forward.
A part of cleansing the culture and holistically healing it is referring back to where we come from. When I say that I go back to why the scale is the way it is or why Joshua was able to tear the walls of Jericho down just with sound. I am really passionate about this.
With the new year coming I spend a lot of time dissecting just how we can cleanse ourselves. To holistically heal hip-hop you have to dig into the subconscious. You have to be more of a subconscious rapper than a conscious one.
WCT: What do you think of the rap-centered television show Empire?
SB: It sucks. I am tired of every time that we look at an African-American establishment we have to be dysfunctional. It doesn't have to be that way.
WCT: How was playing Lollapalooza?
SB: It was dope. Lollapalooza was amazing. I love the fact that people enjoy going to church again. People come to festivals just to say, "Church!" What we have to realize is that people at these festivals can't go to church the way they are at a festival. I love it when people are smoking blunts at a festival, for that moment of enlightenment that they are caught in.
If you want to save the world then you have to allow them to be whomever they are and then bring them in.
WCT: You also performed at Market Days.
SB: Yes. My brother was one of the minds behind that and really pushed me to do more things like this. It is important because one of the people that sing with me, Lady Chris, can't sing in her dad's church because she is openly gay.
People that don't live the lifestyle that the church would want get an opportunity to have church and meet with Jesus in a different type of way, with a drink in their hand or whatever it is. It is not about the politics or religion. I am not going to wear that nun outfit. I am going to come exactly as I am.
WCT: Well, I wear an nun outfit on special occasions! [Both laugh.] The mayor has recognized your work with AIDS in the past.
SB: My brother has HIV/AIDS. He caught it when we were really young. My mother didn't know what to do with it. She put him in a room and made him sleep on the floor. She wouldn't let him wash up in the same bathroom as us. Things had to be bleached multiple times. They weren't educated about it. I would just lock the door and allow my brother to lay in bed. I would give him clothes. We would eat together.
It has been a long journey for us just because we are so passionate about it. Even now I am trying to hold back tears because he is my brother. The church would not even accept him because he is gay and they felt he deserved it.
We use the politics of religion to beat people instead of heal people. I didn't know about the award. I thought I was going to support my brother. He said, "No, this an award for you for supporting me for so long." The award doesn't matter to me. I prefer a few more years with my brother.
WCT: Did you do the treatment on the video for "Raise Hell?"
SB: Yes. I don't know how to let things go sometimes so I did the treatment for it. It was important for me to make the parallel of what is good in the world right next to what they would think the bad is.
"Raise Hell" is an open letter to the church to say, "You are not all that great." I have been to the water and baptized. Now I need some new water because I need enlightenment.
WCT: What is coming up for next year?
SB: I am going on a Miracles Tour. I will be taking psychiatrists, philosophers and people in physics. We are going to travel around the United States and have miracle sessions. We will give a walk through about frequencies and vibrations to explain what we are trying to do as far as healing hip-hop. We will learn how math and geometry aligns itself throughout the world. We will spend the whole top of the year on that. We would prefer a Noble Peace Prize over a Grammy.
My album will come out Jan. 17. We are launching a new website with the album at that time.
Rise over to SirTheBaptist.com for more on this talented performer.