“Is this album solid spiritually? Is this album fun? Do my students ‘get it?’”

Ministry and hip hop — there are times when those two words prompt as many questions in my mind as there are answers. For me as a student pastor, I am always trying to find that balance in the music I give to my students. I want it to be an encouragement to them in their faith, but I also want it to be good enough that they are going to listen to an album more than once before they give up on it.

Is that kind of music out there? Solid theology AND solid hooks? You better believe it. If you are looking for quality albums for giveaways to your students or you need some good hype music for pick-up basketball at your church gym, then here are 10 albums that I use with my students and I know that you will love.

1. Beautiful Eulogy – “Selected Songs”

Here’s my one blanket statement of this whole list: this album is the gateway album to Christian hip hop. As student pastor, I serve a lot of students who just do not like hip hop. Yet, this album has the ability to reach the hip hop hardcore fan or the complete newbie. It is the great equalizer — works in an urban context, works with country kids and everywhere in between.

Buy Selected Songs on iTunes.

2. Propaganda – “Crimson Cord”

This may be my own personal preference getting in the way — but Crimson Cord could be my favorite album to drop in the last five years. This album is simply fearless. Propaganda deals with fatherlessness (“Crimson Cord”), our broken education system (“Bored of Education”) and the power of pain (“Framed Stretch Marks”). Propaganda does not mind to tread into socially charged topics like racism, but don’t avoid this anthology just because of that. Use this album as a conversation starter and shepherd your students through it.

Buy Crimson Cord on iTunes.

3. Trip Lee – “Rise”

The best word for Rise is balanced. If you need one album to cover gospel faithfulness, playability and some classic hype songs — you found your album. “Rise” and “Sweet Victory” are songs that will leave many people thinking about their own faith, and then “Manolo” and “Shweet” are just as likely to make their heads bob up and down. For any of us in ministry there’s no better comfort than to know Trip Lee has the heart of a pastor, but he just so happens to make music.

Buy Rise on iTunes.

4. KB – “Tomorrow We Live”

This album is really fun. That’s to say nothing against this album lyrically — because KB has always had a talent for weaving the gospel into his songs — but this album features multiple banging tracks from front to back. This album gets a ton of play in our gym and on youth ministry road trips and I am certain it will do the same for you too.

Buy Tomorrow We Live on iTunes.

5. Jackie Hill Perry – “The Art of Joy”

If we are to be honest for a second, Christian hip hop is by and large a male dominated genre. As a student pastor that will leave some of my girls saying, “Where are all the ladies at?” The great news is that Jackie Hill Perry gives those girls someone talented to look up to. While Jackie may be renown for her talents in spoken word, this rap offering is remarkable. The Art of Joy is an album that draws its top to bottom inspiration from John Piper’s book Desiring God. So needless to say there’s a slew of good theology and memorable hooks from track to track.

Buy The Art of Joy on iTunes.

6. Eshon Burgundy – “The Fear of God”

Simply bold. That is exactly what this album is. The Fear of God is built on just that phrase — that the fear of God is the true beginning of wisdom. The wisdom of this world — money, power, fame — are just as Eshon rightly points out: castles in the sand. These tracks are a simple but poignant reminder that Christ is enough.

Buy The Fear of God on iTunes.

7. Shai Linne – “Lyrical Theology, Pt. 2: Doxology”

I cannot think of another more appropriately named album than Lyrical Theology. This album is an intricately arranged but uniquely engaging systematic theology class that is set to a beat. The clear design of each song is to set the listener’s affections on Christ and I cannot think of a better ministry tool than that.

Buy Lyrical Theology, Pt. 2: Doxology on iTunes.

8. Tedashii – “Blacklight”

This album has been out for nearly five years now, but it has remarkable staying power. Tedashii captures it all — from the addictive power of “Riot” and “Dum Dum”, to the crisp vocals in “Finally” and “Bravo” and with a who’s who featured (Lecrae, Andy Mineo, Flame, Shane & Shane, KB) across the collection of songs. There is something for everyone in here and Blacklight will become a frequent part of how you use music in your ministry.

Buy Blacklight on iTunes.

9. NF – “Therapy Session”

If I could summarize this album in one word it would be: raw. NF uses this compilation of tracks to touch on issues like depression, feeling abandoned and in “Oh Lord” will even ask a question like, “Does God care about my pain?” While it may be easy to avoid an album that is challenging like this, I see this album as a chance to walk and talk with people in their hurt.

Buy Therapy Session on iTunes.

10. JGivens – “Fly Exam”

JGivens debut on Humble Beast last year was much anticipated and met every single one of those expectations. JGivens has some of the best wordsmith talent in hip hop today and that talent is on full display in Fly Exam. All of these songs are not overly Christocentric like others on this list, but there is no mistaking where he stands on the person and work of Christ. This is the perfect album to share with those who do not have anything to do with the church but who love good rap.

Buy Fly Exam on iTunes.