KI’SHON FURLOW

Rapzilla: The media is heralding Chance the Rapper and Kanye West as making great “gospel” music. Yet Christian artists that do the same, are often left out of the conversation. Why do you think it’s ok for non-Christians to dabble in the gospel, but Christians get flack?

Furlow: I don’t agree with the question’s pretense. There’s not, nor has there been a ton of great music in CHH. Subject matter aside, the limitation of only working with Christian producers / engineers leaves most people with dated beats, poor mixing, trying to replicate mainstream artists and trends or use the faith in their music as a pretext to excuse poor, superficial writing (myself included). Christians don’t get flack for being Christians in hip-hop, but rather for being one dimensional and unrealistic on the way they approach life. Most artists I know in CHH sound different and person than on their records. I like it; they sound like actual humans. I wish it would manifest in there music more, but I know often people fear not being accepted in this subgenre.

Rapzilla: What do you think of this quote? “[Chance the Rapper’s] Coloring Book, on the other hand, feels like the first great hip-hop album to successfully channel the centuries-old musical traditions of the black church without anything like pretension or irony. This in itself feels like something of a miracle. I say this with the utmost love but hip-hop is a profane music and always has been; its energies aren’t celestial, but fully flesh-and-blood.”

Furlow: Would possibly agree, but “first” is always a hard term. I think the biggest key in this quote is ‘black church traditions’. CHH has always sounded very white to me, even when I only knew black artists. Artists are way more likely to embed in contemporary Christian music than Gospel or traditional black music because the goal has been to tap into the CHH market composed mostly of White evangelical culture. Has a lot to do with the deep roots in reformed theology that CHH has, but that’s a convo for another day.

Rapzilla: Why do you think Christian artists who dabble in “non-Christian” music get blasted for their “lack of faith” or “treason” against Christianity?

Furlow: I think part of what makes Christianity the faith it is is its cult nature. The Body of Christ on a mission living to edify one another. And sometimes when artists do music that others don’t seem Christian, it seems like we no longer have anything to call our own. That security we find in a place where some feel they don’t fit in. I think it’s also common for people to impose their convictions on other people. Just because you’re tryna lose weight, don’t mean I can’t eat cake. And also, I think when people are used to a certain system, rhythm or propaganda they hate to see change. Humans, (especially inerrant Bible believers) hate to see gray areas or anything don’t understand.

Rapzilla: Do non-Christian artists make better Christian art than the Christians do? Explain.

Furlow: I think rich people make better art than poor people. I think people like Chance, Kendrick, etc. have the money to pay for great production, engineering, producers, features, vocalists and a team of writers that make a hell of a difference. I think there is a bigger pool of people doing mainstream music. But I think there are some EXTREMELY talented people that may or may not classify themselves as Christian artists, but are part of the subgenre one way or another and if given the right resources they would make some music that would be extremely competitive in the mainstream market. There are artistic people and others that can rap their heads off. I think people in CHH have made terrible to average music (I’m limited in my knowledge), but that more and more are making good music. I think the end of the day people gotta focus on them, draw from good inspirations become disciplined writers and communicate what God is telling them and their music will be good art because in my opinion art isn’t measured by popularity or ability to follow common cultural conventions, but rather by how much a person is being them self and telling their own story and how others are connecting to that.

LAWREN

Rapzilla: The media is heralding Chance the Rapper and Kanye West as making great “gospel” music. Yet Christian artists that do the same, are often left out of the conversation. Why do you think it’s ok for non-Christians to dabble in the gospel, but Christians get flack?

Lawren: The endearment people have for Kanye and Chance gives them an invulnerability not matters what they do. That is a factor and at the end of the day, Christians have a false view that the mainstream doesn’t want positivity. People are really thirsting for it. The majority of people want to hope in music.

Rapzilla: What do you think of this quote? “[Chance the Rapper’s] Coloring Book, on the other hand, feels like the first great hip-hop album to successfully channel the centuries-old musical traditions of the black church without anything like pretension or irony. This in itself feels like something of a miracle. I say this with the utmost love but hip-hop is a profane music and always has been; its energies aren’t celestial, but fully flesh-and-blood.”

Lawren: I think the gospel is very scandalous and very offensive, so for Christians to say, ‘We have the answers for the meaning of life’ so for people who aren’t Christians, it just seems ludicrous. That can come off as pretentious. I think that guy is just wrong. All the great Christian artists in our genre don’t come off that way. I think it’s probably a biased worldview. It sounds like he had a stereotypical encounter with a Christian. Chance the Rapper’s album is not a Christian album…now is Chance the Rapper a Christian? Yeah, that’s debatable.

Rapzilla: Why do you think Christian artists who dabble in “non-Christian” music get blasted for their “lack of faith” or “treason” against Christianity?

Lawren: Religious people. The answer is simple. One, I think there’s jealous, especially when it comes to Reach Records and Lecrae. Two, I think people are narrow-minded and have a false view of evangelism. These people are very ritualistic and don’t understand the freedom of the new covenant brought upon by Jesus.

Rapzilla: Do non-Christian artists make better Christian art than the Christians do? Explain.

Lawren: I think yes and no. There’s an unfair advantage. Kanye and Chance had like 80 people working on their album. Maybe, among the non-Reach Christian rappers, there may be 10 people working on their album. But it is relative depending on what you like. In terms of ‘better’, I would say the mainstream would make better, but we can make good music with limited resources.