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Acres of Diamonds
Talking Orlando Hip-Hop Roots and Future With Rapper, Producer, and Manager Da Deacon
20-something years ago, I was working at a flower shop in Altamonte Springs called Sunshine Florist, and I designed flowers for a wedding at Altamonte Chapel, an old-style church on Semoran Boulevard that’s a key spot for special events. Two decades went by before I would darken those doors again. Now it was March 2019, and I was invited by my friend, videographer Jaret McGee, to be an “extra” in a shoot at that same church.
Jaret films hardcore skate videos and rap music videos. This shoot was for Da Deacon’s song Holy from his album Life outside da Church. Perfect setting.
I sat in the back row and took it all in. I felt lucky to be included but had no idea what a pivotal day it would turn out to be. While I was there, I met Deacon, if only briefly. I had a great conversation with Van J, who would become a good friend. My son’s Edgewater High
School Osvaldo Quezada was there. Comic Vince Taylor had a key role in the video. The church was full and the vibe was high.
Deacon’s lyrics exuberantly skewered the church by illuminating the inevitable results of prosperity theology: those who preach that giving to the church pays dividends are the ones pocketing the money. Case in point: Joel Osteen’s Ferrari 458 Italia.
Now that I’m researching the origins of the hip-hop community in Orlando, I realize even more than I did then that I
was in the presence of greatness. A few weeks ago, I sat down with Deacon and one of the artists he manages, M1H1, and Van J plus two artists he manages, Luxy Heart and Nitro Gator, to talk about the old days and the new days. The energy was amazing. Deacon is turning out new music, and at the same time, he’s deeply invested in cultivating local talent through his agency Da Congregation Entertainment. As one of the originals who built the foundation of what has become a thriving music scene, he’s easily able to draw on
learnings over the decades to help young artists navigate what’s next. Stay tuned — lots of stories will emerge from just that one sit-down. Thankfully, I have steadfast help from a friend transcribing all these recordings — she delivered 42 pages from that interview alone. If not for her, I would be SOL.
“This isn’t a genre I know very much about but the church has certainly had its share of pastors getting filthy rich off the people.”
It’s true. Consider Baptist preacher Russell Conwell’s famous 1913 essay Acres of Diamonds: “Ninety-eight out of one hundred of the rich men of America are honest. That is why they are rich. That is why they are trusted with money.” It was so well-received it conjured the capital to establish Temple University. Then there’s Creflo Dollar’s booming Atlanta church enterprise, its current-since-1995 $20,000,000 World Dome location apparently built on donations and no financing. (Dollar, born Michael Smith, enjoys two Rolls Royces and a private jet.)