What Would 2019 Movie Soundtracks Look Like Curated by Christian Rap Artists?
As 2018 showed with films like Black Panther, Creed II, and Into the Spider-Verse, no blockbuster movie is complete without an accompanying soundtrack. Far from being simply a cash grab to run off the fumes of a successful film, the best film soundtracks embody the themes, characters, and stories of their respective movies and go deeper, transforming the cinematic journey into a listening experience. Apart from Lecrae (who has received placements in Birth of a Nation, The Shack, and most recently Superfly) Christian rap artists are usually egregiously shunned from appearing on film soundtracks. With a number of blockbusters already released within the past two months and many more on the way, here are ten films that could benefit from a collection of original music curated by CHH artists.
Alita: Battle Angel–February 15th
Artist(s) to curate: Aha Gazelle & nobigdyl.
Featured guests: Eric Heron, WHATUPRG
Producer(s): OnBeatMusic, PoetiCs
This James Cameron produced film is based off an anime and manga series called Gunnm and no two artists have shown their love for anime as much as Aha Gazelle and nobigdyl. From overt shoutouts to more subtle and conceptual inspirations, both have been vocal on and off the mic about anime’s influence on their music. Demonstrated by their quirky yet nonetheless hard-hitting wordplay, both know how to craft music that matches Alita: Battle Angel’s over the top visuals and action sequences with perhaps its more eccentric elements (see: a gladiatorial death sport called motorball). Plus it fulfills dyl.’s Christmas wish so there’s one plus. WHATUPRG and Eric Heron also namedrop anime in their tracks and make natural collaborators.
Captain Marvel–March 8th
Artist(s) to curate: HeeSun Lee
Featured guests: Angie Rose, V. Rose
Producer(s): Natalie Lauren
In a rare and unlikely to be repeated victory, DC managed to beat Marvel on the movie front by releasing the first female-led superhero film. Marvel’s response comes in the form of Captain Marvel and the film’s tagline has been laconic but potent: Higher. Further. Faster. HeeSun Lee’s discography is rife with songs exemplifying this sentiment, from the iconoclastic “I Break Stereotypes” to the prophetic “Future.” Plus the concept and cover art for her upcoming EP Flying Cars meshes perfectly with Captain Marvel’s sci-fi aesthetic. HeeSun has always been about changing the way the game is played and it’s only natural for her to surround herself with other culture movers whether behind the boards (Natalie Lauren) or on the tracks themselves.
Artist(s) to curate: Christon Gray
Featured guests: J. Monty, Taelor Gray
Producer(s): Swoope, Weathrman
Thematically, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out differs from its predecessor in that it deals with the confrontation of one’s inner demons and evil thoughts that exist within all. Who better to rap and croon on the subject than Christon Gray himself (he literally released an album called Even With Evil With Me)? Gray has always been honest about his struggles and bled his heart and soul on deep cuts like “You & I (Samson’s Lament).” Whether he’s talking about wrestling with addiction or going through a divorce, he’s tried to reconcile the reality of darkness and the hope of light within himself.
Where Christon is, his bro Taelor is probably not too far behind. Swoope and Weathrman are the perfect producers to make spectral, haunting, and minimalist beats (in vain with the trailer music) that could really let Christon’s vocals shine. J. Monty’s Testify series he’s been doing on his Instagram is introspective and trenchant and I can see him and Chris could go bar for bar on a track acting either as the angel or devil on one’s shoulder.
Artist(s) to curate: Culture Villains
Featured guests: Ray Emmanuel, Rockstar JT
Producer(s): Dirty Rice, Juice Bangers
Billy Batson is a fourteen-year-old kid who meets an old wizard and by just saying one word, transforms into a full-fledged adult superhero. Swap out the wizard, increase the ages and you have the Culture Villains. They are young artists whose words and raps put them at the same if not higher level of musicianship than their “adult” counterparts. Their recently released Preseason compilation exudes a level of maturity and jaw-dropping skill that is rendered all the more impressive when you learn just how old these guys are.
Ray Emmanuel (who himself is 14) and Rockstar JT likewise rap leagues around the most seasoned emcees and most definitely deserve placements on the soundtrack. Plus it’s evident from the trailer that the marketing team clearly threw in Kendrick’s “Humble” just to be cool so a Culture Villains soundtrack to work with would yield much better results. Dirty Rice and Juice Bangers are the perfect hitmakers to make a canvas for the trio to paint all over.
Avengers: Endgame–April 26th
Artist(s) to curate: Reflection Music Group (Derek Minor, Canon, Tony Tillman, & Deraj)
Featured guests: RMG Amplify (Reconcile, Roy Tosh, Brvdon P, Mission, Beacon Light, Sada K.) & indie Tribe (nobigdyl., WHATUPRG, Mogli the Iceberg, and Jerry Manna)
Producer(s): Cardec, Derek Minor, OnBeatMusic
There can be a lot of debate on who the biggest “supergroup” is in the CHH community, but RMG takes the cake for the clever and organic way that it has expanded its brand (which bears a striking similarity to how the Avengers develop as well). In 2017 Doc Watson and Derek Minor launched RMG Amplify, a division which provides marketing support to established independent artists. Soon, big names like Reconcile & Brvndon P. joined the movement while up and comers like Beacon Light and Sada K. followed suit not too long after. RMG has also always maintained a close friendship with indie tribe. (in part but not in whole due to nobigdyl. and Derek Minor’s history).
