The Failure of Christian Hip Hop

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Guest Writer, Scott Schultz. Be sure to check out the response to this article, Why Christian Hip Hop is Not a Failure.

“Most of these cats is featherweight.”-Talib Kweli

I’m a little reluctant to publish this piece for a couple reasons. One, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m an expert on the history or state of hip hop music. I’m not. In part, this should be automatically obvious if my general thesis is true. Second, while I quite enjoy hip hop music and have for some time now, I realize that my doing so is all sorts of ironic, given my own social standing and upbringing. Additionally, I know that my take on these issues are as much shaped by regional factors as it is by socio-economic and racial factors, and so a good bit of what I have to say here requires being taken with a grain of salt. With these caveats firmly in place, I’d like to account for the utter failure of Christian hip hop.

These musings stem from a recent concentrated meditation on the work of hip hop artist Mos Def and to a slightly lesser extent, his partner in rhyme, Talib Kweli. It’s worth noting that listening to Mos Def was recently listed as something that white people like to do. In fact, I have to admit that I received my copies of Black Star and Black on Both Sides from a gifted upper middle class white kid. Much more, the only people I knew in high school who listened to Mos Def were people of a similar demographic stripe. Fully aware of this, I still have listened to these CDs intently for years, unmoved by the fact that I’m just a statistic. And with every listen, I’ve fallen into a deeper and deeper appreciation of the craft that Def and Kweli offer.

Ashamedly, I have to admit that I am basically ignorant of the growth of these two artists over the past decade, knowing only that each of them have released several independent albums which I hope to obtain for myself one day. I can, however, speak to the immense critical praise that their debut production meritted. Allmusic calls them one of “the most intelligent rappers to grace the vapid hip-hop scene in the late ’90s.” Largely influenced by several social activist influences of the twentieth century, Def and Kweli emerged from the Brooklyn underground as articulate social critics of the violence and general depravity that quickly became associated with their genre, not to mention with African-American culture in general. Breaking stereotypes of the black man trapped in a vicious socio-economic cycle (a point they implicitly make in a soundclip opening the track “Brown Skin Lady”), they conceive of themselves and their work as less entertainment and more something like prophecy. The fusion of counterculture ideology with sensual beats and flowing rhyme is known in some circles as “conscious hip hop” so named for its appeal to transcendent human qualities such as wisdom, contemplation, ethics, and reason – features pervasively absent in the baser, more violent forms of rap and hip hop.

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of Mos Def and Talib Kweli is the mere fact of their success. To be certain, a major selling point for the Black Star duo is their simultaneously provocative and tight lyrical wordplay, cast over somewhat classy beats, a mixture of old school simplicity and jazzy sampling. Having first established themselves within the indie hip hop scene, their musical credibility has never been a question – and yet, these gentlemen began their career selling gold albums infused with moral exhortation and spiritual reflection (cf. the intro to Black on Both Sides, wherein Def waxes thoughtful on the need for people to realize that they are made by God). The only comparable entity that comes to my mind is that interesting creature known as “Christian Rap.”

The situation in brief.

Without doing much research, I think it might be a sound estimation that the first established combination of Christianity and rap can be found in dc Talk (even though they danced from genre to genre over time). While dc Talk made the idea of simultaneously rapping and loving Jesus plausible, their primary offering was novelty more than it was anything like aesthetic experience. Alongside rock counterparts such as Jars of Clay and Audio Adrenaline, a brand new market of alternative contemporary Christian music exploded into existence, and as this market expanded and matured, so did the diversity and complexity of its genres. As this pertains to Christian rap, one label took up notable prominence (probably due to a lack of competition): Gotee Records, founded in part by dc Talk member Toby Mac.

Likely without exception, Christian rappers (and their fans) draw from a peculiar sect of Christianity known as “evangelicalism.” Evangelicalism is generally characterized by post-fundamentalist disinterest in confessional concerns of the Church, and even formal ecclesial institutions in general, focusing the brunt of its energy, rather, on the more missionary tasks of evangelism and conversion of individuals. It may very well be the dominant religious presence in America, but if it is not, it is at least one of the largest – and if not the largest, at least one of the most powerful. This is evident simply in light of the fact the President George W. Bush – an evangelical – was elected for even a second term.

While one could write endlessly critiquing this trend, that’s not quite the agenda I have in mind. But as as the sins of a father often pass on to his generation, so do the main weaknesses of evangelicalism penetrate the work of its artists. I think these sins can be listed severally:

  1. Evangelical Hip Hop is confessionally shallow. Evangelicals’ basic suspicion of doctrinal nuance and distinction leads to a shallow understanding of the gospel and the world. This generates an obnoxious reductionism, wherein believing the gospel is reduced to having a personal relationship with Jesus, and the world is nothing but the battleground of conversion. Thus, each song can only become reiteration of a single, simple theme. This is fine, of course. The gospel ought to contain the entire narrative of the universe as it does involve the one in whom we move and live and have our being. But evanglical hip hop tells a lie by reducing that single theme of the entire cosmos to something so dimly existential as yours and mine own “personal relationship with Jesus.” A more robustly confessional influence would free Christian rappers to appreciate the subtleties of existence and maybe even enable them to celebrate aspects of their lives as created goods to be wholly received with thanksgiving.
  2. Evangelical Hip Hop is vocationally confused. This is the classic problem of the parachurch. Christian rappers often view their own work as a ministry of God. That is, there is a very real and present consciousness among the Christian rap artist that not only is he an “ordained” minister of the gospel, but that he depends on that fact to validate his entire project. In the Bible we see that the ministry consists of things such as the preaching of the Word, the washing of the Baptismal Waters, the fellowship of the saints, prayer, the absolving of sins, partaking in Holy Communion, and so on – and all these things under the care of duly appointed elders. Both this and crafting songs for the general populace can be done unto God, with thanksgiving and his blessing – and both, too, can be said to be a response to our “calling” – but there is a very real sense in which we must never conflate these two things. This popular misconstruing of “the priesthood of all believers” has resulted in the abhorrent belief that the graces of the media of film, music, and writing are on par with the graces granted by the practices which God has specifically commanded and to which God has promised his certain blessing if we attend to them. Ironically, in attaching sacred importance to their labors, Christian rappers undermine the credibility of their own product and distract believers from the primacy and basic sufficiency of ordained means of grace. Rather than trusting in the encouragement of the sermon, many individuals feel that the grace granted through the publicly preached Word can be substituted with anything they like – even hip hop. This is clearly a problem that goes much deeper than a subgenre of a subgenre, but it certainly shows its fruits here.
  3. Evangelical Hip Hop is a misapplication of a medium. While the saying “the medium is the message” may have some problems, there is some truth to it. Rap is a specific genre developed in a very specific cultural context by a certain people that gives it a special integrity. Evangelical wasps, to a large extent, do not share in the same history as most rap musicians. Thus, it ought to be an open question whether or not the medium of hip hop music is an appropriate medium for evangelical agendas. This is not to say that spoken word over percussion is somehow antithetical to the gospel, but it is to say that we ought to consider a bit more closely what sorts of things appropriately “mediate” the gospel.

