Here's a little piece that you'll be able to read in the print version of U-Zone Magazine that will be released at the Holy Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta this month.
I generally don't post stuff I've written for other publications until it has actually been released. But due to the timely nature of this article, I figured I could make an exception.
Enjoy it and pick up your copy of U-Zone Magazine. In that same issue I also have feature story interviews with: Lil J Xavier (cover story), Urban D, and Lil Raskull.
U-Zone Magazine: http://www.myspace.com/uzone_mag
You know how these “year-in-review” articles go, right? I, your author and annual tour guide, take a look back at the past 365 days of holy hip hop, point out some highlights, give you the good and bad, write a short summary, and then try and tie them all together with a nice little thematic thread.
You’ll remember a few, be reminded of others, and argue with yourself (or the page) about the things I missed, overlooked, or over hyped.
All right, as long as we both know our roles, let’s get started.
Did you think the introduction to this piece was a tad bit… BOLD? Well, it’s not half as brash as some of the moves made in Twenty-Oh-Seven. In no particular order:
Bold Professions from the Mainstream
Bushwick Bill goes gospel :: Pastor/Murda Ma$e Asks for Forgiveness
A former Geto Boy recording a full album of hard hitting gospel rap music?!?
Yep. Bushwick Bill, best known for his small stature, missing eye, and horrorcore lyrics, has rededicated his life to Christ and has been spitting Scripture over beats in several Houston studios. Mentored and aided by Tre9 and his manager, Double R, the Little Big Man has been putting together several songs for his upcoming “Testimonies of Redemption.” Side note: Bill’s first public performance of some of these tracks was at a U-Zone Magazine mixer in H-town.
And in January, after leaving his pulpit for greener pastures of 50 Cent’s G-Unit family, Pastor Mason Betha aka Murda Ma$e appeared at the Holy Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta, took the stage, and publicly apologized for past statements denouncing Christian rap ministry. He acknowledged it can be used as a tool to win the lost and asked the audience to pray for him.
In June, the Sugarhill Gang, Special Ed, and MTV’s Sway all appeared at the Texas Holy Hip Hop Achievement Awards in Houston. Sugarhill participated in a panel discussion about “Hip Hop AS Religion” and Ed and Sway presented the evening’s highest honors. From the stage, historian and journalist Sway stated that on that night he had seen what hip hop was missing (those that rep the cross) and that he wanted to do a feature on it for the landmark music and culture network.
k-Drama yells “Cease Fire” :: Mr. J tells Constance’s story
In May, g-rap MC/producer and all-around hustler k-Drama joined “Cease Fire Cincinnati”, a comprehensive campaign to stop shootings and homicides in the city’s targeted neighborhoods. In addition to his active involvement in the movement’s rallies and marketing, Regis dropped a four-song “Cease Fire Cincinnati” EP that carried the theme throughout the album and returned its profits to the organization.
And throughout 2007, more and more people were alerted the horrors of the sex slave trade through Mr. J Medeiros’ song “Constance.” From his excellent of gods and girls album, the track (and accompanying video produced by XXX Church) told the story of the young girl named in the title. A perfect piece of Christian art, the song offered its listeners both chills and hope.
Da’ T.R.U.T.H. charts :: KJ-52 plays “Cold Case”
HHH had landed on two spots in particular that are sure to help it appear both professional and economically viable.
This summer, Da’ T.R.U.T.H. toured with Kirk Franklin, dropped a banging crossover single with Tye Tribbett, and saw his Open Book album debut at #2 on the Billboard Gospel chart.
And this fall, KJ-52’s song “You’re Gonna Make It” was licensed for the CBS crime-drama “Cold Case.” The track closed out the show, played in almost its entirety, and appeared to have a central role in the episode’s story.
Watch the clip below.
kj52 "your gonna make it" on cbs cold case
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Bold DIY Attitudes
The Rise of Podcast Radio and the HHH Music Video
Tired of waiting, HHH took advantage of technological advances and adopted a “Do-It-Yourself” attitude when it came to promotion.
Want to hear the latest gospel rap singles, DJs, and remixes but can’t bear the thought of staying up until 1am to hear the half hour teen scream show on your local Christian AM station? Now you don’t have to. Plug into any of the high quality weekly or bi-monthly shows on Holy Culture Radio (HCR.fm) and the mixes will be downloaded right to your computer or iPod.
HCR offers DJ D-Lite’s “3rd Coast Fiyah,” the East Coast leaning “Corelink Radio,” DJ Wade-O’s mixshow, DJ Primo’s chopped, screwed, and remixed “StreetLife Radio,” and KJ’s “52 Radio” of talk and music. Sphere of Hip Hop also offers a show on XM Radio.
The emergence of YouTube also allowed more holy hip hop fans the chance to finally see their favorite artists’ live performances and professional music videos. The on-demand, instant access is enough to make any of us old school fans uber-jealous. Everyone from the Lecrae to Soul P, to KJ-52 to Lil Raskull to your little cousin BooBoo now has a clip on the net. Just peep the aforementioned YouTube, MySpace, or HHH collective sites like Sphereofhiphoptv.com for all your faves.
See my Top 10 HHH Videos of 2007 here.
CM drops final album :: John Reuben and Listener leave Christian rap alone
All good things must come to an end right? Apparently a few key figures within the HHH game think so.
In March, flagship artists the Cross Movement announced that HIStory would be their final album as a group and would also be their final tour. The demands of running a label, having families, and pursuing other ministry opportunities lead to the decision. Thankfully, we have their legacy, reputation, and understudies to hold us over.
The year also marked distinct musical changes for both John Reuben and Listener (of Labklik and deepspace5.) While still writing and performing from a Christian worldview, each artist decided to tip their toes in other waters. Johnny Reu is now on a Beck/Cake funk rock tip and Listener has transitioned into the Listener Project band that performs something he calls “talk music.” Part spoken word, part hip hop, part performance art - the noise is definitely unique.
Tonex presents tells the Naked Truth :: Juanita Buynum battered :: Popular televangelists under investigation
It was also a sad year for several high-profile ministers who faced spiritual and natural attacks from their enemies.
Nureau Inkster Tonex vented his frustrations about gossip questions regarding his sexuality with an expletive-filled single called “The Naked Truth.” The song quickly spread across MySpace and the rest of the Net and caused many to worry about Tonex’s mental and spiritual health. The artist was also going through a divorce at the time. Thankfully, concerned Christians like Mark J and DJ Wade-O reached out and let Tonex share the back story. He later apologized and announced his restoration through his local church and ministry team.
Elsewhere, in August, Juanita Buynum split with her husband Bishop Thomas Weeks after claiming he had assaulted her in the parking lot of an airport hotel. Other notable falls from grace included Randy and Paula White and a United States Senate investigation into the financial statements and practices of church leaders like Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, and Benny Hinn.
Obviously such matters should be of grave concern and serious prayer to believers everywhere.
Urban D releases “Un.Orthodox” book, DVD, and album
Which holy hip hopper is crazy enough to drop an album, documentary film, and narrative/resource book about urban church ministry all at the same time?
That would be Urban D, aka Tommy Kyllonen, of the world-renowned Crossover Community Church in Tampa, Florida. A constant servant-leader, Urban D took his “Un.Orthodox” methods and message across the multimedia gambit and gifted the movement with some of the best blueprints on how to reach the hip hop culture for Christ.
So here we are at the end. The year is over as so is this article. Let’s say we wrap it up with a cliché statement about how we could have never anticipated what transpired over the last twelve months how we’re looking forward to 2008.
Works for me. See you in the Cero Ocho.