Can one song change the world?
Rap artist Anthony Kellems doesn’t think so. But that hasn’t stopped him from writing, recording and releasing his new album, “Mixmaster.”
In fact, the idea that one song can’t change the world is what has served as the primary motivation for Kellems’ album, which features the pro-life single, “I’m Countin’ On You,” available for free download at CDBaby.com.
“One song isn’t going to change the world,” Kellems says about the single, one of 13 tracks on the current release. “People have tried to write songs to change the world before, but the song in and of itself isn’t going to be the thing that does it. It’s going to be the song’s impact on somebody else. That person can be the one that makes the difference.”
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The difference Kellems hopes the song will make has everything to do with the women and men facing unexpected pregnancies who visit pregnancy help organizations every day.
At just over four minutes, “I’m Countin’ On You” is written from the perspective of an unborn child, addressing a mother and father who are struggling with what to do in the midst of an unexpected pregnancy.
Serving as the melodic line of the single, the song’s title is a plea from the unborn child, first to both parents, then to each parent individually, to protect his life, followed up with the line, “Got so many bright days that are ahead of me.”
In the second verse, the child is addressing his father, pleading with his father to, “be a man and stand up” and “be my captain, not absent.” The verse is especially poignant in light of the fact that at least half of women submitting to abortions cite either an absence of, or relational problems with the baby’s father as a primary reason for aborting.
“A lot of that hits on stuff that would tend to break down families, and tend to make abortion an attractive decision, but if dad’s not standing up to anything, who’s there to help out?” Kellems says. “You’re leaving somebody there to feel alone, and he’s not doing what he needs to be doing for the mother and the child.
“Those are things we’re hearing about more and more, but I think we haven’t always heard about, ‘What should the father be doing for the mom, for the kid?’”
A mathematician by day, Kellems’ musical interest has been relegated to the realm of “hobby” throughout his adult life. Though he didn’t learn music until the tail end of high school, a piano teacher during that time encouraged him to pursue songwriting to help him increase his abilities.
When surgery on his shoulder put Kellems on the shelf for a period of time, keeping him from playing instruments and recreational sports, his long-held affinity for the rap genre began to overlap with his growing interest in lyrical prose.
Not long into the process, he attended a Dec. 2012 fundraiser at The Northwest Center, a Washington, D.C., pregnancy help organization affiliated with Heartbeat International that serves 2,000 women and families every year.
At the banquet, a friend challenged Kellems to come up with a pro-life rap. Kellems took his friend up on the dare.
“I worked on it for a week or so, and it was terrible,” Kellems remembers. “The first draft was really bad, so put it away for a few months. Then, I was working on some stuff later, and I became inspired with what, essentially, became this line that goes throughout the song, the ‘I’m countin’ on you’ line. So, I started writing from that line, and that’s when it started to flow a lot more naturally.”
While Kellems continued to chip away at the song, it took more than a year—and several wastepaper baskets full of drafts—for the finished product to come about.
As he explains, Kellems was laboring to avoid what he saw as two common pitfalls of existing pro-life raps: An overtly evangelistic message with a subordinate call to value life from the Christian side, and a failure to take a definitive stand on the value of every life from the secular side.
Aiming to produce something genuinely helpful to those in the pro-life movement, Kellems reached out to the executive director at The Northwest Center and started an ongoing dialogue while he worked on the song.
“As I started writing it, early on in the process, I took it along to some people who had worked in the pro-life cause and had insight into some of the larger problems surrounding abortion, like absent fathers,” Kellems says. “‘What is out there?’ ‘What works and doesn’t work?’ I felt they would have a better perspective than I would.”
The end result of Kellems’ work addresses the beauty and value of life, as well as underlying issues the pregnancy help community deals with on a daily basis, including the post-abortion guilt many women and men grapple with, and the aforementioned issue of fatherhood.
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But Kellems’ single also meets head-on the moral component of abortion, depicting the song’s protagonist pleading with his parents, “abortion ain’t the right way” and “I can’t fight back against the would-be villains/They deny I’m alive, but I’m kickin’/And I’m countin’ on you, Momma.”
“The voices of those involved—both parents as well as an unborn child—often get lost in the political debate surrounding abortion,” Susan Gallucci, Executive Director at The Northwest Center, says. “Anthony begins to illuminate some of the fears, emotions and pressures involved in unplanned pregnancies. Music is an avenue to step back and take a different view of the situation.”
While he isn’t planning for his song to change the world all by itself, Kellems hopes that his song will inspire both those within the pregnancy help movement and the greater pro-life movement, as well as families dealing with an unexpected pregnancy to hold each life precious.
It’s the reason, he says, that he’s offering the single free of charge.
“Maybe someone’s heart will be changed,” Kellems says. “Maybe a life will be saved. I know that’s a really large goal for something as small as a song, but if that impact isn’t made, it just becomes another novelty."