What can we learn from Mos Def?

In these failures of Christian hip hop, we can see where Mos Def and Talib Kweli succeed. First of all, Def and Kweli have a fairly literate grasp of the world around them. Their interests aren’t so esoterically circumscribed by the phenomenon of personal conversion that they’ve forgotten the world around them and its complexity. They can comment on global politics and religion as much as they can talk about local the social and ethical complexities of urban living. That is to say that Black Star loves (or at least knows) the world they speak of.

Secondly, Def and Kweli don’t suffer from the same false pretenses that their Christian counterparts do. To be sure, there is some analogy between the prophetic tone of “conscious hip hop” and Christian rap, but even when Black Star is at its preachiest, it’s not at the cost of entertainment – which, to some degree, is what all music is. The bottom line for a sound rap musician is impressing his audience with his lyrical creativity and vocal competency, and this against the backdrop of head-bobbing beats. Christian hip hop forgets this sometimes, and as a result replaces aesthetic dynamics with frustrating didactics and propositional finger-wagging. But according to Entertainment Weekly, this is precisely what Black Star does not do. Christians should take note.

Finally, though, we should note that the Black Star project, like much of hip hop, is a community project. Just taking into account the liner notes, adding up the number of producers and performers that show up on a single LP, we count something like 14 individuals, many of these having well-established music careers of their own. No doubt Christians have employed such collaboration in their own hip hop efforts (cf. the DJ Maj mixtapes), but the mere collaboration is not the point. The point is that hip hop as a fixed genre is something deeply linked to a community of individuals, a community that informs and is even somewhat held together by its music. Whatever amount of criticism or social commentary that Def and Kweli offer, that criticism and the style in which they present is an organic outgrowth from the values and beliefs of their own people. Largely drawn from suburban middle class white kids, Christian hip hop seems to parody this.

Co-opting a genre that bears the mark of a culture basically alien to itself, Christian rap lacks the proper “street cred” necessary to make its testimony convincing. Much more, it makes light of the very romance and intrigue that rap music offers its outsiders, supposing that it can simply transplant a culturally saturated style from its origins, substituting in its own evangelical ideology and simultaneously sanitizing the genre of the very rough edges that distinguish it. Thus, no self-respecting music lover can ever take Christian rap seriously. It’s a classic case of divorcing form from content, a perennial no-no in all things aesthetic. Insofar as Christian hip hop does this, we must conclude that it is a failure.

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com/ Jordan Peacock

    First: none of the issues you have outlined in Christian hip-hop are absent from Christian-rock or Christian-electronica or _______. So it’s somewhat misleading in that sense.

    Secondly, there ARE Christians doing exactly what your are describing. Check out Lifesavas, Tunnel Rats, Gospel Gangstas, and dozens of others.

    Third, there are also tons of people who are not professing Christians who fit the bill; The Gift Of Gab (from Blackalicious), Saul Williams, Lyrics Born, Atmosphere…

    So, while you sort of have a point it doesn’t really relate that well to hip-hop specifically in any way that I can see. It relates to evangelical Christians in art. For much of the same ideas, there has been an ongoing series in HM magazine covering this exact issue (“Why do evangelicals make bad art”)

    Jordan Peacock’s last blog post..Noor, the Little Sunshine

  • Salima

    This is EXACTLY what’s brought up in the movie “JESUS WAS A TERRORIST” – it’s like it predicted the future.

  • http://blog.gregwillson.com Greg

    I, with you, lament the lameness of evangelical music or art or whatever, but I also lament the lameness of what mostly makes the radio, be it specifically Christian or not. The mainstream Christian bands/groups cited are bad, yes, but so are most mainstream secular bands/groups. There are Christians doing great art AND there are non-Christians doing great art. The problem is that typical big gatekeepers (non-new media based) don’t offer a place for great art, just great profit…most of the time they are inversely related.
    So I think we can find people creating beauty, but I don’t think we should expect to find it in the same places (unfortunately).

  • http://scottedwardschultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    Thanks, guys, for the feedback.

    I should say, first of all, that I agree with both Greg and Jordan, that there really are a number of exceptions to the rule. Jordan, thanks for some of those recommendations. I was already aware of the Tunnel Rats, but I didn’t recall them being so talented. And you’re right, these guys are offering a lot of what I’m looking for.

    In fact, this already long piece was going to be longer. I had intended on closing by pointing out some examples of people that are getting this right – or that are at least headed in the right direction. I think Uprok-type artists show a lot of potential – or at least some of them do.

    But really, Gospel Gangstas? I don’t know if I’ve heard them before, but from what I can tell of them on their website, they seem to be guilty of everything I named here.

    My main criticism is with the genre as a whole, not its rare jewels. And even with groups like Mars ILL, Manchild being one of my all time favorite MCs, I’m still not entirely convinced that he’s going about the whole thing correctly.

    And I don’t think that it’s really accurate to say that everything here applies every Christian subgenre. I think, for example, that Christians have made a lot more headway in rock music, than rap, and I think there’s some real reasons for that – reasons which I have been planning on putting together in a separate post.

    Thanks for the input on the HM articles. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find them online. If you have a link or something, that’d be great.

