In another life, Vance Chisolm was a budding gospel rapper. Growing up in New York, the birthplace of hip-hop, he and the music came of age together. By 13, he was rapping. Back then, he says, the music was mostly positive.
Years later, after Richmond had become home, he began performing as Minister V, the Fleshkillah, taking gigs at local schools, juvenile detention centers and churches. But in the end he felt a calling beyond the stage. “At some point I felt this charge in my heart,” he says. “I felt like it was God requiring more of me than just being on the microphone.”
Today Chisolm runs Youth Ministry Entertainment, a local mentoring organization that teaches life skills to youth, counsels them on peer pressure and provides tutoring. “A lot of these kids, they don’t have positive male figures,” he says. “We’re hoping to fill that void.” With little funding, since its founding in 2009 the group has helped an estimated 75 young people with things as varied as fitness and Bible study.
But the remedy isn’t just providing role models, Chisolm says. The group’s summer program is built around volunteering. Participating students pick up litter, visit elder homes and distribute food at community kitchens, in turn giving back. The program is connected to Bible study classes that Chisolm helps lead — in addition to the occasional hip-hop-themed mixer.
Of course, Chisolm, a youth minister at the New Kingdom Christian Ministries in Highland Park, insists that the music remain positive in its tone. “A lot of the hip-hop of today promotes drug abuse and misogyny, he says. “A big part of what we do is helping kids examine the lyrics and giving them alternatives to it and to that lifestyle.”