Just one female rapper is signed to a notable Christian hip-hop record label — Jackie Hill Perry of Humble Beast.

This deficiency of female prominence sparked the final question from the crowd at SXSW 2016’s “Understanding the Business of Christian Hip-Hop” panel this month. Mikaela McIntosh, a Dallas Theological Seminary student and Wade-O Radio editor, asked panelists if they will ever sign a female artist, as well as why female artists are not included on major tours or thriving more in the subgenre. Panelists included Collision Records CEO Adam Thomason, Lamp Mode Recordings CEO Json and Word Entertainment A&R Joseph Prielozny.

Thomason revealed that Collision had been trying to sign singer-songwriter/rapper Natalie Lauren for about two years. Json said he would “love to sign a female artist.” And Prielozny proclaimed, “We’re looking. We have orders from the boss man.”

While this interest suggests the number of signed female rappers could multiply in the near future, Thomason shared a theory as to why more have not been offered opportunities in the past.

“I think this goes to a bigger issue in the church,” Thomason said, “that we in the church — and this spills over into hip hop among Christians — we don’t know how to handle the male-female interaction. It’s preached from the pulpit and it influences music in our industry that to be cordial, to be relational, to compliment means you’re going to have an affair.

“[Guys] don’t know how to handle a woman. I come from the fashion industry, so you had to do that,” continued Thomason, who graduated with a fashion design degree from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2003. “You had to know how to be able to say, ‘You are beautiful, but I won’t go to bed with you,’ and not run from it. When we talk about signing female artists, I think it’s a lack of maturity of guys knowing how to handle a woman, honestly.”

Catalina Bellizzi, founder of Young Lady, a creative community which offers grants to female Christian artists, agrees with Thomason. She shared her perspective on this assertion via email with Rapzilla.

“I think it’s an unintended, negative side effect of trying to avoid adultery and the appearance of flirtation by seeing/treating women merely as threats and not as holistic humans who exist socially, professionally, emotionally outside how men might feel about them,” she said. “For that reason, many churches will teach young men how to have boundaries with women but not how to communicate with them as people. It all has its basis in fear, and normal, neutrally friendly interactions with women become so scarce that ladies will read into a guy speaking with them in a cordial, friendly manner because it stands out from the rest of the overly formalized interactions.

“What is taught from the pulpit or youth group or general culture of conservative Christian communities is that in order to avoid sin, you have to cut a piece of the body of Christ off, instead of cutting off a piece of your own (in reference to when Jesus says ‘if your right eye causes you to sin…’ It basically says ‘because I fear falling into sin, instead of controlling myself, I will control you.’ This is extremely damaging and discouraging to women.”

Butta P — one of the most experienced, active female artists in Christian hip hop, having released five LPs with her group Rhema Soul and one solo EP — also said she agreed that “it’s a lack of maturity of guys knowing how to handle women.”

“Instead of being ‘afraid’ of dealing with women,” Butta P said, “I think it’s time that those fears are faced and allow us to be a part of the conversation and the decision process. [Christian hip hop] is the only ‘genre,’ Christian or non, that doesn’t have females on the tours. I’ve heard all the excuses. We need to grow up at some point and handle business.”

Photograph by Philip Rood

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