Andy Mineo and the uncomfortable redefinition of an ‘unashamed’ artist
Illmind, a music producer employed by some of hip hop’s most influential voices — Kanye West, Drake and J. Cole — believes Andy Mineo’s new album, Uncomfortable, is evidence that Mineo also deserves hip hop’s ear.
“What we want this album to accomplish is to put you at the roundtable,” Illmind told Mineo in the studio as they finished Uncomfortable. “We need to get you at the conversation table. You have the fans. You obviously have the talent. You got the songs. You got your style. You’re super unique. Let’s put you [at] the table.”
Some Christian hip-hop fans would instead prefer the Andy Mineo who made Formerly Known at the table.
Formerly Known, his debut project on Reach Records in 2011, namedropped celebrated Christian teachers Charles Spurgeon and Oswald Chambers, used vocabulary like “predestined” and boasted a higher Jesus-per-minute rate than Uncomfortable. Some listeners who have heard Mineo transition to less overtly Christian music believe he’s less “unashamed,” a reference to the Bible verse Romans 1:16, which Reach has trumpeted as a motto since 2005.
Mineo fervently rejected this assumption.
“If you can’t see Jesus in my lyrics, the problem is not me. The problem is you,” Mineo said. “It’s not an indictment against me. It’s an indictment against you. You must not know him that well … To not hear the heartbeat of Christian ideals pumping through the music means you don’t know Christianity that well. You know a happy, clappy, T-shirt, Christian bookstore Christianity — that must be what you know, or you are a very bad observer of art.”
Uncomfortable dropped on September 18 and became one of the most sold and publicized projects of 2015 by an artist affiliated with Christian hip hop. Mainstream news outlets Fox 5 New York, Yahoo! Music, MTV, Billboard, HOT 97, Sirius XM, Sway in the Morning, HipHopDX, XXL and VIBE covered Uncomfortable, which sold 35,329 units in its first week and debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200.
As Mineo and Reach are on the brink of becoming more influential in mainstream hip hop than Christians ever have, Christians have criticized them for how they have went about it — with less overtly Christian music, imperfect interviews and the removal of Romans 1:16 from their about page.
How they have went about it, though, is not only more complex than an about page, but also hasn’t been completely visible to the public. A broader view may lead genuinely-concerned critics to reconsider their definition of an “unashamed” artist.