Interview with Von Won: An Outcast On A Unique Journey
Von Won opens up about being an outcast in CHH, his newest project “Wet Paint 2,” and plans for his future in ministry.
Vaughauligan Walwyn, better known as “Von Won,” has been on the hip-hop scene in Houston for many years. You may be familiar with some of his work, including “Grace Still Abides,” and “Shock Therapy.” He’s also been on plenty of notable tracks as a featured artist, Wit & Dre Murray’s “Welcome To H-Town” and Eshon Burgundy’s “Dearly Beloved,” to name a couple. We recently put his newest project, Wet Paint 2 through the Bar Exam here at Newh2o and we were able to catch up with Von afterwards. The artist took some time out of his day to chat and he had some great things to share when it comes to music and ministry. I could not have been more excited to hear what he had to say.
NH2O: Von, first off I’m a big fan. Um… wow I don’t know where to start. Maybe we should begin with the easy stuff! How long have you been involved in hip-hop?
Von Won: Well, in the summer of 1998 I had some friends on the southeast side of Houston. We started a group called “Tha Playboy Click” and we started rapping in my boy’s apartment. He had a little digital mixer and a keyboard and we started dropping hooks and making beats.
That was the summer of 1998 so this summer coming up is actually 20 years for me. 20 years is a score. The undertones of Wet Paint 2 were “God Bless Edgebrook” and Wet Paint 3 is gonna be “The Score.” 20 years… I’m really gonna try to do some hot records and I’ve even already got a few in the tank.
NH2O: I know you’re a minister as well, could you share a bit of your story with that?
Von Won: I started doing ministry in 2007, you’ve probably heard my story. I was tased in November 2006, when 5 police officers almost killed me. Then in April, I gave my life to Jesus. It was that month I started doing ministry. I told my wife’s uncle I wanted to start doing these hip-hop concerts.
We called it “Third Thursdays.” I started a ministry called “Real Talk Ministries” and every third Thursday we’d bring out different rappers and poets. Each month it got bigger and bigger to where we’re having 200 or 300 people in attendance.
After the third year I got my first youth pastor position. I was a youth pastor for about three years. After that, I was campus pastor at Legacy Church. Legacy Church was a hip-hop style church where tons of people came through. Ruslan, Sho Baraka, Canon, all the Houston artists, Bryann Trejo… everybody came through that spot. It was real blessing for that time in my life.
I then ended up with the opportunity to become Senior Marketing Manager of the biggest Christian radio station in Houston and was there for two years. I stepped out of that to begin my own marketing company. In the midst of all of that I have been doing prison ministry, missions, tv and radio shows, and staying busy for the kingdom.
Just recently, my wife and I have felt it’s time to start our own church. So this September, on the 16th we’re planning to launch “Fellowship Houston: authentic church for authentic people,” right here in Houston, Texas.
NH2O: I’m excited to hear more about your new church plant. Are you the lead pastor? What will set this new church community apart from what you’ve been doing? Or is it about that?
Von Won: I’ll be the lead pastor. I’ll be working with a lot of great pastors and ministers, ministries and dream teams. Everyone who is around us are phenomenal people. God’s giving me a chance to express the vision and the voice he’s given me, the new ideas and fresh approach I can bring to what ministry is. It’s 2018, so you don’t want a cassette tape ministry in an iPhone generation.
I want to push boundaries on how to do events. We’re doing an event with Mike Vick in August, we’ve got NuWine coming out and Willy Moore Jr. as well. That’s some really cool stuff, and hopefully will show people what it’s like to have a different approach to ministry.
NH2O: Could you talk a bit about how music is a tool for your ministry and vice versa?
Von Won: Music is my medicine man so I’m gonna continue to make music. My last real album was “Grace Still Abides” that was released in April 2014. Since then I’ve released two “Wet Paint” mixtapes. Those aren’t real projects because there’s not a solid budget being put behind them. These tapes are just about me getting in the studio and being artistic. [Sometimes it’s good to] just drop bars and have a great time doing it.
NH2O: Yeah, “Grace Still Abides” was legit. I knew these Wet Paint projects were mixtapes, but I just feel like your music is under appreciated in larger circles.
Von Won: I definitely feel like my music is under appreciated. I feel like over the years I made some crazy mistakes. I called out Thi’sl and Json early in my CHH career and I didn’t know how influential those guys were. I ruffled a lot of feathers and it caused me to make a lot of enemies.
I also came in under Tre9, who was working a lot with artists from Cross Movement. People at the time didn’t like the moves Tre9 was making, with dasouth.com and things like that. So, I came in with this guy who was already rubbing people the wrong way. Straight out the gate I guess you could say I faced some unnecessary opposition that made people not really give my music a fair shot. I feel like it had a stigma attached to it.
