Born Mark Anthony Williams, Jr. on April 10, 1976 in Los Angeles, California to a biracial (black/white) mother and Afro-Panamanian immigrant father. His then 17-year-old mother dropped out of high school to give birth to him. Neither of his parents finished high school. In the following years, three more children followed. Though much in love, PSALM:187’s parents often fought, and by the time PSALM:187 was around eight years old, his father left the family.
To escape the inner-city gangs that were crippling their Los Angeles community, and to search for a better upbringing for her children, PSALM:187’s mother decided to move with her four children to Denver, Colorado where she had relatives. However, her hopes were soon dashed as she found herself in another abusive relationship and with another son, and living with her young family in a low rent area of town where gangs were active.
As the oldest of five children, PSALM:187 felt a responsibility to help his family, for he hated living in poverty, though he had no idea of how to bring about the change he sought. He excelled in sports, especially basketball, which he pursued avidly in hopes that it would be his ticket out of poverty, but this dream proved out of reach.
On his high school graduation day, his uncle was murdered in a police shoot-out set up by an informant and a DEA agent. More misfortune soon followed as one of PSALM:187’s best boyhood friends was sentenced to prison for a murder and a string of other drug-related crimes.
With several friends and family members doing time in various institutions, involved in prostitution and/or gangs, PSALM:187 began to wonder how he himself could escape from this seemingly unending cycle of crime and punishment. After a younger sibling entered psychiatric treatment, PSALM:187 considered dropping out of college to help his single mother raise those of his younger siblings who were still at home. But it was just at this time that a group of black poets arrived at his school to give a presentation on poetry. PSALM:187’s hope was newly awakened by this encounter, and in writing, he found a balm for his alienation and frustration. In processing his experiences, he began to understand that his suffering was not in vain; it had redemptive value.
Once his pain was given form, PSALM:187 could see the beauty that had always been there, defaced but not destroyed. PSALM:187 traces the jagged edge of truth in a firm hand. His voice adds an undergirding freshness and strength to the narrative of suffering and redemption, which sounds a note of hope, and not only to the woe-besotted ghetto dwellers trapped in the hood but to people everywhere, no matter their complexion. With uncommon thoughtfulness, these varying rhythms and uncompromising lyrics encourage the listener to meditate upon the mysterious goodness of life even through every hardship and injustice.
A note on the stage name:
The psalms of King David have been a seminal influence in PSALM:187’s life and music. His raps testify to the greatness and faithfulness of his God and savior. The “187” part of PSALM:187 is actually the California Penal Code for murder. A common theme in the music of PSALM:187 is the necessity of death to self in order for one to be born again to live in Christ. The alternative is to be as Cain, who killed his brother Abel. That’s the reality in L.A. where PSALM:187 started, but found a better way.
In the music of PSALM:187 we see the dialogue between the resentment of the old man and the hope of the new man. In this chiaroscuro interplay between light and shadow, we catch a glimpse of a man in three dimensions we can recognize as our own reflection. In the sounds of PSALM:187, he calls this man, even as he himself is called, out of the darkness and into the light.