Interview with Omri by Marco Gonzalez
I would like to introduce you to a series of blog posts I will be starting. Years ago, I began to interview John Frame and Vern Poythress, which drew great interest from our readers. Periodically, you will be seeing more interviews from local pastors, rap artists, or possibly more theologians.
This series will begin with Omri, a lyrically talented artist who lives in Arizona. I am humbled that he agreed to the interview and believe you will be edified by his wisdom. Many readers will be quite familiar with Omri. He has been featured on Shai Linne's "Attributes of God" , "Lyrical Theology", and Christcentric's "The Jude Injunction".
Here is a brief bio about Omri:
Omri is a living testimony of the sovereign, saving grace of God. Despite being raised by believing parents, he did not experience a radical change of life until his final year of college. Shortly after his conversion, he moved to Phoenix, AZ and began serving at Grace Bible Church. It was here that God used the church to mature and refine Omri as a Christian man, equipping him with the theological depth and practical wisdom relayed through his music.
Artistically, Omri aims to communicate the majesty of the Creator through the beauty of lyrical complexity. He currently resides in Gilbert, AZ with his wife, Emily, while teaching high school Bible and English and pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Biblical Counseling at the Master’s College.
Tell us a little about yourself. I first stumbled upon your work on Shai Linne's "Attributes of God" and was highly impressed with your musical/lyrical ability.
I've been writing and recording a little over six years now. The first time I recorded was during the same week that God saved me, but ironically, the two events were unrelated. I have always enjoyed words, even from a young age. Whether it was reading books and comics, writing, or listening to good speakers, for whatever reason, I have always been drawn to elegant diction. Shortly after God saved me, I moved to Arizona to get plugged in at Grace Bible Church where my wife and I currently serve. Besides making music, I teach English and Bible at a local Christian high school full-time and I'm studying to complete my Master's degree in Biblical Counseling at The Master's College. Unfortunately, these things don't leave as much time for music as I would like, but it's all good. This is what God has for me right now. The Attributes of God feature was actually my first big feature and quite a few people who currently follow my music were introduced to me then. It's encouraging to hear that you had the same experience.
When were you first introduced to Hip-Hop and when did you begin to see it as a viable use for the Glory of God?
Good question. I honestly don't even remember the first time I heard rap because growing up, I wasn't allowed to listen to it. My parents didn't understand it, and like many people in the late 90's, just saw Christian hip hop as the church trying to be like the world in order to reach the world. I never lost interest in rap though. I can remember listening to Yolanda Adams with my parents and always anxiously anticipating this one rap verse that was on one of her songs! Eventually, though, my parents warmed up to the idea of Christian hip hop and began listening to it with my siblings and me.
Whether or not rap could be used to glorify God was never a question in my mind though. It never even occurred to me that there was a reason why it couldn't be. In college was the first time that I actually tried my hand at writing poetry and performing it. My school hosted open mic nights all the time and I grew tired of listening to people exalt stuff that was sinful. So I started writing just for the sake of being a light and calling people to repentance. Over time, I grew in confidence through people's encouragement that I was actually decent at it, even the people who were sinning in the ways I was talking about when I performed!
What is your process for creating music? How do the scriptures, theology, and prayer fit into this?
How I make music has changed constantly over the years. Initially, I was just downloading free, generic beats online and writing lyrics to those. About a year in to writing and recording, a friend taught me about multisyllabic rhyme schemes and I began developing that writing style. Now, after putting out a decent amount of my own music, I am giving more attention to the musicality of my songs and projects. What hasn't changed is the role that theology, prayer, and God's word play in the process. I see my music is a platform for God's exaltation and the proclamation of the gospel. I'm not interested in being reserved about those things or talking about other stuff. I still enjoy some music that doesn't major on those same things or aren't as explicit about them, but that's not what I want my music to be. I'm constantly praying that God would guide me and give me wisdom and skill throughout the creative process like He did for Bezalel and Oholiab in Exodus 31. Whenever I write, I try to consider Psalm 40:3, "He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in Yahweh" and Psalm 102:18, "Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise Yahweh." I'm aware that, by God's grace, He may use my music to move people to think about Him in a way that affects several generations to come. That is what I want God to accomplish through my music.
I would invite anyone who has not watched this video to view it before reading this. Please share with us your heart on this video. Why “Wonderful Complexity”? And what inspired you to create such a masterpiece?
Wonderful Complexity was something that I had been wanting to write for a very long time. Early on in my Christian walk, through reading the Bible with an eye toward God's attributes, I began to realize that God was far beyond anything that I could imagine. He didn't mesh with my logic and there was no way that I would ever fully wrap my mind around Him. I began reading the M'Cheyne's Bible reading plan in 2009 and I kept noticing passages that, in one way or another, revealed that even the writers of Scripture saw very little of the totality of God. I started to get the sense that everything I was reading in Scripture was just the tip of the iceberg. Among those passages are Deuteronomy 3:23-24, Job 26:14, Nehemiah 9:5, and Psalms 145:3 and 147:5. Those have become some of my favorite verses and most helpful to my own growth as a believer. With the Wonderful Complexity song and video, I wanted to capture something of that sense of wonder by highlighting the paradoxes within God's character. Lord willing, it will simply be a catalyst for listeners to continue (or begin) considering God in that way. I like to think of it as my small contribution to the world to accomplish that end.
The recent controversies surrounding Christian Hip-Hop have left many believers on both sides of the fence. Many Christians see Hip-Hop as invalid and should not be a means to preach the Gospel and edify the church. As an artist, what would you say to this?
Well, obviously, I disagree. Everything that I've ever heard against the use of hip hop for the sake of the gospel has been from who I assume are well meaning saints who misunderstand God's glory and elevate their own preferences. I recommend anyone seeking clarity on this issue to read Al Mohler's article, "Thinking about Thinking about Rap" and God's Servant's article appealing to the NCFIC panelists. I believe both these brothers address the issues surrounding this debate very well.
Where can viewers find more of your music? And what are some future projects we can expect?
I can't say too much yet about what's to come, but I am working on another EP. The idea for the project came from an impactful sermon series that was preached at my church. There is no doubt in my mind that this project will be my best music yet. In the grand scheme of things, we're still a little bit early in the creative process, but I'm excited to get it into people hands. I think it is something that the church and Christian hip hop can benefit from greatly. All my music, as well as links to features and other projects, can be found on isix5.com. For things specific to Wonderful Complexity, visit wonderfulcomplexity.com.