As Earth’s Mightiest Heroes get ready to avenge their fallen comrades in Endgame, it’s all hands on deck and a soundtrack should manifest the themes of unity and diversity. It should also slap harder than any film soundtrack come before it which makes Cardec, Derek, and OnBeat necessary on production.
Artist(s) to curate: Jackie Hill-Perry, Propaganda, and Joseph Solomon
Featured guests: Eshon Burgundy, Shai Linne
Producer(s): Alert 312, Braille
Although you could not tell from the trailer, author J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout Christian. His numerous works from his poems, essays, to his most famed stories The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are layered with Christian allegory, allusion, and metaphor. He was a creative who loved his Creator and yet made art that while it didn’t compromise on faith, drew the attention of non-Christians. His penmanship is unrivaled and there are no better writers to honor his legacy than Jackie Hill-Perry, Propaganda, and Joseph Solomon. All three are seasoned poets in their own right and I could see them joining forces to create a spoken word album of sorts, containing musings on what it means to glorify God through art and showcase the beauty of poetry and narrative the way Tolkien did.
Braille and Alert 312, apart from being in-house producers, are great at giving tracks a cinematic feel but also forging more mellow moments to allow the beauty of lyrics to really hit. Eshon Burgundy and Shai Linne give off similar vibes in their music and content-wise rap about similar ideas through their projects.
John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum–May 16th
Artist(s) to curate: NF
Featured guests: Andy Mineo, Ty Brasel
Producer(s): Alex Medina, Joseph Prielozny, Tommee Profitt
The number of ways that NF has talked about “killing the game, track and/or beat” are as diverse as they are creative, that by album 6 I feel like he’ll have exhausted his proverbial arsenal. Case in point: NF’s aggressive, kinetic, and belligerent energy are right at home in a soundtrack for John Wick. Just like Wick himself, NF is always the man to beat whether he’s on a cypher with friends or amongst secular peers.
Andy Mineo and Ty Brasel likewise can both boast a discography of turn-up records (“You Can’t Stop Me” & “Ali”) that match the absurdity of the films themselves. Frequent collaborator Tommee Profitt is a logical choice to join NF as does Alex Medina and Joseph Prielozny, who have produced many of Andy’s biggest hits (and are anthem makers in their own right).
Godzilla: King of the Monsters–May 31st
Artist(s) to curate: Reach Records (Lecrae, Trip Lee, KB, Tedashii, WHATUPRG, Gawvi, 1k Phew) GOM (Bizzle, Bumps INF, Selah The Corner, Jered Sanders, Datin), King’s Dream Entertainment (Ruslan, Paul Russell, Jon Keith), Good Fruit Co. (Uzuhan & Sam Ock)
Featured guests: N/A
Producer(s): Ace Harris, Camden Bench, Gawvi
Oh and you thought the Avengers: Endgame soundtrack was too stacked?! Godzilla: King of the Monsters is, no pun intended, a beast of a film. It features not one monster but four (King Ghidorah, Rodan, Mothra, & Godzilla himself) and teases a clash of titans of epic proportions. No better way to celebrate this than by bringing together four major labels of CHH. The potential collabs alone could be insane.
Paul Russell and KB. Lecrae and Jered Sanders. Bizzle and Ruslan. Uzuhan and WHATUPRG. Scheduling an album of this magnitude would be a logistical nightmare but one can surely dream, right?
Men in Black: International–June 14th
Artist(s) to curate: Social Club Misfits
Featured guests: Evan and Eris, wordsplayed
Producer(s): Wit & 42 North
A key theme of the Men in Black series has been about teamwork whether it’s been about Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith or Josh Brolin as a young Tommy Lee Jones with Will Smith. Stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson have demonstrated great chemistry through Thor: Ragnarok and are firing on all cylinders if the trailer is any indication. Collaboration is the bread and butter of hip-hop but it can be daunting to work alongside with others and work on music at the cost that you might not get your way.
Marty and Fern have proven time and time again that two heads are better than one and their music fits the vibe of Men in Black perfectly: fun, hype, yet serious when it needs to be. Evan and Eris are another great team of artists while wordsplayed’s chemistry with the Club but Marty especially can make for some truly laugh out loud moments.
Spider-Man: Far From Home–July 5th
Artist(s) to curate: Aaron Cole
Featured guests: Kaleb Mitchell, Jaylon Ashaun, Zauntee
Producer(s): Cole Walowac
Tracing Cole’s musical catalog you’ll probably wonder why Disney and Sony haven’t hit him up for a soundtrack ever since Tobey Maguire donned the spandex. He truly is the lyrical embodiment of Spider-Man. What are some key characteristics of the wall-crawler? He tries to balance school and his superhero persona, is an underdog who always overcomes, and has a great relationship with those above him.
One of Cole’s earliest projects was called 4th Period. He featured on a song of Roy Tosh’s called “Underdog,” and don’t tell me you don’t get Tony-Peter vibes from his mentor/mentee dynamic with tobyMac. But Cole’s come a long way even within the past year and never lets people’s expectations or criticism get to him. Cole Walowac produces many of Cole’s singles and has proven time and time again to adapt to what Aaron’s versatility. Kaleb Mitchell and Zauntee would make for great yet zany collabs while for selfish reasons I’m hoping Cole and Jaylon link up to make a love ballad that rivals Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower.”