In the early 1980’s Christian Hip-Hop burst onto the scene, only to be greeted with rounds of laughter. It was referred to by some as the “nerdy little brother” of Hip-Hop.
It was the epitome of pathetic and quickly became the butt of all the music related jokes. Look no further than artists such as Carman, who produced a song titled “The Resurrection Rap” in 1993. The beat was horrible and the lyrics, while they may have been trying to send a good message, are made impossible to listen to by both their cheesiness and the terrible rapping job.
In the early 2000’s, perhaps the most popular Christian Hip-Hop was being made by a man called KJ-52. He is most widely remembered for a song about his Mtn. Dew addiction. At that point in time popular Christian artist TobyMac was just getting started, also doing Hip-Hop. He enjoyed some success as a rapper, but most of his recognition was limited to the Christian music industry.
I actually regularly listened to TobyMac’s Hip-Hop as a young child and recently came across one of his old CD’s while cleaning my room. I decided to relive some memories and placed it in my stereo. A few minutes passed and I found that I couldn’t hit “Stop” fast enough. It was so much worse than I remembered and I regretted giving it a listen. Thankfully on May 20, 2004, the Christian Hip-Hop industry was forever changed.
That was the date that Lecrae released his first album, “Real Talk”. After his debut album reached 29 on the Billboard 200 Gospel Albums chart, Lecrae co-founded ReachLife Ministries which was a spinoff of Reach Records which he also co-founded. Many would say the rest is history. Lecrae’s third album “Rehab” hit 16 on the Billboard 200 chart, making it one of the highest selling Christian hip-hop albums at that point in time. On September 4, 2012, Lecrae released “Gravity”. This album debuted at 3 on the Billboard 200 chart, demonstrating the continually growing popularity of Christian hip-hop. All of this is great evidence for how far Christian hip-hop has come, but the icing on the cake has to be last fall’s release of “Anomaly”. Lecrae’s latest album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. When a Christian album receives the top spot on a secular chart, that is a big deal. When that album is a Christian hip-hop album, that is an even bigger deal.
By now, if you’re still reading, you probably are thinking something like “Ok, yeah, so what?” The answer is this: It’s not just about hip-hop. This is about Christianity becoming a real and applicable thing. I can’t think of a better way to reach those unsaved than through the very kind of music they constantly listen to. Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way condoning secular music or hip-hop. But how many people do you know that will listen to profanity riddled Kendrick Lamar or Eminem all day long, but turn their nose up when you try to talk to them about Jesus or play your favorite worship song for them. These are people that believe the only Christian music is hymns and cheesy singalongs. They don’t realize that music can be Christian and non-cheesy at the same time.
Whether you like hip-hop yourself or detest it, you must admit this is becoming a huge avenue to reach the unsaved. When guys like Lecrae rap about their past lives before Christ, unbelievers see someone they can relate to. They don’t see someone trying to tell what they can and can’t do or someone who is trying to cram religion down their throats. This is key due to the fact that many feel Christianity is a bunch of yes and no’s that they want no part of. Opening up new avenues in this day and age is one of the biggest challenges facing the modern church. While more and more youth continue to leave the church at a critical age, church leaders are scrambling to come up with ways to make Christianity more personal.
Now I don’t mean to say that hip-hop is the only way to connect with youth. That is far from the truth. What I’m trying to say is that it is one of the things the church needs to grab ahold of and run with. In doing so, they can draw in more youth, hopefully before it becomes too late. There will always be some that say hip-hop has no place in the church. These are probably of the same crowd that says the only appropriate church attire is fancy dress clothes. Not that there is anything wrong at all with wanting to look your best for church. But when someone says that God won’t accept your worship if you’re in jeans and a t-shirt, they are dead wrong. I’m not here to attack tradition though; I’m here to encourage change.
To conclude, Christian hip-hop has come a long way from the days of KJ-52 and his Mtn. Dew. It is now an increasingly large avenue for sharing the Gospel with non-believers. The sooner the modern church realizes this, the sooner it can begin to become more appealing to youth. For those wondering, here are the top five Christian Hip-Hop artists as voted on by fans…
- Trip Lee
- Andy Mineo
Thanks for taking time to read this article and please be sure to share it with your friends. Perhaps the next time you’re searching for some new music to listen to, check out one of the above artists. If you happen to have unsaved friends, maybe play some Christian hip-hop for them. Also, the next time someone says Christian hip-hop is cheesy; you can either point them here, or just have them take a look at the awards given to rappers such as Lecrae…