One of the reasons I started this podcast was to provide a medium to share stories that matter around topics that matter, and to hopefully bring on guests that challenge you, encourage you, inspire you; Maybe to make you think of things in a way you haven’t previously. 2020 has been an exceptionally difficult year between a pandemic, elections, and everything surrounding the topic of race. I am so excited about today’s guest because he is someone who has had an impact on me. I pray our conversation is one that impacts you too. This conversation is challenging, encouraging, funny, and heart-wrenching. I know you are going to walk away feeling inspired. My guest this week is Corey Paul Davis, more widely known as Corey Paul. Corey is a Houston-based rapper, creator, and entrepreneur. Throughout his life, he as overcome several incredible adversities including drug addiction in his family and witnessing his mother shot by his father at the age of seven years old. Eventually he completed high school and served his community as a firefighter, where he won the Ann Sullivan award for heart and courage.
He has a heart for kids who grew up in similar situations to him and started a nonprofit program for youth in the juvenile detention centers of Houston in hopes of providing them mentorship and resources. They successfully graduated over 100 teens from their Hope program and built foundational relationships with the youth in their community. Music has always been a passion of his and an outlet for his pain and thoughts. Corey started his first media company in 2011, and eventually became a full-time creative entrepreneur. Through music, he was able to amass more than 6 million streams, performed international shows, and built a strong social media presence. He has released three studio albums, two of which made it on the Billboard charts! As a young business owner, Corey quickly learned how little he knew about money management due to his lack of exposure growing up in the marginalized, low-income community. That experience started his financial literacy quest, which would ultimately lead to his desire to start The Literacy Kings Podcast. For over 10 years, he has worked to build his platform as a trusted voice for creatives, entrepreneurs, social justice, and faith. He still believes that this is only the beginning. He is married to his high school sweetheart and they have a beautiful two-year-old daughter. Join me as I sit down to hear more from Corey about the ways God has woven his path so far, and Corey believes God has in store!
12:37 - The Corey 101
- Corey was born in Houston, TX in a low-income neighborhood called South Park. Unfortunately, the neighborhood has a 30% high school drop out rate. Corey’s mother kept the family together. His father became a drug addict, and over time it got worse and worse. Corey started witnessing verbal and physical abuse.
- His father could not overcome his addiction and passed away when Corey was just 9 years old. Corey tried to find his way and became immersed in street culture and rapper. When he was just 12, he knew he wanted to rap. He started experimenting with codeine and soda. All he and his friends wanted to do was party.
- When Corey was 16, he met a Christian girl and at the same time, one of his best friends got saved and started talking to Corey about church. When he was 17, Corey became saved and started changing his rapping to contextualize the gospel with Hip Hop.
- Corey started putting out albums that made it to Billboard and started touring. Music was the seed for Corey’s other passions and ministries. Corey was also served as a Houston firefighter! He met a firefighter when he was 16, and that firefighter told Corey he loved his job. It struck Corey that someone said they loved their job when so many people talk about hating their jobs.
- Corey always admired firefighters because they he saw them as very community-oriented, which is something his community very much needed growing up: mentors, rays of light, people to look up to. When he was younger, Corey was more focused on rapping and partying. As Corey started to fall in love, he realized he needed to make money to take care of his spouse, so he applied to be a firefighter.
- At the same time, Corey’s music was doing well and started to take off. The firefighter schedule allowed him flexibility in his schedule to keep going with his music career at the same time. God granted Corey so many amazing experiences with both passions, and as a firefighter, he literally witnessed people coming back to life.
22:00 – A Change in the Rap Game
- When Corey started changing his rapping to match his faith, many people were encouraged by it. Some were not convinced; those who’d been along before and after he became a Christian. Corey had always been in search of a way to help his people. He was inspired by a line in a rap song, Big Picture that says “this been goin’ on too long to get even” speaking about systematic oppression.
- When Corey’s pastor explained that Jesus already came and fixed things. It was about worshipping the Creator, not the created. It was super intriguing to Corey. It was never about leaving his peers or telling them to straighten up. Corey knew he could bring the promise of the Gospel back to them.
- Corey never tried to force his new beliefs down anyone’s throat but did bring the Gospel back into his regular life. When he started having a Bible study in his house, his mom would listen in and one day, dedicated her life to Jesus too.
- Jesus helps us along our path and sends people to sharpen us (iron sharpens iron) while ALSO showing us in scripture that it it’s ok and that we are called to go out and be among the mess in the world as well.
29:24 – A Perfect Segue
- Corey encourages us to be open to experiences we have not lived, breathed, walked. It is the foundation of his next story. Corey is from a neighborhood that is low-income, systematically oppressed, undeserved areas. When a person grows up in one of these areas, there is a certain way they learn to receive people and information.
