Carlos Hale, a young man from Memphis, TN whose life serves as an example of resilience and grace in the face of adversity, has emerged as one of the leaders in urban gospel music. By creating a platform for both indie and national artists with his unique brand Urban Soul Café, he has set a new standard in Christian entertainment, which takes kingdom building through Gospel music a step further.
Make no mistake about Gospel music… it connects people. The Urban Soul Café continues to prove this fact. Year after year – since 2005 – singers, musicians, songwriters, music composers, music industry professionals and music lovers from every walk of life… come together as one body during Stellar Award Week – to receive the Gospel’s message through music, to enjoy its heavenly sounds as shared by the genre’s top performers and to experience the entertainment, first hand.
For years, prestigious events such as G.M.W.A., the Dove Awards and Stellar Award Week, among others, have become legendary for being the catalyst to bring people together, to recognize and honor Gospel music’s best acts for outstanding achievement. In doing so, these events have proven to be very successful and have made great contributions to the Gospel music brand as a whole.
Carlos’ creation of the Urban Soul Café concept puts more of an innovative urban spin on things. Through great music (Gospel, Jazz, Urban), Christian Comedy and Spoken Word, the Urban Soul Café model gives Gospel’s brightest stars and aspiring artists – regional and local alike – a place to showcase their gifts and spread the Gospel in an atmosphere of Christian fellowship, outside the four walls of the church.
Introduced to gospel music in 1993 by the late Grammy Award Winning Songwriter and Choir Director O’landa Draper, Carlos was a known member of the infamous gang, The Crips. In spite of his background, he was approached by Bishop Brandon B. Porter, Pastor of the Greater Community Temple Church of God in Christ, and asked to organize a youth night and serve as the Emcee. One year later, he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior and he soon realized that God had called him to the ministry.
Carlos enrolled in Lane College in 1996, majored in mass communications, and served as overseer of the Lane College Campus Ministry. He also received an internship with KWAM 990 the Light in Memphis, and eventually became the co-host of the first hip-hop Gospel radio show in that city, called Gospel Nu Flava.
In 1999 while still a student at Lane College, Carlos became the on-air morning personality for WJAK 1470 in Jackson, Tennessee. From there, Carlos received a called from WNSG 1240 AM in early 2000 because of his example of ingenuity.
Because of his love for gospel music, the Lord impressed upon Carlos to create an event for Christians to attend and have a good time outside the four walls of the church.
“While working as a radio disk jockey, I got a lot of calls asking where Christians in Nashville can hang out in a social setting. God placed it on my heart to get some close friends together and share this idea [Urban Soul Café] with them. In April of 2005 we hosted our first event and nearly 1500 people came out,” Carlos said.
In June 2006 after a year of doing five successful events in Nashville, Carlos walked away from his position as an on air personality at the radio station where he had worked for over six years. One day, while sitting in his apartment, the Lord gave Carlos the name Urban Soul Café. The name is fitting too, because Urban signifies the modern terminology used to identify the African-American community, Soul represents not just the style of music but reaching out to the soul of man, and Café represents a hangout spot for people to gather and have a good time and enjoy music.
In August 2006, Carlos reached a deal with XM Radio Nashville. At the time of the agreement, Carlos also formed an alliance with B.B. Kings Blues Club in downtown Nashville. Because of the close proximity of the two establishments, it was the perfect marriage. Mondays through Fridays he did a morning show via satellite radio called Urban Soul Café where he featured live music and interviews with top industry leaders and artists, and on Sundays he showcased new artists live on the air at B.B. Kings. Carlos gained national recognition because of his growing listening audience and featured guests as well as his live events. In January 2007 with the support of Matthew Knowles, Carlos introduced his Urban Soul Cafe brand to the gospel music industry during Stellar Award Weekend.
Because of the success of both the Stellar Weekend event and the GMA Dove Week event, Urban Soul Café has become a pioneer in the emergence of Urban Christian Music. It has not only capitalized from its affiliation with these two award shows, Urban Soul Café has now been invited to be a part of other national conventions such as the Gospel Music Workshop Of America, Church of God In Christ AIM Week, I Hear Music In The Air Conference and Dorinda Clark-Cole’s Singers and Musicians Conference.
Urban Soul Café events have impacted markets in other cities such as Memphis, Tennessee; Huntsville, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; New Orleans, Louisiana; Charlotte, North Carolina; Birmingham, Alabama; Tampa, Florida; Houston, Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Detroit, Michigan.
Hosting Urban Soul Café does not come without its challenges. One of the biggest challenges, Carlos admits, “Is meeting my budget to make sure that bills are paid. It takes money to produce these kinds of events.”
However, the one thing that has surprised Carlos the most is the support from Gospel music industry leaders and record label representatives. It makes it all worthwhile. “Some of the most elite people [In the Gospel music industry] reach out to me, and give me solid advice about USC… and I take that to heart. To know how much some well-known leaders and artists want to see me do my best, brings me joy.”
Asked why he does it all, Carlos says, because “It’s a passion of mine to see people achieve their goals in the music industry and in their ministry. Some people are slighted when it comes to their accolades, and I give them the platform to get their recognition.”
Carlos’ motto is, “It’s more than music, but it’s a lifestyle!” In the near future he plans to expand the brand by doing syndicated radio, more national events, concert tours and potentially owning an Urban Soul Café venue.
Stellar Award week events hosted by The Urban Soul Cafe:
January 16 – Homecoming: The Black Out Edition, hosted by Myron Butler & Damita Haddon, honoring Aaron Lindsey, Twinkie Clark and VaShawn Mitchell @ Limelight Entertainment Venue
January 17 – Spoken Soul (Spoken Word & Soul music) @ The Cave
January 18 – Canton Jones’ Birthday Bash @ B.B. Kings Blues Club
For more information about Carlos and Urban Café, follow him on twitter @USCafe, www.urbansoulcafe.com, Facebook Fan Page: Urban Soul Café, or send a friend request to Carlos Hale.