Hip-Hop Priest Lends a New Rhythm to Gospel

September 23, 2014  • Written by Bruce Nolan for metro

He wears his hair in tight cornrows pulled into a ponytail flopping between his shoulder blades. He knows Tupac's music and puff Daddy's and DMX's and Eminem's. Indeed, the Rev. Stan Fortuna, native of Yonkers, N.Y., and a resident of the South Bronx, is a rapper himself.

Except that instead of rap's usual obsessions with lust and mayhem, Fortuna's lyrics praise self-respect, courage and loyalty filtered through the Gospel, then pumped up with percussion and delivered with an edge.

Hundreds of students at St. Mary's Dominican, Mount Carmel and Xavier Prep high schools found out Thursday that Fortuna is not only a priest, but also an entertainer who seems much, much younger than his 43 years.

Sounding sometimes like Robert DeNiro's Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver," Fortuna did voices and comedy. He performed "sacred rap" off a recent CD and warned students to beware "the pretty poison" of "the culture of death" where, he said, street violence and drug and alcohol abuse are symptoms of deep emotional pain dressed up seductively in money, money and more money.

"You can't compromise the message," Fortuna said. "When you compromise you sell out, and if you think kids are not going to understand, that's the farthest thing from the truth. They can recognize when someone is not giving them the full deal. And there's nothing more appealing to them than being told sincerely what the culture of death means for them and why it's so bad."

He will appear today at Mount Carmel and Redeemer-Seton high schools and St. Angela Merici Elementary School. And he is one of several main guests at the annual Catholic Charismatic Renewal conference today through Sunday at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.