What do you get when you mix rap music, Rocky Balboa, and a strong Christian faith? Rocky Nails.
That’s the stage name of Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter Rocco Gammone, who was lucky enough to have “Rocky” as his name growing up, coupled with his high school baseball nickname “Nails”.
“Christ had to die with nails in his hands and feet, crucified for us. So we are all the nails in his hands and feet,” Gammone explains. “For a while I just went by ‘Nails’, but everyone still would always call me Rocky whenever I performed anywhere. Eventually put both together, and it became Rocky Nails.”
Inspired by Eminem and a music-oriented family, Gammone began taking rap seriously in high school, eventually going on to join a rock band as its drummer and rapper. In 2009, after feeling the Lord’s calling on his life, Gammone began a journey into Christian rap.
So what’s the Rocky connection?
“I’m a HUGE Rocky fan,” Gammone says. “Growing up sharing Rocky’s name was definitely a big part of the allure. But I always loved my name, because I thought it was really cool how it was synonymous with such a classic movie. I’ve watched all the Rocky movies countless times, and still quote movie lines with my friends all the time!”
A Brooklyn, New York native, Gammone recently made a big move in relocating his young family to central Pennsylvania in the hopes of providing them a better quality of life.
“This has been a new beginning in my life, so I’m feeling ‘reborn’,” the rapper says of his transition from Brooklyn to Philly. Inspired by his personal experiences, he developed his newest song “Reborn, Rebirth” (check out the video here).
“From a spiritual standpoint, the world is currently in a very dark and cold place. It is in a very confused and chaotic state,” he says. “The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:2: ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ Simply put, do not let the world negatively influence you, and turn you away from God, and what God calls good or holy. So this song, the message in the song is meant to wake people up. I’m speaking about very political and touchy subjects. The reason is to show people how ridiculous our mindset has become, how far we have strayed from God, and that we must refocus our attention on Him. Our attitude, minds, and hearts need to be reborn. We need to humbly die daily to our old selves, and have a spiritual rebirth.”
The YouTube music video for “Reborn, Rebirth” was shot on location in Philadelphia at some of the most iconic locations in Rocky’s fictional world.
“Rocky Balboa is a courageous character who overcomes the odds. I want show that we can use that same courage and overcome all odds when we use our gifts and time to glorify God,” Gammone says of the video’s subject. “Plus, it’s about Rocky’s classic line in Rocky IV in his speech when he says: ‘If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change.’ Once again, it’s a matter of transforming our minds and selfish thought processes and changing our ways to bring God glory.”
Interacting personally with Balboa’s world proved an awesome experience for rapper Rocky. Sitting on the grungy steps of Mickey’s Gym holds a special place in his memories.
“It’s really cool to be there in person, and see it from a live perspective. It was interesting to see the areas that Stallone chose for the film. This was my second time at the Art Museum, which was also great. Of course I had to run up and down the steps more than once! As a huge fan, it’s awesome to be able to have a video that’s dedicated to the character of Rocky, but more importantly used to glorify God. I pray that the video would resonate with people, so that they would have the heart of Balboa, the heart of champion … and most importantly a heart for God!”
“My goal is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ through my music, based on my personal life experiences,” Gammone says. “I hope all we would be encouraged through my music, while learning the truth about Jesus Christ, and through our trials and tribulations, we can live a life to passionately pursue God’s glory.”