“I was losing the will to live; life was becoming meaningless, and I was becoming progressively more empty,” and his declining academic performance reflected this attitude. But that would soon change.
It’s not a stretch to say the winding road that began in St. Petersburg, FL led Kevin “KB” Burgess straight to God.
Raised middle class, divorce left KB and his mother in a poor economic situation, “I went from the suburbs to the hood in one day,” he recalls. Having been raised in Southern Illinois on a military base, drug dealers and criminals were a stark contrast to the safe haven he had become accustomed to. Fear of death and the unknown gripped his teenage years, leading him to depression and thoughts of suicide. On the other hand, KB also excelled in high school and was offered the opportunity to be a part of a program where juniors could become full-time college students.
After foregoing varsity basketball to join the program, KB soon realized that solely excelling in school wouldn’t bring fulfillment. “I was losing the will to live; life was becoming meaningless, and I was becoming progressively more empty,” and his declining academic performance reflected this attitude. But that would soon change. While in school, a classmate introduced him to Christian rap, and although he already self-identified as a believer, after listening to a song on which an artist delivered the Gospel, KB wholeheartedly trusted and believed in Jesus. In his regeneration, the Gospel exposed the underlying issue of fear and uncertainty that plagued him as a teenager. Emptiness, depression, and meaninglessness were now being exchanged for grace, rest and forgiveness.
After trusting in Christ, KB was motivated and willing to honor God in all his ways. He took more pride in school, his grades began to reflect his intelligence, and he began pursuing the American Dream. He had retained the plans developed by his guidance counselors and ambitions for success, but suddenly, through scripture and prayer, the Lord implored him to abandon all his plans and go to Bible college. After abandoning "the dream," he found himself in fellowship with a bunch of brothers who happened to be Christian rappers, which naturally spawned a personal interest in the genre. But it wasn't until after performing and winning a “Battle of the Bands” competition that he recognized the call on his life to use rap as ministry.
KB and his friends formed HGA (His Glory Alone) and developed a following, which eventually included Lecrae, Ben Washer and DJ Official, who actually featured him on Entermission. Lecrae invited him along for the “Acquire the Fire” tour and, after months of building with him, KB was asked to join the Reach Records team. Now signed with Sony Music Entertainment, KB contiunes to stay true. “I want people to realize God and His centrality. It is not us putting Him at the center, He is already there. We must put ourselves onto that reality.”
Three studio releases in and KB is at his creative zenith. For years, the Tampa native has been something of an outlier in hip-hop, firmly placing a thumb print on the game while invoking the power of spiritual conviction.
His lyricism is impassioned and astute, and he won’t be bent against his will. Given his commanding presence and consistent output, it comes as no surprise that the world has taken notice. The track “100” from the EP of the same name, took home the Dove Award for Rap/Hip-Hop Song of the Year in 2014. And his last LP, 2015’s Tomorrow We Live, garnered both critical and commercial acclaim, earning a Stellar Award nomination for Rap/Hip-Hop Gospel CD of the Year and debuting on the Billboard charts as the No.1 Christian Album and the No. 4 Rap Album overall.
Now in 2017—with the world in a social and political frenzy—KB is redefining what rebellion truly means. Today We Rebel, his third full-length album with Reach Records, is an exercise in zeal and imagination. No-frills, no filler. Just raw, uncut transparency through and through. KB follows his artistic impulses to great effect, lending his take on terms that are dominating the cultural conversation.
“To me, resistance carries with it a certain posture,” KB says. “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
When it’s said and done, Today We Rebel is KB drawing a line in the sand. It provides ammunition to help us confront the anxiety of the times. And KB lays it all out, serving as a reminder that we’re at our best when we are truly free, “I understand now more than ever that my allegiance is to the kingdom, first and foremost. Everything falls second to that.”