Illuminate describes himself as “A son of God, a rescued and redeemed wretch, and a man on a mission.”
“I’ve been a hip-hop head ever since I could remember.” He grew up listening to 2pac, Nas, the Notorious B.I.G., and Run DMC. Being from the Oakland, California area, he especially loved the west coast sounds. When he hung out with friends and relatives in his neighborhood, they loved to freestyle. At age fifteen, he decided to get in on the action.
“I kind of started messing with it and I developed this passion for it. After we would leave and go home from the block, I would go home and not even put on instrumentals, but actually put on tapes and write verses over the beats.”
As a teenager, Illuminate became well known locally and freestyled at all the parties. “I got the ghetto fame from being the freestyle champ around the hood and then got signed when I was eighteen.”
During Illuminate’s youth, he occasionally went to church with his family, but didn’t have much interest in a life of faith.
“My dad overdosed on heroin when I was eighteen which completely just broke me. I finally agreed to go to church.”
After the death of his father, Illuminate decided to give his life to Christ. However, his newfound faith was short-lived. “I didn’t surrender everything on my heart. I backslid for nine years bro and did everything short but die. No morals, became a pimp and everything.”
“Sex, drugs, [and] guns” were what his life revolved around. “I literally came across a skit online, a Lifehouse’s Everything Skit, literally when I watched that skit my heart broke in a good way and I cried out to God.”
“Because of all of the hardships and bad choices that I made and the pain that I felt from that, it’s given me a huge passion and compassion for people who are in the streets.” Illuminate believes from his own experience and those of others that youth and young men don’t know that there is a better way to live than the street life.
“I didn’t know that there was this God that loved me that I could follow His ways and be protected from the street life. When you’re really from the gutter, you’re not out there doing things because you want to. Its literally survival mode.”
After Illuminate started following Christ, his friend who called himself King David suggested that he go by Nate the Prophet, since Nate is his first name. He thought that was a good idea, but “on the way back from a barbeque, the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “Illuminate,” twice.”
At that point he was unfamiliar with the specific meaning of Illuminate so he looked it up and found out that it meant “to supply or brighten with light.” At that moment he understood that God wanted him to go by Illuminate.
“Every time I was to grab the mic or every time I was to do anything for him, it was to supply or brighten with the light of Christ. Plus, my name is Nate.”
Winds and Waves is Illuminate’s new album and talks about the storms in life, “but the other side of that is when you overcome these storms, you get the winds of the Spirit and the waves of His glory that will refresh you.” He says that storms and suffering in life are designed to make us more like Christ.
Illuminate’s method of making music is unorthodox. He doesn’t write on paper or a device. “Since I was nineteen I’ve been writing everything in my head and memorizing it.” Winds and Waves features production by Halo Hitz, Juice Bangers, K. Agee, and Poetics, among others.
The album begins with “Thang or Two” featuring Datin, Bizzle, and Franky Bells. Illuminate and his fellow artists want to tell listeners a “thing or two” about how the street life is falsely glorified and will only lead to destruction.
“We just pray that it’ll stop you in your tracks and cause you to make a sober decision, not make that decision to go into the street life.”
“24/7” is a vibey song. “Even though I’m a part of HOGMOB and I rock with God Over Money really tough, I don’t sound just like them. I have my own sound. You’re gonna get certain street, urban sounds but then you’re gonna get commercial sounding stuff… If you listen to this album, it’s more of a blend.”
“Don’t just talk about it. Be about it.” That’s what Illuminate wants listeners to hear from his song “Light of the World.” He is speaking to Christian artists and ministers that “whatever you say on your album, whatever you say in your sermon, you better be walking that thing out.” Illuminate has seen that some artists seem unwilling to spend time with their fans and may only want to do music for fame and recognition.
“Be the light of the world because you are salt and light. Whatever you rap about, be about it.”
“People’s Anthem” features Jay Cabassa. When Illuminate heard the beat to it, he thought “yo, this one is for the people.” He wants listeners who are ministers to know that their ministry is to serve the people, not themselves. “We’ve gotta make sure that we know who we’re fighting for and why we’re fighting this battle.”
Illuminate says that every single day we need to surrender our lives to Christ instead of serving our own purposes. This is the message behind his song “White Flag.” “That’s actually one of my favorite songs on the album.”
“A lot of cats don’t know how to handle a white boy from the hood that’s all tatted up with gold 1s that loves Jesus and still dresses this urban.” Illuminate is an ordained minister, but says the way he speaks, dresses, and acts is not characteristic of your stereotypical pastor. “Staying in My Lane” speaks about his commitment to being from where he came from in whatever environment he finds himself.
“I’m smashing in my lane for my purpose to make sure that I’m making an effective change in my community.”
“This Time It’s Real” is a tribute to his late father. Illuminate’s father was a founding member of Tower of Power, a legendary funk/soul band that has released twenty-five albums dating back to their founding in 1968. “They travelled the whole world. My dad wrote that song… We remade that song to pay homage to my pops. Tower of Power played horns live on it.”
The album concludes with the title track, “Winds and Waves.” It is perhaps the most personal song on the project in which Illuminate speaks about his marriage, health problems, and more. At one point he had three bulging discs in his back and had to cancel fifteen concerts. “Here I am, out of that season, in a completely whole new season, and God is blessing me.”
Outside of music, Illuminate enjoys going to the beach, working out, and collecting shoes. “I’m a sneaker-head homie. That’s one of the things that I am for sure. My wife is praying that I will slow down.”
Before 2018 is over, Illuminate is planning to release another project called Man on a Mission.
“No matter how bad the storm is, the storm will finally go away and there is light at the end of the tunnel.”