CBN.com “I grew up in a neighborhood called Saratoga in the downtown section of Suffolk, Virginia,” says Domenick Epps.
“A lot of crime activity such as drugs, drugs traffic, violence, crime, and the whole nine. I mean, you see drug deals 24/7,” he says. “You wanted to stay busy and you were surrounded by negativity, so your parents tried their best to keep you either in church or keep you in school or any recreation activity to keep you busy.”
Domenick managed to stay out of trouble. He discovered his true calling at a high school talent show.
“I started off singing at first, trying to do the singing thing and then I did rapping. You know, I did freestyle off my head. Nothing really rehearsed. And the crowd just went bananas. I mean, my whole neighborhood came and bum rushed the stage,” he says. “The next day I wanted to form a group.”
They created Double I Entertainment to produce themselves and other rap and R&B groups. They spread the word by selling cd’s and performing locally. As Domenick began making money in the music business, his focus on God decreased.
“I was the little boy that would always go up and do the prayer and read the scripture,” he says. “I was doing all that on Sunday mornings, but on Sunday evenings it was a whole different lifestyle. So it was like I was living a double standard. So I end up smoking, I’m drinking; I was a party king. Loved to go to parties and go to clubs and things like that.”
So Double I Entertainment became more popular, Domenick, otherwise known as Prime, began to see the true nature of the music business.
“Once I got into the business, I started seeing another side of it was that was very grimy, it was very, a give-and-take-type thing. ‘I’ll do this for you if you do this for me.’”
Domenick went with the status quo. Money became his motivation.
Once he found out what it took to make it in the hip hop industry, he became obsessed with making the new label a success.
“I had artists and some of the artists was portraying to be gangsters and to sell drugs and-and that wasn’t my cup of tea, but that’s what sells in the business,” he says. “It’s like sex sells, drugs sell, violence sells. So, our music, it portrayed that type of image even though on the inside that wasn’t me.”
He began promoting parties at a local night club. But at the height of his success, Domenick’s world crashed.
“Me and my staff members, we’re counting the money we made and I heard shots go off, just gunshots, just going off like crazy. And so I had one of my artists comes in and that was, ‘Yo, Prime, somebody got popped.’ So I run outside and soon as I took my first step out the door I just saw a body on the asphalt with a pool of blood. And it was like slow motion, man. And my-my hands started shaking,” he says.
The young man died. After that, several of Double I’s artists abandoned the label. Domenick was devastated.
“I went through a state of depression where I was plotting suicide. I was just like, ‘Man, nobody care. You know, people I thought was with me, they ain’t for me.’ And so I was just like, ‘Well, I don’t need to be here no more.’ And I had that thought numerous times,” syas Domenick.
In desperation, he went to a church service with a friend.
“She preached, ‘who are you behind closed doors and what are you doing when nobody else is looking?’ I walked up there and she looked me straight in my eyes. The first thing she said out of her mouth was, ‘God wants to use you.’ She said, ‘That career you been longing for and you been hoping to get you success, God said, ‘leave it.’ She said, ‘Those friends that you thought was your friends, God says they ain’t truly your friends, so cut them loose.’ It felt like a load just came off my shoulders,” says Domenick. “Like somebody just took every bit of weight off me and just threw it away.
Domenick met with his artists to give them the news.
“And i told everybody that I was done with it, you know, I gave my life to Christ and so I’m going to pursue to do God’s work. And i remember telling God, I said, ‘I don’t understand what you’re doing. I don’t understand what this means, but I’m just going to be obedient. I’m going to do it.”
As Domenick surrendered his life to God, he realized that God was with him all along.
“I had a hunger for God’s Word,” he says. “ I mean, it was just a hunger for it. Wherever I go, I read my Bible. Not just trying to memorize scriptures, but I wanted to read God’s menu for my life and that’s when I grew into my personal relationship. It wasn’t off my grandmother’s. It wasn’t off my mother’s. I really began to know who He was for myself.
He went back to his music industry friends to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
“My mess became my ministry,” he says. “God was sending me right back, same neighborhood that, you know, could have made my life worse. God used it to make my ministry its best.”
Today, Domenick is truly giving back to those in Saratoga. His example inspires many young people to live a life that pleases God.
“God’s love is unconditional, man,” says Domenick. “He showed me how powerful His love is. You know, I really witnessed God’s love when I was at my lowest point. He says in His Word He’ll never leave you nor forsake you. Well, I had that happen.”
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