As I noted back in May, the “I’m-a-proud-Christian-rapper” versus the “I’d-prefer-you-just-say-I’m-a-rapper-who-is-a-Christian” debate has been freshly revived by artists like Lecrae and Trip Lee. Former Cross Movement Records artist R-Swift also recently weighed in on Trackstarz Radio, DJ Wade-O wrote a blog about it, and now West Coast vet NomiS has released a full song communicating his take on the matter.
I recently caught up with the Gallery Drive MC via e-mail to discuss
the song, why he thinks the “Christian rapper” label is a more
profitable career choice, and whether or not he believes the discussion
will ever go away.
Sketch: What prompted you to write and record “Spirit In It?”
NomiS: There wasn’t one specific incident. The inspiration to write
this song was a result of many repeated incidents. As an artist, when
something is on my mind a lot, I write about it. Initially I didn’t want
to make a song because I kind of felt like it was a “dead horse” type
of topic. But then I realized that nobody had really talked about it in
depth in an actual rap song. Previous to this it was seemingly just a
conversation that many were having amongst their own biased circles.
I really wanted to present my opinion in a direct, yet
non-confrontational manner. I actually went back and re-wrote a lot of
the song because I had to check my own spirit when writing it.
Sketch: You recently got some heat from conservative Christian rap fans for allowing a non-Christian rapper, Sadat X of Brand Nubian fame, to do a guest feature on your upcoming Searching for Alpha Trion album.
Did that also play a part in sparking the idea for you to write this
song? What did that experience (either recording with Sadat or having to
respond to critics or both) teach you?
NomiS: It actually had nothing to do with that. I wrote and recorded
the “Spirit In It” track about a year ago. I cut it from this new album
because I felt it didn’t fit the vibe of the record honestly. BUT, due
to the recent changes happening in “Christian Hip Hop” and due to the
fact that I think the song is important, I was encouraged to put it out.
As for the song with Sadat, I’m honored to have someone who’s played a
role as large as his in hip hop to be on one of my songs. As for the
negative response I’ve gotten from that, sadly I’ve come to expect that
from the “CHH” community.
For some reason, some people just can’t fathom the idea that their
conviction for how a Christ-centered artist should go about his ministry
isn’t a universal one. I’m not out here saying that “my way” is “THE”
way to go about it. I’m saying that “my way” is “A” way to go about it. Tedashii
is going to have a different approach than I would and that’s the
beauty of the body of Christ. It takes all parts to do their job for the
body to function properly. In fact Tedashii and I were just talking
about this about a week ago. We share a mutual respect for each other’s
Sketch: You’ve told me before
that although you attempt to follow the ways of Jesus, you dislike the
term Christian rapper. Have you ever been called a coward or been told
you’re ashamed of the Gospel (like the people you mention in this song)
because you don’t identify yourself with that label? If so, what was
NomiS: These days man, I gave up on that “don’t call me a Christian
Rapper” battle. It really isn’t one worth fighting anymore. I would
never refer to myself as that, but if someone else does, it doesn’t
bother me as much as it used to.
I make honest music. I love Jesus, I carry a burden for social
justice and I love hip hop. I want to focus more on always bettering my
craft and living out the things I rap about. I’ll let people call it
what they want.
I’ve never been called a coward or “ashamed of the Gospel” to my
face, but I for sure have via message boards or in some form of online
comments. When it happens I don’t get very mad, but I honestly feel pity
for the people saying it. In my head it’s like, “These dudes have no
idea that the fervor they’re using to insult me (they would probably
call it rebuking me because that way they feel justified) is
ridiculously misguided”. On another note, I find it highly comical when
they “rebuke” me on Christian websites and use all sorts of profanity in
the name of Jesus. For some reason, that legitimately makes me laugh
out loud when I see it. Does that make me a bad person? (Laughs)
Sketch: From the song, it sounds like you believe that
labeling yourself as a “Christian rapper” is an easier and more
profitable career choice than being a Christian who doesn’t carry that
title. Is that the case? Why?
NomiS: I definitely believe that but let me clarify something first. I
don’t think there is ANY PROBLEM AT ALL with some artists taking that
route. As I said before, for some people that is the way to go because
they can reach and minister to a group that needs to hear it in that
But, the reality is this: Rap music is ridiculously over-saturated
right now due to the overwhelmingly large amount of social media that
gives any and everybody a voice. And the advancement in technology in
the last six years or so has allowed home recordings with decent quality
to be very easily accessible to the world.
Next I’ll use extremely large and round numbers to make my point, but
you’ll understand the example. In “Christian rap music,” a new artist
is like one more name amongst the million that already exist. But in the
“secular” rap world, a new artist is more like one more name amongst
the billion that already exist! Imagine that “secular rap
music” is a pie and “Christian rap music” is a pie of the exact same
size. Splitting the pie a million ways is MUCH easier to get a decent
sized piece of the pie than splitting it a billion ways. You feel me?
There are a large number of people that buy “Christian music”
exclusively. Being that I am in fact a Christian, it would make much
more sense economically to do what I can to tap into that market.
For those of you not involved in the industry outside of listening to
music, please believe that “Christian music” is a legitimate business.
Also, in my experience, the ratio of people who buy music instead of
illegally pirating music is much higher in the Christian world. This is
another reason why it makes more sense to gear what I do towards that.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I think I’ve made my point. I
could talk about this stuff forever.
Sketch: As more artists like Lecrae, Trip Lee, R-Swift, and
JR are taking this stance do you think the “Christian rapper” vs.
“Rapper who is a Christian” debate will ever go away? Why or why not?
NomiS: Unfortunately I’m pretty confident that it won’t ever go away.
I can’t imagine what it would take for people to change their minds
because they seem to feel so strongly about their stance. Maybe if Lecrae wins a Grammy and does an alter call on stage and we see Lil Wayne repent before the world – then MAYBE people will start to loosen up a little. Haha.
NomiS’ next album, Searching for Alpha Trion, drops Tuesday, July 17 at all major digital download storefronts.