Stephen L. Wiley is recognized as the first artist to have recorded a full-length Christian rap album. Wiley was born and grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and attended college at the University of Oklahoma. He began a career as a jazz drummer in 1979 and wrote a song called “Basketball”.
This tune would later go on to be recorded by mainstream rapper Kurtis Blow. By 1982, Wiley was performing rap music with Christian lyrics at a time when Run DMC’s breakthrough into the mainstream was still a year away.
In 1984, Wiley took a job as a chaplain at a juvenile detention center. Wiley released his first Christian rap album, Bible Break, in 1985 and saw its title track reach the No. 14 spot in 1986 on Christian radio.
Wiley would later serve as assistant pastor/youth minister at the predominantly-black Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles under televangelist Frederick K.C. Price.
He then released two more albums for the Star Song label which were better received, garnering a hit with “Peace”, a duet with Renee Garcia from the 1990 album Rhythm and Poetry, and “Attitude” from 1991’s Rhapsody. The latter album sought to bring in fans of the more traditional gospel by including harmonies from gospel group Witness on the song “Real”.
Wiley attended the University of Oklahoma, then graduated from Friends International Institute in Anaheim, California with a Master’s degree in Biblical Counseling and a Doctorate in Ministry. Dr. Wiley is married to Pamela Wiley and together they have ministered for over 20 years.
They have two children, Stefani Renee, and Andre’ Jackson. Wiley is presently the founder and Pastor of Praise Center Family Church in Muskogee and Tulsa Oklahoma.
Check out our post on the history of Oklahoma jazz.