“Your favorite “Christian” hip-hop artist isn’t a Christian.” Have you ever heard that? What about this one: “Your favorite “holy” hip-hop artist doesn’t really rep the gospel.” Or how about this one: “Your favorite Christian emcee is okay but they talk about the gospel way too much.” And why would anyone feel like this or say something so divisive? Because of their favorite “Christian” hip-hop artist. Their favorite crew or emcee does this “Christian” hip-hop thing the right way and yours is in sin. Now, of course their favorite hip-hop artist didn’t say that their fan should feel this way about yours, but their favorite guy is right, so by default - yours is wrong.
Its a silly train of thought, but let’s face it - we’ve all seen it in our scene. We divide over camps, crews and cliques and their ideologies and if yours doesn’t line up with mine then yours is wrong. And we ALL know that among Christians, wrong = sin. So if your favorite emcee isn’t repping like Reach Records then they really aren’t repping. Or if they don’t rep like Frontlynaz then they are doing it wrong. Or if they aren’t reaching the people like the Humble Beast camp then they aren’t really doing it. Websites, message boards and Twitter arguments are the petri dishes that feed this fungus of an ideology creating the divisions we see in our “holy hip-hop” circles. Meanwhile, as people are arguing over who is really repping Christ (or being a Christian at all by some people’s judgements) the artists themselves are celebrating the contributions of the people their fans are condemning!
Often words begin with a singular meaning in a certain context, and evolve into various meanings. Examples of words that have evolved and added to the book of slang, in the hip hop context are: dope, ill, fresh, word, sick, etc. In our opinion, there is a difference between the evolution of dope, ill, fresh, word, sick, etc, and the term leak. The difference is these words evolved from a singular meaning in a certain context, to a new meaning in a different context.
If you've been around the Christian Hip Hop scene for any period of time, you've heard people say "secular beats are sin." Even in my most zealous, legalistic days I've never really got on board with that idea. I mean c'mon son, sin?!?! Like, you can go to hell over this if you don't repent of it - sin? Like, Jesus went on the cross and died so that the "Power" instrumental doesn't separate us from our Heavenly Father - sin?!?! Like, if you're a Catholic emcee (shout out to ManChild!) you need to go to confessional, do Hail Mary's and rosary beads - sin?!?!
I heard a song on the radio the other night and it bothered me to my core. Maybe you've seen it performed on Late Night with Jimmy Falon. Its the new song "B.M.F." (Blowing Money Fast) from Rick Ross aka Ricky Rozay (huh?). The song is from his new #1 selling album (180,000 sold in the first week) 'Teflon Don'. As soon as I heard the chorus I became enraged. It starts like this:
"I feel like Big Meech, Larry Hoover..."
Right there, in my car, in my own way - I lost it. Why? Because I saw what was happening. What was happening was a destructive idea moving from idealistic imagery, to becoming a living, flesh and blood folk hero. There are a few ways to promote & glorify a lifestyle and one of those ways is the celebration of its heroes. But on the surface, one would think all this song is promoting is a lifestyle of glamorous spending and luxurious living. After all, the song is called "Burning Money Fast" right? WRONG!
As both an artist and listener I've noticed something fairly peculiar about Christians and their critiques of another artists music. I don't really see it among so-called "secular" audiences or any other music subset. What is "it" that is so different? Its this:
People feel like they can't just NOT LIKE the music.
Have you ever asked a Christian their opinion about another Christian artist? ESPECIALLY artists that use an urban music style? 8.5 times out of 10, if they don't like it they won't say "I don't like it." They have to give these deep, theological reasons as to why they don't like it. "Its not enough meat in it for me" or "they don't rep Jesus hard enough for me." What the heck does that even mean?!?!? Is there a Jesus quota to be Jesus'd enough? Do you have to quote Albert Mohler or something or have an RC Sproul sermon as the hook to be meaty enough? Do you have to have a song entitled "substitutionary atonement" to be deep enough to be considered Christian?
We were excited to hear, about a year ago, that one of our favorite emcee's were coming out with new music. AHMAD, known for his classic hip hop single "Back In The Day", saw platinum success at the age of 17 in 1993. AHMAD also teamed up with West Coast favorites Saafir and Ras Kass to do the song "Come Widdit" for Street Fighter's motion picture soundtrack. After touring the world on the success of the single and earning his stripes as a respected emcee with a classic hip hop song, AHMAD abruptly quit music. AHMAD was finding that he was not fulfilled by the fame, money, and touring and he gave his life to the Lord. A few years later AHMAD started the band that many grew to know and love by the name of 4th Avenue Jones. 4th Ave released music on Interscope as well as Gotee. After a strong effort but less of a pay off, the band went on an indefinite hiatus, and AHMAD returned to college.
Rhymefest dropped this gem of a video and song on the Interwebs today in which he takes aim at the "Prosperity Gospel" message of televangelists and TV preachers who seem to exploit people looking for genuine salvation.
The general market, Chicago-based MC has covered Christian themes and topics in his raps before, having co-authored Kanye West's "Jesus Walks" which won a Grammy in 2005.
The journey of exploring a Christian bookstore for the latest rock, hip-hop or pop album always includes a visitation of the infamous comparison chart. The chart's primary objective is to compare mainstream and Christian artistic styles to conclude whether they can be placed in the same category. The music industry as a whole likes to categorize artists to appeal to a particular fanbase.
In the last decade the most duplicated trend in Christian hip hop has been lyrical theology. Aspiring emcees formulate their lyrics in the vein of established Christian Hip Hop artists like Cross Movement, Shai Line and Trip Lee. One failed observation on the part of the aspiring emcee is that the mainstream community listens to the music before the lyrics, while our community listens to the lyrics before the music. Mainstream watches for the music or the presentation and then hears the lyrical content. Inspiration can be defined as, "being breathed upon; resulting in a burst of creativity". Copying can be defined as, "duplicating information, work or object while not using the same process that originally created it". Have you ever played music for a person that's not familiar with Christian hip hop and their reaction is "the rapper sounds like______"? When Allen Iverson performs a cross over on an opponent you never hear, "His cross-over is like_____? Why is that?
Mixtape's have been around since the late 70's, and many artists have found exposure and even gotten recording contracts from being featured on a mixtape. The mixtape in secular hip hop has been a proven outlet to promote your music in a cost effective way. Christian Hip Hop has been tapped into the mixtape game for several years now, however most are utilized to raise funds. With that said, I want to explore another function that Christian artists can use mixtape's for, namely, evangelism. Mixtape's can serve a similar purpose as like chick tracts. They have a message and can be handed out like tracts, anywhere to anyone.