It’s my pleasure to announce the release of my debut project “Beyond the Surface.” Created over a span of two years, Beyond the Surface embraces the expression of Christian faith in the context of an urban environment. Most of the EP was written during my daily commutes to work, the gym, and everything in between.

For those who don’t know me, I live in the city of Toronto and I am a youth minister at a church in the heart of Mississauga called West Church.  We are a community of Christ followers with the purpose and mission to share the love of God to people in our city.

Now back to Hip Hip, I wrote my first verse in the 11th grade, but started taking the art form seriously in my 20s. Shortly after becoming a Christian, a group of us from my church decided to form a rap group called Christian Nation. Although we haven’t been as active due to life getting busier and group members living in different cities, we still try to perform together any chance we get. In fact, I’ll be releasing  two singles with a couple of the group members this year.

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Since Hip Hop was such a big part of my upbringing, I’ve always been connected to its culture. I love the poetry in it, the play of words, flow, metaphors, etc. It’s no surprise that I was a professional writing major in my undergraduate years.

Rappers such as Tupac, Nas, J Cole, Andy Mineo and Lecrae all inspired my style and my sound. Lecrae and Andy Mineo in particular inspired me to use the art form to proliferate the christian message. Before becoming a Christian, I didn’t know christian Hip Hop existed, so when I first heard these guys I was impressed by their skill. They created great music without having to swear or include profanity in their songs.

Stu Escalona-Beyond the Surface

The Reason for Creating 

Not only is Hip Hop an outlet for me, it’s also a creative vehicle for me to express my life and faith in a way that glorifies God while relating to people who also love the art form. Hip Hop had a huge influence on me growing up, in some ways positive, but mostly negative. So my goal with this EP is to create music that inspires people and prompts them to think deeper about life and faith.

However, I always have to keep my heart in check when creating songs. With any art form, the temptation is to make it about myself, seeking my own glory. I continually surrendered this project to God, asking Him to purify my heart and motives. Prayer and scripture anchored me during the process, reminding me to keep my mind on His glory and not my own. These two scriptures in particular are great reminders:

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. – Colossians 3:23-24

Stu Escalona--Beyond the Surface

The Creative Process

Creating a blog post, a piece of poetry, or crafting a sermon, is in many ways similar to creating a song. There is a specific purpose and topic being communicated and it involves emotion, thinking, and a whole lot of creativity. And since I am a man of faith, it also involves inspiration from scripture and from life events and experiences being interpreted through the lenses of faith.

Before writing lyrics, I first listen to the beat a couple times. I do this to understand how many verses the beat has, how long the chorus is, and what type of flow I can use on it. Once I nail these things down, I think of a concept for the song. After I have a concept, I write the chorus then the verses. However, at times, I write the verses first, then the chorus last. Then I tweak. And tweak. And tweak some more.

Once the songs were fully written, I recorded them in my basement. I have a microphone, an interface and Logic Pro X.  I worked on it for a couple hours each week over the last two years. It was a slow and tedious process, but I learned a lot on the way. I discarded many songs, and combined old written pieces into new songs. Somehow how it all came together. After I had all the tracks recorded, I mixed them, then sent them in to be mastered by a freelancer. Here is the final product:

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