By Bob Marovich
Once upon a time in Grand Rapids, Michigan, life was looking pretty good for Steven Malcolm. He and his family lived in a middle-class home. Their father, Winston, a Jamaican by birth, had a decent job at General Motors.
Then when Steven was about ten years old, Winston was arrested. He had been caught selling drugs. Since Winston was not a U.S. citizen, officials deported him to Jamaica. That was the last time Steven ever saw his father.
“He was a great guy, a great dad, but he decided to sell drugs,” Steven told the Journal of Gospel Music. “Sometimes money can bring out the worst in people.”
Winston Malcolm’s deportation left Steven without a male role model.
“Growing up without a father figure is tough,” said Steven, a Christian hip hop artist whose The Second City – Part Two was released on Word Entertainment in June 2018. “Your dad is your first hero, your first inspiration. You find your first sense of identity in your dad. His departure left me wondering what is my purpose? What is my identity? Who do I look up to?”
Steven sought out new role models among a group of older youth. “They were playing sports, getting ladies, living life about the money. They became my role models and that’s what I wanted to be like.”
Steven hoped to parlay his passion and talent for basketball into an NBA contract. But to hedge his bet, he entered college with the goal of getting an associate degree in criminal justice. Life was confusing, though, and Steven found himself engaged in a great deal of soul searching.
“I had an identity crisis,” he confessed. “Life wasn’t panning out the way it was supposed to be. I felt like God was stripping me of a lot of stuff. I felt empty and vulnerable.”
In 2010, a friend Steven played basketball with invited him to visit a hip hop church in Grand Rapids called Urban Edge Fellowship, led by Pastor Troy Evans.
“I thought it sounded interesting,” Steven said. “I believed in Jesus because I didn’t want to go to hell, but I had never been to a church before. I went in, and the spirit spoke to me. Even this first time, I realized that I need God’s grace and his mercy. I needed Jesus to be more than a savior—I needed him to be the lord of my life.”
After that initial visit to Urban Edge, an inner voice prodded Steven to return. “Something felt right about going,” he said. “When I was there, I felt a sense of peace, I felt a sense of joy. The more that I went, the more my heart started to change. I started to get conviction. I told the pastor that I thought the Lord was calling me and I was ready to submit.”
Steven Malcolm gave his life to Christ in 2010.
Urban Edge Fellowship, Steven explained, is “a youth-driven church doing outreach in the urban community. We speak the language of the hip hop culture to bring the youth in.” The church is also about forming people into active disciples, not passive members. “We try to multiply ourselves and pour into the younger generation.”
So in 2011, when Pastor Evans asked Steven how he wanted to serve God’s people, the teen chose music ministry. “Our worship team at church did hip hop,” Steven said. “Growing up in hip hop culture, I thought I’d give that a shot, see how it goes. I turned out to be really talented at rapping!”
The Urban Edge music ministry gave Steven a chance to hone his newfound gift for rapping, especially rapping at a rapid pace. He began entering music competitions. One involved submitting a music video for his self-penned “Go Off.” “I wrote it, recorded it, mixed it, mastered it, my friends shot the music video, and I edited the video,” he said.
“Go Off” won the competition. Better yet, someone forwarded the video to a producer at Reach Records, home to such award-winning Christian hip hop artists as Lecrae, Tedashii, and Trip Lee. It turned out that the producer had just been tapped to start a hip hop division at Word Entertainment. When he ran across Steven’s contest video, he reached out. A month later, Steven Malcolm was the first hip hop artist signed to Word Entertainment.
His 2017 self-titled debut album received a Dove Award nomination. Rather than follow up with a full-length album, however, Steven decided to launch a four-part series of EPs called The Second City.
He explained the meaning behind the title. “Montego Bay in Jamaica, where my father is from, is nicknamed the Second City because it was the second area in Jamaica to become a major metropolitan area. I wanted to turn that into an ode to my past and a representation of the new hope and redemption that I found in God. My dad played a huge role in my life due to his absence. It made me search for identity, and the result of that search was I found Jesus.”
Part Two of the series was released in June. Steven said that of the EP’s five selections, “Even Louder,” featuring the Christian band Leeland, is the one listeners appear to be most drawn to.
“We were going to make a rap version of Leeland’s ‘Lion and the Lamb,’” Steven explained. “That’s why we brought Leeland [Mooring] in [to the studio] that day. But when he heard ‘Even Louder,’ a song we had gotten from Word Worship, the worship division of the label, he got on the piano and started freestyling. That’s what he came up with.”
He continued: “[The Second City] is a journey. Part One was the introduction. Part Two is the celebration in the city. Part Three will be about the dark trials and tribulations we go through as Christians—that I have gone through as a Christian—and then at the end of Part Three, how I overcame them. Part Four will be an overcoming celebration.”
Part Three of The Second City is slated for release in September. Steven said the final volume will be available either at the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019. At the moment, he is on a multi-show summer concert series that concludes in early August.
At the end of the day, what does Steven Malcolm want listeners of The Second City to come away with? “All it takes is for one person to be on fire for Jesus to ignite the world,” he said.
For more information, visit: www.stevenmalcolm.com.