Mo Betta is a rapper known for his ability to freestyle – but he’s equally notable for his strong spiritual beliefs, his charitable donations, and his personal mission to make DC a better place. He recently created an organization called Santa Cause to help the victims of child sexual abuse.
Ironically, Mo Betta is also a long time member of Topp Dogg Hill, an influential rap group and record company. Topp Dogg Hill is comprised of numerous high ranking members of the Bloods, Crips, and Gangster Disciples street gangs, many of whom have faced drug and gun charges in the past. Mo Betta himself claims no affiliation.
Because of Mo Betta’s street and music industry connections, he serves as an unofficial hip-hop ambassador. When news breaks in DC’s underground rap community – Mo probably already knows about it. And when conflicts arise between rival groups, Mo can quickly get both sides on the phone to peacefully resolve the situation.
Mo prefers not to be classified as a “Christian” rapper, but when he performs, his lyrics frequently refer to scripture or other biblical concepts. Mo even took home the 2010 DMV Award for Best Gospel Rapper.
Mo is respected by other rappers for his integrity and steadfast religious convictions. When Wale went on the radio with DJ EZ Street (WKYS), to announce his first recording contract with Interscope, he shouted out, “Mo Betta, pray for me”.
And don’t mistake Mo as just another hypocritical musician, who leads a life of debauchery, then goes onstage and thanks “Jesus Christ” for their success. He is truly “walking the walk”. Mo often acts as a father figure to his nieces and nephews, and he works regularly with community activist Tony Lewis and the Safe Shores organization. A few weeks ago, Mo and Lewis slept outside all night in near freezing temperatures to raise awareness about the problem of homelessness in the DC area.
To get more insight about what motivates Mo Betta as an artist and as a philanthropist, and to learn more about his Santa Cause charity. I sat down with Mo for an interview. And in classic hip-hop style – he responded in rhyme:
ST: For the people who don’t know you, tell them who you are and what you do. What part of the area are you from?
MB: I am Maurice, regular guy, normal nigga/ raw on beats, etc, wise, formal spitta/
New Carrollton but it varies man/ also Temple Hills and Cap Heights Mary-land/
ST: How (and at what age) did you become interested in music?
MB: Wrote a poem or 2/ bout what I was going thru/ That happened to be 16/
so I started rappin’, and I happened to be 16/ So in high school I knew I was reciting Pac lyrics/ That was my dude, I grew liking Pac’s spirit/
ST: Do you consider yourself a Gospel rapper?
MB: Yooo forever Sid/
(sike) nooo, you know I never did/
I was just feeling a way and wrote some songs/
I mean I had a feeling to pray and quote some psalms/
Wasn’t a rite of passage/ just real enough to write a passage/
People just feel the stories and parables I write/
It was lyrical and biblical, a portion, not biblical proportion, comparable to Christ/
ST: You’re known around the city for being one of the best freestyle rappers. What other artists in DC do you respect for their freestyle skills?
MB: One of the best?, Who?.. never/
*looks in mirror* oh, true.. it’s you, Betta/ … lol
King Swagg.. ferocious/
Los he mean and braggadocious/
With Infa Redz and Whitefolkz I’ve slung raps/
with T2 I’ve come from the cap/
could throw words with Pro’Verb and Yung Kat/
I say K Beta, X.O. an oh yes Stef off the dome/
RA the MC she do this, the Dogg T Lucas all from home/
ST: In spite of your ability, sometimes it seems as though you purposely avoid the spotlight. Is this a conscious decision?
MB: Lyrically folks won’t rumble I’m rocky/
nah seriously I’m both humble and cocky/
wordplay king <– if that’s the ‘case’ I need a ‘hearing’ I swear/
cause I am Mos Def-inately the best, but most deaf or hearing impaired/
Lol I’m not pursuing rap, even though I can rhyme nice/
so I figure even though I’m doing tracks why consume the limelight/ *shrug*
ST: Are you still with Topp Dogg Hill? At one time TDH was the number one crew in the DMV. But other than Whitefolkz, you guys have been kind of quiet lately. What’s going on?
