In the history of hip hop, a lot of artist found no way to convince a record label that they are worthy to be signed. So the next logical step was to go independent. See E-40, Uncle Luke and newer artist like Freddie Gibbs and Curren$y for proof. That’s all well and good, and kudos to all those who literally made something out of nothing when no one else believed in them. Which brings me to the topic of the day. Imagine a starving artist, trying to get in the game, but he just so happens to be a Christian rapper.
Does that sway your opinion? Do you automatically tune out? Or do you listen without judgment and check for beats, lyrics and flow AND gain understanding, just the same? Me personally, I always thought Christian hip hop was a gangster rap song played in reverse. Telling you all the pitfalls they fell into, and why you should do different. This was mid 90’s hip hop though.
Things have definitely changed. Lately, there is a new age of hip hop artist who’s
sole soul purpose is to represent Christianity. Respectively. Lecrae, Bizzle, Andy Mineo, and Gemstones are just a few Christian based hip hop artist who take their lyrics just as serious as their faith. It’s quite commendable to be able to say there is a power greater than yourself, especially as an emcee. With the word God and Church being tossed so freely in this genre, it has almost become a mockery of what Christianity really is.
My first encounter with Christian based hip hop that was actually enjoyable was at The A3C Festival in 2013. My wife and I went to The BET Music Matters event and right in between Young Dro, Doe-B (RIP), Problem and Meek Mill, there was Lecrae. At that point I couldn’t tell the positivity that he had until I Googled him later that night, but he put on a great performance and held his own against all the other artist present.
And if you take a look at Lecrae now, he is the CEO of Reach Records and the cofounder of Reachlife Ministries. His seventh album “Anomaly” simultaneously debut at number one on the Gospel charts and the Billboard 200. A feat that has never been achieved. Add to that a Grammy for best gospel album in 2013. As CEO of Reach Records, Lecrae has provided a home to other Christian emcees as Andy Mineo, Tedashii and Trip Lee.
Bizzle is a Los Angeles based artist. He is signed to the Texas label God Over Money. Being raised in a mainly single parent household, growing up was tough for Bizzle. He was homeless for a short while and actually was a pimp at one point in his life. In a strange twist of irony, it was the woman he was pimping that helped him find the Lord. She asked him to pick up her brother from church.
“(Her brother) was a drummer in a church, that was her family’s church. The problem was that I didn’t feel as guilty as I should have,” Bizzle recalled. “I knew it was wrong but because of the money that was coming in, I wasn’t going to tell her what the Lord was telling me. Eventually I came to Christ after realizing how far I had gone from him. That scared me.“
Bizzle became known as the Christian rapper that dissed Jay-Z. He released “You Got Some Explaining To Do”, which took direct aim at the dark imagery that became prominent in a lot of hip hop videos at the time. And he most definitely took offense to Jay-Z calling himself Jay Hova.
In one the most popular, yet bizarre stories concerning Christian hip hop would be that of No Malice. Formerly known as Malice of the brotherly duo The Clipse, Gene Thornton Jr. experienced a change after converting to Christianity. After years of being half of arguably the best drug themed hip hop duo ever, No Malice fulfilled the contract with Columbia and never looked back. He released a book, Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind & Naked, that detailed his life and conversion. Leaving younger brother Pusha T to fend for himself, No Malice announced that there won’t be another Clipse album.
I’m not going to profile every Christian rapper I can find. But I will provide a few of the songs I found in the course of my research. Now these tunes are socially responsible and speak against the ills of this world. This isn’t Mase starting a church, just to return to the flashy lifestyle of the past. I’m not trying to convert anyone who doesn’t believe, I just feel this is an underrepresented section of this thing of ours. No Omerta. Shout out to Mike for the help with the research.