Thursday, May 31, 2012

VIDEO: Recap of Master's Tournament winner's megaconcert with Christian rappers


Worship artist and CCM radio mainstay Jeremy Camp created a video recap of this weekend's Bubba's Bash concert that raised funds for the Bubba Watston Medical Clinic in Livayo, Kenya.

The megaconcert was organized by PGA golfer and 2012 Master's Tournament winner Gerry “Bubba” Watson and showcased mostly Christian hip hop acts - including Houstonian and recent Rice University graduate Ronnie "Reconcile" Lillard. Look for his white tee and swinging dreadlocks starting at the 2:15 minute mark.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sho Baraka on “High Charity” missions off stage

Sho Baraka (right) posted this photo to his Instragram account after a well-digging mission trip to Guatemala

Back in March, at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, co-owner Bobby "Tre9" Herring and I connected with High Society founding member Sho Baraka backstage to ask about how he integrates Christian mission work into his life outside of music.

Although he was a bit reluctant to do so for fear of sounding boastful, he did take a few moments to provide some examples of what he's doing in his community and encourage others to do the same.

Oh yeah, there's also a special message at the end for people who were concerned about his faith after leaving Reach Records and stating he no longer desired to make music exclusively for the Christian market.

Lecrae responds to the “Christian rapper” vs. “Rapper who is a Christian” debate (kind of)

The “I’m-a-proud-Christian-rapper” versus the “I’d-prefer-you-just-say-I’m-a-rapper-who-is-a-Christian” debate is not a new one. However, it has been revived recently after two of the movement’s top selling artists have apparently switched strategies (at least when posed the question by secular hip hop media outlets.)

To recap:
  • 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 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.]
  • 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
    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.

Monday, May 14, 2012

My video interview on "Donkey & Rocks"

Earlier this month my man Celah Orsaynuttin hit me up for a chat about my work covering the Christian hip hop movement for the last 14 years.

It's part of his "Donkey & Rocks" series of videos with different industry figures to understand how businesses and movements are really started.

NOTE: The audio in Celah's end is a little low, but my side is fairly clear.

In our talk, we discuss:
  • 3 tips that will help any writer or journalist sharpen their skills 
  • Where I believe Rapzilla and both err in aspects of their web presence
  • And a variety of other topics related to this scene

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hip Hop Hope Ends In 5th Ward Then Resurrects


Although still taking place in other formats, Hip Hop Hope Tuesdays, the 2-year-old weekly outreach of Eyes On Me Ministries that focuses on uplifting, enlightening, and encouraging young people entrenched in urban rap music culture, has come to an end in Houston’s 5th Ward.

On April 10, 2012, the night of the HHHT memorial service for frequent volunteer Carlos “DJ Primo” Avila, event founder Bobby “Tre9” Herring broke the news that The Prince Complex, a community center/gym owned by Rap-A-Lot Records founder J. Prince, had been sold and would no longer be available for regular gatherings.

In an e-mail to his ministry’s supporters this week, Herring wrote:

However, I made a commitment to every kid from 5th Ward that attends that we will not stop meeting with them. There are too many youth in inner city neighborhoods that have spiritual mentors come in and out of their lives. We will not be guilty of abandoning them while they are growing to know Jesus through us. [Go to 4:04 in the video below to see Tre9 address the HHHT youth.]

So the following week we picked up about 11 youth and took them to my mother-in-law's house to begin organic church with them. Our staff of eight faithful volunteers have stepped up to be disciple makers themselves, and we are currently rotating the weekly house fellowship with these young people. 

Now Hip Hop Hope has become what I believe God intended it, an organic church meeting in different places each week, making disciples of young people who do not go to any particular building for what we know as "church." 

Acts 17:24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands." 

I praise God we can have church with these youth wherever someone opens their doors. I look forward to the impact Jesus will have on their lives and their communities for many years to come. 
Donors provided and wrapped this passenger van to help transport kids to and from events. In a sad turn of events, it debuted the night Hip Hop Hope Tuesdays ended in 5th Ward.

In addition to his regular prison and school ministry, Herring is now bringing Hip Hip Hope events to other churches. The first will be held this Friday, May 11 at Conroe Community Church. To find out more about Eyes On Me Ministries, visit


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The most important album in Christian rap history ("Church Clothes") drops tomorrow


The more I think about it, the more I believe that Lecrae’s upcoming “Church Clothes” mixtape may be the most important Christian hip hop album in history. The free album, which drops tomorrow Thursday, May 10, is vital for a handful of reasons.

One, it’s being hosted by DJ Don Cannon aka “The Number 1 Co-signer.” When Cannon drops his seal of approval on a project people listen. Even if they aren’t already familiar with the artist, his brand carries weight that can open doors and ears for Lecrae.


