Thursday, January 1, 2009

Top 10 CHH Stories of 2008

With 2008 coming a close, I figured I’d do my best to rank and recap the biggest Christian rap stories of the year. Now I know everybody and their blogging little brother has some sort of Top 10 list already out there, but hang on, cuz “This is something Sketch the Journalist says you need to hear…”

Number 10: Da’ T.R.U.T.H. is featured on MTV’s “Super Sweet 16” reality show.

Airing on January 1, this one made me throw up in my mouth a little. Then again, most of that stuff on MTV makes me do that these days.

A rich preacher’s kid from Cleveland got the spoiled brat treatment with a twist. The budget was supposed to be significantly reduced to $10,000 (which apparently is nothing compared to most episodes) and kids from nearby low-income neighborhoods were invited to the party along with gospel rap minister Da’ T.R.U.T.H. as the special guest.

In typical MTV fashion, they clowned him by playing cricket sounds when he hit the stage and showing clips of many kids saying they didn’t know who he was.

I don’t blame Manny for giving it a shot, but I imagine it’s probably not something he would do a second time.

Number 9: CY has a message for T-Pain.

I actually helped write this press release so I obviously have some vested interest in the piece.

My H-town brother worked hard to create his circus-themed album and concert and feared it was going to be overshadowed by the Auto-Tune Boy Wonder’s bigger budget project along the same vein.

Our goal was simply to point out that CY was working this angle first and not biting a successful mainstream artist as too many in our genre have done in the past.

And if you heard his passionate interview on The Wade-O Radio Show, then I’m sure you saw his heart.

Number 8: CCM Magazine goes out of print

In January we learned that CCM (Christian Contemporary Music) Magazine's parent company, Salem Publications, decided to stop production on the print version of the Nashville-based rag to focus on the development of its web-based incarnation.

What was shocking for those of us in the holy hip hop community was that this wasn’t just another gospel rap mag calling it quits (and we’ve seen our share of those come and go).

CCM covered it all from Tooth & Nail hard rock to Jeremy Camp pop to Third Day worship. I mean – they had Michael W. Smith money! And they still couldn’t make it?!?

This was also disturbing because the mag was finally starting to cover more Christian Hip Hop artists and news.

They carried on some of that via their website and with reprints of articles from, but it still wasn’t the same and an important bridge to the mainstream CCM Christian bookstore culture was lost.

Number 7: Wade-O Radio hits the NYC airwaves

Y’all already know how big this was for our man Wade. Christian hip hop’s most authoritative podcast got a broader audience on November 1st with syndication on the Bridge FM to the Greater New York City Metro Area.

God has rewarded Wade for his faithfulness and expanded his territory. May Daddy continue to bless Mr. Ohio State and this ministry.

Number 6: Dive in to the Holy Culture Radio record pool

I believe it was in March when I heard about this joint. Record pools have been an invaluable part of the mainstream scene for years. It’s how DJs (the backbone of hip hop) get fed new music and how new artists get heard. Now Christian rap was catching up.

While probably not the first and certainly not the only, it was still a big step for our brothers at the HCR network to initiate such an undertaking. Now it resides with DJ D-Lite under the name Kingdom Affiliates.

And if you ain't in the pool and want to be, check out Come on in, the water's warm!

Number 5: Christian rap goes digital

Add a few more nails in the coffin that contains the compact disc.

Christian rappers everyone seemed to be acknowledging the shifting music consumption patterns of their audiences and for once, seemed ahead, or at least with, current trends.

Deepspace5’s Manchild set up a subscription service for his digitally delivered raps and KJ-52 re-released his “Yearbook” project with “The Missing Pages” that was only available via download. Elsewhere, sites like The Bus Shop jumped on the mp3 bandwagon for getting your goods.

Number 4: The All Eyes On Me Achievement Awards Honors Christian Rap Pioneers

In June, Houston hosted many of Christian rap’s pioneering acts including Stephen Wiley, Apocalypse, A1-Swift, Fred Lynch and the Gospel Gangstaz. In addition, we held guys like Syntax Records, Lil’ Ras, Elle Roc, Pettidee, and Corey Red in high esteem for holding down the genre’s golden age.

There were also performances from guys like Sean Slaughter, RedCloud, Whuteva, iRocc, k-Drama, Sparky D, and the one and only Bushwick Bill.

Despite a needlessly controversial name change from the Texas Holy Hip Hop Achievement Awards, the bar was raised for an event that honors its own. And to get a better perspective on the weekend from founder Tre9, track down his interview with Wade-O on episode 69.

Number 3: Rest in Peace Beatmart and Gotee Records

As I wrote about in issue #11 of S.O.U.L. Magazine, is seems as though both Beatmart and Gotee Records, once two Christian hip hop power-houses, are no longer.

Beatmart’s Troy Collins told me, “I don’t think you have to have a degree from MIT to figure out that the sun is clearly setting on us as a traditional record label.”

Later, he claimed it was a symptomatic condition of where the music business is right now and promised that Beatmart was still very much in business, just not in the tradition that consumers normally perceive it.

Gotee seemed to be in a similar state – shedding its roster of many of the acts (including Grits) that helped establish it as an early home for modern urban gospel artists. Now, the only rap-like names left are two white guys (John Reuben and B. Reith) who are best described as “alternative” musicians with some hip hop elements.

There are many reasons offered for the existence of these two new tombstones that are better explained in my full story. But bottom line: the business of selling Christian rap music ain’t no cake walk.

Number 2: gets resurrected

Now it’s not like holy hip hop is lacking online community and news websites. We’ve got Illspot, Rapzilla, and Sphereofhiphop holding it down right?

Still, the relaunch of has special resonance – not the least of which for me is that 1) it was initially founded by my good friend s/ave, 2) its original coverage base was of my Third Coast brethren, and 3) it’s been bombly re-created by Bezworks’ Zee.

As of late just a vibrant message board, the new site has all kinds of dope multi-media features, streaming radio (including The Wade-O Show), a video channel, gets frequent updates on an near daily basis, and has become a revived destination hub for all things gospel rap.

I knew it was coming and was still blown away by the new site. And if you haven’t pointed your browser that way you’re doing yourself a serious disserve. Do it now – You won’t be disappointed.

Number 1: Lecrae’s (rebel) album breaks records

Anyone who bought Lecrae’s album “After the Music Stops” (and there were tons) no doubt had high expectations for (rebel). But 10,000 plus units in the first week? Bananas!

On release day the project hit #3 on iTunes Hip Hop/Rap Chart (#15 overall) and ultimately made it to numero uno on Billboard’s Top Gospel Album chart. Singles like “Don’t Waste Your Life” and “Got Paper” further propelled sales and put the Message in many more ears.

Hopefully this will help outsiders take notice and take hold.

That such a talented rapper with some beastly tracks also had so much depth and quality content was such a blessing. I honestly don’t think it could happen to a better dude than Lecrae and immensely respect his integrity as a minister of the Gospel.

Please continue to rep us, and ultimately Him, well Mr. Moore.

So that’s it – the Top 10 Christian Rap Stories of 2008 as told by Sketch the Journalist. Agree? Disagree?

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t express my gratitude to you, my loyal readers, for all the kind feedback and support you’ve given me these past 365 days as an opinionated voice in Christian hip hop. I’m honored to have the platform and love that my words resonate with so many of you.

Thank you for the reading and may our Father bless us both as we continue his work in 2009.

No comments: