Hip-hop music will be the medium and the Gospel will be the message when musicians, DJs, and dancers gather tonight for Tha Remix, one of the first Christian rap events in Toledo.
Bishop Steven Ward, 29, an associate pastor of Northgate Community Church, said he was inspired to organize the event after the Oct. 15 riot in North Toledo over a planned Neo-Nazi march.
"After the rioting took place, I heard a lot of youths say that they didn't have anything to do, that there were no activities," said Bishop Ward. "Even the ones who go to church said church was boring, they couldn't relate to the music."
The 29-year-old bishop, who wears his hair in dreadlocks, was ordained in the Word of Faith Fellowship and elevated to bishop three years ago. He said he joined Northgate Church's staff last year because its pastor, the Rev. James Mann, wanted the church to increase its multicultural ministry.
"'Tha Remix' is pretty much on the edge between being a church and a nightclub," Bishop Ward said. "We'll have live DJs with music, smoke machines, lights, and six recording artists. Intertwined with that, I'll be giving a series of Gospel messages."
Performers will include Mizz Reality, the Mad Prophets, Willette Moore, Souljaz 4 Christ, and local Christian rock band Pawn.
Mizz Reality, whose real name is Shanell Henry, hails from Lansing, Mich.
"I was a secular hip-hopper but once I dedicated my life to Christ, the gift was stirred up maybe nine months later," she said in an interview.
"My lyrics are basically inspirational and about real-life experiences," Mizz Reality said. "I have a song about my father not being part of my life, which blesses a lot of people who didn't have a father in the house. It's about just being thankful and grateful that God guides and protects us like the father that he is."
Mizz Reality has formed her own record label, Az One Entertainment, and is working on a sequel to her 2003 CD, "For His Glory."
She said that she aims to "just keep it real and speak the Word over a hiphop beat.
"God's hand is on the ministry of holy hiphop," she said.
Bishop Ward, who is considering holding hiphop church services on a regular basis, said audiences will be inspired by Tha Remix artists.
"The performers all will be sending the positive message of gang prevention, drug and alcohol prevention, and much more," Bishop Ward said.
Organizers are anticipating between 700 and 800 people attending the free event, which starts at 7 tonight in the Genesis Dreamplex, 2429 South Reynolds Rd.