A year ago on his 30th birthday, Christian rapper Brandon Coleman’s kidney gave out. Up until then, he had been a healthy father of two children and husband to his wife of eight years, Cora Jakes Coleman, while working on building his music career. The harrowing and unexpected experience made Coleman take stock of life and gave him a new sense of urgency.
“I promised myself after experiencing not having energy to get up out of bed in the morning or not having the appetite to eat — or me throwing up every time — I would eat something or drink something if I got the chance to get out and get better, that I was going to live every single day like it was my last,” Coleman says.
The time Coleman spent lying in the hospital bed talking to God, and wondering whether he would live, inspired his two most recent singles, “Last Days” and “Corpus,” a pair of tracks about living life to the fullest and pursuing what matters.
Coleman, whose stage name is SkiiVentura, says that because he is a Christian, the music that flows from him and the way he thinks about life are inextricably linked to his spirituality and his conversations with God.
“Because I am a believer, there are a lot of things that I experience on a daily basis and in my spirituality that I navigate, and I like to create from the most natural place," Coleman says. "If I’m heavily inspired by my spirituality in the moment, then I own that. I take that on and create from that place. ... When you hear my music, you hear me navigating with God. … My music is literally my conversations with God.”
Coleman’s journey to this moment began 19 years ago when he fell in love with hip-hop in Summerville, South Carolina. Inspired by his mother’s poetry and the East Coast rap greats his cousin introduced him to, Coleman began to take his first steps into the world of hip-hop. Coleman points to legends like DMX, Jay-Z and The Wu-Tang Clan as the artists that molded his sound over the years. Though his songs are undoubtedly contemporary, Coleman says he strives to marry DMX’s rawness with the conscious lyricism of Black Thought, mingling in just enough modernity to make his particular flavor of hip-hop relevant.
Raised by a single mother in tough Southern streets, music was Coleman’s solace, and once he started to create his own, he found it helped him express himself more clearly than he could any other way. He found his voice in music.
“Music has always been like my place of refuge; it kept me together, it spoke to my emotions. It spoke to everything I was experiencing,” Coleman says. “That always had been a thing of mine. But then to create on my own, I found that I had a voice, and I had a message. Even as a little kid, I found that I had a lot to say, and I think music always made it easier for me to convey my thoughts.”
Coleman and his friends would spend hours out on porches and hanging around school free-styling and honing their ciphers. His chops developed quickly, and people began to notice that he had a knack for the craft. His friends pushed him to take his music to the next level, and at age 16, Coleman began to work toward a career as an artist.
“Everybody kept telling me, man you need to go on BET…they even gave me the name BET where I was from, and that kinda stuck with me, and it made me believe that I could do something more with it,” Coleman says.
When he stepped into a studio to record his first song, “Love Crash,” and heard his voice on the track for the first time, Coleman says he knew this was what he was meant to do.
“I heard my voice for the first time and was like, ‘This is real,’” Coleman says. “I felt like I was on top of the world when I heard my voice on the track for the first time, and I guess that’s when it became real to me. And every single time I recorded, I wanted to get better, every time I wrote after that.”
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Many rappers convey through their lyrics that cash and clout are the extent, or at least pillars, of their ambition. Coleman says he is out for something more substantial.
“I want people to look back and see my legacy as someone who stood for something positive in the middle of a whole bunch of music that in hip-hop spews out hatred or selling dope and gun violence,” Coleman says. “All that stuff is trendy for sure, but I want to be known for something more than that. I want music that will be a little more timeless than what’s on the radio now. … I want something you continually listen to as you grow and grow more with the music.”
Coleman writes his songs because he believes other people are going through some of the same things he has been through, and he hopes his words will help them as they navigate those situations.
“What I really want them to hear is the complications of life … I think that’s another thing that Christian hip-hop isolates," Coleman says of his music. "Just the fact that there’s a real life that we’re living outside of the spirituality and church and services. If I can do my part in helping the next man navigate, I think that’s what I would want people to take from it.”