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Jacksonville Pastor Turns Attention Toward 'Hope Hop'

Ashton Elder

“Hope hop” music is a blend of gospel and hip hop — and it’s growing in popularity in Jacksonville.

A local artist and youth pastor hopes the music will keep teens from going down the wrong path.

In the River City, artist Anthony Franklin hosts a weekly radio show called “Swerve Teen Talk” on the gospel station, Pure Radio 103-7. Franklin said this genre is unique because it is rap and hip hop with a positive message, giving it  the potential to reach to a wider audience than traditional gospel music. 

“I’m going to talk about what I call 'hope hop,' " he said. "So they can relate to your drug dealer; they can relate to your stripper; they can relate to your young man out there, 13 or 14, who doesn’t have their dad at home,” he said.

Jacksonville is among the top producers of this type of music, according to a nationally syndicated Christian hip hop show called "Wade-O Radio."

Franklin said “hope hop” is directed toward at-risk teens. And Franklin knows this community in Jacksonville well.

"If they see our city getting behind (hope hop) ... then it's not a battle between us and them. It's not us and them anymore ... and I think that exists between our youth and the city."

One of his peers is David Holmes, aka Young King David. Holmes is a Jacksonville gospel rap artist who recently released a new single, “Tatted Up.”

He explained that his life experiences are reflected in his lyrics.

“I grew up in an urban inner city, low income area," he said. "I had a rough start as a kid, made a lot of mistakes and had some run ins with the law.

"I got back on track, finished high school and then went on to graduate from Florida State University.”

Franklin also mentors teens serving time behind bars. He said he believes mentoring juvenile offenders is his calling. He said these teens are more willing to listen to him because he comes from their world.

"I have a story that’s relatable. I look like them, and I’ve lived their life. So it's easy for me,” he said.

Franklin added that he would like to see more Jacksonville hip hop artists mentor young people. Then maybe some of them would put their passion and energy into music instead of a life on the streets, he said.

“When teens come out, (they will) have something for them to do. Most of those kids like rap," he said. "They like to do hip hop; they like to play basketball. So giving them a life skill.

"So you have gospel hip hop artists that are businessmen. ... They don’t only rap ... they know business; they know etiquette; they know a lot of good things,” he said.

Credit Contributed photo
David Holmes, also known as the rapper Young King David.

  The city is looking to foster youth development and decrease violent crime under the recently revamped Jax Journey initiative. Franklin said some funding should go towards a hope-hop mentorship program.

“We need that push. ... I think it’s a good motivation for us as well as a teen who is hopeful and looking for something to do," he said. "If they see our city getting behind that ... then it's not a battle between us and them.

"It's not us and them anymore ... and I think that exists between our youth and the city, ” he said.

Franklin says the money could help with buying recording equipment and building studios in which artists would be able to mentor teens by teaching them how to create and produce music. 

Ashton Elder is a senior at the University of North Florida and was features editor at the UNF Spinnaker. During her time there, she was part of an editing team that won national recognition at a college media conference.