“I’m a husband. I’m a father and a Christian hip-hop artist.”
StefanOtto was born in the Carribean island of Martinique and moved to Florida as a child. “You come to this country, and there are so many things that are appealing to you. I just saw [hip-hop] through this window.” He says that growing up, music gave him a voice that he didn’t know he had. Hip-hop not only provided music, but also a community where he felt at home.
Having been born again at age fourteen, “I felt like the Lord kind of awakened me to the things that He put within me. It was at that point that I started writing.” He started out with creative writing with the encouragement of an English teacher, a hobby that blossomed into poetry, storytelling, and songwriting.
Last month, StefanOtto released his first album with Menace Movement, Til Heaven Comes. “I just really wanted to encourage the body” of Christ, he said. While reading the book of Acts, he was inspired by how Jesus’ disciples spent time with each other and encouraged each other through their struggles. Acts 14:21-22 (NIV) reads They preached the Gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
The title of the album originates from wanting “to have a tagline that could be the same sort of inspiration to other disciples.” Through Til Heaven Comes’ first song, the title track, SteffanOtto introduces himself as a character who wants to see God’s Kingdom come.
The album’s second song, “Night Falls,” is a declaration that “even though it’s dark, we’re not giving up until night falls. We know the result in the end.” StefanOtto’s experiences of persevering in faith through the ups and downs of life were inspirational to this song.
“Bodybag” is sharing the message that “we were once dead in sin, and now we’re made alive in Him.” Referencing Romans 6:23 (NIV), For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, StefanOtto said, “I was dead [until] Jesus came into my life and just like Lazarus, He raised me up.”
The next song on Til Heaven Comes, “Upside Down,” is inspired by the persecution and hatred Jesus’ disciples experienced when spreading the Gospel. “They were being labeled as the ones who were turning the world upside down, and people had an issue with it. Everything that seemed to be in the right order, they were flipping it.” StefanOtto and featured artist Datin want to emulate the disciples in this manner.
“Idols Die” originated from an idea that came to Datin and filmmaker Vincent DeMarco, the former of which is the owner of Menace Movement, the record label that StefanOtto is signed to. “They were discussing coming up with a concept for a music video that would really impact the body and resonate with a lot of people.” Datin shared the idea with StefanOtto, encouraging him to consider writing a song about the subject of idolatry in popular culture. “Culture is throwing everything at us and fighting for our affection. Fighting for our worship, and we need to repent and get back to the true and living God.”
“When you stand, and you serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and you believe in His word, there’s a posture of allegiance.” Believing that a Christians’ first duty is to live out God’s commandments, StefanOtto wants listeners to be defiant to those who encourage people who think otherwise. “It isn’t that we’re rude, that we’re arrogant… hateful. It’s defiance to the lies of the culture. Defiance to what people try to push on us.” This is the inspiration behind the song “Defiant.”
SteffanOtto speaks about important women in his life in the song “Queens.” The first verse talks about how StefanOtto and his mother have been victims of domestic violence and “how that made me become a king to protect my queen, which was my mom.” Standing up for his mother helped him be a better man for his wife, Jes, whom the second verse is about.
“I learned things in a season of trauma that equipped me to ultimately be a man… its a song of redemption.”
A couple years ago, StefanOtto’s wife held a surprise party for him, revealing a gift of a trip to New York where he was introduced to notable figures in hip-hop history living in the city. “I got to meet one the pioneers of hip-hop, Reggie Reg from the Crash Crew and I got to freestyle and rap. He heard me, and it really was an impactful moment for me.” The song “Windows” shares this experience with the listener, explaining how Reggie Reg encouraged him to use his talents.
“Scarlett’s Letter” was written a few years ago but until this year, StefanOtto had been unable to find the perfect beat for the lyrics, which ended up coming from Tone Jonez. “I wanted to write a song that shows who Jesus is amongst ‘other Gods.'” The song is a theoretical conversation that a woman named Scarlett has with time. “She is saying ‘Hey, time, I need a hand.’ She needs more time because she had a boyfriend; he ended up getting her pregnant, and while he was with her, he didn’t tell her that he had given her HIV.” Scarlett’s boyfriend then leaves her, and she feels hopeless, especially considering that people with HIV have shorter life expectancies.
“Time ends up talking to her about the one who is timeless, Jesus. Time is saying that I’ve seen many on the face of the Earth… lost hopelessly except one face in the East.”
Time ends up telling Scarlett that she can find forgiveness in Jesus. “Although she does need to be healed [from HIV], the greatest healing she can have is being restored to the Lord.”
“Picture Perfect” tells the story of how StefanOtto met his wife, who is featured as a vocalist on two songs from Til Heaven Comes. “I did a show a long time ago. She was at the show, and I didn’t know it. She ended up taking my picture with one of the bands.” He and Jes did not meet at the show, and he didn’t recall seeing her there. He was introduced to her a different way, and when they met, “I was talking to her about this event, the show and she was like ‘Hold up, I went to that show.'” She showed him the picture and “in the background, you see me bending down and picking up something. I just so happened to be standing behind [the band] as she took that picture.”
The final verse of the song speaks about how they became parents to a daughter last year. “I say in the last verse, ‘From the sonogram until you’re in my hands, you’re picture perfect.'”
“Graduated” concludes the album and speaks about how people become sons and daughters of God. “You have all these songs that have come before and the last song is like a graduation into a new space, into what’s to come next.”
Outside of music, StefanOtto enjoys spending time with his family, watching movies, and reading. His favorite films include Finding Forrester, Good Will Hunting, and Antwone Fisher.
“I’m called to make music. I’m called to be a disciple-maker, and I want to do that through the arts.”