december 2011

ASON: ‘Gospel rap, as it's currently presented, is not what people are looking for.’

‘I Want to Be a Voice for Something Different’

Can ASON Make Gospel Rap Relevant?

By Bob Marovich

"In one sense, I've been around for years, but in another sense, I'm being introduced for the first time."

So reflected Christian rapper ASON on the eve of releasing The Future is Now, his fourth full-length LP but only the second with national distribution (Central South Distribution is handling this project, available now).

Growing up in Prince Georges County in Maryland, ASON, aka Thurman Custis, started in Christian rap around 2003 after going through an especially tough time in his life.

"I was considering backsliding pretty fierce," he says, "but a friend told me about a Tonex concert. We went, and at the conclusion of the concert, [Tonex] was singing 'Make Me Over.' I felt like the Lord was speaking to me. I heard Him saying, 'I want you to do this.'

"I saw the way the youth were really impacted by Tonex," ASON, now a youth pastor, reflects. "I don't sing like Tonex and I don't dance like Tonex, but in high school, people thought I was a good rapper. I took [the Lord's] message to mean that I should get on stage and perform, and my musical gift was rapping."

The rapper named himself ASON, which he prefers to pronounced uh-sun, not ay-sun. Still, ASON says either way you pronounce it, it articulates the main point: a son of God.

"I want to be a voice for something different," ASON says. "Right now, with young people, rappers and performers are the primary voice. Youth are choosing lifestyles that align less and less with their parents and more and more with their favorite artist. So for me, being a youth pastor, this is a means for me to be a voice, to help answer questions such as how does a marriage work? How do you go out and have fun and still be a Christian? How can you be prosperous in your finances, as a believer? I want to be relevant."

Introducing ASON, The Future Is Now

How is The Future is Now different from his three previous albums?

"There are huge changes," ASON responded. "It's me saying, 'Lord, I'm going to do my absolute best in every aspect of this album.'

"I recorded the album's first song in February 2009. I would have loved to release an album in 2009 and 2010, but they wouldn't have been at the quality of this album. I wasn't willing to take any shortcuts with the production and engineering. So I saved money to hire the best production I could afford. I went into the best studios in my area, where major artists go. I got the most famous photographer in my state and the best graphic artist to do the artwork. I also have the best radio promoter and best PR company I can afford. It took me two years to finish but it's my best sounding album."

Is ASON seeing a change in people's perceptions of Christian rappers and Christian hip hop artists?

"Absolutely not," he states without hesitation. "If you look at the sales numbers of the leading Christian rappers, they're actually going down. Record sales are going down in general, but some of the Christian rap releases have under-performed, according to projections. Gospel rap, as it's currently presented, is not what people are looking for.

ASON: ‘I have been trying for eight years to put through hip hop as a method that is relevant to a lot of people.’

"That's a tough subject, but people will find the money to buy what they want, all day, every day,” he adds. “I have been trying for eight years to put through hip hop as a method that is relevant to a lot of people. I don't have all the answers, but I do try to make my melodies very catchy and have even experimented with hooks that can be taken as either gospel or secular, to draw you in to the rest of the content, which is Christian content. If you're not heard and if it doesn't catch on, what good is it?"

Meanwhile, ASON is planning a tour to be funded in part through grants for a documentary project on which he is working. It will tackle the subject of high school dropout rates. "Instead of focusing on the negative effects of the high school dropout rate," he said, "we're going to interview students around the country who are choosing to stay in school. We'll be telling their stories. The opening acts for our tour will be primarily the gospel choirs at high schools where we will be interviewing students."

The rapper is exploring other youth ministry opportunities, as well. He said that last April, as he and his wife were preparing to start their own ministry, "an opportunity was brought to my attention to serve as a youth pastor at another church. So we're currently deciding whether to postpone starting our church and take this opportunity. I'm getting a little bit older, but I have a serious passion for young people."

Learn more about ASON and The Future is Now at

ASON’s The Future Is Now is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024