It is not every day that someone survives a near-death pistol-pointed-to-one’s-face experience. But sometimes, a person does, and his life changes forever. This is exactly what happened to rising artist, Lathan Warwick.
The Tennessee rapper, who rose to fame with his heart-rending freestyle covers on TikTok, has been using his story, gift and heart to be a light over the past year. Not being restricted by genre or stereotypes, the genre-blurring artist has been embraced by artists and fans in the country music community over this past year because of his steadfast motto: “God, Love & Unity.”
This goal to share God’s message, love on and unite people is what Warlick centers his new EP on. Aptly titled My Way, the nine-track collection features collaborations with country stars Tyler Hubbard (of Florida Georgia Line), Dustin Lynch, Lauren Alaina, Russell Dickerson, Matt Stell, High Valley and RaeLynn.
Warlick doesn’t belt a country tune too much, he leaves it to his collaborators. But what the Records Nashville/Columbia Records artist does is authentically weave his life stories into the EP’s cuts—all of which he co-wrote. After all, isn’t country music a reflection and encapsulation of life?
Sounds Like Nashville got to chat with Warlick recently about surviving his chill-inducing near-death experience, the 180-degree life change that happened afterwards, his emotional spiritual journey, and what he hopes to bring to country music with his collaborative EP.
Introducing the new rising artist you need to “Get To Know”: Lathan Warlick
Sounds Like Nashville: What was life like growing up in Jackson, Tennessee?
Lathan Warlick: My life growing up, in the beginning, I lived in the rough side of town. The east side of Jackson, Tennessee. There was gang violence and a lot of crime. Not everything was bad, but to another extent, a lot of it was. I grew up in a two-parent household. I had my momma and my daddy. But I was in an environment where I was doing activities with the guys. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do something as a coping mechanism to get my mind away from all the other stuff that was going on in the neighborhood. So, that’s when I jumped into dancing, which I started even before doing music. I started doing talent shows, and they took off to another level. But, after a tragic event took place in my life in 2011 at a nightclub, that’s when things started becoming totally different for me.
Could you share with us what the tragic event was about?
The tragic event was about a guy holding a 45-caliber pistol to my face and literally saying he was going to kill me. Long story short, the guy had pulled the trigger. And when he pulled the trigger, the gun clicked and his partner took the gun out of his hand and said, “You don’t know what you’re doing! Let me do it.” So that event right there made me think, “OK, there is a higher being, something else that protected me that night.” That’s when I started getting closer to God and connecting with Him a whole lot. When I started connecting with God, that’s when my life really changed and it became this music stuff.
How did that lead to you doing music?
At that time, I was still working as a railroad welder. As I was doing that, I started getting into music more. I remember going to a show one time when I was still dancing, and a prophetic lady came to me and she was like, “Hey son, your thing might not be dancing. I think your thing is using your mouth and tongue, learning how to speak to people.” After she came to me, it didn’t really hit me until I got on stage. When I got on stage, I couldn’t even move my legs to do my dancing, and people were there to see me dance! It was like, “You know what? Man, I got something in my heart for y’all.” It was like a spoken word. So when I got on the stage to do this spoken word, there was a standing ovation after I did it. It was confirmation for me that it was time to get into music, because people loved my words and lyrics. That’s when it really kicked off. The thing is, after the spoken word, I started making music that would help my guys and my community out. I would make music just to put it out there and be like, “Just because we’re in this environment, it doesn’t mean that we have to live like this and die here in this environment.” So that’s when I really started pushing that type of music.
Was faith always a big part of your journey?
Growing up, my mama, grandmama, and daddy were always telling me about God and Jesus and my faith. But, it was still toward that point where you’re not mature enough to grab hold and take off with it. Some people can be at a young age, but my environment wouldn’t allow me to do that because I wasn’t in tune with that whole spiritual aspect.
You started doing these freestyle, encouraging rap covers of popular songs on TikTok, which catapulted your music career over the pandemic. What inspired that?
I was lying in bed one night, [not knowing] much about TikTok, and I was just telling God, “You know what, I’m so used to this hip-hop stuff. I’m so used to this neighborhood. I wanna do something different. I wanna push this vision of ‘God, Love & Unity.’” So, I laid down and it came to me in a dream. The dream was basically, “Take one of the top songs off of the Billboard charts and just do a freestyle to it.” This literally came to me in a dream! I woke up the next morning, looked through the platforms, and TikTok was the number one thing. Once I got onto TikTok, I grabbed the first song [on the Billboard charts] and it was Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved.” I thought it was different but knew it was going to pour out unity. So I said, “OK, I wanna do it! Let me challenge myself to go beyond the hip-hop roots. Let’s do this!” I went to YouTube, cut the chorus of the song, grabbed the instrumental version of it, and then stuck both together on GarageBand, the instrumental after the chorus. I posted this on TikTok and the next morning, I had thousands and thousands of notifications. When it hit a million views on it, that’s when I knew that I wanted to take off from this TikTok thing. So, I started doing things outside of this hip-hop web.
