Tennessee rapper Lathan Warlick became well-known following his success on social media, where he's amassed millions of followers listening to his inspirational music and cover songs. Despite his background, he’s managed to break cultural norms and collaborate with some of country music’s most famous stars. Now he says he’s on a mission from God to show what true love and unity look like.
The self-identified “positive artist” grew up in a rough neighborhood, and it was a life-threatening event that led him to commit to becoming a follower of Christ. Now a husband, father, social media star and recording artist, he has purposed himself to blend all different music genres to spread a message of true unity.
“God was giving me a vision of God, love, unity,” the emcee said in a recent interview with The Christian Post. “He was just showing me, “Lathan, I want to use you to bring people together. “He was even showing me like, “You're going to have to get outside of your box, you're going to have to get outside of what you're used to, what you're normally listening to, and how you normally do music.”
His music career kicked into high gear after TikTok videos of Warlick reimagining popular songs with his own motivational rap verses on them started going viral. He’s covered popular songs such as “Holy” by Justin Bieber, ”Hello” by Adele, and “You Say” by Lauren Daigle, to name a few.
With nearly 2 million followers on social media, the Nashville/ColumbiaRecords artist has not only gained a large following but has also gained the respect of some of the most popular names in the music industry. He's twice opened up concerts for Gospel trailblazer Kirk Franklin. He’s also been featured on Granger Smith’s 2020 song, “That’s Why I Love Dirt Roads.”
Last year, Warlick was able to quit his job at a railroad to pursue music full time.
His latest EP, My Way, features songs from popular country music stars such as Lauren Alaina, RaeLynn and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line. His patriotic song “Over Yonder,” featuring Matt Stel, showcases Warlick’s work of blending multiple musical styles while sharing a message of faith and hope.
The following is an edited transcript of Warlick’s interview with CP (watch the video interview below), where he shares the life-changing moment that led him to start performing music, as well as his mission in the mainstream market that he feels God has placed him on to unite people from all different backgrounds in faith, love and unity.
CP: You started out as a dancer, but a life-changing event changed the direction of your life. Can you share what that moment was?
Warlick: The main thing is what happened in 2011 when a tragic event took place in my life. I was a dancer; I started off as a dancer. So what my guys and I did after we danced, we would go celebrate at these different spots. One day in 2011, I decided to go celebrate at this nightclub. We went in just to have fun, but we didn't know that the enemy had a whole different plan in place.
So we went in just [to] have fun and dance, do we do, [but] a tragic event took place in my life outside of the nightclub. Which basically, at the end of the day, it led to a guy holding up a 45 caliber pistol and point[ing] it in my face. I remember standing right there with my back against the wall. And I remember hearing my grandmama saying if I was ever in a time of need, then just call on God.
I was in the streets a lot. Dancing was a coping mechanism for me to actually get away from a lot of stuff that I was witnessing and seeing. So as I'm standing right there, my back against the wall, I can hear my grandmama saying, “If you're ever in a time of need, call on God.”
I remember looking up, and I remember asking God, if He was there, or if He was real, could He help me out of the situation?
The guy had the 45 caliber pistol pointed in my face, really ready to kill me. I remember him sweating, and I remember his friend beside him just kept saying, "Go ahead and shoot him, man. Ain't nobody here but us. Go ahead and kill this guy. Go ahead and shoot this guy.”
I can just literally remember seeing this guy sweating bullets, and out of fear, I knew he would pull the trigger because his hand was shaking. As I'm standing there with my back against the wall, saying that [to God], this guy looks at me, and he looks at his friend, he pulled the trigger. When he pulled the trigger, I thought that was death. I felt like, this is it. Like this is what life was about. It was just coming to me like, man, I don't want my parents to see me like this. Or I don't want to go out on the news like this, or my grandparents and all the folks that I love to even see me dying behind this nightclub.
It was a tragic event. So after that day is when I really changed my heart and changed my life. After I made it through that, I gotta show the world why and how I was able to get through what I got through. But at the time, I didn't realize it was nothing but God working. I forgot that I even looked up and said, “God, if you're real, can you help me out of this situation?" while this guy had this gun pointed at me. I literally forgot all about it.
So that was a real, life-changing experience in my life that I witnessed. That's what made me want to get into music more and to start teaching and telling people in my neighborhood, look, just because we grew up here, don't mean we got to die here. There's a lot more to life than just being in this one spot and being involved with gang activity and carrying guns and all that stuff.
I started making music just to show my guys around, like, “Listen, let's do something different. We can literally put our heads together and do something positive and uplifting, and bring each other out of this situation.” So that's why I started making music in the beginning.
CP: The EP is titled My Way, but when listening to the content in the songs you are directing people to God's way. Can you talk about the new music?
Warlick: The reason why I named the whole project My Way was because it was like, “Man, I get to have it my way.” Because I get to put country on here, I get to put a little hint of hip-hop. And I also get to put gospel/Christian music on there. That's why I named the whole EP My Way.
God was giving me a vision of God, love and unity. Those are the first words of glue: g.l.u.
He was just showing me, “Lathan, I want to use you to bring people together. “He was even showing me like, “You're going to have to get outside of your box. You're going to have to get outside of what you're used to, what you're normally listening to, and how you normally do music. God was showing me so much during this whole thing. So that's why this thing is called My Way.
I'm pumped, and I'm super excited about it because it's showing people, I don't want to put my music in a box to be subject to one genre. When my team pitched it off to the country people and the hip-hop people, hip-hop was saying, “That's not hip-hop, that's country.” Then country were saying, “That's not country, that's hip-hop.” So it was challenging. It's definitely challenging.
But at the same time, I know that God got a vision, and I got to continue to push my vision of God, love and unity. That's why when you hear a bunch of songs on this thing, “It's like, oh, man, that feels good.” But it got a message to it. I don't just get in the studio and just create stuff just so you can hear it because it sounds good. No! God gave me a vision, and I'm just sticking with the vision.
CP: Talk about blending genres and cultures. In your song "Over Yonder," you say you are proud to be American, while there are some people of color today that find it hard to make such a bold statement due to incidents of racial injustice. What inspired such a bold declaration?
Warlick: Some people took the American flag and made it out to be like a racist thing. When in reality, when that flag was created, it wasn't a flag created to separate the country. So when I say I'm proud to be an American, I'm saying me and my guys, me and my team, we are proud to be Americans. We live in the United States. You might as well try to turn some stuff around and try to build something else up in order to make something great happen.
When I say, “I'm from America," I can say that with a whole lot of pride. It's because the people that I'm with, that ain't what you see. When I connect with my country guys, when I connect with my Hispanic family, we come together as a family. We have bonfires, we cook, we eat, we do life together, we're family! So when I say, "I'm proud to be an American," it's like, OK, come on America, let's get it together. We all can do this. We all can come together; we all can be as one, we can come together with unity and God.
So when I say something about America, it's like that's who I want to be. So I'm preaching that because I want the world to be that. Not saying that the world is that, but I'm preaching that and saying that because your tongue is powerful. So I'm proud to be an American because I'm doing something to help build something because my vision is God, love and unity. So I'm proud to be an American because I'm doing something to help build America back up.
CP: You and those you collaborate with within country music come from different backgrounds, but the love and unity among you all is evident. How have you encouraged your millions of social media followers to follow suit?
Warlick: Connecting with people that don't look like you, it's simple! We're so used to us and sticking with us and what we like to do and what we're doing, we're comfortable. Like [if] I see another brother, I'm going to connect with another brother because it's comfortable, it's something we grew up doing.
When I grew up, there weren't a lot of white people in my house. But now, since I'm grown up and I got a son, now he gets to see a lot of his white friends, his Hispanic friends, they come in and out of our house. We didn't see that growing up, so we grew accustomed to just connecting with just black people. And it's the same in white families, and for Hispanic families, they grow accustomed to just hanging out with each other.
For me to encourage that, I got to make everything to where it's coming together. So I want to work with people outside that don't look like me. Even when I got my band, I was doing auditions for my band. It would've been crazy if I had everybody on stage black. Or would have been crazy if I had everybody on stage white. No! I got to mix it up. So I encourage people: Go outside of the box and connect with people that just don't look like you, and show the world that you can do that and still come together in peace and harmony.
I can't lie, it's challenging.
Being in this country space is very challenging. I'm a hip-hop guy with country features, from being playlisted on different country music channels and country music radio. And one day being the face of CMT (Country Music Television) when I was on their covers and stuff. That was nothing but God's plan because I'm a hip-hop guy that got a lot to do with country people.
We have to think how challenging that is behind the scenes. It's not what people think it is when you see me doing this type of stuff. Now, you go through stuff. But at the same time, it's like God showing me, “Listen, stay where you are, be still because I'm still doing something.” It's a plan that God's got in place, and He's just stirring and I've gotta be still and stay in position.
I work with amazing people, though. I’m from the hood, so when we moved to the country, we kind of started mixing and mingling with other people. Now that I sit with people like Tyler Hubbard of Florida-Georgia Line, Raelynn, I love these folks; it's crazy how much we just grew a connection. Sitting there talking with Tyler Hubbard, we got so much in common because we got to sit and talk to each other and listen to each other, versus me sitting back looking at him from a distance and making an opinion about him.
Now we actually sit in a room talking to each other and it's like, “Oh, snaps, bro, you went through that too? Dang, I went through some of the same stuff; let me tell you my story.” So you find out that you got more stuff in common than you thought you did. But you're looking past the colors to see all of that.
CP: What would you say is your mission?
Warlick: My mission is to bring the world together. We see so much going on, you see a lot of stuff on our news and stuff, [but there's] still some sunshine during a thunderstorm. You got to walk through life understanding that stuff's gonna happen. You know God allows free will, but when He allows the free will, you got to be able to pull out some of the good things out of anything that's going bad because the situation could always be worse than what it is.
So that's my mission, trying to get the world to understand when we come together, we can't be stopped!
That's why a hip-hop artist like me is connecting with country artists. I might even do something with a rock star artist. I don't want to just be subject to just the hip-hop side, and just go do rap music, hip-hop music. I got a whole thing that God is really just stirring up in me, for me to be able to look outside of just the hip-hop way of doing stuff and going into like the country, going into the pop. I know it's hard, but that don't stop me from doing it.
Warlick's new music is now available. For more information visit lathanwarlick.com
Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: email@example.com She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic