Rap musician Thomas Terry (aka Odd Thomas) is founder of hip-hop record label Humble Beast. He is also an elder on the staff of Trinity Church, a Mennonite Brethren church in Portland, Ore. In his pastoral role Terry can be found at coffee shops around the city, discipling people from his congregation. En route to his next coffee appointment, Terry took time to talk about how hip-hop music reaches people for Jesus.
What drew you to rap music?
As a young teen in Los Angeles I found solidarity and community among the culture of hip-hop artists. It was my primary means of expressing myself. When the Lord was so kind to save me at age 18, that radically changed the way I expressed myself through music.
Why is your record label called Humble Beast?
In a hip-hop context, if you are a beast you are excellent. Humble means you excel in a posture of humility. Jesus came excellent but in the most humble posture. He is the most humble beast.
Who do you reach with your music?
Most of us at Humble Beast came up in an urban context. Young urban creatives were the ones we were concerned about reaching. But hip-hop has become the most popular genre in our day, and we have all types of people engaging with us.
What makes rap music an effective means of sharing the gospel?
Hip-hop is an art form designed to communicate truth, to shape your thinking about the struggles of society. Music, rhythm and repetition seem to burn things into your mind. In the same vein, hip-hop helps people take in who God is. If we put theology in music, it helps put this stuff deep in your heart.
Why does Humble Beast give music away for free?
Identity as a hip-hop artist is wrapped around how many units you can sell. We wanted to cultivate humility in the life of our artists by getting rid of that competitive nature. We model humility by saying “this is the best of our efforts and we want you to have it because we want you to engage with the content.” These records cost a lot of money to produce, but we want to model the generosity of Christ who gave his life freely.
For a sample of Thomas Terry’s work go to