Sway offers advice for Christian rappers at SXSW

In 2007, Sway Calloway gave Christian hip hop advice which, in hindsight, proved to be wise.

“What I think is that Christian hip hop shouldn’t even concern itself with the mainstream market,” Sway told Rapzilla. “Hip hop in general didn’t, and when it became popular and self-contained, the mainstream market came to it, so I think Christian hip hop has to do the same thing — master its craft, master its market, create its own fan base, its own constituency and it’ll begin to overflow into the mainstream, and the mainstream will come to it. …

“Right now, you guys got a great big secret in a sense. It’s not a secret to you, but it’s a secret to the rest of the world, and you need to manage it and control that secret so when the rest of the world comes, you’ll have the power and the influence to make sure it’s being done right.”

At SXSW 2016, Sway offered more advice to Christian hip hop — collaborate with mainstream hip-hop artists.

“Reach out to other rappers who you may not think — someone like Lil Wayne, or someone like Young Thug, or just other artists that are popular that you wouldn’t necessarily think would jump on a song like those,” Sway said. “I’ll guarantee you they will. I think we all grew up with a knowledge of God, unless you’re an atheist, and even in that case, I would reach out to those folks, too, and just spread that way.”

Whether or not Christians should collaborate with artists whose music conflicts with Christian beliefs has been debated for decades.

A benefit of collaborating with someone like Lil Wayne is the opportunity to be introduced to Wayne’s massive audience. A risk of collaborating with someone like Lil Wayne is the potential to introduce one’s own younger, impressionable fans to Wayne’s music. These are two of many angles of this discussion that Christian artists wrestle with on a case-by-case basis.

“I think a lot of these guys — the top-tier gospel rappers if you will, Christian rappers — have figured out a formulaic way to structure songs that make them competitive in this marketplace,” Sway said. “But really, it’s not about them being competitive, right? It’s about them getting their message out. I think a wise way of doing that is bringing people in the fold now that you normally wouldn’t expect to do it.”

Sway added that he thinks top Christian artists’ ability to sell out concerts would earn top mainstream artists’ respect and lead to collaborations.

“That’s probably my next advice,” Sway said. “Let’s see if I’m prophetic in nine more years.”


Written by Philip Rood

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