- Trip Lee, whose album The Good Life debuted at #2 on the overall iTunes sales charts on April 10, recently told XXL magazine that “I’m a Christian within hip-hop culture, and I think you’re going to be able to see that in my music.”
In a separate interview with HipHopDx.com he seemed to connote a similar preference for the “rapper who is a Christian” label:
“I think, you know, some people think of Christian Hip Hop as its own genre. Some people don’t. You know, I think it could go either way. If you want to think of it as a genre, that’s fine. Or if you want to think of it as there’s some people within Hip Hop who are Christians, who are intentionally communicating from a Christian worldview, that’s how I would probably describe myself.”
- On April 27, without directly criticizing or downplaying the choices Trip, Lecrae, and many others have made regarding this issue, DJ Wade-O took to his podcast and e-mail newsletter to explain five reason why he prefers to call himself a “Christian DJ.” [Full disclosure: I write and record a weekly Holy Hip Hop News Blast segment for the show.]
- On May 14, gospel hip hop heavyweight Da’ T.R.U.T.H. used his Facebook page to explain his reasons for also keeping the “Christian artist” title.
- Then, days after Lecrae dropped his free Church Clothes mixtape on May 10 (which, at the time of this post, has been downloaded over 180,000 times) used similar wording when asked about his preferred title when he spoke to HardKnock.tv.
- This afternoon, May 21, Lecrae posted a blog on the Reach Records (the label he co-owns and records for) to clear the air (somewhat.)
- There were always Christians doing hip hop but the music was usually inaccessible or unpopular. I would listen to the radio and wonder where was the Christians perspective being heard in Hip Hop culture? Not the radio. "Contemporary Christian music" had developed, "Gospel" had its lane but where was hip-hop that articulated faith in Jesus? Hard to find.
- Interestingly enough those genres are the only one's categorized based off the content and not the style of music. Though it gives people identifying marks for their music it can also in many ways limit their reach. Many people take these titles to mean this is for an exclusively Christian audience. If indeed the true Gospel is what transforms people outside the faith why should the term Gospel seem exclusively for those in the faith? Of course that's not the intention, it's just a reality that any missionary should consider.
- As far as hip hop done well by Christians, there were always a few groups & artists each year that helped ease my woes but I was not at all content. The general market was flooded with Hip Hop artists but I rarely heard anything that embodied a worldview that God would endorse.
- Trying to be a part of the solution, I took to the studio and recorded an Album. It captured my southern roots, love for lyricism, and I tried to make it as current in production as I could. (I produced most of it.) The result was a tool for my fellas at the half way house and other areas with similar struggles.
- That project opened doors for me to travel a bit, mostly prisons, churches, and inner city outreaches, and perform my songs. I found that I had a gift for catalyzing people toward truth and creating anthems for Christians to live sacrificially and unashamedly for their faith.
- Personally I couldn’t simply talk about change I had to be apart of it so I spent my life living in the inner city, doing foreign missions, and serving in the local church. All was ammunition for my Rebel album. My life bled out in that project and the result was God showing tremendous fruit and people's lives being transformed by His power.
- One problem I faced was that in my hood, only the kids in after school programs and the Christians were feeling it. Sure some were rejecting the Gospel but others didn't give it a spin at all due to the labels placed on it.
- My take?
- Be led by the Holy Spirit and use your words and labels strategically. Also know that regardless of your preference, some people will label you and your music however they best see fit.