5 Reasons Artists Consider Leaving Christian Rap [Op-Ed]
Late this past Thursday night RMG head honcho Derek Minor tapped into his inner Sisqo and unleashed the “dragon” on his Twitter feed, tackling the reasons he feels so many have considered leaving the genre behind. In his initial tweet, the Mayor of Minorville addressed the issue of an artist leaving Christian rap, citing the harsh treatment and critical judgments from fans as a few of the reasons many choose to exit the genre. Let’s dive into the meat and potatoes of the statements from D Minor X.
The Impossible Standard
“Y’all hold Christian rappers to a higher standard than you hold preachers, heads of Christian Universities (Liberty), and even the PRESIDENT…”
No lies detected here. As someone who has been in the genre since 2008, I’ve witnessed countless churches either discount your entire ministry due to being a rapper and rap being considered secular. At times we’ve had to answer questionnaires, submit letters from our pastors, email lyrics, and go through phone interviews just to perform at events, only to be paid in hotdogs and sodas when its all said and done. A guest speaker would never have to go through that process because they would be held with higher regard, however, because what we do isn’t considered ministry in certain circles, it ends up placed under a microscope for being “too worldly.”
Another reason for this impossible standard can be attributed to idolatry if we’re being honest. Many fans spend more time bumping their favorite artist than listening to their own pastors or reading the Word Of God and because of that, the artist is placed at a higher position in their heart. So when the said artist does something that’s outside of the impossible standards their idolatry has set, they lash out at them for falling outside of what they consider acceptable…which leads us to the next statement.
“Trump literally sat in a church and said he could KILL someone and y’all would still follow him… but if a Christian rap artist has a photo with liquor in it, y’all ready to send that person to HELL.”
This is sad but true. So many of us are so quick to judge and discredit an artist due to them doing something that doesn’t line up with what we believe. Lecrae does a song with a secular artist? ILLUMINATI! Sevin or Bizzle says the “N” word in his record? It’s disgraceful. Sho Baraka mentions the peen? He’s cut off. If a rapper comes out and talks about their struggle or shortcoming on a record, many times their either corrected, critiqued, and even shunned “out of love.”
A lot of fans still listen to secular artists and give them more grace than they would a Reconcile, a Rockstar JT, or a Parris Chariz whose music is meant to reach a particular audience. Christian Hip Hop, like the Body of Christ, is full of members with different parts and functions. We can’t expect the foot to act as the hand just because we see more value in how one part operates over the other, but WE CAN learn to appreciate the value we recognize in each individually.
One major factor that has contributed to this way of thought is the JPM or “Jesus Per Minute” issue. For the larger part of the last two decades, a Christian rapper had to be a low key theologian, breaking down scripture in every song while leading people to salvation and doing alter calls. Discipleship and mentoring were key to artist development, along with seeking accountability from one’s leadership. You could clearly hear the gospel communicated in almost every song on every album without theorizing what artists were trying to say. That began to change somewhere along the last few years as many artists who entered the space wanted to express their message with more creativity and artistic freedom.
In the eyes of weathered fans across Al Gore’s Internet, CHH that doesn’t boldly proclaim Jesus in every song is worthless; yet in an odd turn of events, you’ll find that many of those same fans don’t hold the Gospel or CCM in their rotation to those same standards.
“Most posts I’ve seen from a CHH artist about blackness or fighting for the rights of black people has a LARGE negative response… often soaked in racism.”
I’ll never forget the day Lecrae tweeted about the death of Michael Brown. The way people attacked him, spewing hatred, and disregarding his emotions and concerns were truly stomach-turning. In the hours that followed, I witnessed his timeline become flooded with a tsunami of insults and rebukes, ranging from fans yelling “shut up and preach Jesus” to accusing him of being used by Satan to bring division to the church.
Derek Minor, Thi’sl, Propaganda, Ruslan, and so many other artists faced the same accusations for being vocal about social injustice and police brutality over the past few years by the evangelical Christian community. Rather than be empathetic to their brothers and sisters cries for help, these fans instead would accuse them of taking attention from the Gospel being preached…an accusation that isn’t brought up when championing events that deal with sex trafficking or building walls. It’s almost as if the issue of racial injustice and inequality is a trigger for some believers because it digs up unresolved matters that some in the church would have rather left buried.
