The Word of God has never sounded so cool.
Meet Donte Holland, also known by his rapper name Beloved the Ghostwriter, gospel rapper from the Strawberry Mansion area of Philadelphia. Getting his start when he was 13 years old, Beloved has now solidified himself as a Christian rapper with lyrics based on the gospel. “Since I’ve started, my lyrics have always been that way, it’s what I do. But since I’ve joined the church and started living the gospel, it has become more lyrically prevalent,” said Beloved.
Six years ago, Beloved joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, better known as Mormons, and worships at the meetinghouse at Broad and Wyoming streets in the Logan section of Philadelphia. Not only has the church positively affected his lyrics, but it has affected his life as well. “Before I joined the church I was drinking and smoking, my relationship with my wife wasn’t too great, and I wasn’t treating my children to the standard that I thought I should have been,” explained Beloved. “I was fed up, so I started reading the Bible. Then my family and I were forced to move from our house, and three days later, missionaries knocked on the door and I knew they were the answer to my prayers.” Now Beloved is very active in the church as the second counselor to the bishop of his ward.
Beloved has one album out and is in the process of writing his sophomore effort. His debut album, Ghostwritten, was released in 2006 and recorded at Shaddai Recordings in Southwest Philadelphia by Noisette John St. Jean Jr., known in the music scene as Saint Man. Saint Man has an enriching past and promising future having worked with major labels such as Sony, Bmg, Provident, Defjam and Universal.
The album’s 12 tracks are raw and straightforward, making clear the message that Beloved is trying to send. In the opening track, “Intro,” Beloved raps, “So there’s no mistaking what’s the purpose of this album, my sole concern is your soul’s concern and its outcome.” The rest of the song and album proclaims the word of God with sincerity, trying to turn heads and bring people closer. “My music is obviously listened to by people who live by the gospel and they take it as something they know and will continue to keep doing,” said Beloved. “I mainly want to reach people who don’t know, so I could spread the word, that’s why it is important for me to make quality music. When people hear the beats and the flow of the lyrics they won’t think it’s corny, they’ll take it for the quality and hopefully listen to the lyrics.”
Mission accomplished with that endeavor, which got fellow church member Dalyn Montgomery listening. “I don’t listen to Christian music because I feel that they are more concerned with being Christian artists than just artists so the quality suffers. I want to hear actual good music and Donte’s stuff is good. I just really like it,” said Montgomery. The chorus of third track, titled “He’s Real,” reads: “The Lord works in mysterious ways but one thing that we know, He won’t forsake you. In His hands He’ll take you, give you a love unconditional, the Lord is not fictional, He’s real!”
Beloved makes it clear to people who don’t know God what his music is all about.
One of the most remarkable elements of Beloved’s music is the way it’s written or really not written. Beloved writes none of his music down; he simply stores all of it in his head. “There are benefits of not writing my words down. In order to keep them in your head, you have to constantly rehearse them. So when I enter the studio it’s not hard for me, I usually need one take, maybe two at the most,” explained Beloved. His constant mental rehearsal became apparent when he performed two of his songs on the spot. His new song “How Could I,” he did easily from a chair in his living room, and “Testimony,” was recited off the stoop out front of his home.
Six of the 12 tracks on the record feature collaborating voices, few of whom are professional. “On the album I wrote all the lyrics including the singing R&B parts, but I did do some collaboration. I look forward to doing more collaboration in the future. I think it enhances the music,” Beloved explained. The fourth track, “No Weapon,” features two of Beloved’s daughters, Nyla (Ny Ny) and Jasmine (Jazz). They sing the background vocals, which go, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper, it won’t work.” Various tracks include singers Scarlett Brown, Crockett and Clark Elkins, who is from a group called the Invisible Swordsmen. A rapper from the church named Kay Kay and Beloved’s wife, Rosalyn, are featured as well. Rosalyn’s part in the album is unique because she does not sing in the track, “The Soldier.” She speaks a prelude over music building up to the main beat. The first line of her part goes, “At the Grand Council, Heavenly Father presented the plan of salvation.”
Not only does Beloved create all of his own lyrics for his tracks, he writes every bit of music as well, which is an intricate process. He explained how he makes the beats on his computer with a few programs he has and tries multiple combinations until he’s satisfied. After he lays down the beats, he turns to his keyboard and searches for the sound he wants. Sometimes he even uses two sounds with a dual function he has. After he has everything the way he wants it, he takes the material to Saint Man.
“In the beginning I thought this was just a hobby, but when I saw all the hard work he puts in and the outcome, I really grew to like it,” said Rosalyn. This is no hobby. Donte is Beloved and his hard work and dedication surface through every lyric of every song.
Beloved has come a long way down a rough road, which makes his hard work even more notable. The way he has overcome those tough times could not better be described than the way does in his song, “How Could I,” which goes, “It is what it is, it’s water under the bridge now.”
You can find his music at www.myspace.com/belovedtheghostwriter2 and www.gwbeloved.com