Rapzilla Freshmen 350 Doesn’t Want Christian Rap to be ‘Detrimental’ to Anyone’s Walk
I pride myself on being someone who will give any type of music or any artist a first listen. Then, if I really like what I hear, I try and put others onto them. I started this CHH writing journey when I was editor at NewH2o.com, and in 2018 there was an artist I hadn’t heard yet who was submitting to us a lot. His name was 350, and I really dug his sound. I’m grateful for the time he spent chopping it up with me a couple months ago, and really appreciate his wisdom on a lot of stuff.
When I call him up, he’s sitting in his car with his brother A3, and he’s smiling ear to ear. This really set the tone for a thoughtful and strong conversation. After some small talk, he begins to explain that he’s been doing music since he can remember.
“I’ve been doing music for quite awhile. Since I was about 9 or 10,” he said. “I grew up in the church, and I would write Christian rock songs back then. Grew up listening to TFK, so I’ve always been into the Christian music genre. It transitioned over into rap when I was introduced to it. Eminem, Tech n9ne, Slaughterhouse, rap like that. Rapping about my life but my life consisted of a walk with Jesus. It’s really evolved from there.”
He continued, “I’ve been doing music for a long time. If you go through RZ and you put 350 or even like The M.I.K.E. you’ll see I was still going. But I’m glad that no one caught on til now, when it’s evolved to something good.”
I told him he seemed really fresh even in 2018, so it surprised me that he’d even been at it for awhile then.
“Yeah bro, that was still part of the climb. I was still trying to find my sound and my voice. You’ve heard me since the Seasons project, that double single, and my voice has changed, my flows have switched up even since then. I like to think I’ve been evolving into what I think is the best version of me.”
He continued, “People really started noticing me though in the Seasons era. People actually told me ‘I used to only click your music just to support you, but now it’s actually really good and I listen because I want to’. That was a key moment for me. I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t want people to hear it because they wanna support me, I want people to listen because they’re blessed by it’.”
Being an artist is difficult, especially when you’re still getting your legs underneath you. For one, you might put unfair expectations on yourself, and another thing is that everyone wants to be a critic. 350 talks about what he thinks the keys are to having success in the Christian music industry.
“Before you put your stuff out in the world you have to know who you are. You need to have a mission and a calling. You need to understand those things because if not, it’ll be really hard for you.”
“Like if you aren’t comfortable with who you are, you should re-evaluate. If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything. So before you put it out there, you need to know what you’re standing for. Like, we all rock hard for the gospel, we rock hard for Jesus Christ and what he walked out here on Earth. My life is a representation of that, but the question is… what is my music gonna be?”
“Then beyond that, you gotta find something to diversify yourself. Like make yourself different from the next man. What will you be known for? Your voice, your cadence, your flow… or maybe your content?” he stated. “CHH needs something different from this saturation that we have. Just know who you are in Christ because if you do not have a good foundation in your walk, you will fall for anything that comes your way.”
He summed it up, “That’s the big three for me right there – know who you are in Christ, know yourself as an artist, and know what makes you different.”
It’s always interesting for me to hear how someone feels when they hear they have been given a certain honor like the freshman list, but for 350 he explained his moment came before that.
“Being a Rapzilla freshman has been a goal for me for a long time. I looked at it as a milestone for my career. When the 2020 list dropped, I was into Miles Minnick and his come up, and my song ‘Eastside’ had just released. Miles was on a IG live talking about being a Rapzilla freshman. He saw me on there and was like ‘Eastside goes crazy’. This was the first time he had talked to me, and I think people in the comments were like ‘Yooooo… Freshman 21’!”
“That was the moment when I realized the hard work I had been putting in was turning into people actually receiving it. That was a big moment even before I got the nod this year, then once I heard I was a freshman this year I felt like I could chill out.”
“As an artist, you really have phases when you’re only listening to your own music,” said 350. “You could be creating, writing, going through mixing. You know? You’re always listening to your music.”
He continued, “I really try to be intentional and support the people around me. I grew up on Christian rap bro. This is my culture. I pay attention to what’s going on. That’s the key thing about my movement. I want to be the change that I want to see in CHH. I’m such a fan of it I don’t want to see it fail. I don’t want to see it go down. I don’t want CHH to move in a trajectory detrimental to people’s walk.”
“So I do my best to make sure my music is quality, not corny, and that people would be proud to call my music CHH. Like ‘yo 350 is a Christian rapper, and he’s dope’,” said the freshmen, adding, “I’m a big fan, man. Most of the other freshmen with me I know them personally as well as their music. Like Big Breeze, Scootie Wop, Wxlf, Coop…even other indies who didn’t make it like MvkeyyJ, Chris Soul… they’re all true homies. I’m a big CHH fan, and I’m big on the culture.”
I notice his desire to influence the culture around him. That goes for how he lives life as well as his music. He lives as far south as you can go in Texas. For example, at the time of this interview, he talks about how his wife is at the dentist in Mexico. He talks about what the culture is like and jokes of how he’s used to every winter all the “white folk” come down into the valley and order tacos and fill up the tourist spots.
There’s also a not so great part of the culture there. He quotes a song called “Reynosa” that tells of the dangerous things that happen in the streets of this area. I wonder out loud if he’ll ever pull his Spanish culture and heritage into his artistry.
He pauses and thoughtfully responds, “I dig into the lifestyle we live, definitely. But being a minority in America, especially in a border town there’s not much diversity. So I dive into this because it’s my life. I won’t be someone who fakes it and starts rapping in Spanish or something though. That’s not who I am. As you can hear from my voice, I didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. My mom didn’t either, my grandparents didn’t either. But we can all speak fluent Spanish. That’s what it’s like here in a border town. The lifestyle here is not very polarizing. Even on the other side they’re heavy English. So just to stay who I am, I won’t be someone who does that.”
As he explained earlier in the conversation, he stays true to who he is, and is confident in who God has called him to be. Just seeing how he sticks to his convictions is inspiring.
“350 is what I stand for.” He explains. This is what I represent. 3 is the trinity. 5 is my family, my generation. My wife, my brother in law, my little brother and my little sister. And 0 is the reminder that you will find nothing that brings you peace under the sun. Only in Jesus can you find true peace here on this earth.”
350’s new song with DJ Mykael V, Hulvey, and A3 releases Friday. Follow this link to pre-save!