Secondly, it has enough high profile features, on both production and the mic, to also garner interest from listeners unfamiliar with Lecrae. When you have beats from guys like S1 (Kanye's "Power"), Boi-1da (Grammy winning producer for Drake, Eminem), 9th Wonder (Jay-Z, Eminem, Drake, Destiny's Child), and Street Symphony (Gucci Mane) and guest verses from the likes of No Malice (formerly Malice from The Clipse) its yet another sign that these established hip hop heads are willing to put their name on the line for a talent like Lecrae.

Third, it’s going to be released for FREE. That means that people who may have only heard of Lecrae in passing from the BET Awards cypher, Statik Selektah’s compilation, or events like SXSW or Paid Dues may be willing to download the project and give it a spin they wouldn’t otherwise if they had to actually drop duckets on the release.

Finally, he appears to be taking a more "relational" approach to his content - offering lyrics and writing songs that the non-Christian listener can probably identify with more than a sermon rap about a heavy doctrinal issue.

Exhibit A: The "Church Clothes" lead single. The song is better than the almost too-literal video below, but listen to how Lecrae takes on the voice of an unbeliever in the first verse and addresses the negative connotations many already have about hypocrisy and failings within the Church at large.

I’ve covered this movement for almost 15 years (listening even longer) but really can’t recall a single album that had this much potential for full commercial crossover. The Gospel Gangstas and GRITS came close, but for some reason “Church Clothes” just seems to have a better mix of momentum, co-signers, and circumstances that might push Lecrae into the level of all-out mainstream success and embrace.

This obviously places enormous pressure on Lecrae. He may not even want to be the face of Christianity in hip hop, but if anyone is carrying that mantle these days it’s Mr. Moore. As such, I want to encourage you to really be praying for him and this project.

Pray that God would give him the right words, attitude, and mind this opportunity affords.

Pray for Lecrae’s family. For his business partners. For his spiritual leaders and accountability teams.

Pray that ears would be open and hearts would be softened by the message of this music.

Pray that media outlets accurately cover this release and convey the truth it communicates.

“Church Clothes” – Thursday, May 10. May it be an album our God uses for His glory.

Monday, May 7, 2012

VIDEO: American Idol finalist performs ukulele cover of Lecrae's "Background" at Dallas church

 Photo from

For those of you jonesing for ukulele covers of Christian hip hop by former American Idol contestants - I got your hook up right 'chere.

According to the YouTube blurb posted with the video on March 1, 2012, Season 7 finalist (and CCM singer) Jason Castro performed the acoustic version of Lecrae and Andy Mineo’s “Background” at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, TX.

The original: The cover:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thoughts on MCA of the Beastie Boys - R.I.P. Adam Yauch


Cancer sucks. One of its most recent, well-known victims is Adam "MCA" Yauch.

As a white kid listening to hip hop as a yungin, Yauch's Beastie Boys were one of the first groups I gravitated towards as MTV began to embrace the genre.

Although I started listening to Christian rap early on (copped Stephen Wiley's "Bible Break" cassette tape single in 1986), I probably heard the Beasties first - something my mother wasn't too pleased about when she had to explain their "your mom threw away your best porno mag" complaint from "Fight For Your Right" to her 10 year old.

I balanced out my hip hop diet as years went along though and continued to appreciate the Beastie's growth as artists. In college, we rocked to Check Your Head and Ill Communication. When I got married and bought our first DVD player the Beasties' Video Anthology (The Criterion Collection) was one of the first discs I purchased. It's still a worthy spin with 100's of different angles and over 40 remixes on the different audio tracks. Plus, the dudes simply kill it on the visuals.

I love their instrumental albums too. The In Sound From the Way Out and The Mix-Up show off their talent as true musicians. And thankfully, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just last month. Something the great Mick Boogie celebrated with this fresh Grand Royal mixtape.

My prayers are with Yauch's wife, daughter, friends and family. He will be missed.

If you haven't yet seen it, check out the way Christian rappers Heath McNease, Playdough, and RedCloud paid tribute to the Boys' classic "So What'cha Want" video in this track from the Nintendo Thumb: Straight Outta Console mixtape.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

VIDEO: Andy Mineo & Ruslan (theBREAX) share their biggest mistake

At SXSW 2012, Tre9 and I moderated a panel discussion of Christian rap artists including Andy Mineo, Trip Lee, Von Won, k-Drama, Thi'sl, Ruslan (of theBREAX), KB, and PRo. 

In the video clip below, Andy Mineo and Ruslan share their biggest music ministry mistake (so far) so that others can learn from it.