“I just want to preach the Gospel through my music, raise my children, and praise God.”
Florida native Pettidee described himself as a man of God, a warrior, and a family man.
Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, Pettidee fell in love with hip-hop. He said that in his community, the options for young men were to sell drugs or make music. He often went to a record store and seeing that he was a frequent visitor, the manager offered him a job at age fourteen. “I just became the man. Everybody wanted to know about the music industry.” As he learned about the music industry as a teen, he also developed his musical talents.
Pettidee began beatboxing around age thirteen, but “the beatboxers didn’t get the girls. All the rappers got the girls.” He remembers one time going home to his mother and telling her that he wanted to write a rap, being jealous of the rappers.
“My mom said, ‘Write you a rap baby.’ That Friday I rapped my first rap, and they were like, ‘Aaahh, we ain’t know you rapped. We ain’t know you rapped.'”
Though he had a passion for hip-hop, he was also involved in illegal activities. “There was a lady who used to witness to me. She said, ‘Son, I know what you’re doing in these streets, but God has got a calling on your life.'” Pettidee thought the woman was crazy at the time, but he started going to church anyways.
At one point, he heard of a Christian hip-hop group, Soldiers for Christ. “They were speaking so much life over their music. It really influenced me, being an artist myself.” Hearing them quote Scriptures in their songs, Pettidee began to read the Bible. “I didn’t know what the pastor was talking about, but because of this rap tape, I was learning my Bible.” Listening to their album over and over again, Pettidee decided, “that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. If this record changed my life, I bet it’s changing other people’s lives, and that’s what I want to do with my gift.”
He had written tons of raps and had a stack of composition books filled with his rhymes. This was the mid-90s, and he was nineteen at the time. “I was trying to negotiate with the Lord. ‘If I clean these raps up Lord, can I keep them?'” The answer was no.
Pettidee released his first solo album almost twenty years ago, in November of 1999. The album, titled Still Alive, gained widespread popularity with music videos appearing on BET and Gospel TV channels.
“Twenty years. That’s a long time, but I give God the glory. I’m just humbled to be here.”
On August 9th, Pettidee released Alien, his tenth album. The title is inspired by the belief that Christians are “in the world but not of it,” a concept expressed in numerous passages in the New Testament. He has traditionally produced most of his own songs but decided to let others produce most of Alien.
Pettidee described the album as a reflection of the past year of his life, a time in which he has experienced many tragedies. A friend, a mentor, one of his cousins, and his mother died. He wants to encourage listeners from sharing his own experience that “no matter what you’re going through, God is bringing you through it.”
Alien’s title track and introductory song includes hip-hop and rock elements; Pettidee likes to intertwine both genres in his music. “It’s a letter to the Lord… On the chorus, I say, ‘I’m out here. I’m all alone. Can you hear my transmission? Can you hear my tone?” The verses express a longing for the return of Christ.
“I’m On It” was written shortly after his mother died, a cousin committed suicide, and a friend was murdered, “execution-style.” During this time of mourning, Pettidee attempted to quit music, saying, “I just felt like I had helped so many people, and then I needed help.” He felt off-kilter and continued to back away from music, but said God and his supporters helped him to get back on it.
“I thank God for the fans; I really call them my family… Those are the ones who kept saying, every time I put out a single, ‘Oh, we like this, this is cool. Does this mean the album is coming?'”
The album continues with “Lethal,” a song inspired by Pettidee’s experiences worshipping God in church, “when you go to church, and you’re praying and worshipping, and you start praising, and you get free.” The song features K.O.K. and Monty G. Pettidee describes it as a war cry, having said, “the devil can’t stop us. You know we [are] lethal.”
“Be About It” was motivated by Pettidee’s desire to practice what he preaches. “I just wanted to overemphasize that on the song and talk to my street homeboys too. I always consider my ministry a ministry to encourage the body of Christ but also dedicated to the streets.” He is saddened to see the glorification of violence on social media and in music, actions that many who proclaim those messages have no desire to live out.
Pettidee also wants “Be About It” to be an encouraging song for regular people striving to be the best them that they can be.
“You’ve gotta be the best at what God called you to do. Don’t just talk about it, be about it.”
The following song, “Work,” follows a similar theme. In hip-hop and urban culture, work is a common term used as a synonym for drugs. “What about the people who are really out here working nine-to-five, working their jobs? What about the stay-at-home mom who is not getting her props? The average working person does not have a theme song.” Pettidee sought to provide a theme song to these people and is glad he did so. “I got a message on my Instagram: the guy listened to the record, and he said, ‘Work is my favorite song, and these are the reasons why.’ He was just really inspired.”
Pettidee notes that American culture only points out those who seem to be doing the “extraordinary,” which can make people doing the “ordinary” feel less important. “It is very respectful when you take care of your family when you work… we have to work to take care of our families, our responsibilities, and our loved ones. I needed to bring something to the table.”
Alien continues with “No Pain No Gain,” featuring Philip White. The song was inspired by Pettidee’s experiences in the past year with losing so many loved ones.
“I’m not only pushing through my pain, but I’m narrating for other people to push through [the] pain.”
He described the song “Through The Fire” as taking listeners through a journal of his life in the past year, and how it got him to where he is today. “My momma with me and my homeboy with me and my dawgs with me. They’re up in Heaven with Christ, and you can’t stop me. I’m gonna go through the fire.” During this past year, Pettidee has been comforted by the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who in Daniel 3, were miraculously unharmed after being placed in a burning furnace by Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar. “I’ve been through the fire, but I didn’t come out smelling like smoke.”
Outside of music, Pettidee enjoys spending time with his family and watching Animal Planet and Discovery. “People will say, ‘Man, who’s in the playoffs?’ I’ll be like, ‘Uh, it’s Shark Week. I know that. I know about Meerkat Manor.'”
“I want people to push through, and I want this to be the soundtrack of pushing through.”