They call him THE AMBASSADOR…The A-M-B-A! Born William “Duce” Branch, he represents what appears to be two clashing cultures—the Kingdom of God and hip hop.
THE AMBASSADOR, a founding member of the critically acclaimed group The Cross Movement, stands as a shining example of how hip hop can be properly submitted to God while avoiding the typical corruptions commonly associated with it. This tricky navigation did not develop without a struggle, but God has clearly maneuvered this man who is destined to impact the music industry and the world.
Having been raised primarily by his father in New York City, THE AMBASSADOR came of age during the same time as the escalating new influence of the streets—hip hop. He followed the example of the genre’s heroes, in both positive and negative ways—writing rhymes that caught the attention of others and provoked the thoughts of his peers but also, unfortunately, falling prey to the urban drama of heavy drug use, petty dealing and sexual promiscuity. By his late teens, the Lord began to unravel the lies of the culture and THE AMBASSADOR found himself empty, losing vital relationships with his family and close friends and challenged with becoming a teenage father. But that pain ignited the spirit of the maturing artist, instilling in him an appetite to impact the hip hop culture with a refueled faith.
THE AMBASSADOR began studies at Philadelphia Biblical University (formerly Philadelphia College of Bible), eventually graduated from Lancaster Bible College and then went on to receive his Masters in Theology from the prestigious Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). He went on to co-plant and co-pastor an urban church in North Philadelphia and these fruitful years also brought forth his marriage to Michelle Branch and five children.
Making his mark in music with a groundbreaking debut solo album Christology: In Laymen’s Terms, THE AMBASSADOR began delivering intense scripturally rooted lyrics set in poetic, dynamic flow. His successful sophomore CD The Thesis, and a GRAMMY® and Stellar nominated project HIStory: Our Place In His Story (with The Cross Movement) soon followed. His third solo offering, The Chop Chop: From Milk to Meat proved to be a deep, weighty collection for Christians that are hungry for real truth and ready to mature.
He has toured globally as a solo artist and with The Cross Movement, and he has been covered by Christian and mainstream media outlets as diverse as Time Magazine, CCM Magazine, VIBE, The Source, Billboard and The Washington Post. His TV appearances include BET’s “106 & Park Presents: Generation Gospel” and “Bobby Jones Gospel,” TV1’s “The Gospel of Music with Jeff Majors,” CBN’s “700 Club” and TBN’s “Praise the Lord” and “Real Videos.”
STOP THE FUNERAL
“There are times when ‘death,’ both actual and metaphorical, becomes more vivid and more personally relevant to us. The glorious gospel truth provides hope by announcing that no one has been able to prevent death or vanquish it completely, except the Lord Jesus Christ through His cross and resurrection.”
It’s been almost three years since his last project and having weathered a tumultuous past year and half, THE AMBASSADOR has emerged with a rich living testimony and is pressing forward with the most anticipated release of his career. Once focusing primarily on “conversion” and a call to commitment, THE AMBASSADOR is now living as a recipient of refinement and an extender of truth, who emphasizes in his writing that the Lord will keep and revitalize, through grace, those trust in Him—even beyond the time of their conversion.
His fourth solo offering, STOP THE FUNERAL, marks his first release at his new label home, Xist Music, who has entered into a groundbreaking joint venture with 220 Entertainment and Universal Music Christian Group. The CD is masterfully produced and lyrically enthralling with THE AMBASSADOR’s signature unadulterated messages of God’s resolute standards, this time with an emphasis on grace and truth, shared through testimonials of his struggles and failures.
“I experienced a season of ‘death’—death of dreams, relationships, ministry momentum, a good name, etc. I became more appreciative for the good news that Jesus Christ can stop the funeral. He can neutralize sin, and its consequences, eradicate death of all kinds, and usher in life. A funeral is necessary once it is clear that there is no hope and no chance of living, and sometimes people prematurely make ‘funeral arrangements.’ When I felt my funeral being planned, I cried out to the Lord of life and liberty and He raised me up, restored me on multiple levels, and now is sending me forth to proclaim the Excellencies of Him who called me out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
That “light” brought the beauty of restoration and a fresh infusion of joy, gratitude and invigorating ideas that birthed STOP THE FUNERAL. With a starkly authentic voice, a vulnerable heart and a ready pen, THE AMBASSADOR teamed up with brilliant producer Sean Simmonds—who also vocally assists on the track “Get With Us”—to bring his vision and journey to life musically.
The halt in the “funeral procession,” starts with the CD’s first single—the boom bap throbbing bass-built track “A-M,”—where THE AMBASSADOR proclaims that he’s alive and still “reppin’ the “I AM.” He brings to life STOP THE FUNERAL’s creative versatility through diverse collaborations with new and old friends including everyone from the phenomenal Mali Music on the old school funk groove “Trust In You,” to the remarkable vocals of BET “Sunday’s Best” darling Jessica Reedy on the soulful and soothing “Crumbs” to the coupling of old time friends, multiple GMA Dove winner KJ52 and Urban Contemporary songstress Michelle Bonilla on the edgy worship anthem “Your Love.” The experience continues with Australian pop sensation Charmaine’s angelic musings on the infections breakout single “Up Down” who also appears with BEC Recordings newcomer Ryan Stevenson on the bouncy feel good “Nothing Like Us.” The addictive “Favor,” featuring the electrifying Canton Jones, communicates the crux of the album’s theme—God’s faithfulness to rescue us from ourselves, in spite of ourselves or anyone else. And THE AMBASSADOR would not neglect one of his staples—the cypha. Closing out the journey is “The Reunion Cypha” full of esteemed lyricists God’s servant, J.A.Z., shai linne, C-Lite, The Cross Movement original member, Cruz Cordero and DJ Wade-O of wadeoradio.com.
This new project symbolizes the reset and amplification of a music ministry that demonstrated signs of weakness and waning. STOP THE FUNERAL is THE AMBASSADOR’s escape from a personal and premature “fade to black.” It represents newness of life, not death, but prosperity and triumph…that is the gospel!