By Sheena Williams
Killeen Daily Herald
As he skimmed the packed pews of New Zion Christian Fellowship church years ago, Rodney Shurelds felt slightly apprehensive taking the stage with his best friend, Earl Dix Jr., who calmly took in the crowd.
The two performed their first gospel hip-hop song, and Dix said as he took a seat after their turn in the church's talent show, he heard God calling him and, "It wasn't some big booming voice."
"I could feel it on the inside," Dix said. "We knew of a lot of things that were going on in the community that are still going on now. In Killeen, people are really influenced by hip-hop and that goes for young and old. And it influences the way they dress, the way they talk and the way they do things. A lot of crime – I don't blame it all on hip-hop – but a lot of it is influenced through hip-hop. So what we wanted to do is not just give people an alternative but an anecdote so they can stop listening to such negative things."
With the goal of creating positive music to "stand up and stand firm" for their beliefs, the two formed the lyrically expressive group R.E.C (Revealing Evangelistic Concepts). Their first official album, "The Misconception," is laced with thoughtful rhymes and a chopped and screwed Christian message. It is being released Nov. 29.
Although their brotherly bond often has the two finishing each other's sentences and occasionally showing up to church services wearing the same color shirt, Dix and Shurelds weren't born in the same town and grew up listening to different extremes of hip-hop. But once the childhood friends got acquainted, their goals in life have been just as in sync as they are.
"The thing was that we did everything together, even before we became Christians," said Dix, who is three years younger than Shurelds. "I would go to teen clubs, and I don't even think I was supposed to be in there at that time, but I was tagging along, too. So we did everything together – good and bad. And if I saw him at the altar, I would go, too."
"I think a lot of times we feed off of each other," Shurelds said. "So if one of us is going off in the right direction, the other one will follow along. The lifestyle that we both wanted to obtain as followers of Christ was something we both hopped on board together as brothers. We're so close that we don't have to say some things in words. We just say it more in actions."
Relaying their beliefs through their actions is an important aspect of their lives and outreach to young people, Dix said. The duo has also utilized their proceeds from their first unofficial CD to donate to the victims struggling through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Gilbert Grace has watched the pair grow in their spirituality inside the walls of the church he pastors, NZCF in Killeen. Although the new form of gospel music "took some getting used to" for the pastor, he said he knew Dix's and Shurelds' hearts were in the right place and that the new genre was just "preaching over rhythmic beats."
"I was somewhat of a spiritual parent for them," Grace said. "Just like any households, you have your challenges but I'm very proud of them because they're very inspiring and have created unique methods for their generation."
For more information on R.E.C's new album, go to their Web site www.dailyrecords247.info.