    Scott’s last blog post..Typology and Ontology

  • mam

    i definitely would not consider any of these mainstream artists you have in mind and list evangelical in the matter. they may be Christians, but their ways to use the medium of their music to uplift Christ is not their goal IN THEIR MUSIC and LYRICAL CONTENT. check out FLAME (myspace.com/flame314) or Lecrae (myspace.com/lecrae) – these are artists that i would call Evangelical Rap artists

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com/ hewhocutsdown

    The HM series is only in the magazines, sorry.

    In response to your points about hip-hop being peculiar or only the rare jewels
    1. Evangelical Hip Hop is confessionally shallow.

    This is an issue with evangelicals, not with hip-hop. Evangelicals making hip-hop will, almost by definition, have this issue but it’s not due to their sound, it’s due to their worldview.

    As for confessionally shallow, praise and worship music is probably the most flagrant violator.

    2. Evangelical Hip Hop is vocationally confused.

    Again, praise and worship anyone? But I’ve stopped reading Christian rock rags because I’ve become numb to the perpetual ‘Christians in a band’ vs. ‘Christian band’ mandatory questioning. This was a HUGE issue with the original onset of Christian rock.

    3. Evangelical Hip Hop is a misapplication of a medium.

    Rock was developed in a context of rebellion; doesn’t mean all rock involves it. Black metal evolved in a context of Satanism, church burnings and desecrations and murder, but that doesn’t stop Extol, Horde, Lengsel, Slechtvalk, and others from re-envisioning the context for the genre.

    I’m sorry, but they are all fallacious arguments. You have some good points, but they are more closely tied to how churches and evangelicalism have viewed art than anything else. Because the church is operating the slow boat, the (Christian/evangelical) hip-hop scene is where the (Christian/evangelical) rock scene was 10-15 years ago. Give it time, it will diversify, the artists will mature, and break free of the bonds that we restrict them with.

    Some already have…

    And mam, if you think Saul Williams is not ‘evangelistic’ you must listen to him. He speaks as a prophet with such power and authority that one must tread cautiously to avoid being sucked in.

    Peace

    hewhocutsdown’s last blog post..Noor, the Little Sunshine

  • http://hesonlychasingsafety.blogspot.com Kiel

    “I think it might be a sound estimation that the first established combination of Christianity and rap can be found in dc Talk”

    Really?

    I mean . . . really?

    Dude, I’m sorry, but this was a poor beginning to an article that seemed to be astonishingly misguided. I suggest you do some serious research on the beginnings of hip hop. You’ll find that the hip hop culture and faith went hand in hand for many of the early pioneers of the genre. It’s not as though someone came along one day in the mid 90s and decided to glue the two together forming some oddly shaped contraption that tries to resemble the original form.

    You also should begin studying the diversity within the Christian* hip hop culture itself. You’ll find an amazing array of talented artists that range from (apparently so-called) evangelical artists to artists who put on a fun show in the club and then are able to share their faith with cats after the show is done. Point being – there’s a lot more to meets the eye with this genre than I think you’ve looked into.

    It’s good that you’re making an attempt to find a stance on the music or purpose of the genre, but it’s almost like the guy who sees one political commercial on the TV and then decides to go cast his vote based on it and tells others to do the same. If you would like some resources the help further your knowledge on Christian hip hop, I’d be happy to hook you up.

    Not mad at ya, just offering my opinion.

    Kiel’s last blog post..Don’t Dink and Drance!

  • http://scottedwardschultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    @Jordan

    Hmm, I’m not sure what you mean by “they are all fallacious arguments.”

    If you say that there is a large scale problem with evangelicals’ view of art, and I say that Christian hip-hop is largely drawn from these people, then doesn’t it follow that (mainstream) Christian hip-hop proceeds from problematic views of art – and because of this it fails?

    I wonder how much we actually disagree, Jordan. I might have overstated the case (largely due to the fact that I didn’t include my positive appraisals which I really do have), but I’m having a hard time following your argument. This is what I’m hearing:

    “When Christian rap is bad, it’s because it’s been controlled by misguided evangelicals.”

    Right. And it has been controlled by misguided evangelicals (maybe this is where we disagree). But if I’m right about the constituency, then I’m right to blame the constituency for their product, right? Help me out here.

    There’s alot to be said for your point that Christian rap is now where Christian rock was 10-15 years ago – I think there’s a lot of truth to that. But something about the way you state this evidences that you ignored my point that it might not be necessarily true that the role of the Christian musician is too recontextualize already established genres.

    @Kiel

    I’ll gladly take you up on your offer. I don’t know if you read it, but near the beginning, I intentionally disqualified myself several times to speak as an expert. (I think that was the point of the whole first paragraph.) Even the very quote you cited contains some evidence of this. (Note the passive “I think” and “estimation”.) So, in case it’s not obvious, if you’re ready to share, I’m more than ready to hear.

    I will point out, though, that you seem to have largely missed point if I’m reading this part correctly:

    “…artists who put on a fun show in the club and then are able to share their faith with cats after the show is done.”

    I think the implied responsibility that these artists ought to share their faith after the show betrays an understanding that I am pretty self-consciously attacking.

    Scott’s last blog post..Typology and Ontology

  • http://scottedwardschultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    *missed the point

    Scott’s last blog post..Typology and Ontology

  • Alan Noble

    Scott,

    I’m not sure if the idea of recontextualizing hip-hop is relevant much anymore, at least as a genre. While hip-hop did spring out of a specific culture situation in the late 70′s, since then it has been adapted and altered and evolved to fit a tremendously broad set of cultures. I know personally that Hip-Hop in L.A. is something specific and different from Hip-Hop in many Southern cities, or from NY. In other words, Hip-Hop can (and is) used by many different people groups as an authentic voice. Some of these groups are Christians. For example, there are a number of MCs who are believers and are generally accepted by both secular critics and Hip-Hop heads in general as good (dope) authentic Hip-Hop. My own group has been well received by secular critics, some of whom are shocked that they could enjoy Hip-Hop made by Christians (I’m not trying to set us up as an example of how Christians should make excellent Hip-Hop, because we’re not–but we are trying).

    So I guess I would say that while I agree with most of what you’re saying here, I don’t think that we should go so far as to say that Hip-Hop is an inappropriate medium for Christian artists (I know you didn’t go that far, but just to make my point). I would, however, gladly say that for the most part, Hip-Hop is inappropriate for evangelism, and that certain styles of Hip-Hop (Gospel Gangstas?) do not fit the content and are therefore aesthetically poor.

    -alan

  • Alan Noble

    I wrote two posts on a related topic a few years back:

    Christian Hip-Hop: Is it Viable? and a Conclusion to that article.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    @Scott – It is a testament to the depth of your article that I read it at all (being someone who is almost entirely uninterested in hip-hop). I enjoy some hip-hop like Blackalicious, Digable Planets, and DJ Shadow, but conversations about what they’re trying to say pretty much bore my socks off (as would similar conversations about and musical group’s intentions—really, would would look to musicians for wisdom?).

    But you made a number of valuable points and that kept me interested. A number of commentors have criticized you for speaking specifically about hip-hop when your critique could likewise be applied to other musical genre and even other media entirely. I noticed the same thing but counted it as one of the articles triumphs rather than something to be scorned. Reading your estimation of “evangelical” hip-hop brought to mind the gross tragedy of evangelical art, literature, music, and cinema.

    Anyway, you got sour grapes from enough quarters that I thought you should get some high-fives from an unlikely source.

  • Alan Noble

    The Dane’s gone soft?

  • Paul

    So are you saying experience should tell the stories? Instead of rap focusing on just the message of Christ and how many people can we reel in; the artist should focus on their own experiences and how they dealt with them or chose to deal with them? So as to not leave out the fact that the world still goes on.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    @Alan – Come on, don’t you see the hint of a smile playing around the corners of my mouth? I’ve always been soft! It’s the world around me that’s… that’s… just so hard. *weep*

    Actually, it’s house policy that I say something agreeable in every thirty-forth comment I make in order to offset the thirty-three negative ones I make.

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com/ hewhocutsdown

    I”m sorry if I came off as unnecessarily harsh. As The Dane said; it is a well written, engaging article.

    However, your thesis revolves around evangelical HIP-HOP somehow being unique in the world of art, rather than EVANGELICAL hip-hop…and this is where we differ. The worldview, evangelicalism, is where the issues you are describing come to the fore, not the genre.

    Obviously, when the two are conflated you will see all the same issues, but all it takes is a cursory look at how dozens of other genres and art forms have been treated by evangelicalism to realize that this is nothing peculiar to hip-hop. If nothing else, it is following a rather steady tradition.

    So your arguments are valid and appropriate IF they are saying that:

    a) these are identified in some Christian hip-hop today
    b) this is due more to the type of Christianity they embody that the type of music.

    But that’s not what the gist of your article is saying – your arguments are being used to prove something that they don’t actually prove.

    That’s where my beef is. :)

    PS-I was listening through all my old Public Enemy discs and I just realized how many times dc Talk sampled them on Free At Last. It was kind of surprising.

    hewhocutsdown’s last blog post..Noor, the Little Sunshine

  • http://johndyer.name/ John Dyer

    If you’re looking for content that’s far from shallow, here’s a Christian hip hop artist who has a Masters Degree in Theology:
    http://www.dts.edu/media/play/?MediaItemID=738d01bc-c6bc-4887-b810-ddab83e9cc18

    (disclaimer: this is a video highlighting him as a student at Dallas Seminary, where I work as a web developer, but his message is good either way)

  • http://hesonlychasingsafety.blogspot.com Kiel

    Okay, so I’ve had the night to think this over, and maybe I can articulate some stuff that I wasn’t able to last night.

    First of all, I agree that throughout your article you are admitting that you don’t know the topic in depth – or even enough to define what it exactly is and where it came from – which leads to the question: why are you the one writing an article about it? Why not talk to people who know the genre, interview artists and people involved in the industry, and then start developing ideas for how to get your point across. Better yet, why not talk to someone who knows it well and then let them write the article using the ideas that you conveyed to them. I just see no reason for someone who admittingly doesn’t know what they’re talking about to attack something that is so important to so many people.

    Next,

    “Much more, it makes light of the very romance and intrigue that rap music offers its outsiders, supposing that it can simply transplant a culturally saturated style from its origins, substituting in its own evangelical ideology and simultaneously sanitizing the genre of the very rough edges that distinguish it. Thus, no self-respecting music lover can ever take Christian rap seriously. It’s a classic case of divorcing form from content, a perennial no-no in all things aesthetic. Insofar as Christian hip hop does this, we must conclude that it is a failure.”

    I have no idea where this is coming from. It almost sounds like you heard KJ-52 and someone from Cross Movement and decided you knew what Christian hip hop was and that it’s a failure. This paragraph is by no means an overview of the genre itself, but simply a look at a few artists/groups who compromise the youth group sect of Christian hip hop artists. I’ll glady admit that there are Christian hip hop artists doing just as you say, but lump the entire genre into this category just shows that you haven’t looked into it much, or perhaps you did, and you just didn’t like it – at which point I begin asking your take on hip hop as a whole.

    Also, have you looked to see that Christian hip hop was in a place in the late 90s to become a real force, not only in the Christian market, but in the secular as well? Really talented artists were signed to labels and even Christian hip hop labels (i.e. Grapetree Records, Uprok Records, etc.) were becoming established in the industry. In the end, it was the Christian record label executives that were clueless as to how to market the genre, and a general change in taste among the mass audience as to what hip hop music is (this is a whole different topic)that caused the lack of success and decline. It wasn’t because there weren’t real artists with real talent that understood the balance of hip hop and faith.

    As a result, we have what we have today – a few (KJ-52, John Reuben, etc.) Christian rappers signed to Christian labels that now encompass the whole genre, while the other guys can’t even feed their families. It’s not because it doesn’t work, it’s because the labels didn’t know how to make it work.

    You speak of Talib Kweli and Mos Def, ask Talib why he has to play on the Warped tour instead of sharing the stage with Kanye or 50 Cent. Ask Mos Def why he went the way of an acting career instead of being a heavyweight in today’s hip hop world. You speak highly of them (and rightly so), but they’re in the same predicament many of the Christian artists you overlooked are – they’re smart, intelligent, artists who have a means to get a point across that are stuck in a world that only understands hip hop to be a really loud bass beat and slurry speech about how cool their clothes are and how many women they have.

    Like I said earlier, I’m not mad at you. If it sounds like it, it’s simply because I’m quite passionate about the subject. I agree with many of the points in your article, but I want to make clear that I believe you are missing a huge part of the story.

