Church: Senior pastor of Greater Emmanuel Temple of Lynwood
Hometown: Inglewood, CA
Career: A noted drummer, record producer and songwriter
Married: Six years to first lady LaToya Stewart; three children, including an infant daughter
Church Website: www.greateremmanuel.org
Q: What were you doing when you received your calling to preach?
A: I was in Miami in 2004 working on Missy Elliot’s album “The Cookbook.” We were at the beginning of the album. My mother was sick and my brother called, “You need to get home now.” On that plane ride home I remember looking out the window, tears streaming down my face, I asked the Lord: “If you heal her, I’ll preach. I’ll do whatever you want me to do.”
He said, “No you’re going to preach my Word anyway.” I accepted it. When I got to my mother, she just said, “The Lord is going to use you to reach people that others won’t be able to reach.”
And I can say from that moment on that there are times when I get calls from people that I work with, they call me saying “I need you to come talk to me” about things related to Christianity. I’m glad to hear and witness those things come to pass.
Q: Were you running from the call before that flight?
A: I wouldn’t say I was running I was just working. I was into the flow and sometimes that’s hard to stop. I did always assume I’d be a pastor, but I didn’t want to do it because of the responsibility. I had told my father “Don’t be handing the church to me because you want to keep it in the family.” My father founded the church in September 1965. We’re going into our 40th year. But after his earnest praying, he came to a decision and saw that I was the one for the job. I wear it with honor, integrity and humility. Now I’m just looking for great things to happen.
Q: How do you balance your music career with your role as pastor?
A: My number one priority is my family and pastoring the church. I’ve been pastoring since February 2012. Since then when anybody asks me to be their musical director, they know nothing’s going on Sunday morning and nothing’s going on Wednesday night. A client just called me and I had to tell him I can’t go on tour, and I can tell they were kind of upset. I definitely have control over my time. It’s just about me getting used to saying no. Because I make great money at what I do but of course the ministry is first for me.
The Lord uniquely took me on this journey. When I look at how it was set up for me and how I started, it doesn’t happen that way. I don’t know of anybody where after writing their first couple of songs, one of them is a number one record. That was ten years ago and I’m still getting paid for it.
Q: How did you get into music?
A: I started out playing music in my daddy’s church. I was a drummer. I didn’t ever think I was going to make a career out of it, I was going to play football, but it didn’t go that way. Immediately after college, Randy Jackson from American Idol got me my first gig. As it happened, Warren Campbell — we were great friends growing up — Warren was doing something for Randy Jackson and Warren told him about me and brought me in.
Q: What happened after your big break with Randy Jackson?
A: I was 22 or 23 and I always liked to have concerts at the church. One concert in 1999 I called “Take Me Back,” we had people do a tribute to a bunch of different artists. Missy Elliot and Brandy were in the audience. Pastor Shep Crawford, a songwriter and producer, was doing work for Def Jam, and he asked our band if we wanted to work with Timbaland, when he first came out as an artist. We did that. We did all his TV shows, and after one experience Tim said “I’m not doing any no more shows without you guys.”
So we traveled the world touring. Artists going on tour would call me and ask me to put bands together for them. And then being in the studio with Timbaland, watching him create music, I wanted to do that too. My first record was a number one record that me and Timbaland did with Missy Elliot. It was all happening so fast.
Once I saw the type of money I was making, and could make, how blessed I was to tour with some major artists and become their music director, after that I also got into song writing and producing.
In 2000, I got a call one night, one of my buddies said, “Here, someone wants to talk to you” and it was Diddy—Puff Daddy—and he was like, “Yo, I heard some of your music man. How can I get in on what you’re doing? Can you come to New York?” And I said “Sure, When? Like next week?” And he said, “Can you get on a plane in a few hours?” He sent plane tickets and we went to New York.
We negotiated a deal and we became part of the Hit Men, which is his production crew, and also appeared on his MTV show “Making The Band.” Next thing you know I’m touring with Beyoncé playing the drums with her band and then Jay Z before they were together. I was Jay Z’s musical director and then 50 Cents. I’ve worked with just about every body in hip hop and R&B. I put Jamie Foxx’s shows together when I can. Now I have the liberty to send out whoever I want for me.
Q: What are your challenges as a new pastor?
A: The challenges are getting people who have been there since the start to understand that, hey, trying something new is OK. We never change the message. Methods we change, but the original message we don’t change. My goal is to deliver the message that has been established for us as all. The challenge is also bridging the gap between the young and the old. I try to pray for that perfect fusion of things.
Q: What is your preaching style?
A: I’m not necessarily the guy that makes you run and shout and do cartwheels. If that happens so be it, but my thing is I deliver a word where people feel like they can work it out so they can build on themselves. We’re all building. As long as we’re living and breathing we’re building. So that’s what I’m trying to do. I never want to lose the traditional side of it, but we definitely have a modern feel. I want to give a practical word that people can take adapt to their lives.