Christian Rap O.G.’s Explain Early Struggles of CHH, Creating Categories, & Award Show Disrespect
Almost every year there seems to be an incident or story of controversy when it comes to the Dove Awards and Christian rap. Well, 30+ years ago, there wasn’t even a category for the genre. Often times they’d get looped in with rock or have popular groups that just so happened to rap on a track win an award.
At the Mic Drop film and event, the pioneers of CHH spoke a bit about what those early meetings and conversations were like.
“It was like iron sharpening iron,” said Stephen Wiley. “We had to encourage each other because they didn’t accept the rap category. They thought it was a passing trend. They didn’t respect the element of God’s word passing forth.”
He continued, “Bill Gaither, saw the possibility of Christian rap music – Here’s the southern gospel guy. I remember myself, Mike Peace, and D.O.C. wound up on the same record label…we saw the growth of it.”
Wiley said that you’d walk into a Christian bookstore and see DC Talk, P.I.D., Mike Peace, D.O.C, only about four or five…now you got a whole category…”
“What was fun was those hallway meetings,” said Fred Lynch. “We’d see each other in hallways and we’d start a cypher. People would start gathering around us that were part of the industry because it being hip-hop and by nature…you’re not going to get no respect from anybody out here but we know we can give love to each other. So we start doing cyphers and just blow it up where we would or could.”
Michael Peace said rap was being received but the awards were going to people who are not rappers, but they “rapped” on one song or had a “rapper” on one song. That would win for Best Rap Song.
“What are we? Chitlins?,” said Peace. “We just understood, what really mattered, we didn’t care about winning awards but about winning souls. No disrespect or dishonor to those winning the awards, but we are REALLY doing this. We are in the prisons, we’re in there with the gang bangers and this genre was impacting them.”
The Chille Baby spoke up about his experiences. He said they’d get nominated for a Christian rock Grammy or going to award shows and DC Talk would win every time.
“Toby and them would say, ‘Hey, I keep telling these people, why do they keep giving us the awards? Ya’ll the rappers. We’re not rappers’.”
Then Soup chimed in saying, “I was nominated for the first Dove Award, hip-hop Dove Award, and I lost to Carman.”
It was tough to watch Carman and DC Talk win all the awards. Soup the Chemist said he started “getting vocal on it in magazines and stuff.”
He explained they were at the Cornerstone Festival in front of 60,000 people, and they’re opening up for DC Talk. Toby came to him and said something similar to Soup.
“Man, I didn’t ask for this. They keep giving it to me. But we know what it is.”
“I had a lot of respect for him. He didn’t have to do none that. He was on top, didn’t have to tell me nothing. But when he did tell me that, it chilled me out and humbled me.”
Lynch then told a story about him talking with a record exec. They were sitting and laughing and the exec said, “That’s the reason you guys didn’t sell as many albums.”
“That smile you got. You have a great smile, why didn’t you smile in your albums?” Lynch was told before adding, “In that era of hip-hop you were perceived as a threat as a black man who refused to smile.”
“Toby was my labelmate. When we started going to the Dove Awards in 1990, they didn’t have a category for Christian rap,” Johnnie from ETW said. “I really believe groups like DC Talk, they were making so much noise, they basically created a category for us…it could be a little discouraging but at the same time, the platform was getting expanded. Good or bad, right or wrong, I do give DC Talk a lot of credit.”