The Rep is as real as ever. And he had already set some pretty high standards.
Christian rap’s ultimate diamond in the rough, Brandon Kagel’s new record, “13th Floor,” released on May 6.
“My music’s always been kind of transparent, so it really kind of gives people the opportunity to reach out to me and kind of begin to relate and share their issues and their struggles,” Kagel said. “It’s kind of one of those things that as bad as you think the world is, the deeper you get, the worse you find out it really is.”
Take that concept and put it on top of hard beats, sweet melodies and Kagel’s undeniable and variable style.
The title is an ode to not skipping the 13th floor like many hotel elevators do because of superstition and the negative attached to the numeral. Kagel’s elevator stops here and instead of pretending the floor doesn’t exist, he deals with it.
The Rep doesn’t skip 13 and he doesn’t gloss over real life. A proclaiming Christian, but a self-proclaiming Christian with continual struggles, he said his last 12-18 months have been filled with not only going state-to-state, touring and spreading his message-filled music, it’s been filled with learning more and more about God’s grace and drawing closer to Him through trials.
“I think that reflects on the album,” he said of his third disc.
From 2009’s “Say No More” to 2011’s “Alive” to “13th Floor,” Kagel has fed his hunger for Jesus and his music has evolved, too. There was always, as he puts it, “a heartbeat for the lost,” but many of his songs were also confrontational against the world.
“13th Floor” has taken a more one-on-one approach with listeners who are going through some of life’s tough times. There are collabs with the talented Eshon Burgundy and Lee Green among others.
In story-telling driven “Conversations,” Kagel converses with Daniel on the phone. As Daniel opens up on some of his problems, he tells Kagel he’s not quite ready to accept Christ. Then he wrecks his car and is unresponsive.
Kagel is handling more than the tracks. He’s also his own promoter, booking shows as they come, his own management. He does have some pretty big names in his corner, including Sonny Sandoval and The Whosoevers.
“(They’re) recognizing there’s a 13th floor so to speak,” Kagel said. “There are people that are hurting, broken. As Christians, we’re not called to jump up to the 18th, 20th floor. We’re called to the 13th floor, to live amongst the hurting, the broken, to be a light in the darkness. I enjoy partnering with them because that’s my heart. That’s my vision.”
Rep’s struggles are an open book – see this story from 2009.
“13th Floor” continues to chronicle his real life.
That’s part of why fans are so attracted to not only his under-appreciated talent, style and unguarded story-telling. But that’s who he is, a bleeding heart for people in the shape he used to be in, longing for fulfillment and finding it in all the wrong places. It’s important for him to meet them where they are. It’s what Jesus commands.
“It’s imperative,” Kagel said. “It is the pathway. The reason that I cling to Jesus is because I need a Savior, and not just in a cliche way to say that I need my sins forgiven, because that’s kind of vague, but in a very practical way, meaning without Christ, I’m left to lust after every woman that walks by. I’m tempted to look at pornography. I’m tempted to be abusive to my wife, to constantly nag and yell at my children. So it’s having this relationship with Christ that keeps me.”
Kagel is not on the 13th floor. He’s on the bottom level, searching for those walking around blindly, just like he did and still fights not to do.
“If I’m not transparent to say that and relate that to my audience, to the people around me, then they’re left to assume that the reason I have Christ is because I’m on another level,” he said. “Therefore they’re left to say, ‘Well, I need to get on another level to get to Christ.’ It’s really the exact opposite. I’m so low, that I need a Savior. That’s the message, that we all need Jesus.”