MB: Dog on, he’ll/ say all Dogg’s on Hill/ have had their dogg’s on heel/
But y’all gone chill, like our dog on Will ain’t the way to get a doggone deal/
But it’s funny cause even Granny wanna verse/
and my excuse is money and family come first/
But ironically Topp Dogg back we bout to breeze thru sets/
And as far as being one still, kill. You only leave thru death/
ST: Because of your status and connections locally, you’re always behind the scenes, squashing beefs, networking, etc. Have you ever considered getting into the management part of the entertainment industry?
MB: I guess I have squashed beef between quite a few guys/
mainly cause they’re my friends and I refuse to choose sides/
I call ‘em on the phone like *Lamont you Big dummy
In my *Fred G voice* I thought we was in this to get money/
Get bills with each other don’t kill each other, either act civil or/
Realize that in the end nobody will win a civil war/
I considered management with my mans an it.. ain’t about influence/
They don’t listen or won’t listen unless its my pen movement of which I speak in fluent/
ST: You also spend a lot of time with various charitable organizations (UniDMV, Safe Shores, Ascend Music Academy). What motivates you to get involved with these projects?
MB: When it’s charity, I help a lot/ I don’t give sparingly, I give wealth, a knot/
Cause it’s in the bible it’s how I was raised on God/ besides it’s a cycle and if I get a raise on job/ For fam I always ‘look out’ being street/ so for mankind I won’t ‘look out’ being cheap/ It ain’t just bout a dime that ain’t what y’all are hearing/ sometimes its just some time volunteering/
I help homeless cause I seen people evict them/
abused kids cause I’ve seen them be victims/
if you support youth sports, we can Mike Vick them/
or the kids with music who can grow up and do it and have mic victims (lol battle like me)/ I just wanna see giving back done by committee/
I wanna see what’s done in the city, done from within the city and done by the city/
ST: Will we ever get a full length CD by Mo Betta?
MB: If I can get bars from guests as good as mine/
then yes, otherwise your guess is as good as mine (lol)/
You was looking for no features/
I was booking for know features/ I ain’t selfish Sid/
but I need my friends to help the kid/
If I get some ‘names’ to run with son/
then sure why not, but I’ll be one and done/
ST: Many local artists complain about the lack of resources in the DMV (A&R’s etc.). Do you feel their complaints are legitimate?
MB: Perhaps, but there is a lack of talent as well/
passing off decent music that’s challenged as, well/
Stereotypes with crazy flow,(that’s) backwards/
I mean you’re not the bomb that’s why you’re not radio-active/
its a lot of artist with bars and jingles/
but nothing they could push hard as singles/
now I’m not saying they useless/
but stop making excuses, make good music/
artists in the area will be at their best when/
they listen to their own music objectively and stop listening to yes men/
ST: What plans do you have for December and the beginning of 2013?
MB: Santa Cause that’s it – I want all the rappers to match me a hunnid/
then we can get on a track and rap that we stunted/
no bottles, no models, no tables, no sneakers/
no drugs, no clubs, no fables… (hmmm) No Features! (maybe!!)
ST: Thank you for your time (and rhymes) Mo. Do you have any final comments?
MB: I’m here for anyone trying to do anything positive, community, music, church, etc. – just scream at me. @Betta_Mo on twitter, and Mo Betta on Facebook. I also have to shout out Infa Redz (CEO) because without him none of y’all would know me, C.H.A.O.S. 4 Life!! I’m out.
#SantaCause will be accepting donations for the remainder of the year. To give, please visit the website: www.safeshores.org – go to “Donate Now” then hashtag #SantaCause on the “Designation” line.
Please note that #SantaCause will be an ongoing movement. Check back with Mo Betta in 2013 for more opportunities to donate (clothing, food, or funding), or to volunteer your time.