Latino Producers Making an Impact in Christian Hip-Hop
One of the most valuable, but often overlooked roles in hip-hop, is the producer. Fans tend to attribute lyrics as well as beats to the artist or group who releases the content, failing to realize that there was an individual who spent the time crafting the beat played behind the lyrics. Just as there are Hispanic-Latino artists making their own way within Christian hip-hop, there are a number of Latino producers doing so too. From legendary names such as DJ Official to the modern innovators such as Cardec and OnBeatMusic, Latinos continue to be represented on the production side of things just as well as those spitting bars for the community.
***Note, this isn’t an exhaustive list of Latino producers and their work. These are just some highlights.
Active Latino Producers
GAWVI – Panorama, “You Can’t Stop Me Remix” (ft. Messiah), “Clarity,” Rhema Soul
GAWVI has produced and continues to produce some of the best content within the entire Christian hip-hop genre. The award-winning producer/artist has made beats for a number of influential Christian hip-hop artists including Lecrae, Andy Mineo, Trip Lee, Tedashii, KB, Derek Minor, Social Club Misfits, and plenty more. GAWVI has also released a number of singles and projects of his own, his most recent being 2018’s Panorama, a seventeen song album which prominently displays the creative’s Hispanic-Latino heritage, Christian faith, and unique sound. While GAWVI has grown into the space of singing and rapping, have no fear, he is not giving up musical production any time soon.
WHATUPRG – Pleasant Hill
WHATUPRG gained early acclaim in the Christian hip-hop community from tracks such as “Don’t Forget to Live” and “Where You Been?” but really burst onto the scene this year. Between his work with the indie tribe collective, being signed to Reach Records, releasing “Light Work” with the other members of 116, and dropping the Pleasant Hill EP, WHATUPRG has been a popular name in Christian hip-hop news this year. The young artist has only begun to cement himself in the community but has proven to be a standout both as an artist and producer.
Alex Medina – “Uno Uno Seis,” “Happy Accident,” “Can’t Stop Me Now,” “One Sixteen“
While Alex Medina may not be an employee of Reach Records anymore, he has remained an integral part of the Christian hip-hop community. He is the man behind a lot of Reach Records’ classic songs. He is also the creator of some of the most eye-catching art for the Better Late Than Never tour and Andy Mineo’s merchandise, as well as working alongside Cataphant on the art behind Panorama, The Dove award-winning producer continues to be an incredible contributor to the community.
Cardec – “Long Live the Champion,” “No Chains,” “Coquito,” “Messenger,” “Not Today Satan,” The Trap, Pleasant Hill
Cardec has become one of the busiest producers in all of Christian hip-hop composing beats for a number of Christian hip-hop’s best and brightest. Names such as Lecrae, Andy Mineo, KB, Derek Minor, Tedashii, Trip Lee, Social Club Misfits, Xavier Omar, and Elhae have all benefited from Cardec’s beats. A recent Dove award winner, recognized for his work on 2017’s Today We Rebel, Cardec is only in the early stages of his career but has proven himself to be a force worth reckoning within Christian hip-hop. The producer has also shown a deep love for his Hispanic-Latino culture pushing for his fellow Latino artists in a number of spaces.
OnBeatMusic – “block me back,” “Rollie,” “Mood.,” “Shakira,” Deo Volante, Duos, joyful loser
OnBeatMusic has released a great deal of content this year alone, much of which is difficult to narrow down to a few projects and songs. The winner of 2016’s Rapzilla beat battle, OnBeatMusic has been grinding for years now and has retained a unique sound with every record he has released.
Tee-Wyla – Journey, The Roar, TV and Movie Placements
Tee-Wyla has been in the game since the 90s. He’s produced for a number of artists, but his January 2018 release, Journey, was his first self-debut beat tape. it’s an eclectic mix of mellow, electronic, and typical hip-hop sounds, the project has something for all types of listeners. The producer’s bread and better is scoring and getting placements in TV and film.
