Photos by Blake Wisz
Written By Tam, Singapore
George Moss knows how it feels to sit through a church service you have no interest in. And, ironically, that was exactly what started his journey into full-time ministry. Today, George is a popular Christian gospel rapper in Michigan, United States.
The youngest of three children, George grew up in what is known as the “Bible belt” of the Midwest in Grand Rapids. As a kid, he didn’t like going to church, but not attending was never an option in his family. To escape sitting in the “big service” with his grandmother every Sunday, then 15-year-old George went for the only alternative available—joining a six-member youth ministry rap group.
“I thought rapping in church was the dumbest thing I had ever heard of,” says the 34-year-old. “But my older sister constantly encouraged me to join them. So for lack of a better choice, I began to meet with this group of guys.”
His initial misgivings and dislike eventually gave way to a discovery that he actually had musical talent. “It was a combination of being forced to be there, and then realizing that I did actually have a little bit of talent to do it,” he says. “And once I started getting positive responses from the audiences, it only fueled the desire to continue.”
Having to write and rap about the gospel also led George to learn more about God and nurtured his relationship with Him. “Doing music in that group was a turning point for me. It was when my faith became my own,” he admits.
As George grew both musically and spiritually, he and two friends began giving shows and performing at other churches. One night, after a performance at a church, the youth pastor handed George an envelope. In it was a nice thank-you card and, to his surprise, a check for US$75. It was the first time he got paid doing what he loved.
“I was only 16 years’ old at the time, so $75 was a lot of money to me. Growing up with a single mother trying to raise three kids, money was something that we didn’t have much of,” he says. “So when I got paid for the first time to do something that I gladly had been doing for free, I knew that was what I wanted to do as a career.” And like they say, the rest is history.
Rapping for Christ
Releasing multiple tracks, the gospel rapper first hit the American Christian music scene in 2002 with fellow Grand Rapids artist Michael Fugitt. The hip-hop duo UN1ON’s debut EP was followed by a nationwide tour. But after weeks of touring, George realized that he needed to get serious about his career and began work at a local Christian radio station.
After building a strong local following through his radio show, his first solo effort came six years later with 2008’s All or Nothing, featuring the singles “Whoa” and “Transparent”. In 2012, the local radio celebrity, who has toured with some of Christian music’s biggest names, like rapper KJ-52, released another album, It’s Time.
Earlier this year, George, whose music features a blend of electro-pop and rap, released a new single, “Take On The World”. His growing following on social media is testament to how God is using his music to reach people, with over 30,000 likes on his Facebook page and nearly 13,000 followers on Twitter.
Tackling issues like temptation, faith, and godly anger in his songs, George’s lyrics are grounded in Christian principles. And while the songs are not overtly Christian, they make references to biblical parables and well-known scripture verses.
In his 2015 single, “Set It Off”, he took a bold step to challenge the status quo, with lyrics that spoke about Christian hypocrisy, breaking traditions, and telling hard truths. George says that the single was born out of a realization that he knew more about “church” than he did about Jesus.
It was also a response to a “fan” culture that he felt had developed in American Christian culture, where he observed fellow Christians chasing after the teachings of pastors, authors, and even Christian artists more than they followed Jesus.
“If we are truly trying to love people, it’s not always rainbows and sunshine. When you love someone, you are going to tell them the truth, and sometimes the truth hurts,” says George, who is married with a young son.
Having spent close to 15 years in the music industry, George describes his journey as a roller coaster ride as he faces new challenges and experiences every day. There have been good days when he’s performed to sold-out tours with 20,000-strong crowds, and other days when he’s performed for just two people at a youth gathering.
“I’ve had weeks when I thought I was going to change the entire world, and there are days that I’ve felt like giving up . . . I’ve experienced almost everything imaginable, but at the end of the day, money, fame, success, or even failure and betrayal can’t be the driving force for me,” he says.
Dressing for Christ
Passionate about reaching out on all platforms, the rapper artist is also the founder of OXEN Apparel. The clothing line was birthed out of the desire to represent Christ wholly—not just in his music or life, but in the brands that he wears—after realizing that fans took notice of the clothing he wore regularly.
“At the time, I shopped at the mall and just bought the clothing that I thought was cool. When I saw that my fans would actually go out and buy those same brands because I was wearing it, it made me pay more attention to the brands themselves,” he says.
One day, he noticed that a brand he regularly supported had a new line of T-shirts featuring scantily-clad women, and it struck him that by buying and wearing the particular brand, he was supporting the company and its values. “In a way, I was telling my fans that I agree with the way that this brand portrayed women. It was at that moment I knew I needed to be more conscious of what I was wearing.”
When he could not find a brand that stood out or represented what he truly believed in, George decided to create his own. “I landed on the name OXEN. It’s based on Matthew 11:29 where Jesus says, ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me’. I wanted to be branded as someone who carries the ‘yoke’ of Christ.”
To carry this “yoke” and share his faith with others, George has travelled across the country to speak at schools, churches, and festivals, reaching thousands of teens and young adults.
While making music, clothing, and fans are all elements of George’s ministry, he knows that all the successes and motivations are centered on one thing—making disciples for Christ. He says: “For years I thought of myself as an evangelist, and I relied on other people to do the discipleship. But I realized that it is the responsibility for all believers to make disciples.”
He expanded his OXEN brand and began developing the OXEN Team Ministries, due to start later this year. It will include online training programmes, with videos and Bible study curriculum to educate and equip believers in their discipleship.
“I realized that OXEN don’t start out carrying a yoke. Before they can carry the yoke, they must be trained. They need to spend time with the master, learning his commands and understanding the master’s will. Only when they are trained can they actually go out into the harvest field and do the work of their master.”
Having been through the ups and downs of the music industry and life, George wants to encourage people who are interested in making Christian music to keep their passion of being a Christian above their passion for music. “It’s so easy to get caught up in making music about Jesus that it comes at the expense of actually following Jesus.”
In response to the YMI question: Why do you do what you do? George says: “I do what I do because I want to inspire people everywhere to live a lifestyle of love, understanding, and obedience to God’s word.”
Write to us at email@example.com if you know of someone who has made a radical choice because of his or her faith. #FORTHISREASON