- Corey is from South Park, George Floyd grew up in Third Ward, a similar neighborhood as Corey’s in Houston. Corey’s church was in Third Ward, and they wanted to connect with the people there. It’s just not as simple as going in and connecting though. People have been taken advantage of so much that trust is very hard.
- Corey knew they had to find a person of peace. Someone who is respected and loved with similar ideas and beliefs. Big Floyd (George Floyd) was that person. He was the connector. Big Floyd came to a concert that Corey’s church put on where they provided food and school supplies to give back to the community.
- Big Floyd came to the concert and connected with Corey and complimented them for trying to give back. Corey and Big Floyd connected and became friends. Big Floyd told Corey about his neighborhood and the people and said, “If it’s about God business, it’s my business.” Big Floyd said he’d spread the word to the community and the word Corey’s church was trying to do in the community.
- Big Floyd really started spreading the word about church events and helped run baptisms, church ceremonies, and community events. The things Corey and Big Floyd both went through growing up where they did give them a voice for others. Their pasts give them voices for other young boys to listen to them and change their lives.
- Corey knew people would try to bring up Big Floyd’s past and use it against him, but Corey knew the 180 Big Floyd did in his life and witnessed Big Floyd facilitating baptisms in the hood, changing young lives, and advocating against drugs and gun violence.
- After Floyd’s death, it was important to Corey for people to know more about Floyd and that he was so much more than what can be Googled about him. It’s also important that we continue to spark change for racial justice and equality. It’s not a magic solution, it’s a marathon, a continuous work that is on our shoulders.
43:10 – Faithful Hearers of the Word
- We have a long way to go on the fight for civil rights. The changes we’ve seen in civil rights have only just happened in the last 50 years and it has taken slow, steady progress, and we still have a long way to go.
- We must be faithful hearers of the word. You can read the Bible from a self-centered perspective, knowing you should forgive your enemies but not recognizing that you could be an enemy that someone else needs to forgive.
- In James, the Bible tells us of forgetful doers of the Word, not hearers of the Word; a person who looks in the mirror, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. Our perspective matters, and when it’s selfish, it’s not biblical. We are called to fight for the least of these, and our brothers and sisters who are not different from us. Jesus did not come for one type of person.
- There is a difference between being not racist and being anti-racist. It’s important for white middle class America to bear the beautiful burden of actively using their privilege to fight racism and for being anti-racist. Corey believes it’s his beautiful burden to build a bridge in his neighborhoods in a progressive and united way. It can’t be an “us” vs. “them” progression. It has to be a united front.
- It is important to know that we will mess up. We can’t cancel people for making mistakes. We must humble ourselves to link arms and hike these mountains together. We will stumble and need to be there for each other to pick one another up again. We must work through our emotions together and move forward together.
1:00:00 – Seeking Understanding:
Tune in to hear Molly and Corey discuss important ways to create safe places to approach difficult conversations with care and productivity. At 1:05, hear more about how to keep these lines of communication open with the young people in your life.
1:08:26 – Literacy Kings
- Corey became an independent musician after leaving a label with an album that made it to #16 on the Billboard charts. Now he works on a podcast called Literacy Kings with JaMorcus Trayham. The podcast breaks down popular financial books in culturally relative ways, contextualizing the material and using examples that are relatable to people from low-income, underserved areas.
- Many of the valuable financial education materials require you to have some knowledge of the terms from the start. Culturally, it’s hard to think about buying stock or getting an LLC and building a business from the ground up if you’re struggling just to pay your bills.
- Corey and JaMorcus share the mental, physical, emotionally experiences and barriers that affect people who may have never been introduced to these financial terms and contextualize them in relatable ways.
- The goal of the podcast is to transform it into a network that invites more voices to speak on financial topics, and to curate topics to any group of people that has been marginalized.
1:16:31 - Getting to Know Our Guest
- Find out what song Corey has to sing along with when it comes on, the first thing he does when he gets home from a long trip, and what artists have influenced him the most. Be sure to stay tuned to hear what it means to Corey to run a business with purpose!
21:05 – “As a believer, it shows you how powerful that we are in Him. Death to life is a real thing…he enables us here on Earth to work through Him in order to really cause true change.”
38:03 – “You will never be able to truly understand it until you lean in and listen to the voices that he (George Floyd) served.”
42: 17- “The chant, ‘We want justice and we want it now.’ I get it. I get the chant…but it’s not practical… ‘We want justice. We want it over time, continuously’ is more accurate.”
45:23 – “It’s just recognizing the magnitude of something in order to better equip ourselves for a lasting solution.”
57:33 – “It’s recognizing a very clear advantage and disadvantage and then leaning in and saying: Do I have something I can offer in this situation?”
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