In the early 1990’s, hip hop artist Hans Soul’s life consisted of the stuff most people only hear about in rap songs and watch in music videos – women, money, radio play and drugs.
Hans Soul, whose real last name is Hans Nelson, scored a top ten billboards hit with his single “Imagine” in 1991 and signed with Epic and RCA records. He founded his own label in 1993 with drug money, and lived with two girlfriends on South Street. By 1995, he received a $15,000 advance for his upcoming record. Instead of investing it in production costs, he bought a one-way trip plane ticket to San Juan.
But inside, Nelson says he wanted to die.
“I felt so empty,” says Hans Soul. “The music and success did not do it for me.”
Upon returning to Philadelphia, Nelson says he surrounded himself with the teachings of Jesus Christ, and joined the New Covenant Church at 7500 Germantown Avenue, where he remains a member, and continues to perform hip hop with a Christian message.
Nelson is among the performers featured in the inaugural Jesus Flix*** Urban Christian Film Festival on Aug. 5 through Aug. 7 at the New Covenant Campus on Germantown Ave.
The free festival highlights the films of Christian artists, and also features creative workshops and live performances. Nelson says the festival aims to reach everyone with redemptive films about the teachings of Jesus in a relevant, positive and non-judgmental way. Using film and musical performance to broadcast what Nelson calls “the good news” has been crucial because young people today need to be stimulated visually and intellectually. “The post modern society is a skeptical society, and that includes faith things as well as science,” says Nelson, who has worked with children as a teacher in the Philadelphia School District for the past five years. “From an instructional perspective, it’s hard to talk to people without visual aids. It’s a non-threatening way of communicating the gospel.” Singer Amber Anderson will also perform at the festival on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m., along with Hans Soul. Anderson describes her music as an upbeat fusion of jazz and soul, with positive lyrics that anyone can relate to regardless of their religion, or lack thereof. She’s preparing to release an album called “Ready for the Riot” on Labor Day. “It speaks to anyone who has ever been through anything in their life,” says Anderson, 25, of Mount Airy. The Jesus Flix*** festival kicks off on Friday night with a film screening at 5:30 p.m. It resumes on Saturday morning with a film workshop led by Hans Soul from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and will be followed by a second screening from 1:30 p.m. to 6:20 p.m.
The music performance will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night, and features Hans Soul, Amber Anderson Michelle Bonilla, Stephen the Levite and more. It concludes with a final screening at 2 p.m. on Sunday.