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Young, Gifted and he’s back!

FOCUS: G.I.F.T.E.D

WHEN GOSPEL rapper Prince Gilbert Okyere, known to the masses as G.I.F.T.E.D, left the UK to join his American wife Sonia 14 years ago his ministry was riding high.

He was a figurehead in Britain’s burgeoning gospel rap movement and performed regularly in churches, secular rap events and ministry events.

His repertoire of songs included Boyoi, Facts of Life, Here Comes The Gifted, Samson & Delilah. Some of his tracks were played on Radio 1’s Tim Westwood show which, at the time, was the UK’s most influential rap show. He also had a successful prison ministry with reggae gospel artist The Watchman.

G.I.F.T.E.D (an acronym for going in faith to educate disciples) had planned to return to Britain with his wife, but the week before he was due to fly back 9/11 happened, changing his plans to come home, and he ended up staying.

Fast forward to 2015 and the talented artist is back in the UK – this time as a man whose life experiences have matured him and deepened his faith.

At his first UK concert for 14 years, held at his former church Mile End New Testament Church of God, with contemporaries like Wariyah, MC Bold and SOE present, G.I.F.T.E.D talked about his experiences, which have matured him and deepened his faith When we met up in Stratford, east London he recalled those times again.

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He revealed he slowed down on ministry engagements, which included performing concerts and going into prisons, to support his wife through a miscarriage, then another pregnancy which resulted in his son Zion, and then illness, an aggressive form of cancer which caused her death in 2008.

G.I.F.T.E.D said: “Reality kicks in when your family goes through a situation. My wife went through an emotionally impacting situation – a miscarriage.

“You feel their pain and you never want that person to feel that pain again alone. As a man I needed to be there in the midst of that storm with my spouse.”

Despite the miscarriage, Sonia was determined to get pregnant again and have a child.

G.I.F.T.E.D explained: “She wanted me to experience fatherhood. Although she was in pain she pushed for that.

“I was like ‘no,’ but she said ‘yes.’ If I could paint a picture of a virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, hands down she had a lot of those checkmarks of what a virtuous woman looked like.”

After giving birth to Zion in 2007, Sonia’s health went on a downward trajectory. She was eventually diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and died when her son was 20 months.

It was a difficult time for G.I.F.T.E.D. “My whole world changed. I was numb and in shock for a year. I went through the ‘why me?’ stage but then I had my new born child and I needed to step up and be a parent.

“My whole focus shifted on my son to make sure he was stabilised but I don’t think I fully took time for myself.”

It was only in 2012, after getting used to being a single parent - he tells me his son is showing signs of being a good singer - that G.I.F.T.E.D felt ready to do ministry; but even then he recognised he needed God’s strength, because he had been deeply impacted by his past experiences.

However, watching him in concert, and speaking to him personally, you get a sense that not only is G.I.F.T.E.D ready to give 100 per cent to his music he feels he has something unique to offer.

“I feel that there’s still a void in the market. No one’s doing what I’ve been called to do. I have to look at the new generation.

“I have parents coming up to me saying ‘we are playing our children your stuff from old and they’re into it.’ It tells me some things are timeless in terms of what’s being communicated. Because of that alone I have a mandate to talk to the old and the new.”

He’s also focusing on building his own ministry, I Influence, which feeds the homeless and goes into women and children’s homes. And he has plans to come back to the UK in December to do a church tour. Sounds like a plan and a good one. Evidence that the G.I.F.T.E.D is back!

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