Roger-How and why did you start Rap Fest?
Bert- This is always a great and interesting question. Many people look at me like I had this genius idea and long term visionary goal of creating one of the largest Christian hip hop events in the US. I am flattered by that but can’t take that kind of credit for this.
My brother, Mike Bocachica, was the new director of the Salem Coffee House back in 1994. That year, Salem Temple was having a tent revival, week-long evangelistic campaign in their parking lot. When we got close to the Month of August we realized that this big tent was still going to be in the church parking lot on the date of the next Coffee House event, the second Saturday of August. In fact, that’s why we always do Rap Fest now on the second Saturday of August.
So, after some brainstorming, I was able to convince my brother Mike that I knew enough Christian rap ministries at the time and we could have them all come out and bless the neighborhood with their ministries at no cost. The thought of a free all day event in the parking lot was all we had at the time. We called it the Salem Coffee House Rap Fest.
The turn out to the event was about fifty people at most. However, the response to the event was life-changing. Throughout the course of the day we were able to minister to a lot of kids from the community and even adults from the community. We found ourselves with their undivided attention in a way we had never seen before.
Shortly after the first event was over, everyone was asking if we would do it again. Here we are twenty one years later still at it. The blessed part of it all is that we are learning more and more every year. GOD IS AWESOME.
Roger-Name some of the artists that has performed during the festival that were your favorites?
BERT– I love every ministry that has participated in Rap Fest. Their dedication to the craft and their availability to street evangelism ties us together in spirit and we will always support their every move in ministry as it lines up with God’s perfect will.
Have there been a few stand out ministries that I can call favorites? Yes. For starters, The Cross Movement. Having them participate when nobody really knew who they were was a blessing. Their energy, knowledge of the Word, excellence in music and lyrics really made them stand out. There was a time when they would participate in Rap Fest every other year. Some of the humblest dudes I have ever met.
Manafest, who is now a pretty big deal, was also one of my favorites. Kid came with his skateboard in tow and chilled with the neighborhood youth up and down the block riding around. It was awesome to witness that but to see him rock on stage with such passion sealed it for me. I think it sealed it for all of those kids as well. Very real dude there. Bless his ministry.
TRUCE under the direction of David Ham and the Nicky Cruz Outreach was also a chart topper for me. These guys knew how to do ministry. That’s why we are so excited about The Storytellas coming out this year for Rap Fest. It’s the same feel from what many would say “The Veterans” in this type of Live Band testimony and song ministry.
There are more but we have a twenty year database.. it would take forever to mention them all.
Roger- What social media platforms do you use to promote Rap Fest and why?
Bert- Brother E and I used to always joke around saying that we were the first Christians on the Internet. There is a lot of value in the reach one has via the web. It’s the Internet that gives us global exposure. That’s why I always consider Rap Fest to be a local outreach ministry with global exposure. Using the entire popular social media network; Facebook, twitter, Instagram, google+, Pinterest, and YouTube, we are able to reach a mass audience that perhaps will never attend a Rap Fest event physically. Let’s face it, most people spend most of their day on some type of social media site on line. If we can tap in to these resources and then deliver a “GOD” message to the followers on these social media sites, amen. I have almost 10k twitter followers @rapfestradio and the Facebook pages /rapfest and /rapfestradio have a bunch of followers as well. I am not even sure how many Instagram/rapfestinc follower we have. My life in the eyes of social media is the same off of social media. If I can use 140 characters to get you closer to God, I will.
Roger- How has the response been over the years from teens and the churches that have attended Rap Fest?
Bert- We don’t necessarily survey youth groups that attend Rap Fest. How can I say this without sounding anti outreach? Rap Fest is really not for them. We encourage them to come so that they can be with us and help us maintain an atmosphere of worship as we bring the message to the UNCHURCHED at the locations we go to. Now, as far as churches and youth groups that have gone out of their way to invite their friends that don’t go to church, the response has been awesome.
We have heard many testimonies from people, not just teens but all ages, that have attended Rap Fest and have either made a decision to serve and follow Christ as a result of the Rap Fest ministry or we have put them on a path of curiosity which has lead them to explore Christ on their own. At the end of the day, that’s our purpose anyway.
Roger- A lot of traditional pastors see Hip-hop as bad and not Christian. Can you explain to pastors that have a negative outlook on the genre of Christian hip-hop on why it is a good thing for the Christians to embrace it?
Bert– Let’s put it this way. I encourage pastors to embrace anything that their “flock” is doing that is reaching the lost and winning souls for Christ. Who cares if it’s hip hop, ice skating, paintball, flag dance, singing, painting. etc. Whatever it is, if the Word of God is being preached in an uncompromised way and people are redirecting their hearts towards Christ with the next steps leading them to a local Church body seeking discipleship where they can nurture a relationship with Christ…. uhh… why not?
Roger- What advice do you have for new Christian hip hop artists?
Bert- Our local church Youth Group has a great name and motto. One Five Revolution. Don’t follow the Crowd. Stand out. Be different. Be unique. There are too many copycat hip hop artists out there.
If you are truly called to do this and have a passion for seeing souls get saved, read and study the Word of God, pray daily, be faithful to God, live a life that reflects that of a true follower of Jesus; showing love, mercy, compassion, good will, and peace. Your music and message can only reflect who you truly are. Otherwise, you can live a watered down life and deliver a watered down Gospel over some watered down music and call it a day. Just don’t complain when people don’t and won’t support what you do.
Roger – Thank you Bert and for more information about RAP FEST. Please be sure to add our social media links as follows: