Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Top 10 Christian Hip Hop Stories of 2010
10. Richie “s/ave” Douglas passes
This one is deeply personal but also carries great significance for the entire faith-based genre. We entered 2010 by losing one of the greats – Richie “s/ave” Douglas. He was the man who founded DaSouth.com, was the original Christian hip hop journalist, and my dear friend.
s/ave was only 36 years old and died in his sleep as a result of an epileptic seizure. He was, and still is, sorely missed.
9. Oklahoma on the rise for Christian hip hop
As you know, I’m a Texan and we tend to have just a little bit of state pride, okay, who am I kidding? A LOT of state pride.
Still, I gotta keep it real and tip my hat to our northern border neighbors in Oklahoma. They’ve got guys like Dre’ Murray, Fedel, Kadence, Cam, and Sean C. Johnson going hard body lately.
All these cats seem to really be putting a professional shine on their art and represent well. They’ve also got the collective force of an organization like Positive Hip Hop.tv pushing them to the forefront and are hosting events like the Oklahoma Hip Hop Hope Unity Conference.
Is O-K the new Christian hip hop hot spot?
8. The Houston Chronicle covers Christian hip hop on the regular
This June, after several months of relationship building, I was invited to become a regular blogger for the Houston Chronicle’s Belief subsite. I retain full editorial control over what I cover and average about two or three posts a week about news and events in our genre.
Several of those stories get featured on the front page of the Chronicle’s main website and a handful have even made it into their weekly print edition. Houston is the nation’s fourth largest city, but only a one newspaper town. All that means is that this opportunity is definitely bringing some much needed exposure to what God is doing through hip hop as a whole and in my city in particular.
7. Rawsrvnt attempts “The Ultimate Merger”
A Donald Trump-produced reality dating show with previous Apprentice villain Omarosa as its focus doesn't seem like a place where you'd find a Christian rapper as a contestant.
Then again, it's probably the exact reason one was added to the cast. We're talking about it here, aren't we?
Yep, Eddy “Rawsrvnt” Puyol was one of 12 eligible bachelors looking to win Omarosa’s heart on “The Ultimate Merger.”
The story goes that Trump’s people hit up Rapzilla.com looking for candidates and the Florida-based worship-hop artist was nominated.
Raw told me his goal in going on the show was to demonstrate what the walk of a true man of God looks like and to show how he treats and relates to women.
He only lasted three episodes, but anyone who saw the show can’t deny that Raw accomplished his task.
6. RedCloud torches Christian hip hop
"Evandalism," RedCloud’s firebomb diss track, hit YouTube on Good Friday. In it, he vented about his break up with his former label and his disappointment with many of the spiritual leaders within whom he had placed some trust.
What was obvious in this track was that he was hurting. The lyrics were laid over Diddy’s “Angels” beat and the original hook lines of “love don’t live here no more” and “I need someone to trust” that bled through were haunting. Cloud also screamed out “Lord, deliver me from your followers” and “Somebody feel my pain!”
His pain was indeed felt. And thankfully, after several individuals reached out to him, Cloud removed the clip from the net the next day. Still, the damage was done.
We’re still praying for you Cloud.
5. Braille’s Weapon Aid provides catharsis
Braille had spoken publicly about his father’s death, his painful divorce, moving from state to state, and caring for his young daughter. Add in the demise of his Hip Hop is Music company and the public diss from a former labelmate (see RedCloud's outburst above) and you’ve got a justifiable recipe for depression. Still, his lyrics on Weapon Aid convey an air of ultimate trust and rescue through Christ the King.
They process the concerns of a “Blessed Man,” admit periods of doubt, darkness, and defeat, but never lash out. Instead, Braille seems to seize the opportunity for self-examination.
On record, betrayal never leads to bitterness. This is the route we wish RedCloud would have taken.
Weapon Aid was heart-sleeve hip hop in the emotional vein of Kanye’s 808’s & Heartbreak. I’m guessing that five to ten years from now we’ll look back on this dark period in Christian hip hop and say that this album was a healing catharsis for us all.
4. Bizzle goes at Jay-Z
Admit it, you weren’t aware of Bizzle before his “Explaining To Do” track directed at Jay-Z became a hip hop gossip site staple. Heck, dude lived in my own city and I didn’t even know his name before this.
What some saw as a mere publicity stunt was really just the passionate outcry from a relatively new believer. He saw the game’s top dog dissing his Savior and felt the need to vocalize his frustrations with some righteous anger.
What was great about it all was that it got a conversation started and shed light in a traditionally dark area. And if you still have doubts about Bizzle’s motives, I urge you to download his Messenger and Best of Both Worlds mixtapes and witness his expanded topical focus.
3. Ambassador and Da’ T.R.U.T.H. break their silence
If 2009 was the year of shame then 2010 was the year of restoration. After publicly admitting failures in their marriage in unrelated incidents, both Ambassador and Da’ T.R.U.T.H. eventually broke their silence after a period of retreat.
Ambassador opened up via a video blog, proclaimed reconciliation with his wife, and later led a weekly Bible study on DaSouth.com. Shortly after, Da’ T.R.U.T.H. renewed his wedding vows on his 8th anniversary. DJ Wade-O brought us audio from that ceremony and later sat down with the artist and his wife to share their testimony.
By all appearances, we might even see both guys return to the booth for full albums that will no doubt be dripping with stories of grace.
2. Flavor Fest celebrates 10 years and a new building
The weekend of 10/10/10 in Tampa, Florida ushered in a celebration of two great things. First, it was the 10 year anniversary of Flavor Fest – an event designed to encourage, empower, and equip churches, ministry workers, and artists to better communicate the Gospel through hip hop.
Secondly, it was the grand opening of the new building and campus for Crossover Church – largely recognized as the leading and most vibrant all-out hip hop congregation.
Although I had visited Crossover before, this was my first ever Flavor Fest. I was definitely impressed. If you consider yourself a member of the Christian hip hop community you owe it to yourself to make a trip to Tampa and witness firsthand how God is using that church and that event to make Him famous.
Congrats Urban D and the Crossover Community. We love and celebrate this milestone with you.
1. Reach Records' Unashamed Tour raises the bar for CHH events
With nearly 30 shows and 25 plus cities, the crew from Reach Records raised the bar for a traveling Christian hip hop concert. Aided by the record-setting sales success of Lecrae's Rehab album and the momentum of a handful of other releases from their flagship artists, the Unashamed Tour brought out the masses.
Attendance reports started in the 1,000 person range (as it was in Houston) and continued to grow as the tour went on. Three thousand, 3,500, then close to 5,000.
The stage was set with Reach-provided screens and lights. There were pre-song and artist transitions videos and choreographed moments that perfectly meshed with the DJ Official and a live drummer's accents. But most importantly, the message of the Gospel was expressed and reinforced throughout the event.
When I interviewed the Reach Records team at Flavor Fest, Lecrae told me that he envisioned the Unashamed Tour as a hip-hop like Passion Conference, designed to introduce people to Jesus and lead those who already follow him in worship through hip hop. What a beautiful and well-executed vision.
For more of my thoughts on the year in Christian hip hop (including my nominees for the best newcomer, video, interview, album, artist, and moment) check out my conversation with DJ Wade-O on Episodes 189 and 190 of the The Wade-O Radio Show.
Stream or download them for free right here.