    Peace.

    Kiel’s last blog post..Don’t Dink and Drance!

  • Jared

    Have you met with any Christian rap/hip hop artists personally? Because I disagree with just about everything you said.

  • http://scottedwardschultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    Dang. I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew. One at a time I guess:

    @Alan – That’s a good point. I hadn’t thought about the development of hip hop music into geographically defined subgenres and that certainly has some relevance to this discussion since I want to account for hip hop in terms of people as much as style. You’re right, it has evolved quite a bit during our own lifetimes.

    I’m not exactly sure what that means for my argument. And I’m still fairly comfortable assuming some sort of general cultural cohesion among the various hip hop sects. I mentioned this in the article, but I’ll say it again to cover my bases – I’m a southern middle class white kid. So for me, for the people I know, the evangelicals that I’m surrounded with day in and day out, if one of them decided they wanted to start a Christian rap group, I would roll my eyes at them and say, “Man, that’s not your thing.” To me, that makes as much sense as me starting a Mariachi band – there’s some socially obvious reasons why that would be stupid, even if it’s kind of a fun idea.

    @The Dane – Thanks, Seth! I’m pleased to please and your comment made my day.

    @Paul – I think that’s definitely a helpful direction to start in, though I wouldn’t want to simplify the call of an MC to that specifically. There’s tons more that ought to be rapped about, such as one’s own lyrical prowess and the intense skill of his accompanying DJ.

    @Jordan – I appreciate your comments and your patience with me. I must say, you’ve made this writer’s job much more challenging than I had anticipated. (And that’s not a complaint.)

    I don’t really apologize for saying that Christian hip hop as a genre is a failure. Pointing out that there are some really awesome artists out there who get 20 plays a day on their myspace (compare: Talib Kweli has had 1600+ today) simply does not persuade. I call that a failure and I’m trying to explain why I think that happens. If you can explain why Black Star can overcome big label oppression, and The Tunnel Rats don’t, my ear is open, but this is what I see.

    @Kiel (btw, I think your name is awesome) – You didn’t list anything here that I didn’t already know. I was hoping to hear about how “the hip hop culture and faith went hand in hand for many of the early pioneers of the genre.” If you have some information along these lines, please, share. This is the kind of stuff that interests me.

    @Jared – No, I haven’t.

    Scott’s last blog post..The Failure of Christian Hip Hop

  • http://hesonlychasingsafety.blogspot.com Kiel

    I want to quickly touch on your reply to Jordan, in which you compare myspace plays between a nameless artist and Talib Kweli. How can you honestly compare a signed artist in the mainstream market with an unsigned artist? Only a couple Christian emcees have real record deals at this point (and this all goes back to the failures of the labels that I talked about earlier) and have any push from anyone. Therefore, you can’t use that argument to prove anything other than one guy has other guys that want to make money on his side and the other doesn’t.

    “Record sales are not a measure of how dope you are” – Sev Statik

    Okay, so back in the eighties when hip hop music was getting its sea legs on the west coast, there were plenty of Christians involved in the growth of the hip hop culture. One (and maybe the best) example is a guy named Chris Cooper, or Sup the Chemist. He was part of a group called SFC, and these guys weren’t labeled as anything other than rappers, there was no such thing as “Christian” rap at the time. They did more than pioneer the Christian side of the genre, they were pioneers of hip hop itself in the early nineties as it gained mass popularity in the LA area. They weren’t the only ones . . .

    You might know of a group called LA Symphony. Of all of the artists I’ve met, these guys have become some of my close friends. When they were growing up in LA in the late eighties, none of them had any idea at the time of something called Christian rap – once again, it just didn’t exist. But they were Christians who dug rap music and were regularly doing shows in LA with other rap artists (including the Black Eyed Peas) and it was never a situation where they were anything other than rappers. They were Christians who made rap music, and as is the case, their faith was a part of their music.

    Did they get crap from time to time? Sure, just as anyone who is affiliated with Christ does. This doesn’t just come with hip hop territory, it’s absolutely a part of everyone’s life who calls themselves a Christian – it doesn’t matter what your occupation is. And it certainly doesn’t automatically mean that it can’t work. It did work. LA Symphony was breathtakingly close to being a crossover success until Warner Brothers Records shut down Squint Entertainment (home to LA Symph, Sixpence None the Richer, Chevelle, and others) just months before their album Call It What You Want was to drop. They were already getting mainstream radio airplay, were on the Yahoo NBA tour, and had an album loaded with good songs, including guest appearances from Prince Paul and Black Eyed Peas.

    What I’m saying is, guys were coming up in the hip hop genre that were Christians and had good music, all the while maintaining a message of their faith in Christ. And all of this was before someone even said the words “Christian rap.” Maybe it was the coining of that term and genre that actually did a disservice to everyone involved since the people on the Christian side who knew nothing about hip hop weren’t prepared to utilize it like they should have.

    If Christian hip hop is a failure, that’s fine. I know a lot of guys who would be just fine with being failures. There successes weren’t wrapped up in platinum records and fame. They’re content to know that their families and peers respect them, as do those who were affected by the music, like me. God used Christian rap to get the Gospel to me, and it changed my life. If success really is about myspace plays, then I guess you’re right – Christian rap failed. If it happens to be about respect, raw talent, family, and standing for what you believe (all the things that hip hop has been about since its beginnings) then I would argue that Christian rap has not failed.

    Kiel’s last blog post..Don’t Dink and Drance!

  • http://scottedwardschultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    @Kiel – I only pointed out myspace plays because Jordan used The Tunnel Rats (who I admit are fairly talented) as an example of one of the “dozens” of christian artists who are doing just what Def and Kweli are doing. If both of them are doing the same thing, then why is one seem to be doing sooo much more than the other?

    As for your history, I hope you have more to share. I hardly think that L.A. Symphony is in any way representative of the entire West Coast rap phenomenon. You told me that rap and faith went hand in hand with the early developers of that genre: show me. That would be an intriguing story. But talking about a single rap group that didn’t get hooked up with a mainstream Christian record label doesn’t seem like you’re making good on your word.

