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Hemelt: College teacher uses raps, faith to inspire others

Dr. Ernest Ricks recently addressed his students at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Ga., in preparation of an upcoming project.

It was a normal classroom setting for the assistant professor of biology and biochemistry, who quickly met with an unusual question.

“Why don’t you rap it to us?” a student suggested.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” responded Ricks.

Multiple students responded, “We know Dr. Ricks, we know.”

His cover was blown. The Class of 2000 East St. John High graduate had to give it to his students straight. He is also a rapper, and they certainly had questions to ask.

Ricks shared the story with me this week through a lot of laughter as we talked about his passion project, his forthcoming hip hop solo debut, “Beyond Belief.”

It is available for pre-order on Apple Music and will be released Sept. 28.

When outside of the classroom and behind the microphone, Ricks goes by Ric Sincere. He is the co-host of the Trackstarz podcast series, and recently revealed the cover art, tracklisting and release date for “Beyond Belief.”

Ricks said there are select colleagues who know about his lyrical passion, adding the music, which is faith based, does not demean anyone and is simply meant to inspire.

“The reason I don’t broadcast it at my school is because I want my students to know and my colleagues to know I am completely focused on them while I am at work,” Ricks said.

His growing popularity and exposure through Trackstarz has already blown his cover to many at school, and it’s something Ricks does not begrudge. His message is something to share with all.

Ricks’ faith in Christianity plays a huge role as he looks to inspire inside the classroom and through his raps.

“I know in a world that seems hopeless at times, (Christianity) is a hope I can depend on,” Ricks told me. “I feel strongly encouraged to get that hope out to everybody else. There are times when I don’t feel very inspired, so the music I make is meant to take you from a place of where you can’t get something done to a place where you believe beyond yourself that you can get anything you want accomplished. That’s really the whole point of everything I do. It’s my foundation.”

Ricks followed up his time at ESJH with college at Grambling State University, where he majored in biology.

He earned his PhD in biomedical science at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, and never left the state, finding a home in academia and church.

He started performing spoken word pieces at Destiny Metropolitan Worship Church that included some hip hop elements.

He later wrote a song for the group, received positive feedback and was invited to the studio for a team member’s project with the charge of sharing a few raps.

More positive feedback bled into a partnership with media corporation Trackstarz and the formation of hip hop collective Freedom Music Group, which performed across Atlanta.

At the request of Trackstarz leadership, Freedom Music broke up in an effort, in part, to force Ricks into a solo platform.

The result is Ric Sincere and the debut album, “Beyond Belief.”

The son of Vanessa and Ernest Ricks Sr., who live on Cambridge Drive in LaPlace, said part of the album is dedicated to his mother.

Described as “phenomenal,” Vanessa is praised on the song, “Imagine Me.”

“I talk specifically about the role she played in bringing me from a kid that was always suspended from school, always getting kicked out of school to the person I am right now,” Ricks said.

Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.