How did you end up connecting with Granger Smith?
Right after Kobe Bryant’s death, I felt God was trying to show me something about it. I did this video about his death and that’s when Granger Smith, a country singer, reached out to me and we started talking. I realized he had lost his son around the same time and I had a son the same age. He sent me the song “That’s When I Love Dirt Roads” and said, “I know this is a shot in the dark, but I think you’d be a great person on this song. Your voice is amazing. Could you do this song?” When I heard it, I was like, “How can I say no to this? I can’t say no to this!” When I did it and sent it to Granger Smith, it went up from there. A lot of different country artists started connecting with me straight after that and I started working with people who don’t look like me, who are not African-American. That was really when God was confirming everything about unity.
How did you get connected to the rest of the country singers on your EP, from RaeLynn to Tyler Hubbard?
After we did “Over Yonder” with Matt Stell, RaeLynn got on my inbox on Instagram and was like, “Dude, can I work with you? Is there any way we can get into the studio?” So, we got into the studio that next week and I did “Roots” with her. And after we did that, Tyler Hubbard asked her to connect him with me. When we connected and got into the studio, we started making hits. There was a snowball effect after that. Tyler was like, “Hey Lauren Alaina, let me introduce you to this Lathan guy.” And then it went on to Dustin Lynch, and the next person, and the next. Nobody said no. That was the thing about it! Nobody said no.
It’s almost like God aligned y’alls paths in His time and in His way, would you say so?
Man, His timing! From the quarantine to everything going on with the racial tension that was growing. God just slipped me in right at the right moment! So that’s why the doors right now are just open, and I’m blessed to be walking through it.
Talk about writing your song “Gotta Be God,” a song you sang with Russell Dickerson. How much of yourself did you pour into that song?
I poured everything into that song. When I come in here and write with these writers, I’m not used to the Nashville way of doing it where you have five or six writers in the room and you write one song. That’s not how we do it, especially in the hip-hop world. In fact in the hip-hop world, we just get on the mic and freestyle a lot of stuff going on. So that’s what happened when Tyler Hubbard and I got into the studio. Tyler told me about something I said earlier that “it gotta be God that you hear.” So he was like, “What if we created a song like that?” So we put that chorus together and when Tyler left, I put my headphones on to just listen and it was just on my heart to lay it out there and talk about what happened. So, I went like, “When I think about my life, I could have easily been gone. Put myself in situations that could easily go wrong.” When I was done, I turned to my guys to ask, “Did we get that take?!” So that was the take we got when it came to that song. That’s why the songs hit people in a different way because it’s actually coming from my heart.
How do you stay grounded in a business that sometimes defines your worth by quantifiables like streams, sales, followers and popularity?
I try to not get caught up on that too much. In fact, my management team will be like, “Hey Lathan, it’s been two days. You haven’t posted yet.” I don’t try to go too deep into the likes and follows because first off, I got here by God. I don’t want to dig into that kind of stuff and fall into the celebrity-like lifestyle. I don’t get too much into the comments and likes. I just try to be an artist and put new music out. But, I do have accountability partners. I have guys I’m rocking with. We meet to do a bible study on Tuesdays. I gotta stay grounded and rooted on those types of guys, on top of getting into the studio with people and still commune with everyone. I love people where they’re at first. I don’t go around telling them, “Hey dude, you need to know about God” or “Hey, you need to know about Jesus.” I don’t do that. I love people where they’re at. If God puts it in my heart to speak to a person like that, I will. But the [important] thing is, loving people where they are.
What is one thing you want fans to know about Lathan Warlick, both as a person and a music artist?
As a person, I put everybody before me. I make sure everyone around me is straight, before I’m straight. It’s a great thing to me, because I’m blessed to be in this position. So it’s like, “Hey, make sure everyone is taken care of.” I already feel like I’m at the highest peak of my level because I came from the hood to signing with a label. So it’s like, “Make sure everybody else is straightened.” My heart for people is just like that. And as an artist, I don’t spend days writing these songs like most artists do. I get in the [recording] booth and start creating stuff. I hum it out of my head and put lyrics to it. That makes the writing process go a whole lot faster and a whole lot quicker. A lot of people think I actually spend four or five days writing a song but in reality, I only spend a couple of hours sitting in the booth just humming things out and making them come to life.
What would you say to those out there who are going through a rough patch, maybe on the home front, life or even in their spiritual journey?
Man, keep going, keep pushing, keep praying and keep grinding. Life definitely is going to throw you some crazy curveballs. But it’s up to us to take the bat and hit those curveballs. We ain’t gotta hit a homerun, but it’s up to us to hit the curveballs, because they’re going to keep coming. My thing is staying grounded and being connected to a powerful source, because you’ll never make it on your own. I would never make it on my own.