That’s the energy I felt after spending $60,000 on “Grace Still Abides.” I had certain Christian DJ’s, I won’t put anybody on blast, but I had people tell me they wouldn’t play my music because I featured mainstream artists on there. [The next thing I know] just months later, those same Christian DJ’s played other Christian artists on their show who featured mainstream artists which proved them to be hypocritical and in turn singled out me, my ministry, and my music.
It was painful to come from the streets and the mainstream and get more love from those guys than I get from the successful artists in Christian rap. This is why you see me go get Scarface, Paul Wall, and Mike Jones before you’d ever see me with any of the Reach Records artists.
I pray that none of my responses here seem bitter at all. I’m not bitter. I appreciate all that God has done. I’ve been able to travel overseas and reach thousands of people with my gift. I don’t think I’m done yet. My story is just going to be different. If you’ve listened to the “Journey” record (Track 2 on Wet Paint Vol. 2) this is as good as it’s ever been. God is still opening doors and I’m excited.
NH2O: You’ve definitely faced some adversity in your career. Despite all of that I see that you have a knack for networking with all sorts of artists. How has God used those situations in order for you to have honest conversations about Christ with people who wouldn’t typically be willing to talk about such things?
Von Won: Through working with Scarface and all these guys I’ve definitely had great opportunities. I’ve been able to challenge them to make music that doesn’t glorify weed, sex, females, or negativity. Just by me walking the life I’m living and these guys knowing me. A lot of these guys knew me before I was doing Christian Hip-Hop. Guys like [Lil] Keke, Paul Wall, and Z-Ro. I’ve known Z-ro since I was seven or eight years old. For these guys to see me walking right, and being a family man that’s ministry by itself.
NH2O: Tell us more about those times you’ve felt outcast, and how you have had to step out in faith and trust that God knows what He’s doing. How have you seen God at work in your music and ministry?
Von Won: It’s music and it’s ministry and it’s business. But at the end of the day as a pastor, at one, two in the morning you still have to be there for people. As far as my music being outcast and my needing to step out in faith, that’s all part of the journey. You know what I mean? I think God does certain things and sometimes He won’t include you in certain circles to keep you from operating the way those people operate. God has continued to exclude me and keep me on my own road, and He’s given me a different path.
Honestly I’ve never wanted to be a stage chaser. If I would have gotten the success I truly wanted initially, I would have been a stage chaser. But when I say “stage chaser” I’m talking about how I’ve seen other guys who are doing the full time CHH thing saying “okay, FlavorFest is coming I gotta be here.” or “Legacy is coming I gotta be here.” “Rock the Desert’s coming I gotta be here.” “Kingdom Music Awards is coming I gotta be here.” Some Christian rappers go from city to city throughout the year to every big event because they have to be at that event or they don’t eat or their family can’t survive. I don’t want to be someone who is a stage chaser in order to make a living or to be able to stay in ministry. I really just want to follow God and sometimes that means I’ve got to be willing to be stationary when needed or be mobile when needed.
One thing that’s been consistent over the years is certain songs that have really touched people at a different level. Going into the jails has always been a special time. I get emails from people about certain songs, like “God Is The Answer” and other songs that touch people at a different level where it makes them turn their life around when they see what God has done.
I may not be able to be the most deep theological pastor, but what I can show people is a true heart of repentance. I chose Christ in April of 2007 and now here I am 10 years later still standing, still drug free, faithful to my wife, and living my life for God. If that spirit of repentance is evident in my music and my ministry I think that’s the most exciting thing that I can share with people.
NH2O: Talk a little bit about how your wife is involved in ministry alongside you.
Von Won: My wife’s role in ministry man, she’s The General. When we’re putting on events, when she speaks people listen. She’s usually very quiet so when she does open her mouth people are always on the edge of their seats to hear what she has to say. She takes great care of me and our kids. She’s the best mother I know. She’s the best wife I know and I’m not just saying that. When I weigh her up against other people [I see how] she’s dedicated to being a mother. I just know I can be a handful with all the things that I do, all the different areas of business and ministry and tv shows and she’s always there for me. I’ve known her since high school, so I’ve known her 20 years plus. We’ve been married going on 12 years this summer and she’s an amazing woman of God. I couldn’t do it without her. I wouldn’t do it without her.
NH2O: What would you say is the most challenging thing about being a family man while also creating room for ministry? Do you have any words of wisdom for those of us who are younger and less wise?
Von Won: The toughest thing in ministry about being a pastor or minister is just time. A lot of times money can be a struggle too, but God always finds a way to provide. But God cannot provide more time. You only get a certain amount of time in the day. Even though scripture says “God will give you back the years that you’ve lost” (Joel 2), at the same time you have to prioritize. Don’t go out and give everybody your best smiles, hugs, high fives and encouragement then come home with only scraps to give your family. A lot of times we give everyone else our best but then give our family the scraps. Put your wife on your calendar, put your kids on your calendar and let them know like “hey guys this is your day and I’m gonna spend it with you.” Turn your phone off because when they know that you have set aside time just for them they feel valued. You’ve gotta let them know that they’re valuable in your life. Make sure your family knows they’re your number one ministry.
NH2O: Music wise, do you care about current trends? The way I put it in my review, you sound like Houston and there’s nothing wrong with that. On the other hand there’s always room to grow in creativity. I think of Tobe Nwigwe and how he sounds like Houston as well but he’s pushing some boundaries creatively. Is there anything you’re hearing or seeing that you think is dope? Is there anything you think will not sustain?
Von Won: I always say “your styles fit the trends/my style never bends/so when the trends finish I’m still out here making ends.” For me I’ve tried to stay away from *ambiguously mumbling a triplet flow* “hummina summina summina set/hummina summina summina set” just because everyone else is doing it. You can get caught up trying to keep up with what’s goin on. Some of it’s pride like “I’m not gonna bend.” On the other hand some of these trends like when people started saying “on fleek,” I knew that “on fleek” wasn’t gonna last. I never said “on fleek,” and still won’t say “on fleek.” But, a lot of the music with the trap and the sound they’ve got going on now is not gonna go away. So you’ve gotta conform and figure out how to apply it to what you’re doing. I’m not still trying to sound like “My name is Von and I’m here to say…” and sound like old school rap. If I don’t continue to adjust my sound, I’m almost sounding just as old school right now.
I’ve been thinking about #TDOMR, “the death of mumble rap.” [I’ve been thinking about] getting with K-Rino and putting out a whole project where we’re just really about bars. I feel like bars can be and should be resurrected. Tobe [Nwigwe] is doing a good job of blending the southern feel with his metaphors and wordplay. It’s super dope. I definitely fool with Tobe. And as for [my own versatility,] if people would really listen [to my music] they’ll hear a lot more than they expect. Another hashtag I’ve come up with is #MURA, “most underrated rapper alive.” I just feel like I’m someone who continuously gets overlooked. I see the guys that they bandwagon and put on a pedestal and sometimes I feel like I could eat that dude for breakfast. But I know that a lot about where you’re at in your career has to do with preference, timing, and presentation.
Something I could see happen next is EDM. I think EDM is strong. It has a lot of versatility and different things it can do to take us into the next wave of the music industry. My next move though will be live instrumentation. I’ve got some worship songs that I’ve written, like “Time To Believe In Impossible” and I really want to take it to the studio with live instruments and background singers. I really want to give my music the full production [it deserves.] I’m talking about spending $1-2,000 per song. When I talk about Von Won’s next for real album I want people to be able to tell the difference. Like “alright so this is what Von Won sounds like when he’s really going in.” So I hope the Wet Paint series isn’t giving me too bad of a name, but it’s a way for me to stay relevant at some capacity.
NH2O: The Wet Paint stuff is really really nice. I think you’ve read my review. I geeked out over a lot of it. I loved the samples you flipped and the features were on point too. It seems like you have a lot of fun while also creating meaningful art that points to Jesus, and I really appreciate that. Do you have any surprises in store for Wet Paint Vol. 3?
Von Won: For “Wet Paint 3” I want to do some more creative things, things that sound a little outside the box for Von Won. If you’ve followed my career over the years you’ll know there was an NFL player that I was working with for a season. The label didn’t really work out because he was more focused on the NFL, but he’s coming back with a new entertainment company and I’ll be a part of that God willing. That’s all still kind of wet cement, not “wet paint” haha. I’m looking forward to financial backing and an opportunity to really push out the vision and in a strong way let people know about God’s redeeming love in an unorthodox manner. “Wet Paint 3” should be coming sooner than later. I’ve already got 3-4 songs that didn’t make it on “Wet Paint 2” that I felt was more fitting for a different project. It’s a work in progress always.
NH2O: How can Newh2o better support you in the future? How can we be praying for you/God’s ministry through you/Your family, etc?
Von Won: It’s always a blessing for anyone who could be praying for my wife, my children and myself in this ministry. My main two objectives right now are fundraising and team building. One, that God not only brings in people but He brings the right people. Then our church also has a goal to fundraise $150,000 from now until August 31st.
As far as music goes, I’m no longer stressing about getting my stuff out and on Rapzilla even though I need to be more diligent about that. I just haven’t been putting as much money and effort behind it. Before my next project comes out I’ll let you guys know so that you can help push it and promote it, get some more interviews going, or anything to get the buzz rocking. I’d love any ideas you have. If you wit’ it I’m wit’ it.
Thank you for taking some time out to check on ya boy and to do the review on my project it means a lot man. Anyway we can do it, we take the gospel to the streets, to the prisons, to television. We got “Grown And Saved TV” coming to the Juice TV network in May. So I’ve always got a lot of stuff going on but let’s be family man. Let’s be kingdom affiliates. There’s no competition in the kingdom baby we can only build this thing to higher notes. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, from my ministry, from my family to yours. I’m praying for you, your church and ministry and all that. God bless you guys, peace.
NH2O: Thank You! God bless you, Von.