Following the murder of George Floyd this past May, CHH experienced an explosion of artists expressing their anger, frustration, and broken-heartedness over what happened, only to be met with wave after wave of frigid and insensitive responses from many fans and church leaders alike. So why should an artist stay in a genre that cares about people of color in the same way George Bush cares about black people, according to Mr. West…and speaking of Kanye…
The New Toy Syndrome
“A CHH artist can be doing amazing music for YEARS and get no awards… few touring opportunities… AND VERY LITTLE MONEY but let a mainstream artist say Jesus in an adlib and y’all tell the CHH artist he’s trash and should do it like the mainstream artist.”
FAAAAAAAACTS! So many CHH fans are quick to abandon and latch on to any secular artist who mentions Jesus in a record. From DMX’s “Ready To Meet Him” to R. Kelly’s “You Saved Me,” so many are so quick to step over and disregard the talent and skill that we have in our own backyard for the slim hope of a secular artist making the change inadvertently bringing a new spotlight on the genre as a whole. Fans make it seem like a cosign or validation from a secular artist is the one thing CHH needs to get to the next level, rather than celebrating who we already have in our circle. I will say this as loud and as many times as needed for you to hear me:
CHRISTIAN HIP HOP HAS SOME OF THE BEST RAPPERS AND PRODUCERS ON THE PLANET!
Kanye West becoming a believer was huge news, and him making an album that was explicitly Gospel-centered is something to be celebrated, but not at the expense of devaluing others who’ve spent most of their adult lives doing the same thing. You can celebrate what God is doing with Kanye AND appreciate what He has done in others at the same time. We don’t have to disregard the effort and energy that an artist puts into a project for the sake of praising another. We can just support the art and enjoy the music.
“Not to mention… the closet racism, unequal pay (even if we are doing well), AWFUL record deals and snubs at every corner behind the scenes in the “Christian” music industry… no wonder dudes say… this may not be worth it… maybe the grass is greener.”
I never thought that Industry rule #4080 would be applicable to the Christian sphere of business. Yet here we are in the year of our Lord 2020 and the spirit of Marshall Mathers feels alive and well. From artist getting overlooked at the Dove and the Stellar Award shows, to radio stations refusing to play artists because their sound may not translate to the CCM audience, it’s easy to see some of the prejudices that artists in the space have to overcome to be successful. CHH artists are given the children’s menu at the Christian Music table and are told to be grateful that we have a seat when in all honesty they should be grateful that we choose to stay seated.
Hip Hop is still the most popular form of music in the world today, and with that in mind, you would think that the Christian Music Industry would see the value and impact Christian Hip Hop could have across the globe if more artists were given a larger platform. Yet only a select few become blips on their radar. With that being the case many artists rely on touring to help them gain notoriety but some of these promotors end up being awesome at lying, bad at business, and just overall JANKY HUMAN BEINGS.
I experienced this back in 2015 when Ike Hill and myself were booked to be a part of this 40 city tour alongside Thi’sl, Canon Aaron Cole, Ty Brasel, Hilary Jane, and a few others. I left my job a week before the tour started and it never happened due to the promoter being dishonest about the venues, dates, and everything else. I’ve heard so many stories over the years about the shady business practices of believers who only see the faith for use of financial gain and never thought it could happen to me…until it did. How can you blame someone for splitting after continuously getting burned ON PURPOSE by people who used the banner of Jesus Christ for dollar signs? It’s crazy to think that the secular music industry can be more trustworthy than ours, yet so many have come to experience this as truth.
Derek Minor further expounds on these Tweets in this interview below:
At the end of the day, I felt the points that Derek made were both valid and relevant to the issues that help nurture the toxic environment a large number of CHH fans have seemed to normalize over the past few years. However, as I began to write up this very article I came across this tweet by the GodChaserz veteran Brinson (who just released his 10th album Crown) that brought everything back to the central reason most of us started doing Christian Hip Hop: winning souls.