Skrip: A renegade of the world and hip hop
“There are very few artists who have made such a leap in their music between two albums,” New Release Tuesday’s Mark Ryan said in his review of Renegades Never Die, which Infiltrate Music released on Tuesday.
Fittingly, the motivation behind his change of sound is also offensive — it’s the gospel.
The Hip-Hop Renegade
Hip-hop artists who start to make pop music are often called “sellouts.” When listeners who are only familiar with Skrip’s Und_rscore mixtapes hear Renegades Never Die, this accusation will seem appropriate.
However, Skrip and his early fans would disagree that he sold out on Renegades Never Die because, ever since he began recording music, he has identified with the pop label more than hip hop. This will be news to most listeners because he released his debut album, Becoming All Things, independently and quietly in 2011.
Becoming All Things had a mainstream sound, though. While his roots are in hip hop — having grown up on Christian rap pioneers D-Boy, E.T.W. and J.C. & The Boyz — Skrip’s diverse background exposed him to enough genres that, when it came time to record his debut album, he implemented them all.
“Track No. 1 on Becoming All Things is the biggest representation of who I am to this day,” Skrip said.
The album’s intro features pop, hip hop, R&B, gospel, salsa, heavy metal and opera music. Skrip produces all of his music, and his decision to combine the smorgasbord of genres was deeper than an artistic preference: He wanted to reach as many people as possible with the gospel.
“I want to become all things to all men so that I may win some,” Skrip said, quoting the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:22b.
Skrip admitted that pop music is characterized by shallower lyrics than hip hop. While it’s practically impossible to go lyrical-theology mode in pop music, though, it’s still a means to spread the gospel. This is Skrip’s primary goal as an artist, which is why taking advantage of pop’s broader reach makes sense to him.
And just like the hip-pop sound of Renegades Never Die isn’t a new phenomenon for him, neither is the concept of Skrip, also known as Pastor Adriel Cruz, sharing the gospel.
The World Renegade
Before Skrip titled his second studio album Renegades Never Die, he used the phrase in association with his church, World Renegade.
Skrip started World Renegade in Chicago in Feb. 2012. Three months later, the owner of the building where they worshiped kicked them out. After he attended several services, the owner, a professing Christian, accused Skrip and his congregation of being fake Christians.
His proof: Members wore snapback hats to worship, and they played Christian hip-hop music afterward.
Skrip’s slogan Renegades Never Die has resonated in moments like this — knowing that opposition from the world will arise as he and his congregation follow Jesus, but also ultimately knowing that they will endure.
“[‘Renegades never die’] signified that our church, no matter the obstacles that we would face,” Skrip said, “is never going to give up.
“Jesus was the renegade of his time. He came against the powers that were and, following in his footsteps, being a disciple of Christ, I’m a renegade of the world. Trusting in him — in the gospel — allows me to live forever.”
World Renegade has been relegated to meet in a small office to worship. This hasn’t hindered it from forming a congregation of about two dozen members, the majority of which has had little-to-no church background prior to its attendance. The atypical makeup of World Renegade’s congregation is the result of what its mission statement calls its driving force — The Great Commission.
“It’s just crazy to see. God’s taking random … unqualified people and making them qualified,” said World Renegade deacon Julio Irizarry, better known to Christian hip hop as CTZN filmmaker Sway Day.
Sway became a Christian in 2011 at a Bible study that Skrip had invited him to in his home. Skrip had produced music for Sway, then an aspiring rapper, for about six years. Sway went from repeatedly rejecting Skrip’s invitations to attend church to becoming a leader in it, and the role that their common bond played in Sway’s journey is just one example of Skrip’s effort to “become all things” helping to change lives.
Renegades Never Die — Take Two
If listeners think that Skrip took an abnormally large leap from the sound of Und_rscore to Renegades Never Die, it’s nothing compared to his leap to the pure pop album that he had originally submitted to Infiltrate Music. The record label declined to release the project.
“It was just so much of a leap from who we signed and what people were wanting from him that we needed more of a transition from what people knew,” Infiltrate co-owner Chad Horton said.
The unreleased album is a testament to just how much Skrip aims to “become all things.” Though Renegades Never Die is technically his Plan B, he still accomplished his initial goal — to share the gospel over a beat with a broader audience.