Praise in the Park is Saturday in Lucedale: Casting Crowns headlines, and John Gee of Lucedale also will perform


LUCEDALE -- Christian hip-hop artist John Gee will once again be one of the opening acts for the Praise in the Park concert today in Lucedale City Park. Popular Christian rock band Casting Crowns will headline the show, which gets underway at 4 p.m.

Gee won a contest connected with the concert to ensure his slot on the concert bill.

"Every year, the Praise in the Park promoters hold this contest for local bands," Gee said. "People vote for the acts online, and we also have to sell tickets. It's about promoting the event and selling as many tickets as you can."

With a crowd expected to exceed 10,000 people in Lucedale City Park, Gee said he is excited about performing in his hometown.

"Last year I opened for Newsboys, and they are really big, too," he said. "I'm familiar with the crowd. It's a blessing to be able to do this. But it makes it even more special to do it around so many family and friends. These are the people that have been there from the beginning and continue to support the ministry."

Gee, 31, said he grew up listening to late '90s and early 2000s rock and hip-hop music and he soon started writing and performing his own music. He said a renewed interest in his faith led him to move away from secular music and devote his life to spreading God's message.

"I started making music about 14 years ago," Gee said. "But when I accepted Christ, I decided to put the music away because I didn't want anything to stand between me and God. I didn't want to have any idols. I didn't know if I would ever make music again. But I started feeling convicted about some things in my life and the Lord used those convictions for me to start making music again, which I recorded in a studio in my home."

Gee's latest album, "20/20," has been met with positive reviews, and he will feature some the album's material during his set at Praise in the Park. A free download of the album can be found online at Rapzilla.

A married father of two girls, Gee said he has no immediate plans to get back in the studio as he plans to concentrate on performing live and sharing his testimony with others.

"I'm focusing on performing and meeting new people," he said. "It's very rewarding. My songs are built around my testimony. It can be an evangelical tool and a witnessing tool. I love to perform in front of people and share my story. I have been married for almost 13 years now. My family has been so supportive. It makes it even more worthwhile."

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