WATERLOO --- They are two genres that, on the surface, wouldn't seem to easily mix.
Christian music is generally about praising Jesus. Hip-hop music is generally about praising --- well, yourself, mostly.
But self-styled "gospel rapper" Gemices Royale is setting out to do a little of both.
"I still like rap," Royale said, chatting at Panera Bread in Cedar Falls on a recent afternoon. "I just don't like the message rappers are putting out."
It wasn't always that way. Gemices --- real name Steven Thornton, of Waterloo --- used to go by the name Black Out, producing albums by local hip-hop artists like Duble 00 and Certified just a few years ago.
But, he said, it was tough hearing the messages of mainstream rap.
"What really got me riding the fence was Jay-Z saying, 'Jesus can't save you. Life starts when the church ends,'" Gemices said, referring to a line in 2009's "Empire State of Mind."
Gemices' conclusion? "Hip hop is a lifestyle, and it's not my lifestyle."
He saw a dilemma: Either accept that his faith put him at odds with the industry he was in, or find a new industry he believed would accept him.
Instead, he Googled "Christian rap," finding artists like Da T.R.U.T.H. and Disciple, and eventually stumbled across LeCrae's 2008 album "Rebel" in a Christian bookstore.
LeCrae's album, the first rap album to top the Billboard Christian charts, solidified Gemices' decision.
"He looked like he knew how to rap," he said.
"The production was good, the lyrics were good. It was more like a motivation --- I have the same talents!"
Armed with a new name --- Gemices is an amalgamation of Gemini and Pisces, his and his daughter's astrological signs; Royale is simply from James Bond flicks --- and his own company, Soul Hop Productions, he found new artists to partner with on his first album.
Singers Joe Mac, Bridget Cain and Joshua Williams, and fellow gospel rappers Brion Martin and LeeLO appear alongside Gemices Royale on "Conviction Music," which Gemices hopes to release in March. His new single, "Spread That Gospel," can be heard on the artist's Facebook site.
He hasn't cut any ties with Duble 00 or Certified --- they're still "boys," he said --- but he's found a new purpose for his music.
"I know that being a gospel rapper that nobody knows is gonna take work," Gemices said.
"I'm giving more than I'm receiving, and that's what it's all about --- following Christ's example."