Analysis: Billboard blocks Christian rappers from Gospel chart
UPDATE: Billboard told Reach Records about the change before its announcement and asked how the label felt about it. Reach said it was fine with the change. Other predominantly Christian hip-hop labels like Collision Records and Reflection Music Group were not questioned for feedback.
“Most” Christian rappers will no longer be able to appear on the gospel Billboard charts in 2014, the website announced, after “urging” from the gospel industry for change.
For years, Christian hip hop has fought an uphill battle when it comes to gaining either hip hop or gospel media coverage. The Christian and gospel music world, as well as the church, were not accepting of the music style.
This made it a major challenge for artists to perform in churches or get their music into retail. And in a time that the internet wasn’t widely used, this made it very difficult to gain any traction at all.
The secular hip-hop world, mainly covered by magazines, was not very supportive of Christian hip-hop either.
In 1995, Billboard recognized Christian rap/hip-hop titles on both the Christian and gospel chart. Not until recent years, when overall music sales declined and Christian hip-hop sales increased, have we seen them regularly on either chart.
It is understandable that the traditional gospel music artists want a place of their own to be recognized and not encroached by Christian hip hop. The issue here is that many gospel artists with elements of hip hop in their music will still be able to appear on the rap charts, while Christian “rappers” with similar sounds are eliminated from the gospel charts.
The other issue is that “Christian” and “gospel” are not musical genres, rather labels that let a consumer know that the content in the lyrics are Christian-based.
I understand and can empathize with anyone that is opposed to Billboard’s decision to not allow “most” Christian Rap/Hip-Hop on the gospel chart. Christian hip-hop is its own subgenre, which now often outsells most top-selling gospel and Christian titles because it’s finally getting the visibility that it’s fought for all of these years.
And this isn’t welcomed, rather shunned, once again.
It is also easier to chart on the gospel chart, which looks good for an artist or label when they can utilize the No. 1 Billboard Gospel accolade in press and retail pitches.
I also understand and can empathize with the gospel artists and labels, as well as Billboard. The gospel industry wants the same thing that Christian hip-hop artists and labels want — their own chart and that No. 1 spot. Billboard wants to properly place styles of music for the integrity of their organization and ease of utilization for the industry and public.
The resolution that I would come to, were I tapped for a suggestion from Billboard, would have been to either remove the Gospel chart and roll that and Christian hip-hop into the Christian chart. Or, less appealing but still an option, would be to leave the Christian and Gospel charts alone and carve out a new Christian hip-hop chart.
What do you think?
Chad Horton is Co-Owner of Rapzilla.com and Director of Marketing for Syntax Creative, with 15 years of music industry experience. Follow him on Twitter.