    Look, I can understand your defensiveness. Music played a significant role in my own life when I was coming into the Church circa 16-18. Except, for me, it was the hardcore scene. Now, I’m happy that I got the experiences I got, and I’m glad to have met the people I did, but that doesn’t keep the hardcore scene above reproach. There’s some serious problems that accompany Christian involvement in the hardcore scene, many of them identical to the problems I named above. That doesn’t mean that God didn’t use it in his providence, but I’m more concerned with questions of good, better, and best. And, as I see it, both Christian hXc bands and rap groups may be good, but they could be a lot better, too. I’m trying to draw that out here. If it annoys you, I’m sorry.

    Scott’s last blog post..The Failure of Christian Hip Hop

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com/ hewhocutsdown

    I, too, grew up on the hardcore scene, as well as the gothic/industrial stuff.

    Like Kiel, I appreciate and dwell on the exceptional. Secular or Christian, the exceptional are not the average, and there are not as many of them as there are crappy artists. I see some exceptional artists triumph over some of the issues you describe, although by and large your comments hold true.

    My complaint is that your vision isn’t broad enough. As someone who grew up on Christian hardcore, you should be able to point out many, many examples of the exact same behaviour and problems in that scene as this one.

    So to limit your argument to hip-hop seems absurd and unnecessary. Let’s swallow the whole elephant here.

    hewhocutsdown’s last blog post..Noor, the Little Sunshine

  • Alan Noble

    Kiel, LA Symph is a good example of how Christian MCs can make good music and be respected by critics and Hip-Hop heads alike, but we gotta admit that they are an anomaly. Really, there are very few Christians doing Hip-Hop in an aesthetically appropriate way: LA Symph, Braille, the guys in Deep Space Five, uh, anyone else? And I think when Scott calls Christian Hip-Hop a failure, he is not necessarily saying that the music is of poor quality (although that is often the case); the artists that are doing things right have still been unable to reach the following the deserve–which is a failure. And in that sense, the blame lays partially with us for not actively pursuing and supporting them.

    I think in most cases what this comes down to is purpose. What Scott has pointed out to us is for the most part completely true. The vast majority of Christian Hip-Hop is a failure, and as he’s admitted there are some notable exceptions. I think that many of those exceptions avoid failure by being believers who make music rather than musicians who make “Holy Hip-Hop.”

    You know what’s strange, Scott, I am also a middle-class white kid, but I’ve been lucky (blessed) enough to open up for some top (secular) underground acts in LA and our group has been accepted by mostly secular audiences (since we rarely play shows at churches). So for my personal experience, I’d say times are changing. Of course, the style that we use is not gangster rap, jiggy, or club music, so that might account for our acceptance, which brings me back to the point that I think your argument is correct if we fine-tune some of the terms.

    Instead of saying Christian Hip-Hop is a failure, I think it would be more productive to talk about how specific styles of Hip-Hop (which still do have very specific connotations and cultural meanings) are (uncritically) co-opted by some Christian artists (for me the Cross Movement often falls into this category) with disastrous aesthetic results.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    @Scott – Hm, I have about as much antipathy for hXc as I do for hip-hop (and maybe more, since I’ll very occasionally listen to hip-hop and you’d have to work pretty hard to get me to even consider listening to a whole song of hardcore), but I would read an article from you on how hardcore as a genre fits with the Christian message and experience. How the culture of the hXc scene can or cannot be adequately absorbed into Christian cultures (or at least into the Christian cultures that demand rebranding and sanctifying of secular culture).

  • http://hesonlychasingsafety.blogspot.com Kiel

    Alan,

    I’ve hosted two Christian hip hop radio shows, written for two websites and a magazine, bought more Christian rap CDs than is probably healthy, went to every show within a drivable radius of me, and promoted and advertised the heck out of artists who I support. I can honestly say I’ve done just about as much as I can for the Christian hip hop world. Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier for others to sit back and wait for things to happen instead of fighting to make them happen. I’m not trying to puff myself up, because I know plenty of people who have done astonishingly more for the genre than I even thought about, but the fact remains that (you’re right) there wasn’t enough push where there needed to be.

    Scott,

    Christian hip hop is not above reproach and I’m in no way annoyed by that. I’m annoyed at the painting of an entire genre as a failure due to the lack of excellence in some. Like it or not, that’s the picture you’ve painted, and I’m not the only one who would agree.

    I’m not going to go into post after post of the history of hip hop and where its roots lie. I suggest you start getting in contact with some artists and people that put their lives into the industry and start asking questions about how they feel about it. I can guarantee that some will agree that in some ways, failures did happen. Nobody’s arguing that point. But they’ll also be quick to assure you that there’s more to success than record sales and mainstream appeal.

    In the end, maybe this is just a disagreement of the term “failure.” Whatever the case, I can’t get past the fact that you’ve talked to no one and admit to not knowing all the facts, but still feel at liberty to make a very large statement about the issue. We can talk back in forth in the comments all day, but I feel like the fact remains that all you’ve got on your side of the argument is the presentation of a few artists who did the genre poorly, myspace plays on Talib Kweli’s page, and an adittingly small knowledge and stake in the genre itself.

    There’s not many other topics that could get to me as much as this one, so I apologize if I seem harsh. Trust, that you are not the first to address these issues and this isn’t the first time I’ve tried to defend it. Maybe that makes me more of a fool that I’m able to see or admit.

    Kiel’s last blog post..Don’t Dink and Drance!

  • http://scottedwardschultz.blogspot.com/ Scott Schultz

    @Jordan – I was talking with Rich yesterday, and I told him that I already feel like there’s some important changes and clarifications I would make to this article if I was going to publish it again.

    To be fair, this is only my first post, so it may a little presumptuous to say that I am singling out Christian hip-hop when the critique could likely be applied to other genres (though, I believe, not to all equally – more on that later). But I guess I brought that on with my rhetoric. Lesson learned.

    @Alan – I think that’s helpful. And I think your case might be a good illustration of the relationship between geography and culture. From what little I know of the West Coast, I understand that the cultural fluidity there is significantly greater than here. And I do think that ten-twenty years from now, my article may be a lot less meaningful, given the constant flux of human culture.

