As a life-long fan of hip hop music, I argued internally against listening to Christian music growing up, using the excuse that Christian music was ”cheesy.” Notably in the Christian hip hop scene, it seemed like all Christian rappers were simply a “Christian version” of a (more) popular secular artist. This perceived lack of originality was the excuse I used to listen to the filth that I am still working to cleanse my mind of.
Within the past couple of years however, a definitive shift has been taking place in the world of music, specifically in the hip hop genre. A cursory glance at the Billboard and iTunes charts show a prominent representation in the aforementioned category by musicians openly proclaiming their faith.
Prominent faith based rapper Lecrae recently debuted his new single from his much newest album “Church Clothes 2,” on BET’s 106 and Park. Recently released albums by Andy Mineo (Never Land) and Flame (Royal Flush) are two examples of faith based hip hop albums who saw a great deal of success on iTunes upon their respective releases. Mineo’s Never Land even spent some time as the number one most purchased new album (across all album genres).
Many artists who rose to prominence in the rap world via the “secular” route can now be found providing guest bars on faith based rappers’ albums. Legendary artists Mack 10, Bun B, Bizzy Bone, Bushwick Bill, Tech Nine, KRS-One and Kurtis Blow are notable examples.
Having initially carved their place in the history of hip hop with decidedly less God centered lyrical content, Bushwick Bill, KRS-One and MC Jin have all released faith based albums speaking of their journey in finding God.
The challenge these artists face is reaching those that love hip hop but do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Rapper R Kitect makes it a point on one of his albums to discuss the idea of walking into a music store (perhaps these days it is more accurate to reference perusing the iTunes charts) and being perplexed about the idea of there being Christian Rap in one section and all other rap in another. There is no better guarantee that an emcee’s message of hope will not reach the lost than to slap it with the “Christian rap” label. It essentially has the exact opposite effect, especially with the youth, as applying a Parental Advisory sticker.
This is not an attack on Christian rappers. In fact, it is the exact opposite. I applaud these Christians who were blessed with the gift to tell stories through rap music that choose to prominently display what God has done for them and what he can do for others in their songs. I further applaud them for taking the responsibility that we all share in spreading God’s word to their peers in the rap community.
Faith based rappers are blessed with an unique opportunity to utilize an under-appreciated talent to introduce the glory of God to those that need to know Him. Their mission is being done a disservice by those cordoning off a section in the back corner of the music world for these artists.
I submit to you, that as the evolution continues from phenomenal “Christian hip hop artist” to phenomenal “hip hop artist who is Christian,” and finally to simply “phenomenal hip hop artist,” the sky is the limit to reaching those that need to hear about the glory of a life with God on your side.