Although no one gets to choose the adversity they’re born into, they do get to choose what to do with it. It’s a responsibility hiphop artist Blake Whiteley does not take lightly, holding his own troubled history and spinning it into lyrics that point toward experiencing the ultimate hope of a God who is redeeming it all.
Blake Whiteley has been grinding on the independent artist path for eight years, and that work-ethic began to pay off in 2017 when his albumBreak Thru broke into the iTunes chart at #4 in hiphop and #63 overall. The single “New Day” garnered Most Added on Billboard’s Christian
Rock chart. If you’ve listened to Blake’s music, it’s not hard to hear why: he’s creating songs that could be described as a blend of Drake, Post Malone and Juice WRLD, but with bars built around an intense focus on the message of the gospel.
The growing momentum around Break Thru brought Blake Whiteley onto a 58 city nationwide tour with the evangelist and spoken word artist Clayton Jennings, and later in 2018 into a set at SoulStock in Alabama with Britt Nicole and Sidewalk Prophets. Joseph Rojas of Nashville Label Group happened to be sides tage watching, and he instantly requested a meeting. Not long after, Blake was signed to the Nashville Label Group imprint TrueBreed Records.
Blake stands poised now to release new music, pop hiphop fusion songs he’s been working on with producer Justin Amundrud (Lauren Daigle, TobyMac, Danny Gokey). The songs will be his first to release with TrueBreed Records. For Blake, the new music and the new record deal represent a long awaited breakthrough in his personal and professional life, a season that also holds a new baby girl. “We’re starting to see brighter days,” Blake says with gratitude.
Those brighter days follow difficult times when Blake’s wife Sharlotte was carrying their daughter while he was out on the road. The pregnancy faced severe complications due to hyperemesis, a condition in which the baby was eating away all of Sharlotte’s nutrients, her body atrophying under the strain. When he wasn’t on the road, Blake was in the hospital with his wife. Fortunately, now mom and baby are both back to full health. “It’s like night and day, once she had the baby,” Blake shares. “Now we’re just living in this feeling of ‘thank the Lord that’s over.’”
It’s nothing new for Blake to take the hardships he’s experienced and pour them into his rhymes: it’s exactly what he’s been doing since he was 6 years old.
As a child growing up in a rough neighborhood in Indianapolis, Blake watched his parents go through a tumultuous split when he was just 2 years old. After their divorce, he lived with his mother, who was increasingly in the grip of an addiction to drugs. She soon remarried a man who was often violent. “I was part of some things that no human should ever go through, let alone a child. Music was my outlet. I didn’t know God at the time. I looked at people like Eminem, Tupac, Biggie, I heard their story and related it to mine,” Blake recalls.
He describes his first experience with hip hop as “love at first listen,” a moment that led him to start rewriting the hit songs of his icons. That refuge became increasingly crucial as his environment grew darker. One night, he and his sister were awakened by bullets tearing through their home. They waited for four hours in a closet while a SWAT team took down the shooter, who was in a face off with their stepfather. Later, young Blake walked through his house, the floor covered with bullet shells.
“I saw one in particular. It went through our back gate, through our back window, through our couch, through our TV, and it hit the wall. But there was not a dent in the wall. It was like the bullet was chopped down, almost,” Blake says as he remembers the chilling details. “They said had it gone through the wall, it would have perfectly gone through the center of my head and killed me, because of where my head was placed. That was a real,‘you gotta be a grown man out here’ moment.’”
A few years after that, Blake’s mom would come to realize that it was safer for the kids to live with their father a devout Christian who had fought for custody for years. But for Blake, the trauma of his young life was feeding a growing internal emptiness. He tried to escape it through fights at school, experiment ing with substances, and tracking rap demos on a cheap mic and interface he bought with his friends. All of it left him wanting.
Despite trying a year of college sports to explore what he considered to be a more realistic path, Blake felt constantly magnetically drawn back to music. He dropped out of college and tracked a demo on that same basic recording system from highschool. He and his friend put it on YouTube, where it got 1000 views overnight then 20,000 views in a week. At just 19 years old, an investor from Chicago contacted Blake and said he wanted in. The sudden attention just highlighted Blake’s internal emptiness: “He brings me to Chicago, puts me in a Maserati, shoots a music video. You know, women, drugs, money, all this stuff. There was an emptiness there. I grew up as a fighter. I thought if I beat someone up, that would take away my anger and emptiness, but it didn’t. So I thought, I’m just going to get rich and famous. And I was well on my way to doing that.”
Soon after, Blake was booked to play an after show for Wiz Khalifa. He was on stage, two songs into an eight song set, when thoughts seemed to come to his mind out of nowhere. “I just felt like I wasn’t in the place I was supposed to be,” he remembers. “At the moment I didn’t know this, but now I know it was God. And He was like ‘you can continue to do this, and all these people will praise you and worship you, and you’ll get lost in the noise. And at the end of your life, you’ll be separated from me. Or you can give your life up and I’ll use you for a purpose bigger than yourself.’”
Blindsided, Blake cut the mic and left the stage in the middle of his set. The whole flight home, he was considering what he’d heard. Seeing the fog his son was in, Blake’s dad invited him to attend a revival meeting with him. At first, Blake wasn’t taking it seriously. Then, the speaker gave an altar call, and everything changed. “I just started crying, breaking down,” he says. “I fight it off. He’s going to walk off staff, and he turns around and says ‘no, there’s one more person, one more young man in here, and
you’re fighting it.’ I was like, ‘how did he know that? My goodness, that’s me.'”
Blake started crying, and looked back at his dad. “It was like Jesus, through my dad, was talking to me. I didn’t see my dad, I saw Jesus. And He was like, ‘come to me.’ And I did. At the end of it, God made me a new creation. From then on, I stepped away from everything that I was doing, then the birth of my ministry, my music, for the Lord’s glory, came a week later.”
Becoming a new creation in Christ also freed him up to forgive his stepmom and stepdad for
childhood wounds. “It’s never easy, but at the end of the day, I thank God for what I’ve been through because it allows me to relate to a lot of peoples’ pain,” Blake says with conviction. “I can look at somebody who is struggling and have compassion for them and meet them where they’re at, because I’ve been there.”
The rapper is forthright about the challenges of moving forward after what he’s experienced. “A lot of people blame God for the devil’s work. I get it; I have those same questions. But at the end of the day, I know that we’re going to go through the troubles of this world, but I have nothing to fear because God overcame the world through Jesus. I have doubts too, and I have hurt. But let’s do this thing together, because ultimately? The only answer to life is Christ.”
That’s exactly the story that he tells in both albums he’s released independently since then, Breath Thru and Consumed. Every song channels his history, ultimately relating to listeners’ pain in order to bring them into the same kind of experience he had with Jesus. “When my void was filled by Christ? That joy and that freedom I received, that ‘I don’t have to try to fit in.’ There’s freedom when those chains are broke. What I’m trying to give back to the world is that same experience. I tell people all the time, it’s the hardest thing to try to recreate for somebody else what I experienced when I met Christ. But one thing I can do is bring them to that, so that they could have that experience for themselves.
Leading people to that experience will continue to be at the core of everything Blake Whiteley does, every lyric he writes and verse he raps, moving into this new season of music and ministry. While freely admitting he’s a person still in progress, he’s determined to invite everyone along with him. “Our sole mission is to glorify God. I’m trying to do that and reach as many people as I can on my way to Heaven.