    @The Dane – I have thought about doing something along those lines. It’s certainly something that I’ve had to reflect on quite a bit. We’ll see. One concern I have is the relative narrowness of the subject matter. Given the aims of this site, I wonder if something as fringe as the hardcore scene is of pertinent interest to the CAPC audience. Hip hop certainly has the edge on accessibility. (Though, apparently, I’ve had little access to it. ;-) ) But it could be interesting.

    @Keil – Well, Keil, I must say I’m a little sad that you won’t share even a single link of information about the intimate relationship between faith and early hip hop culture. But I guess that’s your knowledge to horde. Hopefully I’ll run across some other Christian rap enthusiast who’s more generous in sharing his learning.

    I’ve admitted to Jordan, and I’ll admit it to you as well, that maybe my rhetoric was little extreme/over-general. Hopefully, I’ll be more careful in the future.

    I must say, though, as much as I have an affinity for most things indie, and even though I find that stuff to be some of the most valuable and enjoyable elements of culture, I would encourage you to question whether or not record sales are an indicator of success. To be certain, success in the mainstream is by no means the sole criteria for evaluating musical achievement – but it’s at least an important part of it. Don’t buy into the indie propaganda about the call for perpetual defeatism, as if being blessed with a large audience is failure. There’s something to be said for an artist who can draw together a large fanbase by making excellent music. It certainly doesn’t alway happen that way; usually it happens by otherwise talented individuals distilling their sound to achieve broader appeal, but there are exceptions. I think Talib Kweli and Mos Def are those exceptions. And I call that success, selling-gold-records-that-mean-something-success.

    Scott Schultzs last blog post..The Failure of Christian Hip Hop

  • http://hesonlychasingsafety.blogspot.com Kiel

    The Ying Yang Twins have three platinum records. Soulja Boy went gold last year thanks to his artistic masterpiece “Crank That”, and we can’t forget the monster hit “This is Why I’m Hot” that landed Mims in stardom a couple years ago. I guess we should also mention Mike Jones, whose debut album went double platinum a couple years ago.

    I’m sorry, but the selling records argument just doesn’t work here. Look, I respect the heck out of Talib Kweli and Mos Def, but their gold records really don’t mean that much compared to what others have done in the hip hop world. It’s a shame, really – and it doesn’t have anything to do with their talent. In this case, it has a lot more to do with the taste-change among the youth culture that was purchasing hip hop at the time when these guys (and many Christian hip hop acts) were beginning to make a move.

    I’m pretty sure this is my last post on the topic. It’s obvious that we’ve gotten nowhere. My email is kielhauck@yahoo.com, email me if you want me to write you out an explanation of how spirituality affected the early hip hop scene. Sorry for cluttering up your first post’s comments section with my nonsense.

    Kiels last blog post..Don’t Dink and Drance!

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com/ hewhocutsdown

    Kiel’s right on that score. A gold record in mainstream hip-hop is like 20 myspace listens a day for Christian hip-hop. It’s a pretty low bar, and not something that one brags to friends that “we’re overtaking the medium” or some such.

    When even bad hip-hop goes platinum….yeah. See also Kiel’s comments on Kweli’s and Def’s side activities.

    hewhocutsdowns last blog post..Noor, the Little Sunshine

  • Arts216

    It sounds like you haven’t even listened to any quality “Christian” hip-hop…Yeah,there is crap but then there is alot of quality stuff..

    It’s just the same as secular stuff, you have the mainstream & the underground within the Secular scene & you have “Gospel Rap”(Mainstream sounding) & the underground in the Christian scene. Both can be comparable as both Mainstream & Gospel Rap are both rapping about a purpose (Mainstream is rapping to make money,they rap about crap & pointless,shallow things.Gospel Rap is rapping about God & spreading a message trying to save people just as Mainstream is trying to suck people into buying their albums so they can be rich,only difference is that Gospel rap isn’t making much money)

    Then we have the underground,both Secular & Christian.Both purposes are to rap about life,make good quality music,uplift a persons soul & to let people know that Hip-hop can be positive.

    Not saying that all underground stuff is positive or good however,there still crap underground too…

    Next time I suggest you do abit more research into what you want to slag off… Please visit http://www.sphereofhiphop.com & get listen to some dope christian hiphop…

    Just a question,are you actually a Christian??

  • http://scottedwardschultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    Yikes. Not sure how much response this comment warrants.

    I guess I’ll answer the single question: Yes.

    Scotts last blog post..Placing the Sermon

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com/ hewhocutsdown

    Arts216

    No matter how technically correct your comment is, the attitude is expressed is counter to the spirit of the site.

    Please express love, even to your ‘opponent’ – antagonism is a recipe for disaster.

    Scott – Thank you for not taking the bait.

    Peace

    hewhocutsdowns last blog post..The Golden Compass

  • http://www.jesusandjigga.com Eric J. Dolce

    I think that every negative thing that could be said has already been said. I’ll commend you for your courage, but let me also take another angle.

    I think that, in terms of reaching the hip-hop generation specifically, the apparent failure of Christian Hip-Hop could be expanded to include the leaders and supposed pastors of churches that have and/or convey a shallow, self-centered Christianity (“Jesus has a wonderful plan for your life”- true, but far from even an accurate transmission of the Gospel).

    If much (not all) of Christian Hip-Hop reflects only a “featherweight” punching power of the Scriptures, perhaps it’s mainly due to the influence of a Christian community that is still on milk when it should be on meat. I think that we may be in agreement on this point.

    It seems that the real story here is the failure of Christians in general to offer a substantial, biblical response to the ideas that shape secular hip-hop and specifically the content of individual songs. If Holy Hip-Hop was intended to be that response, it has missed the mark.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    What the heck? A commentor who doesn’t wanna crucify Scott? Who engages Scott’s issue and reflects on the Christian culture in which his problem is couched?

    If this keeps up, I’ll have to stop reading this comments to this thread because it’s really only people getting mad at Scott that keeps me coming back.

    All in all, I think Eric points out something valuable in that if 95% churches out there are interacting poorly with the experience of those in the society, then we should expect a similar percentage of the people within the church to interact poorly with the society when it comes time for them to create. After all, people do as they are trained and if you train them to be shallow, shallow they will be.

    The Danes last blog post..20080524

  • Arts216

    To hewhocutsdown, I wasn’t aware my post was antagonistic..I expressed no hate what so ever..

