In early March, there was a “Christians in the Arts” event at Columbia University where a handful of artists gathered on a panel to answer some tough topics about Christianity. Among the panelists was rapper Andy Mineo. He spoke about the trouble finding a balance between making art for Christians and non-Christians, which led to some thoughts about Kendrick Lamar’s faith.

This is part two of a longer discussion. Read part one about this event here.

One of the students asked the panel about the song “Happy,” by Pharrell. The discussion was on the positive message of the song and it having a sort of Christian commentary to it. They wondered what the impact of the song would be like had it been by a Christian artist.

“If we make better songs, awesome songs, it doesn’t matter what label we put on it,” answered Mineo.

“I feel like Kendrick Lamar is the biggest Christian rapper of all-time,” he said with a laugh. “But I won’t get into that.”

He didn’t continue much on that thought, but added, “People in the sterilized Christian communities say, wait, he swears, there’s no way he’s Christian.” (more on this later).

Mineo then painted a great analogy that he and Propaganda often talk about.

He explained that there are two ditches you can fall in. When you engage non-Christians the Christians say, “No, we’re going to lose them.” Then that person has to run over to the Christian side and assure them, “I love Jesus more than I ever loved Him. I’m on a mission with him. I center my whole life and my marriage around the preaching and teaching of Jesus. I serve my local church. You have to assure them that you are not falling in that ditch.”

“Then when you engage the Christians, the non-Christians say, ‘Wait, are you like them?’ Then you have to assure them, that ‘I’m not like the picketing Christians that are bashing people’.”

“When you walk in the middle, you get hit with stones from both sides.”

The next portion of the conversation occurred after an audio clip of the sinner’s prayer on Kendrick Lamar’s album, good kidd m.A.A.d city was played.

Mineo shared that Kendrick doesn’t make music for Christians but he proclaims Jesus everywhere from his albums to his set design.

“I think it depends where you are on your personal journey and in addition to that, where your convictions lie,” he said about being a Christian but still using the language and topics Lamar uses.

Mineo said there’s no one right way to make art as a Christian. Some artists feel like their mission is to make art to edify the church while others don’t. “There’s art for the church and there’s art from the church.”

From the church takes the Christian worldview and perspective and goes out into the world.

“I think the problem comes when either you pit those things against each other as one is more valuable than the other, which they’re not. And two, try to think that one format works well in both spheres, and they don’t.”

The emcee said Kendrick is friends with Lecrae and sometimes he gets to hear about their discussions. According to what he’s heard, Kendrick never got into the Christian sphere so he was never “schooled” on how to be a Christian.

“We don’t really give space to anybody on their journey to Jesus…it’s either you’re there or you’re not…In your journey with Jesus, did you always look like Jesus?”

The last point he made on that subject is that in no way could he say Lamar was not a Christian. He’s saying a lot of Christian stuff and has positive messages which could somehow deliver Jesus to someone who needs it. Kendrick’s walk and faith are between him and God.

Mineo then began to speak about the struggles he deals with in deciding what to cover or say in his songs. There are things he feels he shouldn’t speak on, and he has to determine whether that discussion will hurt more people than it helps.

It’s a balancing act to figure out what offends people and doesn’t. He thinks some people will be upset, and some will be inspired, so it’s hard to decide between offending or helping.

“I’ve been slowly letting the reigns go,” he said.

“I feel like the next step for me is to just swear in one of my songs, and then all of a sudden it’s over. Now I’m totally free from being a Christian rapper. All I gotta do is say shiiiii *(he didn’t say the full word)* just one time in a song and it’s over.”

Now of course, he said that as a total joke, but no matter how it’s spun, he brings up a good point. Does cussing one time on a song negate everything positive and “fully Jesus” an artist had done up until that point?

He continued, “Christian art does not equal family friendly as Christianity doesn’t always equal family friendly.” An example he used here was David cutting off Goliath’s head. It’s not something he would tell his young child about.

The last question asked the panel if they could you see themselves as a Christian artist who never makes anything Christian.

Mineo responded by saying his “Christianity permeates everything” which is why it comes out in his music. Hip-Hop’s whole point is to be a voice of truth so it would be impossible for him to make art without reflecting Jesus.

What do you think of Andy’s thoughts at the panel? Let us know in the comments

Hear the full interview here.