Do Women Need Better Role Models?
Christian Rapper Speaks Out!
Just two and a half years ago, no one knew that underneath the sweet smile of a mild-mannered insurance agent, there lay a powerful minister who would fight to bring a better vision of what true womanhood means — not even Mercedes “Murk” Wheeler, the mild-mannered insurance agent, knew it. Raised in the church by her mother, Mercedes was wise for her years and more mature than her peers. But when tragedy struck the family, Mercedes withdrew from the church for a brief time. Little did she know that this withdrawal would introduce Mercedes to hip hop and propel her into the God-given vision for her life: raising a nation of Proverbs 31 women (P31s).
“I started to fall in love with hip hop rapping with friends, but when my mother and I returned to church when I was 21, I was not able to put away my music,” says Mercedes.
She was then introduced to the music of Christian hip hop artist LeCrae, by her mother.
“I didn’t realize Christian hip hop had come such a long way,” Mercedes remembers.
Soon after, Mercedes performed her first gospel verse. And in a fateful moment of excitement, Mercedes’s cousin recorded the performance and put the video on YouTube.
And, just like that, “Murk” was born.
Within a month, people began to take notice. Within five months, Murk was on her way to the Battle of the Praises in Miami, Florida. The winner would be determined by a panel of celebrity judges, including Dedicated Music Group’s Mr. Del.
And the winner was . . . Murk, of course!
After only five months of rapping, things were moving fast in seemingly the wrong direction: “It really was a test of my faith because it was a period of time in my life where I asked ‘God, why is nothing happening the way I thought it would?’ ” observed Murk.
Then one day, after the car broke down, the bank account was on empty, and a pay-cut at work made things much worse, Mercedes got a call from accomplished rapper, songwriter, and producer Mr. Del. In a divine six-degrees-of-separation, Mercedes found out that Mr. Del and her mother shared a mutual, longtime friend. That friend gave Mercedes’s number to Mr. Del, and he called randomly to ask how things were going with the record deal, which was a part for the Battle of the Praises winnings. The record deal was unsigned. Mr. Del’s reply floored her: “I have my own label and I would really love to work with you.”
It became clear to Murk that God had strategically planned her path. After researching Mr. Del’s proven track record, and after much prayer and thought, Mercedes and her mother (affectionately known as “Momma Murk”) left behind everything and moved from Florida to Memphis. By summer 2013, Murk’s debut album In Season dropped, and in 2014 she began touring with Mr. Del on his Hope Dealer Tour. As they toured, the female fan base fell in love with one song in particular: P31. Murk decided to perform the song everywhere and release a video that debuted in June 2014.
By September 2014 the campaign for P31 had been formulated; a 31-day devotional book, t-shirts, a song — a ministry.
“Women go through so much, and it’s critical: they need a ministry.” – Murk
Murk saw a lack of a role model for a younger generation influenced by music and celebrities that were promoting shallow qualities and unhealthy relationships. Murk recalls the process of writing her 31 day devotional as difficult because the enemy was on attack with writer’s block and sickness, but she got it done and with an accompanying video series to boot.
And, believe it or not, everything was done in roughly three months. It has been a surreal journey for Murk, as she explained: “Two and half years ago I was sitting at an insurance desk, just going to school and going through, not having a desire to follow God. To be in this position now where I’m a minister, an artist, and really representing for God — just to see how He has blessed me — is really incredible.”
And when people who have been pursuing rap success longer than Murk ask her how she’s done it so quickly, she credits God and obedience: “I don’t have anything, but be obedient — have a faith and be obedient. I didn’t plan this. God showed me this vision. I felt like I had to be obedient and follow it.”
In a world and industry consumed with outward perception, Murk has embarked on a journey to represent the women of God not as outcasts or the minority, but as models of the original blueprint of womanhood.
“I can’t allow these women to continue to think that they’re supposed to be Barbie. I can’t let Nicki Minaj speak for the world. I can’t let Beyonce speak for the world. I have to do it because I have a heart for God and a heart for people,” says Murk.
Even with such a tall order, Murk is humble and does not take for granted how God has been orchestrating her success: “I have seen people work for years and don’t see this kind of success. That’s what lets me know this was not of me. It was all God, and He chose me.”
Murk’s music is reaching young girls across the nation, inspiring them to claim their identities as God’s princesses and their kingdom inheritance — to walk in God’s legacy. Yet, there is a huge aspect of the P31 ministry that is due to the influence of Momma Murk.
I asked Murk, “How did generational faith play a part in the manifestation of the P31 movement?”
Murk: “That’s a good question. It goes back before my mother. My great-grandmother, I never met her, but I heard was a wonderful woman of faith. I always heard about her that she constantly spoke over her seed. My mom and my grandmother, I always hear them say, they believe that her faithfulness is what helped all of us especially me get to the place I am now. I just believe that because of her being faithful and loving God, he has blessed her offspring. I know her prayers were sufficient.”
The legacy of faith would go from Murk’s great-grandmother to her grandmother and down to Momma Murk. Yet by no means were things perfect. Receiving faith has always been the defining factor for the women in Murk’s life — even when faced with the gravest adversities.
Murk: “My mother came into her relationship with God, kind of on her own, at age 23. She was afraid to be a mother. She was a single mother. It was difficult and she was going through having suicid
al thoughts. She even made plans to give me away to my grandmother. It was nothing, but God her sister came and played some tapes of her pastor for her. That night she got saved and joined their ministry. I’m so grateful. Now, seeing the awesome part she’s played in my life, I see why the enemy was on attack. I needed her. God needed her to help bring me forth.”
In bringing her daughter forth, Momma Murk instilled in her daughter self-esteem and a confidence to look to God rather than people for acceptance. Murk credits her mother’s teachings as the reason she grew up mature.
As Murk explained: “Her doing that made it easier for me to change as I got older. Like the word says, ‘Train up a child in the way that he should go that when he gets older he shall not depart from it.’ Even though I drifted I feel like that was part of my experience. It’s one thing to love God because your parents love God, but it’s something else to have a relationship with Jesus for yourself.”