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Grapetree Records: On The Vine Since 1989

  • Updated Feb 01, 2002
Grapetree Records: On The Vine Since 1989
by Scott A. Shuford for the Music Channel on

Simply put, Grapetree Records is the leading Christian rap label. Grapetree was the first Christian label to exclusively focus on hip hop music, starting with gangsta rap and now having expanded into all areas of hip hop.

In 1989 at the age of 19, founder Knolly Williams felt the Lord calling him to start his own record company. "The Lord gave me the name 'Grapetree.'" Knolly says. "At first I didn't know what it meant, but later God revealed its meaning to me. The grapes represent people who are about to be destroyed (Isaiah 5:1-7, Revelation 14:17), while the trees represent the fully restored state of man in Christ (Psalm 1:1-3, Matthew 7:17). Our job as a label would be to take those grapes headed for destruction and plant them on the tree of life!"

In late 1993, with $250 in start up capital, Knolly Williams quit his job at a graphic design firm and went to full time status with his fledgling label. Knolly released his first EP "Time We Stop," and the label's first album entitled "Reflections Of An Ex-Criminal" under the alias of "Rubadub". That same year, he created Christian rap's first magazine, "Heaven's Hip-Hop", and by 1994 the magazine had grown to 20,000 copies per issue. By 1997, the label began to really catch on, and by 1998 Grapetree had sold well over 500,000 units.

Knolly's testimony is that of a prodigal son. Having accepted Christ at 10 years old, by the age of 16 he had been expelled from the Los Angeles Unified School District, arrested for drug dealing on campus and charged with 4 felony counts. As a first time offender, he was sentenced to 6 weeks in Juvenile Hall, and two years probation. He pursued success as a rapper in the general market, with the lifestyle to compete. In 1988, Knolly renewed his commitment to the Lord, and became a Christian, accepting Jesus Christ as Lord of his life. "After I recommitted to Christ, I wanted to give up doing rap music altogether," Knolly recalls. "I didn't think you could do rap music for the Lord. I guess I thought rap music was sinful and worldly. But the Lord kept putting songs in my head. Finally I began to write them down, and gradually, I began to realize that the Lord could work through rap music, using it as a tool to reach millions."

Knolly Williams' accomplishments stand as a testamonial that all things truly are possible to them that believe. Knolly states it a little more simply than that, "I just wanna see souls saved and in heaven. That's what Jesus died for. That's what it's all about."

For five years, Grapetree's ==Muzik Ta Ride 2== compilations have continued to bring hip hop fans the latest new and unsigned artists. Releases from the more veteran artists so far in Y2000 include "The Day After" from Lil' Raskull, "Ghetto Fables" from L.G. Wise, and "A Chosen One" from Mr. Real.

Click to hear Lil' Raskull's "The Day After" from album of the same name, while you read.

Growing up in Houston's Fifth Ward, {{Lil' Raskull}} found drug dealings and prostitution to be the backdrop of his life in one of Houston's worst ghettos. Raskull was always rapping. His rap career launched after meeting Johnnie B. Walker III, a.k.a "Tiger", as they signed with local record label Dead Game Records in 1991, but "God pricked my heart," says Lil' Raskull. He started to hear God's voice after three months saying "Look around They're all a bunch of junkies How long are you going to keep this?" In that same time, God brought a call Nuwine, a Christian rapper and friend who had been out of contact for quite a while. "I dropped the whole rap scene," said Lil' Raskull. "I started to to to church with Nuwine." He goes on to say tell how the Lord gave him his first song and now he's back with his 5th Christian album, "The Day After". The project is focused to get the listener to question their relationship with GOD. He addresses issues of walking out of God's will, the unity of believers, and repentance.

Click to listen to L.G. Wise's title cut "Ghetto Fables" as you read.

{{L. G. Wise}} spent most of his life in Brooklyn, N.Y., born to a 14 year old girl, and a married man who abandoned them after L.G. Wise celebrated his second birthday. L.G. Wise's grandmother stepped in and raised him along with her children and other grandchildren. Throughout L.G. Wise's childhood, he turned to the streets for everything he lacked at home. At age eleven, he joined a local gang. While in jail one day, he says, "Man I knew that if I continued down that path I would meet a quick death." In 1992, Wise moved to Florida to escape the negative influences in his life. In Florida, he found True Bread Worship Center and came to Jesus through the anointed preaching of Pastor Carl Branker. His latest project on Grapetree is "Ghetto Fables". It is geared to let the listener know that the imagery associated with mainstream rap is a big deception. He says "Mainstream rappers only present the bright side and not the dark side. If both sides aren't presented then you have a lie." He wants to dispel the myth that all of these mainstream rappers are living as nice as their videos present them to be. "They are telling lies and leading people to hell for lack of knowledge of the truth." Wise was recently on tour with Phil Chalmers, ministering on these topics and encouraging teens to really observe what is being dumped into their brains through mainstream music.

Click to listen to Mr. Real's cut "Dub Side Bounce" as you read.

{{Mr. REAL}} is an acronym for My Rhymes Realistically Educate All Listeners. Hailing from Gary, Indiana, awarded the dubious past honor of being named the murder capital of the world, Mr. REAL grew up in the church, yet turned to gang-banging for attention because he didn't feel he was loved at home. The birth of his first child finally helped Mr. REAL escape from gang banging. "I looked at people around me dying, and I decided I wanted to be there for my son," said Mr. REAL. For a while, he said he still had to watch his back. His focus on the new album "A Chosen One" was to encourage the body to properly represent Christ in a way that will enable Christians to be used by the LORD to win souls. According to Mr. Real, "How can we go out and witness, if we (the church) are not fully equipped and operating in obedience and unity the way God ordained us to."

For more on Grapetree Records, visit Grapetree Records Online.