Memphis, TN (TN Tribune)–Del Lawrence has an infectious air of confidence. Many who hear him speak, or have the chance to talk to him, are left with a tremendous sensation of hope and purpose. Lawrence, also known in the hip-hop community as Mr. Del, credits the city of Memphis, Tennessee, for helping shape these characteristics.
The 43-year-old hails from White Haven (just five minutes from Graceland) in an area surrounded by civil rights museums, Beale Street and a wealth of African-American culture.
“Memphis has had an ongoing impact on my life,” Mr. Del told the Pulse. “Memphis feeds me my inspiration and my creativity. It’s wonderfully complex.”
When Lawrence was seven years old, an older cousin visited from the East Coast bringing with him a Doug E. Fresh tape.
“I heard that and I was open from that moment on. I wanted everything that sounded like that. I played it over and over and fell in love with it,” says Del.
He had always enjoyed poetry, and realized hip-hop was a new way to put poetry over beats. From then on you could find Del freestyling and practicing writing raps with his friends at school.
When he was 13, Del and his friends would sneak out late at night and go downtown to surround themselves in the local Memphis music scene. It was at this point Mr. Del handed a demo to rap legend Juicy J.
“For whatever reason he saw something in me. He became my mentor and I became a part of [Juicy J’s rap group] the Three 6 Mafia.”
Lawrence would stay in the group for six years. “I studied under them in the studio. It’s where I paid my dues and learned the business of hip-hop.”
In 2000, Del had just gotten off tour and went to church to visit some family.
“My mother was religious so I went to church, but I never had a relationship with God. I was always around but never tapped into it,” says Lawrence. It was sitting in the back of that church service that God spoke to Del and showed him a vision of everything he was supposed to do, the artist said. He knew he needed to take what he knew about hip-hop and use it to spread the word of Christ. Lawrence left Three 6 Mafia and started his own thing.
Over the next 20 years, Mr. Del’s solo music has spread Christianity and also brought him Grammy and Dove Award nominations.
As the so-called godfather of Christian rap, the “hope dealer” has founded a record label, Dedicated Music Group, and has been working with and mentoring other Christian rappers.