Christian Rap has changed so much since 1995, but I feel like it was in that year that a lot of Christian Rap really started finding their stride. Looking back, this was a pretty big year for CHH. Look below at the most notable releases.
T-Bone: Tha Life Of A Hoodlum
Even though he had a dope single under his belt, “Lyrical Assassin,” this was the album that put T-Bone on the map. The heavily animated fire spitter and talented writer really etched his name into CHH history with this album. From the familiar samples used throughout (Q-Tip, Rza) to the demon-killing rhymes and descriptive storytelling… it’s safe to say no artist can compare to T-Bone.
Notable Tracks: “Throwin Out Tha Wicked,” “Still Jabbin,” “Lyrical Assassin (Remix)”
King Shon & The SSMOB: Papa Didn’t Raize No Punkz
King Shon really brought that G Funk sound to Christian Rap. Chris Gunn, Lenny Willford, and Chris Harris really stepped up the game with the instrumentals because it all just sounds like it belongs in this era. King Shon’s honesty and grit when it comes to talking about the streets and pointing people to Christ shine through this whole project.
Notable Tracks: “Bumpz Fo Yo Trunk,” “Come Around,” “Gold St. Ride”
Dynamic Twins: 40 Days In The Wilderness
I know Noel and Robby had a lot of success with other releases (No Room 2 Breathe charted #13 on Billboard) but I submit this is D2’s best and most complete album in their career. The production was pristine, and the presence they had on the mic was unmatched.
Notable Tracks: “Who R U,” “Forget About Your Troubles,” “Are You With Me?”
Gospel Gangstaz: Do Or Die
If you haven’t heard of the OGGz by now you’re really sleeping. Solo, Tik Tokk, and Chilly Chill really created some bangers back in the day that are still landmark CHH anthems to date.
Notable Tracks: “O Double G’s Go On,” “Do Or Die,” “West Coast Roc”
GRITS: Mental Releases
Bonafide and Coffee’s debut album released on Gotee Records. This album had a real laid-back jazzy feel, which was unique to the token Christian hip-hop sound of the time. The sound was really dialed in and intentional. Ric Robbins and Todd Collins produced a nice (and overlooked) album with this one.
Notable Tracks: “10-A-See,” “Jazz,” “Set Ya Mind”
Big Mike, Johnny Jam, and MCL King had been holding it down for a minute before this one dropped. This album was toward the end of their time together, but it still produced some hits nonetheless.
Notable Tracks: “Comin’ To Get You Out,” “She’s The One,” “Nobody’s Dying But Us”
K2S: West Coast Thang
This album marked the beginning of Grapetree Records’ impressive run of releasing album upon album. I felt like for GR in the early going there were some legitimate gems. West Coast Thang is exhibit A. Smooth, K-Buc and Jen-E really had great chemistry that was evident on each track.
Notable Tracks: “Choose Your Fate,” “Get Down,” “I’ll Be Here 4 U”
E-Roc: Jesus Smoke
Dynamic Twins really had their hands all over Christian Rap in 1995. They helped discover K2S, toured with ETW and OGGz, and also produced this album with E-Roc. One of the most memorable things about this album is the cover art. It for sure made you want to pick it up and listen. E-Roc could really spit, and Jesus Smoke is the complete package.
Notable Tracks: “Mista Smoka,” “Smackin Em,” “Triple Six Block”
It’s crazy to think that this album is 25 years old! Dax and Jurny Big (before Tunnel Rats) rhyming over production from Sup The Chemist and Peace 586? It’s unfair. The lyricism here is unprecedented.
Notable Tracks: “Worst Enemy Greatest Allie,” “A Place Called Hip-Hop,” “I Wonder”
Barry G: Rugged Witness
Barry G put in a lot of work in the 90s in CHH. After leaving P.I.D. he ended up at Grapetree Records where his veteran presence truly impacted a lot of young artists who were also on the label. The live jazz and funk samples featured in the production of Rugged Witness really helped set it apart at the time. This was a slept on album from this year.
Notable Tracks: “Ain’t Nothin’,” “Time For Some Action,” “Paper Ladies”
Fred Lynch: Gimme Da Planet
Fred Lynch also used to be a member of PID, and released solo work as well as a few books and devotionals in the 90s. He really stepped out of the box when he presented the book of John as a rap, but I digress. Gimme Da Planet isn’t really an old school boom bap sounding project, it’s pretty laid back while also unique and ahead of its time.
Notable Tracks: “Gimme Da Planet,” “Yo Fred,” “Ya Ya Ya”
Bobby Ross Avila: In My Life
This was DJ Dove/Holy Terra’s dip into that R&B/Hip-Hop scene (think Montell Jordan or Blackstreet.) Bobby really had some nice vocals here, and the production was really strong. A lot of fun samples and some pop dance vibes can really bring you back to the simpler time that was 1995. Bobby along with his brother IZ, are now legendary Grammy Award-winning writers and producers for numerous artists such as Usher, Missy Elliot, Anthony Hamilton, Mary J. Blige, and Chaka Khan among others.
Notable Tracks: “Into My Life,” “Let’s Get It Started,” “Let’s Stay Together”
Brainwash Projects: Ride The Dolphin EP (Demo)
Btwice and Pigeon John would go on to release The Rise And Fall Of Brainwash Projects a few years later, but it’s always cool to go back to the roots and hear what they were before their classic project. This demo only had two songs on it, Muchas Muchachas and Kinetic Alphabetics
1 Way: Destination Unknown
This group out of Florida was where DJ Morphiziz (Beatmart records & KJ-52 collaborator) got his start. This album featured a lot of fast breaks and uptempo scratching throughout. The rhymes here are quintessential 90s flavor, and really showcase Morph’s talent.
Notable Tracks: “Colorblind,” “Tales From The Darkside,” “Turn It Up”
DC Talk: Jesus Freak
Last but not least, it’s hard to leave dc Talk out of this conversation. Jesus Freak saw some huge crossover success, but this was their first step outside of the hip-hop realm, which definitely left the door open and paved the way for others. It saw TobyMac go from CCM rap friendly to bonafide hitmaker.
Notable Tracks: “So Help Me God,” “Jesus Freak,” “Day By Day”
(Various Artists) Gotee Night: Live At The Blue Sky
Rev Run Presents…
King’s Crew: Love Goes On
Brainstorm Biscuits (Sampler)
Braille (fka Reflection): The Greyhound Sampler
W4C: Lord Take Care
Listener: The Album