At age 10, Ruslan became a decided atheist after his father, immigrating from Azerbaijan with the family, dumped his mother and married another woman.
“At the time, my mom was so distraught over this, she stopped going to this Armenian Orthodox church where we found a lot of community,” he says on a video on his YouTube channel. “I was 10, 11 or 12, and I was literally convinced that there was no God. I was saying, ‘I’m an atheist,’ at a very young age.”
But when Ruslan, who today is a top Christian hip hop artist, got to high school, he was torn between girls: one was Christian, the other was Jehovah’s Witness. He decided to settle the dispute of whether Jesus was God by studying. He read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and the encyclopedic New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell.
The verdict came in.
“I — based on a very intellectual rational experience — came to faith,” he says. “My faith wasn’t hinged upon an experience. It hinged on the evidence that Jesus was God and He resurrected from the death.”
Ruslan Karaoglanov was born in Baku, Azerbaijan to a Russian mother who had been adopted by an Armenian family and an Armenian father. As an infant in the 1980s, he contracted an acute urinary tract infection, and a doctor at a remote clinic on the Caspian Sea performed a circumcision to save his life.
Five years later, Muslim extremists fanned out through the region to massacre Christian men and boys. Toting automatic weapons, rebels fighting the Soviet Army very nearly killed Ruslan, but his mom argued they were Muslims and showed her son’s circumcision as proof (in that region of the world, Christians do not usually circumcise while Muslims do).
“No! No! No!” Marina shouted in Russian, as narrated by Christianity Today. “We’re not Armenians. Look, my son is circumcised!”
The ruse worked.
The reign of terror didn’t abate, and finally the family applied for visas to America on the basis of religious persecution. They settled in San Diego in 1990.
Little Ruslan spoke only Russian and was one of just five a few “white” kids mixed with “black and brown” youngsters at school. His apartment complex and community had roughly the same ratio.
So while he studied English, Ruslan also learned “basketball, break dancing, graffiti and rap,” he wrote to God Reports via Instagram DM. “My experience with the black community is they tend to be very gracious and welcoming of outsiders. Specifically black church folk. I’ve never felt out of place or anything. Always the opposite.”
Ruslan free-styled with his friends from age 10 and performed at open mic night by age 12. He bought as many hip hop CDs as he could and started gravitating towards the gang culture of the hip hop in that era. For attempting to break in to a house, he was arrested and put on probation at age 12.
As part of his probation, he was required to do community service, so he decided to perform it at a church where a lady named Charee, an ex convict who converted radically to Christ, attended. He cleaned the church but also heard the Word. People kept prophesying to him: “You’re going to do things for the Lord.”
Afterwards, his mom still worried and wondered how to help her son escape the bad influences, so she moved to San Marcos, to the immediate north of San Diego. Ruslan got better grades, stayed out of trouble and stayed in the rap game. “Yo, you’re really dope,” friends told him repeatedly.
“I was super into basketball and thought I was going to play for the NBA. In my sophomore year, I got cut from my JV basketball team” at Vista High School, Ruslan says on a video. “Ever since then, I made the mental switch that I was going to take music more seriously. I started entering all the talent shows. I won second place in our high school’s battle of the bands in 2001.”
He went to Cal State San Marcos and worked, but music was always his primary passion. He staged events and helped produce local artists.
In 2010, Ruslan met Beleaf, who was deejaying at the time. The two formed the group thebreax and released a remix each week, three mixtapes and two albums. The production led Ruslan to found Kings Dream Entertainment in 2012 to develop and release other artists.
Ruslan released a solo album Do For One in 2015 and followed it up with Americana the next year. He quit his job and went full time into music. In August 2017, he released Indie Jones, and followed it up with Indie Jones II in January 2018. Indie Jones III is on its way.
Ruslan signed Jon Keith and Paul Russell to Kings Dream Ent. and released a joint album with Russell called Via Tex in 2018.
Ruslan has won praise for his work.
“He’s a white guy with a really black sound,” says secular artist Murs, a friend of Ruslan, on Rapzilla. “In any genre, there hasn’t been that white guy who can pull off what he’s pulling off sonically — where you hear it and you don’t hear color. His music is very soulful, very urban. It’s authentic.”
Ruslan starting dating his soon-to-be wife, Monette, fresh out of high school after they re-met at The Movement Church in San Marcos (they knew each other in high school). They’ve now been married 10 years ago and have a son, Levi, age 5. He credits his wife (not the same girl who got him reading about the deity of Christ) with helping him break through into success as an artist.
“My wife was super encouraging. We underestimate how significant the right spouse is for developing your career and helping you grow as a person and supporting your dreams and your vision,” Ruslan says. “My wife has been super supportive.”
He’s found success, not crazy like Lecrae or Bizzle, but solid six figure gross for the last four years. He’s non-stop. Music, production, YouTube, videos, Instagram, concerts, push it, push it, push it.
Ruslan’s best ever? “I got the Juice” with the now-disbanded Dream Junkies collective.
“It’s a Dream Junkie song, so we’re not gonna mention that lol,” he wrote.
Read about other Christian hip hop artists by clicking: 1K Phew – Aaron Cole — Ada Betsabé – Andy Mineo – Bizzle – Canon – Cass – Datin – Flame – Gawvi – HeeSun Lee – Jackie Hill-Perry – JGivens – John Givez – KB – Lecrae – Lil T Tyler Brasel– MC Jin – NF – nobigdyl. – Propaganda – Ray Emmanuel – Ruslan – Sevin – S.O. — Social Club Misfits – Steven Malcolm – Tedashii – Tobe Nwigwe – Trip Lee – Wande Isola – WhatUpRG
And an overview article about the state of affairs in CHH: Christian Hip Hop in Controversy.
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