Daniel Gilstrap, a.k.a D Earl, works as a correctional officer for Hall County, but in his off time he's belting out gospel hip-hop to lead his fans to become followers of Christ.
"I don't want people to necessarily be a fan of me from what I do. I would love for them to follow Jesus," Gilstrap said. "I just want to lead people to Christ.
"I deal with some pretty tough characters, which allows for some great rap songs," said Gilstrap, who lead inmates during cleanup operations on road sides.
Recently, Gilstrap produced videos from his "Warriors" album and had friend Steve Brown direct and produce the videos. Gilstrap put "Home" on YouTube.com and has nearly 4,000 views of the video recorded in South Hall. Most recently, "Amazing" hit YouTube as a follow-up for fans.
"I grew up down off Poplar Spring Road where the ‘Home' video was filmed. It's right down from Johnson High School, where I went to school," he said. "My kids, my dad and my grandfather were all in the video."
Brown, who owns Fox Audio Visual in Charleston, S.C., has been friends with Gilstrap for about 12 years. Brown said he was very pleased with the videos and thinks "D Earl" has a promising career.
"He mainly came up with most everything — his song, his lyrics. He's always been a great lyricist," Brown said. "Then of course, he had some ideas as to where the video should be shot. So as we got on location, a lot of things really fell into place."
Brown was excited how well the videos came out after production and editing.
"I think they turned out well. I think based on the substance and the meaning of the songs, it probably goes a lot deeper in meaning than what the surface shows." he said. "I would definitely keep an eye on his career and see where it goes."
The "Home" video opens with scenes from an old shack in Sautee-Nacoochee and follows with "D Earl" preaching in Old Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Helen, according to the description on YouTube.com.
Gilstrap's daughters, Hannah and Acelyn, also make appearances in the video, along with his sons Gunnar and Ben, father Benny Gilstrap and grandfather Earl Gilstrap.
"That's where I get my name ... and my middle name is Earl. I used his name because he (grandfather Earl) led me to the Lord when I was 7," he said. "I studied it and Earl means ‘warrior,' like the Duke of Earl, and I thought that would be a great name. So far, it's done well."
Gilstrap has been singing his whole life, but he got his start performing in front of audiences about 15 years ago while playing with a Christian rock band in Charleston. Currently, he is the worship leader at LifePoint Church in Gainesville and will be performing as D Earl at the church at 10 a.m. Feb. 18.
"Rap is cool because you can preach a lot with the rap," he said. "I mainly started out as a singer. I've been singing as long as I remember, and I've led worship at several churches. I'm touring with a guy from Toccoa that is pretty well known. His name is B-Shoc."
D Earl will open for B-Shoc (also a gospel hip-hop artist) on the current tour with Flip Flop Entertainment.
"So I get to roll with him and open up for him, kinda learning the ropes," he said.
D Earl gets much of his inspiration from his years in the Marine Corp and hopes to encourage fathers with his music.
"In the Marine Corp we have these (four-man) teams, and the guy in the front was called the point man, so I'm using that as an analogy," said Gilstrap, who served just out of high school. "Divorce is so high (with) single moms taking care of kids and everything else. I'm using my ministry to encourage men to be the point man for their family and lead their families through the battle.
"I thought I was totally changed after the Marines, but God seems to take us through the real boot camps."