Making hip-hop holy

With its explicit glorification of sex, drugs, violence and the almighty dollar, some see large segments of hip-hop as the cultural equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah. But rather than praying for fire and brimstone to destroy their beloved culture, the three individuals behind "Holy Hip Hop," a locally-produced and nationally-syndicated radio show, are using it to spread what they see as the word of God.

Currently heard in 40 radio markets around the country (locally on 1420 AM, Sundays, 8-11 a.m.) and online at www.holyhiphop.com, the two-hour program plays the latest in Christian rap and contemporary gospel music. Interspersed throughout is "Preachin' Puerto Rican" Eddie Velez's street interpretations of scripture, the "Word Up Biblical Breakdown"; Danny "D-Dominique" Wilson's weekly "Seek & Ye Shall Find" Bible quizzes; and "Sista" Sepia Stewart's inspirational "Holy Scrolls" readings.

"It's a ministry," says co-host and founder Wilson. He finds listeners may like the beat of a song, but don't have a clue what the lyrics mean. That's why Velez, a licensed minister, is on board. The FUBU-wearing, lyric-dropping preacher doesn't look like someone ordained by New Birth Missionary Baptist church, but the New Yorker easily throws down a sermon in ways hip-hops head can relate to. For Sepia, who began as an avid listener, the show taught her not to give up her baggy jeans and oversized T-shirts. The 24-year-old was later added for feminine flavor.

While the ministry element is an incorporated nonprofit company, "Holy Hip Hop" also has a marketing arm and is organizing a "Holy Hip Hop" awards show. While the hosts still work day jobs to support themselves, they're seeing the fruits of their labor daily. "A lot of secular rappers say, 'I don't let my kids listen to my music,'" Velez says. "My little 6-year-old knows the words to all of my joints."