When gospel singer, songwriter and pastor Deitrick Haddon moved to Los Angeles in 2012, NBA All-Star Chris Paul, then a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, was one of the first people he met.
As Haddon was walking into a restaurant, Paul called out to him from his vehicle.
“I heard someone say, ‘Deitrick Haddon?’ and it was Chris Paul. I thought to myself, Chris Paul knows who I am? We started talking, and he told me he listens to my music all the time. He doesn’t keep it a secret that he is a believer,” the Detroit native said. “You may be surprised by who actually listens to gospel music; a lot of athletes listen to gospel music before they go out and play.”
According to Haddon, Paul listens to his breakout single “Sinner’s Prayer,” released in 2002.
“Sinner’s Prayer” also resonated profoundly in Haddon’s own life. After dealing with public scrutiny surrounding his divorce from his first wife, gospel recording artist Damita Haddon, in 2011, he wanted to give up. Instead, he drew even closer to God.
For Haddon, taking on Los Angeles was his best move. He married Dominique McTyer in 2013 and made his small-screen debut that same year in Preachers of L.A., Oxygen’s reality show that followed the lives of six preachers and lasted for two seasons. He became a father of three — Destin, 6; Denver, 3; and Deitrick Jr., just shy of a year old — and started Hill City Church, a nondenominational Christian church in Compton, California.
He also scored his first No. 1 radio single in 2017, “A Billion People” featuring the Hill City Worship Camp, made up of members of his church’s praise and worship team.
Now that the NBA season has started, Haddon has a new basketball team to fan out over in Los Angeles.
“My house is no longer divided,” he said with a laugh. “I am a LeBron James fan to the core, so by default I was a big Cavaliers fan. My wife is a huge Lakers fan. She is a die-hard Kobe Bryant fan. She bleeds purple and gold. We were enemies during every basketball season! We both are supercompetitive and emotional, so in the past there was a real battle in my household.
“This is a great time for my family. My home is united now that LeBron is on the West Coast.”
Haddon, 45, is a preacher’s kid who grew up in Detroit. He was only 10 years old when he knew that, like his father, Bishop Clarence Haddon, he was called to preach.
“I was in my bedroom looking out the window and I heard what I believed was the voice of God speaking to me as loud as I am speaking to you, his audible voice saying, ‘Deitrick, I have called you to ministry and I want you to preach the Gospel and sing the Gospel,’ ” he said.
Haddon was afraid but moved and went to seek counsel from his mother, Joyce.
“I ran to my mother and told her exactly what happened,” Haddon said. “She said, ‘That is God calling you to ministry, Deitrick.’ Before I knew it, I was up preaching. … My mother brought me a robe and a little Bible and set a date, and I was up preaching in front of a whole crowd at a church called Unity Cathedral of Faith [a Full Gospel church on Detroit’s west side]. The church was packed because word had gotten out that little Deitrick Haddon was going to preach.”
Haddon will never forget the day. He sang a song to begin and noticed the crowd’s response.
“Everyone in the church started shouting and running around like I was doing something so spectacular,” he said. “Then, when it came time for me to preach, my mind went blank. I couldn’t remember anything that I had practiced or studied! I don’t even know how I got off of the podium; I think they carried me out of there. After that experience, I dedicated myself to studying even more, learning every Scripture, every Bible story, etc., so that will never happen to me again.”
Haddon intensified his biblical knowledge and eventually began teaching Sunday school. When he was 13 he became minister of music, and at 16 he was youth pastor at Unity Cathedral, preaching every other Sunday and remaining until his young adult years.
After he married Damita in 1996, the two left Detroit and moved to Orlando, Florida, where he became worship leader at Paula and Randy White’s church, Without Walls. The couple later moved to Atlanta to pursue other music projects. By that time he’d already made a name for himself as one of this generation’s most influential gospel singers with his albums Lost and Found and Crossroads.
While in Atlanta, he and Damita divorced, and he moved back to his hometown of Detroit to recover. It was there when he decided Los Angeles could give him a new start and enhance his career.
Haddon received a phone call from music producer Zaytoven and was offered the opportunity to expand his writing into other genres of music. He co-wrote three songs on Usher’s latest album, A.
“Zaytoven is my brother from another mother,” Haddon said. “He has listened to my music and all kinds of gospel music for years. He is the godfather of trap music, but he is also a church musician on Sundays, and during the week he is making hit records for all of your favorite hip-hop artists.”
Haddon said a lot of “secular artists gravitate to church musicians because they get a whole lot of practice every week.”
“Church musicians are some of the best musicians in the world,” he said. “He [Zaytoven] is out there doing it big, and he stays faithful as a church musician at his church. He called me to come in and collaborate with some of the writers on Usher’s latest project.”
When Haddon isn’t writing music or preparing for service at Hill City Church, he is all about basketball and enjoying fatherhood. His wattage intensifies when he speaks of his three young children.
“I live for this,” he said about being on “daddy duty.” “Everything that I do orbits around my family. I am very hands-on. I attend all of the parent conferences, and even grandparents day.”
His parenting skills are patterned from his father, who adopted him as a young child after marrying his mother.
“My dad was a very responsible dad,” Haddon said. “We never wanted for anything. He was very dependable, and our lives were good because of that. He instilled those qualities in me.”