I haven’t seen this much buzz in the Christian Hip-Hop community since … well, since Lecrae performed on the 2012 BET Hip Hop Awards. With the most highly anticipated Christian Hip-Hop mixtape now here, we ask what happens after the music stops on Church Clothes (puns intended).
1. Will 'Church Clothes' open the door for similar projects from other Christian rappers?
Maybe. Hip-Hop has been known to be a copycat industry on occasion, but Lecrae has a unique platform. As much I would love to see Swoope, PRo, KB, Thi’sl, J’Son, The Ambassador and others get that chance, I understand that part of the appeal of Church Clothes was that this type of collaboration had never been done before.
However, because Lecrae didn’t offer an inferior project from an artistic standpoint, he may have earned the genre more credibility with producers.
2. How will Church Clothes influence the “Christian emcee working with a mainstream producer” debate going forward?
So how far can we go to influence the culture without the culture influencing us? This isn’t an easy issue for a variety of reasons, and it just goes to show why developing a biblical worldview is so important.
I’ve done some urban neighborhood ministry and some juvenile prison ministry. It’s always nice to have someone in either place to co-sign for you. A simple “Dude’s straight” or “He’s good people” can do a lot for my personal safety and to win an audience for the gospel.
With Church Clothes, I see Lecrae taking an opportunity where Don Cannon co-signed for him and basically gave him the green light to tell Hip-Hop whatever he wanted to tell them.
I also don’t feel that since Lecrae wrote differently for a different audience that it’s compromise. I could have a conversation with two of my friends. One believes the gospel and has trusted Christ. The other has not. Even if both conversations are about Jesus, those two conversations are going to sound completely different. There are a lot of ways in which I think this could be done wrong, but I think Lecrae took a biblically informed approach to the issue.
I can almost guarantee that there will be a wide difference of opinions on this issue. Let’s make sure that are exchanges are grace-filled and that we don’t argue for argument’s sake, but really to walk alongside one another to try to figure out how we navigate this situation in a way that glorifies our Savior.
3. Will the Christian Hip-Hop community be missional?
Back in the day, I used to hand people in neighborhoods cassette tapes with Christian Hip-Hop on them. Hmmm. How can I say this? The quality of the music wasn’t always great.
I would have done anything to have something like “Church Clothes” to give to my Hip-Hop influenced, non-Christian friends.
One possible danger for us is that as the Christian Hip-Hop community grows, we grow to the point where our focus is totally inward. We only debate with each other about the stuff pertaining to our community.
And so Church Clothes will be a test for the Christian Hip-Hop community at-large. Will we just dialog about Lecrae’s latest project amongst ourselves, or will we make every effort to get a copy to every Hip-Hop head in our circle of influence? I think what we do with “Church Clothes” says a lot about us as a community.
4. What’s next for Christian Hip-Hop?
If you would have told me three years ago that a Christian rapper would have had a mixtape hosted by Don Cannon, I’m not sure how I would have reacted. It’s been exciting to watch the genre grow as things we may not have ever guessed we would have seen are becoming a reality.
I think the next big hurdle would be regular radio airplay. I hope the airplay thing happens, but I hope it’s not because we’ve watered down the gospel and made it indistinguishable from the rest of mainstream.
Or is Christian Hip-Hop going to dissolve from a niche sub-genre of Hip-Hop into the genre of Hip-Hop? With Lecrae, Trip Lee, and others that had already previously took the stance of not calling Hip-Hop by Christians "Christian Hip-Hop," but rather just "Hip-Hop," we could easily see the niche title of Christian Hip-Hop dissolve altogether.
I pray that the Christian Hip-Hop community would have such a vision for the glory of God in music, production, videography, lyricism, etc., that anyone that wanted to experience Hip-Hop at its highest art form would have to come to the Christians.