Over the past 10 to 15 years, artists of different styles and messages have risen up and stamped their influence on Christian Hip-Hop. There are a bunch of artists that deserve recognition for their work and talents, but these diverse 15 are a sample of those that went above and beyond to become notable influences. These artists are ones that every fan should take their time to listen to and be knowledgeable about their contributions to Christian music.
Sho Baraka has had quite the experience in Christian Hip-Hop. Founding member of the 116 Clique, Baraka used to be with Lecrae, Trip Lee, and Tedashii at Reach Records. While Baraka and Reach had to part ways in 2011 due to some disagreements, it was not because of Baraka’s talent. He has always rapped about issues that he has personal qualms with and describing social conscience truths. Along with his mix of traditional musical instruments and hip-hop beats, Baraka is one unique artist. The Narrative and Turn My Life Up are a few of his albums.
This trio has been an influence on Christian rap for many years. By themselves, Odd Thomas, Braille, and Courtland Urbano have created music that challenges the listener’s approach to God, how we perceive Him, and our relationship with Him. Their music is different from today’s hip-hop, taking inspiration from old hymns and a variety of instruments that make their music sound more like progressive orchestra pieces. Listen to Instruments of Mercy and Worthy for a time of reflection and pondering.
Founder of God Over Money Records, Bizzle has quite the track record. He started out in the mainstream, touring with rappers like Lil Wayne and Lil Boosie. To say the least, he sold out to the world. In 2008 however, Bizzle did a complete 360 and devoted his life back to Christ. Since then, he has led a powerful movement about placing God first in your life, no matter what the cultural treasures. He even made a track throwing shade at Jay-Z for leading people astray. Crowns and Crosses, The Good Fight, and Tough Love and Parables are a couple of his projects.
From drummer to vocalist, Da’ T.R.U.T.H. has always tried to get to the heart when it comes to issues about Christianity. T.R.U.T.H. got his start back in 2003 when he got his EP Moment of Truth released by Cross Movement Records. While he has not had as much success as others on this list, T.R.U.T.H. is definitely one of the best lyricists here. It’s Complicated and Open Book are some of his best albums.
FLAME has been under the radar most his career. He started around the same time as Trip Lee, Tedashii, and the rest of the 116 Clique. Nevertheless, FLAME has been producing solid work with Clear Sight Music for the better part of a decade. Our World: Fallen, The Royal Flush, and Captured are albums that show his evolution as an artist.
Although she doesn’t have many projects under her belt, Jackie Hill-Perry is one of the most respected artists in the genre. She is also a speaker and poet, going to places such as Harvard to speak about her struggles and trying to aid those out of the mess she was once in. Her lone album, The Art of Joy, is a project that definitely needs to be listened to. The album’s beats are distinctly similar to Beautiful Eulogy’s music. The good news, she’s got new music coming this year!
A Reach Records artist since 2011, KB has produced many types of tracks, from banging anthems to deep theological pieces. His debut album, Weight & Glory made it onto the Billboard charts. While he only has three albums and an EP out, all four projects are solid, focusing on our fight against Satan and reaching out to be saved by God’s grace. This is only the beginning for KB, expect more great projects from this guy. Today We Rebel, Tomorrow We Live and Undefeated are his other three projects.
If one word had to describe KJ-52, it would be “quirky.” Perhaps another would be prolific because no one has more projects than KJ in the last 20-years. This “Christian Floridian rapping white kid” (comment if you know the reference) has always done his own thing: spat witty lyrics that at times make you crack up, and other times make you cry. Recently, he has taken a more serious tone with his music, but KJ is still worth listening to for his ability to unabashedly reach his audience. It’s Pronounced ‘Five Two’, Collaborations, and Jonah Part 1 & 2 are all worth looking up.
Lecrae is possibly the most famous artist inside Christian Hip-Hop. While NF by the numbers is bigger, Crae has left the “box” of Christian Rap behind him and has moved on to the mainstream. However, his focus has pretty consistently stayed rapping about God, while trying to appeal more to mainstream listeners. He has helped lead Reach Records to become the top destination for artists in the genre. While there has been skepticism on Lecrae and the rest of Reach’s real motives for their push to appeal to the mainstream, no one has had an influence on Christian hip-hop like them. Anomaly, Rebel, and Rehab are a few of his best albums.
Shai Linne has been around for a while. His first album was in 2005, but he has been in the industry as early as 2000. His music has always had a heavy focus on how we as Christians should glorify God, much like the Cross Movement’s music. Linne’s strong position on how rappers should represent Christ has led to him speaking out on how Christian hip-hop is becoming more mainstream, something he tackles in his album Still Jesus. Regardless of who is right or wrong, Linne has produced some awesome old school style tracks. Lyrical Theology Pt. 1 and Lyrical Theology Pt. 2 is a well-crafted multi-album project.
A proud New York native, Andy Mineo has been a part of Reach Records since 2011. Mineo has always had a fresh taste in hip-hop. His projects vary in style, from the grand piano based Uncomfortable album, to his collaborative project with Wordsplayed, Magic and Bird. While his lyrics have never been jam-packed with scripture like some of his predecessors, he always takes his personal life and social issues of city life and relates them back to Christ. Some of his most well-known projects are Never Land and Heroes for Sale.
Another former 116 member, Derek Minor has become one of the best in Christian Hip-Hop. While his projects all differ from each other in sound, they all mainly focus on one thing: the power and sovereignty of God. Currently, he is working on a project called “Up and Away”: four EPs that each have unique music, focus on separate topics, but together tell one story. This is an ambitious project that shows the creative genius of Minor. Minorville and Empire are two more of his albums.
Currently the most famous artist on this list, NF has influenced the hearts of millions over the past five years. Since his release of Therapy Session, NF has blown up in the mainstream market. His single, “Let You Down,” has over 400 million views and later this summer he is touring with Logic and Kyle, two big-name hip-hop artists. With his aggressive flow and personal, traumatic experiences, no one from Christian Hip-Hop has affected hip-hop like NF. His other two albums are Mansion and Perception.
Social Club Misfits
Marty and Fern of Social Club Misfits are, to say the least, a unique duo. These two are all about being a “misfit” for Christ and being your best self. Marty is more relatable to those in the suburbs, while Fern focuses more on those in the struggle. While they started out boasting in their independence as artists, they eventually signed with Capitol Christian Music Group. Either way, the duo has come up with some unique beats and fire lyrics. Listen to The Misadventures of Fern & Marty and In the Night for some of their best work.
Having emigrated from Azerbaijan as a child, Ruslan has taken a different path than most to becoming an artist. On top of being a rapper, he has become an entrepreneur, producing content for YouTube and Rapzilla. He has even created his own label, Kings Dream Entertainment where he was part of the group Dream Junkies with John Givez and Beleaf. With all this going on, Ruslan still produces dope west coast jams. Look up Good Religion, Americana, and Indie Jones 1 & 2. You won’t be disappointed.
There are several other artists that could have made it onto this list. Christian Hip-Hop is filled with a lot more amazing artists, these 15 are just a starting point. For those new to Christian Hip-Hop, which artist on this list has become your favorites? For those veterans, which artists do you think should have made the list?