Sir the Baptist to ‘Raise Hell’ as Manifest headliner

By Campus Reporter

Local gospel rapper Sir the Baptist said he is ready to make students dance to his upbeat music as Manifest’s headliner set on May 13 at Columbia’s annual urban arts showcase.

His appearance was announced April 8 at the Student Programming Board’s first-ever Headliner Release Party at the Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave.

Sir the Baptist, who grew up as William James Stokes, was born and raised in the Bronzeville neighborhood and sang in the choir at his preacher father’s church as a young boy.

He said the church choir changed his perspective on life and community efforts, especially with the blending of other performers’ voices with his own.

“If you see me perform, you will see it’s about the whole community, and everybody is singing with me,” Sir the Baptist said.

Jake Dagit, SPB’s director of event productions and a sophomore business & entrepreneurship major, said SPB wanted to support the local music community.

“We wanted to select artists who were representing the area, were starting to do well and were on the upswing of their career,” Dagit said.

Sir the Baptist said he plans to bring industry professionals he knows, such as marketing directors and agents, to Manifest to have them see and hear a different side of Chicago that includes Columbia’s up-and-coming artists.

“I want to inspire [Columbia] by bringing them a huge gift,” Sir the Baptist said. “You get so far down the road, and you don’t really have the connections to live your dream. I’m going to try my hardest to get every industry person I know to Manifest.”

Ian Valiente, president of SPB and a junior business & entrepreneurship major, said Sir the Baptist was the best option for a headliner because he is a local artist.

“He references a lot of the situations that are going on in Chicago,” Valiente said. “I think in our community we’d be able to find [why] he is relevant as our headliner.”

Valiente said Sir the Baptist will perform in a preacher’s robe with a gospel choir behind him.

Jazmyne Davis, a freshman business & entrepreneurship major, said she found Sir the Baptist’s music video for his hit single  “Raise Hell” entertaining and expects him to create hype for Manifest with his music.

“I feel like he will be even better live because he will have an audience and feed off of their energy,” Davis said.

Aarun Simon, a junior business & entrepreneurship major, said he thinks it is important for Sir the Baptist to talk about social issues through his music. 

“That’s part of our job as artists to speak about what is happening in the world and shed light on that,” Simon said.

Scott Englert, Sir the Baptist’s marketing director and a senior business & entrepreneurship major, said he met the artist in 2015 while Sir the Baptist was driving for Lyft, a ridesharing service.

Englert said he expects the headlining to be an opportunity for both energy and marketing ideas to be exchanged.

“It is going to be a unique experience,” Englert said. “We really try and do everything possible to bring an experience that is not always expected, [such as] making sure we have a giant choir and [bringing] a huge sound.”

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