Is Christian Hip-Hop Infiltrating The Culture?
Toxicity is a word we’ve come to know very well as we look at the world. We look around and see violence everywhere, inflation, recession, Covid-19, etc. Yet, could it be that Christian artists are making more of an impact than you think? As the world is becoming more hopeless, the opportunity for Christian music, and in particular Christian Hip-Hop music continues to grow. As a Christian artist myself, I hate the state of the world, but I love what I am seeing in terms of impact. Let me explain in more detail.
Quick History in Christian hip-hop
When I was growing up, Christian rap music had a horrible reputation for being low-budget, bad quality, and unrelatable. I would have to say that I agree with that sentiment 100%. Like many of you, I grew up in the golden age of hip-hop and loved it. Music artists like Nas, Tupac, Jay-Z, Notorious BIG, and Outkast were just a few of my favorites.
Sure their music was profane, but many of their songs had messages that I could relate to and the quality of their production was so good. They told stories that I connected with and seemed to be real and transparent in their approach. Talent-wise, their flow, delivery, and lyricism were amazing. In contrast, when I heard a few of the classic Christian rappers, I mean no disrespect but the quality back in the late 1980s, 1990s, and even the 2000s was subpar in my opinion. Poor flow, poor delivery, basic lyricism, and some of the worst hip-hop production I had ever heard.
Back then I said to myself, just because you say Jesus in a song doesn’t mean I’m going to listen to that. I didn’t understand that many of the classic Christian rappers had very little to no support. They were doing things that hadn’t been done before. They didn’t have the endorsement of the music industry, because back then all rap was looked at as either gangster music, party music, or socially conscience music. There was no genre for Christian Hip-Hop. Those early artists were pioneers and trailblazers in their own right that deserve respect for being counter-cultural.
my turning point in Christian rap
The turning point for me regarding Christian hip-hop came around 2006-2007 when I heard Christian rapper Lecrae for the first time. When his song “Jesus Muzik” was released from his 2nd album “After The Music Stops”, I said to myself, that was different! The production at the time was impressive and sounded similar to the sound of other secular artists, but the message about God and delivery was so much better. The intro to the song started with a “chopped and screwed” voice yelling “ridin’ with my top down, listening to this Jesus Music!” I said to myself that I can listen to this!
Still, that was one song. A few more years went by and I enjoyed a few other Christian rap artists but no album really stood out. Then came Lecrae’s “Church Clothes” album, produced by Don Cannon! Don Cannon was one of my favorite secular producers growing up. When I heard “Church Clothes” for the first time around 2012, that changed my perspective forever of what Christian rap music is supposed to be like. Everything was the best quality musically, and Lecrae worked with several secular artists but stayed consistent in the gospel message. I had never seen that done before, and Christian rap was put on a national stage unlike ever before.
New Christian Artists rising to the challenge
I am happy to report that Christian hip-hop artists are looked at differently today. The genre as a whole has gained a tremendous amount of both respect and criticism. There are still people that say it sounds like the devil’s music because of the beats. Then there are other people that say they are confused because the message is positive but it sounds hard. Then others say that some songs relate to their struggles, but the artists themselves don’t say Jesus enough. You can’t please everyone all of the time. It is something I have learned myself as a Christian artist. As long as your heart is for God and you’re doing it for Him, that’s what really matters.
Still, when I listen to newer Christian rap artists today like J. Monty, Nobigdyl, Battz, 1K Phew, and many others, I hear a quality in their music that far surpasses some of the most popular secular rappers today. I couldn’t be happier. Their music inspires me. I listen at the gym, in my car, with my kids, and everywhere else. To all of my fellow newer artists fighting to make a way in the music industry, I salute you. For those that don’t know, I just released my first album as well, entitled “The Genesis” on all major streaming platforms. Listen on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5PmyNTyCHtYcqXd19lxj14?si=27975491b56c4a3f&nd=1
Christian Hip-Hop has infiltrated secular culture
The Covid-19 pandemic has shifted our world in many ways. Anxiety, depression, and suicides have increased dramatically to levels I’m not sure we’ve ever seen. There has never been a time in human history that people need hope more than today. With unlimited access to information via smartphones and the internet, it has made it possible to reach the entire world easier for good or bad.
I was sitting at work listening to my Christian hip-hop playlist when a new song by secular artists DJ Khaled, Kanye West, and Eminem came on entitled “Use This Gospel”. I listened intently as Eminem started his verse. To hear him rap about God and Jesus as he did really made me think about the fact that we don’t know how God can use us all. Eminem is one of the most talented secular rappers I have ever heard. He was recently inducted into the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I am grateful to see God’s word penetrate the hearts of our popular secular artists. Much respect to Eminem for his amazing career.
Other music artist crossover examples
Recently, there have been a host of other popular secular artists that crossed over and made songs referencing God and Jesus. Snoop Dogg recently made a Christian hip-hop album, collaborating with other Christian rappers. Of course Kanye West, regardless of how you may feel about him on a number of issues, has made albums and songs about his faith in Jesus. Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar have made several tracks in the past referencing Christianity and faith. Secular rapper Nas throughout history as an artist has made several songs referencing God and Jesus Christ.
I have heard people make statements such as “Those artists are being fake” or “They are only doing it for money”. The truth is, we don’t know the hearts of people, only God does. I encourage you to not judge the hearts of secular artists, or anyone else for that matter. If you are a Christian that believes in the bible, remember what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians Chapter 1 starting at verse 15.
The Bible states, “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice!”