Reach Records emcee Tedashii recently spoke to Rapzilla about his new record This Time Around and also spoke about the struggles Christian rappers used to face in getting through the doors of churches.
Tedashii said that when he started out, Christian rap was still frowned upon in most churches. He had a number of experiences where he was intentionally made to feel like an outsider.
“I remember going into places, getting invited to churches and parents standing at the doors saying, ‘He can do this outside but he isn’t coming in here’,” said Tedashii.
For him, it wasn’t even a discriminatory thing, it was people being scared of what they didn’t understand.
“That was white parents and black parents. That wasn’t a race thing, that was a legitimate ‘we don’t want this in our church’ and I was fine with that,” he shared. “From an artist standpoint, I get it. I’m not here to force feed this music to you or even make you fall in love with a specific genre. I just wanted to share my heart with you.”
This draws parallels to the origins of Christian rock. Many in those days were of the belief that “rock and roll is the Devil’s music.” It took decades before Christian rock became widely accepted by churches.
“When you look at Christian rock, it was around in the 80s and 90s, it just wasn’t accepted by a lot of people,” said Tedashii. “They thought it couldn’t give them what something like a CCM song could give them.”
The rapper explained that the new wave of emotional hip-hop by artists such as Bizzle, NF, JGivens, or Derek Minor, is letting people grab some of that power that is found in worship. “These songs are truly resonating with my heart.”
He continued, “There’s room for that now. Lecrae makes a song and it’s called, ‘Tell the World’, and everyone is like, ‘Yo, that’s exactly what I want to do’. Around the room, you start to see these people get excited by the idea or the messages being told than the genre that’s in front of them. You couple hip-hop with it, and it’s a win beyond a win because now you get the best of both worlds that I grew up loving.”
Tedashii says the Christian rap acceptance is finally here, and in a major way. “I can’t deny what is really happening right now, and it took time for people to soften their hearts and hear the truth about that.”
“I think over time people had to find the time to give room for it in their own listening catalog. A lot of people didn’t have room for it early on because they had so much from a lot of different artists. I think that was part of it,” he said. “The other part of it is you did sort of have this embracing of hip-hop in CCM.”
CCM’s involvement in helping Christian hip-hop grow was integral to where it is. DC Talk blending the two together was a big help, and artist collaborations over the years were key as well. Truthfully, a Christian pioneer such as Carman, embracing hip-hop, was a big deal for its validity.
“There was this almost like, welcome to family attitude when it came to it. It was like, ‘Hey, come work in the subculture that we created. Come be on the same tours of the artists in these genres’. It became embraced in a lot of ways and for a lot of the culture, it gave legitimacy to people to make room in their catalogs.”
For Tedashii, having a powerful message in his music is crucial. He approaches each track like it’s science, as he figures out the purpose of the song.
“Basically, I’m way more OCD, way more conceptual on how I approach music. So I’m at home with like a thesis statement and six different bullet points, and a paragraph as if I’m writing a paper on what I’m talking about because it helps me think better,” he said. “Give me that room to create in that way or my brain is all over the place.”
Tedashii said he knows particular subjects demand that he communicates from a place of faith. He wants the song to give the listener a “full scope” of who he is as a Christian.”
“There are songs that demand where I speak from the heart of a believer while at the same time wanting to be true to the things I’ve dealt with in my life.”
Over the years, this approach to his music has helped him serve listeners going through trials. It makes him a relatable source of comfort, whether he asked for it or not.
“I can’t tell you the number of strangers who have come up to me after hearing from the stage, or a publication, or a website, that my wife and I lost our one-year-old son,” said the emcee. “Every wall that was ever going to be up has been torn down and now they share the most intimate pains whether it’s ‘Man, I have cancer and the doctor said I have a week to live’ or ‘My daughter is sick…’.”
He continued, “People are telling me these things because they feel a connection that comes from related experiences and from those experiences we speak.”
Relaying those experiences through music opens up doors for him to connect in a spiritual way with various members of the body.
“I relay those experiences and trust that by the Lord’s spirit, by faith that these things are just as powerful to use to impact,” he said. “That’s kind of what I’m doing. I might sit down with a buddy who is a pastor and talk with him and research because I want to be that in depth when I do the music.”
Read part one with Tedashii here