march 2011

F1 Diamond: ‘I approach recording the way I approach a sermon. It starts by communicating with God and letting God inspire you.’

‘Music Is Only the PR Campaign For the Mission’

Up from the mean streets of Milwaukee and out of a dissolute lifestyle, Christian hip-hop artist F1 Diamond is focused on saving souls

By Bob Marovich

When one thinks of mean streets, places like New York, LA-Watts, Detroit and Chicago come to mind.

Not Milwaukee.

But make no mistake: Milwaukee has its share of mean streets.

Ask F1 Diamond. The Christian hip-hop artist hung out at 45th and Lloyd in Milwaukee and used the lessons he learned there to change himself and inspire others.

Born Radontae Ashford, F1 Diamond grew up in Milwaukee to a mother who took her small child into the taverns. "I was not from the church," F1 Diamond stated during a recent visit to Chicago.

But F1 Diamond's grandmother was from the church: she was an usher at Greater Mount Zion Baptist Church. For a short time, F1 Diamond, his mother and siblings attended Greater Galilee Baptist Church. He was in Boy Scouts and attended camp, but by the age of eight, "we never went back to church." Thereafter, the young man developed a passion for street life, joining a gang at age eleven. "The people on the corner became my life," F1 Diamond said.

While in middle school, he began honing his gift for rapping. Music became his escape route. Reflecting back, he believes that "God was using the gift of music to keep me from going too far in the streets."

F1 Diamond dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade, and by his twenties had started Infinite Recordings, a record label that helped kickstart Milwaukee's hip-hop scene. The label's breakout hit was "My Projects" by Coo Coo Cal (Calvin Bellamy). The single went to number one on Billboard's Top Rap Singles chart in 2001 and stayed there for four weeks.

F1 Diamond, ‘Pastor of the Traphouse’

Success brought F1 Diamond a life surrounded by women, drugs and more street life. The downside of success, however, was all too sobering. Two of his friends went to prison for life and another, an eighteen year old, was killed. All this sent him spinning out of control, "like I was going insane," he said.

January 6, 2002 is a day F1 Diamond will never forget. At four o'clock in the morning, he called his mother. By then, she had relocated to Memphis, where her father lived.  She got saved and became involved in the church. F1 Diamond told his mother he wanted to join her in Memphis. She immediately got in the car, "and by eleven p.m. that evening," he said, "she had driven from Memphis to Milwaukee to get me."

On the way to Memphis, everything he owned--including his clothes and the record company--left behind in Milwaukee, F1 Diamond sat in the car and listened to the gospel music his mother was playing. He specifically remembers how Donnie McClurkin's "Just For Me" struck the right chord inside him.

"For the first time in my life, I felt bad about what I did," F1 Diamond explained. He asked his mother to pull over to the side of the expressway. There, near Cairo, Illinois, he gave his life to Christ.

F1 Diamond and Bob Marovich

In Memphis, F1 Diamond went back to school, got his GED and attended Crichton College where he majored in Biblical Studies and Psychology. He started a Bible study for youth at Greater Imani Church, where his pastor is Dr. Bill Adkins. In April 2002 he accepted his calling to the ministry and since 2003 has been a full-time youth pastor for S.C.R.E.A.M (Shout Christ, Renounce Evil And Magnify the Lord), which has 400 members. One of the young persons in his group called the Milwaukee transplant a pastor of the "traphouse," street slang for a crack house. Pastor of the Traphouse. The name stuck.

F1 Diamond began creating hip-hop songs as a way to reach the youth in his group, but he never intended the material to get radio airplay or to launch a new music career. "The kids just started playing the songs at school for their friends. A local radio announcer, DJ R.J. Groove at 95.7 FM, he began playing them on his show, The Kingdom Party."

Around the same time, an innocent phone call changed F1 Diamond's life. Calling Cloud Ten Pictures to get permission to show the film, Saving God, for his youth group, he found himself talking with the company's owner. One thing led to another, F1 Diamond sent the company a copy of his Pastor of the Traphouse CD, and he was subsequently offered a distribution deal.

F1 Diamond, ‘Keep It 100’

Today, F1 Diamond is garnering responses worldwide for his Christian hip-hop music. But he remains grounded. "I'm not career building with my music. We're here to save souls."

How did he decide on the name F1 Diamond? "An F1 diamond is an almost flawless diamond, created from coal under the most heat and tremendous pressure," the artist explained. "I feel that I grew up under tremendous heat and pressure, selling crack at eleven years old and living on welfare. But at the same time, an F1 diamond is used to cut and shape other diamonds, and I want God to use me to shape others. Anybody who shapes you for the better is an F1 diamond."

F1 Diamond said he doesn't consider himself a "studio junkie."

"I don't write to music, I write to inspiration. I only record when I'm completely inspired. I'm not rapping. These are sermons, and I approach recording the way I approach a sermon. It starts by communicating with God and letting God inspire you."

He added, "Raps are more about the message than the beats or the sound. For me, music is only the PR campaign for the mission. The point is not to make a song or a dance, but to have a conversation with people."

For more information, go to

Posted by Bob Marovich at The Black Gospel Blog, July 26, 2011,

F1 Diamond’s Pastor of the Traphouse is available at

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