I am "with the band" when it comes to Foundnation, a vibrant group of rap and hip hop artists whose purpose is to advance the Kingdom of God through their music.
Recently, they called me to ask me if I would come up to New York City to shoot their performance at the New York Catholic Youth Day, hosted by the Archdiocese of New York. What, give me the chance to stomp around my old neighborhood (the event was about 5 miles, if not less, than where I grew up in the north Bronx, in the Norwood section)? Oh, heck to the yeah, I would! So I jumped into Benny, my papal limousine (it's white with a Vatican City country sticker on the back, geek that I am) and headed to the Big Apple.
What a day! Some 1200 high school and college kids came to St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, NY to spend the day with some great folks. Foundnation rocked the house, getting the kids up and dancing, and rushing the stage.
Foundnation is led by El Padrecito ("The Little Father") - Fr. Masseo Gonzales, who is a Franciscan friar. He hails from Northern California and has an interesting story to tell. He was a vato loco, a gangbanger, who lost his leg in a knife fight and eventually underwent a spiritual conversion that not only led him back to his Catholic faith, but to the priesthood as well. His brother, David Gonzales, created a series of Mexican-American action figures called "Homies" and patterned El Padrecito after his brother, Masseo.
Father opened the performance with a spoken word rap, during which he sat down, reached underneath his robes . . . and removed his leg while telling the story of how he lost it. That had a great impact on the kids; from my position, I heard that long "Ohhhhh . . ." as the reality of what they were seeing hit them.
But it was time to make a joyous noise unto the Lord. So the other members - Ela Loveisall, Th0t, C2six, Dy-Verse, Val Mural, and John Levi - hit the stage and gave it up to God. Look, I could post some more pictures, but how about I give you a taste of Foundnation?
I am proud to be associated with these good people. Th0t - Alfonso Pedroza - is a friend of mine from my old parish in Southern California, St. Joseph Church in Santa Ana. He is another great story, one of heading down the road to perdition and instead, through the help of his parents, coming home to the Catholic Church.
All the members of Foundnation are such great people with wonderful stories. I ask you to check out their website and if you are planning an event where such a form of evangelization is needed, consider booking them. A few years ago, we had a local World Youth Day in the Diocese of Knoxville and C2six came and performed - and the youth loved him, because even kids who are not "into" rap still like to get up and move, and yeah, maybe feel a little "gangsta."
I like shooting performancess, whether they are in a fabulous venue or under a tent outside. Sure, a nice location and professional lighting helps, but the passion of the artist is there regardless of the setting, and it can be captured.
BTW, there is a challenge to shooting a rap concert - the performers move, FAST! But, I just got into my jam . . .