Daniel Steele – “Hallelujah All Day,” “The Solution,” “Higher Learning,” Fly Exam
One of the members of Humble Beast Records, a label dedicated to making high-quality content free of charge, Daniel Steele has worked on a number of Christian hip-hop projects, the first of which being Jackie Hill Perry’s The Art of Joy. Steele has also paired himself with fellow Humble Beast member, DJ Efectho to form The Bridge. Since then, Steele has worked with some of the top artists within the Christian hip-hop genre. This year alone, the Humble Beast records producer brought his talents to both of Andy Mineo’s Never Land 2 projects (I: The Arrow and II: The Sword), and Social Club Misfits’ Into The Night.
The following are not as active or have limited material available.
One of Andy Mineo’s key mentors, Ray Rock has worn many hats as a rapper, producer, DJ, and songwriter. Perhaps his most important role has been as a friend. Ray Rock has worked with Mineo for years now. Their partnership is one based on mutual admiration and companionship. In an interview with Rapzilla, Ray Rock explained that his duty to Andy is holding him to the very same standard as the best lyricists in all of hip-hop. Ray Rock is currently on the Better Late Than Never Tour, deejaying for Andy Mineo’s set.
Dre “The Giant” Garcia – “Paradise,” “Paginini w/Ray Rock”
Another member of Andy Mineo’s entourage, Dre “The Giant” Garcia deejayed for Mineo from 2011 to 2016 and a 2014 Dove award performance of “You Can’t Stop Me.” Ray Rock introduced Dre to Mineo in 2009. Since then, Dre has remained a constant part of the Christian hip-hop world. In a recent promotion for the “You Can’t Stop Me Remix,” Andy Mineo also revealed that it was a humorous experience with Dre rushing to a pretzel stand that inspired the defiant tagline of the song.
Gordon Beats – “The One with My Friends,” “Turtlenecks and Blazers,” “2004,” Pieces
Producing one of the most widely appreciated Christian hip-hop collaborations is no small feat, and Gordon Beats did so with an exceptional touch. Crafting a sound that both members of Social Club Misfits, NF, Wordsplayed, John Givez, and KALEB MITCHELL could all work around, “The One with My Friends” has become an iconic song in the world of Christian hip-hop. Gordon Beats’ additional work on Pieces, “2004”, and Social Club Misfit’s 2013 Christmas commemoration “Turtlenecks and Blazers” all give us a unique look at the producer’s past work.
DJ Pez – Rapzilla 2016 Rapzilla Beat Battle, “Clean it Up,” “Astronaut“
DJ Pez is a relative newcomer to Christian hip-hop, but he has certainly proven his production ability in the 2016 Rapzilla beat battle. The producer also received a nomination for best single of 2017 for his collaborative work on “Astronaut” from Derek Minor.
DJ Shok – Bobby Bishop, “Giants Fall“
DJ Shok has remained an outspoken advocate for the value of producers, stating in one interview that a producer’s ultimate hope is simply to be “shouted out.” Shok has maintained the same perspective that we as the Christian hip-hop fan base should have, it takes a team to make a song, an EP, and an album. No man is an island, and whether an individual is writing, composing, producing, rapping, or singing, they deserve their recognition.
DJ Official – Holy Culture, Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire, Higher Definition, EnterMission, Between Two Worlds, Man Up, Blacklight, Gravity
A pioneer in the Christian hip-hop genre, the half-Chinese, half-Latino stands as one of the most important names in the genre’s history. After battling with a sickness for years, DJ Official underwent a lung-transplant surgery. After complications arose, the beloved producer passed away. Many of the Christian hip-hop artists we have come to know and love attribute some part of their inspiration to DJ Official to this day. Although he may not be physically with us, DJ Official’s mark on our community will never be forgotten. May he rest in paradise.
Final Thoughts on Latino Producers
As we have stated in previous articles, the Hispanic-Latino community continues to make their presence known in the Christian hip-hop community. Artists are undoubtedly making their voices heard with incredible vocals and hard-hitting lyricism, but a rapper without a producer is more of a poet than a musician. The producer elevates each artist to the next level, crafting beats that are sometimes more memorable than the lyrics themselves. Latino producers continue to push the genre to new heights, bringing diverse sounds to our community for the listener’s enjoyment. The unsung heroes of hip-hop music, producers stand as the heart and soul of Christian hip-hop.
Justin Sarachik contributed to this article.