Before he was Funky, a household name in the Spanish Christian Rap genre, he was simply Louis.
Louis Marrero Sr., to be exact. Just your typical Puerto Rican youth, who loved music, especially hip hop.
“I used to listen to English rap,” Funky said this week in a phone interview with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “But when I listened to Spanish rap for the first time, I could understand everything and I immediately fell in love with it.”
That first album was from Vico C., a secular Puerto Rican rapper at the time, who became an integral part of Funky’s faith journey.
“I was crazy about his music,” Funky said.
As Funky grew out of his teen years and into his 20s, he kept pouring his heart and soul into music. His friends called him Funky because of his love of Reggaeton music, which mixes Jamaican and Trinidad influences along with salsa, bomba and hip hop.
Funky had a deep passion for all things Latin music. But that love didn’t satisfy him at the deepest level.
“For a long time I was looking for something different,” said Funky, 38, the headliner to Saturday night’s Greater El Paso Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham. “For a long time I was trying to fill this emptiness with so many different things.”
Until that day in 1998, when Vico C. asked him to do him a favor—join him at church. Through a mutual friend, Funky had becomes friends with Vico C., who had become a follower of Christ and wanted Funky to know about that same saving grace he had experienced.
“Something made me realize it was more than just about me,” Funky recalled that day in church.
That something was the Holy Spirit, stirring his heart.
“It was something that just clicked. You gotta wake up. I felt something in my soul and in my heart. Now, I know, it’s clear to me it was God calling me that day.”
Funky came forward and accepted Christ as his Savior. The preacher made him turn around to the crowd publicly and prayed over Funky that one day he would impact a lot of people for Jesus.
“Sometimes you don’t even realize those promises that God makes to you,” said Funky, who dug up the audio of that sermon seven years ago. “But sometimes you have to sit down and remember what God has done.”
And for Funky, he now knows that’s a lot.
The Orlando resident, husband and father of three, has produced seven full-length albums, starting with Funkytown in 2002, and has made a living touring around the U.S. and Latin America, spreading the hope of Jesus.
His former life—even his former name Louis—is a thing of the past. “Now, I never respond to Louis,” he said. “Even my mom calls me Funky.”
But even though he lives in the U.S., Funky still spends much of his time in his home away from home, Puerto Rico—he grew up in the small mountain town of Corozal. This weekend, however, he’ll be back on U.S. soil in El Paso, Texas, setting the stage for Franklin Graham to share the Good News of Jesus on Saturday night.
“This is a super huge honor for me,” Funky said. “I remember even when I wasn’t a Christian I knew a lot about his father [Billy Graham] because he was on TV.”
And the idea of a bilingual Festival makes Funky—who speaks both English and Spanish—even more excited.
“The last time I was (in El Paso) was for a Spanish festival. It was huge for the Spanish community,” Funky said. “I have no doubt there will be people everywhere.”
And Funky also has no doubts on how God will move through Franklin Graham’s Gospel message of hope.
“When someone is speaking from the heart, when you have passion like [Franklin Graham] has and you preach God’s Word, it says it never comes back empty.”
Watch Funky Live: The Greater El Paso Festival of Hope will be live-streamed on April 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern (5:30 p.m. Mountain) at www.billygraham.org/Live.