    To Scott,I’m not really sure what you are trying to achieve with this blog,I was under the impression you were not a Christian,I just thought were an athiest trying to slag off “Christian Hip-hop,my mistake.. But I would like to know why you have such a hatred for it??
    And are you actually a Hip-hop head?

  • Arts216

    To Alan Noble:[Quote]“Really, there are very few Christians doing Hip-Hop in an aesthetically appropriate way: LA Symph, Braille, the guys in Deep Space Five, uh, anyone else?[/quote]

    Have you actually checked out sites like http://www.sphereofhiphop.com, http://www.illect.com & http://www.syntaxrecords.com/??

    [quote]“And I think when Scott calls Christian Hip-Hop a failure, he is not necessarily saying that the music is of poor quality (although that is often the case);”[/quote]

    So, record sales is what we are talking here then?? Because they aren’t selling out they are failures??

    Guess what??People actually get saved by these “Evangelical” rappers,is that considered a failure??
    Or is it just about money & popularity for you?

    And to Scott: after re-reading your blog,it came accross to me that you have a problem with “Evangelical Christians”,so I’m not suprised you think Christian Hiphop has “Failed”,they’re not making money or becoming popular within the world,they are trying to win souls for Christ & that’s obviously “failing” for you…

    I’m personally not into “Gospel Rap” a heck of alot,exceptions of course, I do like Cross movement & such,because they do make quality music,not feeling their more recent releases however,but that’s ’cause I’m not really into thier style of Hip-hop. I love the underground sound & culture & I have been pleasantly suprised of the amount & quality of Underground “Christian” Hip-Hop to be coming out, so I really don’t understand your way of thinking???

    You mentioned “Manchild of Mars ill” in one of your replies.you said “My main criticism is with the genre as a whole, not its rare jewels. And even with groups like Mars ILL, Manchild being one of my all time favorite MCs, I’m still not entirely convinced that he’s going about the whole thing correctly.”

    What is he not doin’ correctly??
    And what right do you have to tell an artist how to make music? Do you write the rules on how a person should express themselves?

    I’m really not understanding where you are coming from..

  • http://scottedwardschultz.blogspot.com/ Scott Schultz

    Arts, I’m going to help you out. When you barrage commenters and writers with machine-gun-fire loaded questions (??), it gives people the impression that you don’t actually have any questions. It sounds more like a rant.

    When you ask Alan if he’s ever heard of those sites, you demonstrate that you did not care enough to read this whole thread. For if you had, you might have read that Alan is, in fact, an active member in a legitimate hip hop scene. Much more, if you had lent Alan the charitable reading he deserves, you wouldn’t have misread the very sentence which you quoted from him. You would have seen that, in fact, Alan actually likes the groups he was listing. Because you failed to do this, it sounds like a rant.

    When you debut as a commenter on here, calling into question the faith of a writer for a site dedicated to Christian evaluation of Pop Culture, it gives people the impression that you really aren’t interested in paying attention to details or subtleties or qualifications. It makes you look like you just want to rant.

    Truth be told, some of your questions are legitimate questions, and under certain circumstances, I might feel obliged to engage them at length. And maybe I will, indirectly gradually, over time – but I have no intention of providing you with ideas and opinions that you’ll likely dismiss out of hand for the sake of God-knows-what agenda.

    I actually work pretty hard to write what I write and I put a lot of time and energy into it. If you can show me that you appreciate that and that you are willing to do the same, I’m more than happy to explain at length why I said a lot of the things I said. The comments in this post ought to be a testament to that. But until that is the case, I have not much to say to you.

    Scott Schultzs last blog post..Placing the Sermon

  • Mai

    who is this guy listening too? mos def and talib kwali are not evangelical and the music from christian hip hop certainly does not stem from them. visit crossmovementrecords.com or reachrecords.com – there are tons of christian hip hop artists that he must not be looking at.

    he said it best when he started off “I don’t want to give the impression that I’m an expert on the history or state of hip hop music.” YOU’RE NOT!! lol… be sure to do better research before you post.

  • Alan Noble

    Arts216,
    Yes, I have. In fact, Illect records is primarily Deep Space Five, which I said is an example of good music. And Braille and LA Symph and are Syntax. And I have supported Sphere of Hip-Hop before, they are a great site. But these are exceptions. As good as they are, they are not receiving the attention and respect they deserve.

    As much as underground heads (like myself) want to believe that the underground represents Christian Hip-Hop to the world, it doesn’t. Most cats haven’t even heard of Sintax, Braille, Cookbook, Listener, etc. And from what I understand Scott was/is addressing what is more commonly thought of as “Christian Hip-Hop,” not the exceptions.

    Mai,
    I don’t know if Scott has heard much from Crossmovement, but I have, and I don’t see how that invalidates anything he says.

    I would suggest that anyone who reads this post seek to read it with an open mind, understanding that Scott is not attacking Christian Hip-Hop but is seeking to point out problems which can and should be fixed so that God is glorified by more excellent art. If we aren’t willing to identify a problem, we aren’t going to fix it.

  • Alexander

    Why even speak on this if you admit that you are unqualified to speak on it, and have done very little research to educate yourself? Seems to me that you’ve already prejudged an entire movement based on your very limited exposure to it.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    But Alan, where’s the fun in that?

    The Danes last blog post..20080528

  • http://www.opposemusic.com oppose

    Scott,
    Thanks for writing and sharing your point of view. Also, I thank you for answering people’s comments and having thick skin. I think I see your heart behind this article. Your heart is that you want Christian rap music to do better and you are suggesting how you see that done by others. I also think you would like for there to be music that grabs you like the black star album. Am I right in these assumptions?

    I too liked the black star album. When it came out it was switch from the radio nonsense that was out. It also came out at the right time. The death of biggie and pac opened a lane for Rawkus Records and this is evident by the first Black Star single. The lane that they run in hasn’t been seen since the days of Public Enemy, KRS-1 and BDP. Yet just like those artist Mos and Kweli’s later albums after Quality and Black on Both Sides have struggled with finding acceptance in America by rap’s mainstream, as well as younger consumers—white and black, and non-college educated minorities.

    From the standpoint of an artist my one major issue with this article comes with your definition of hip hop. Even without your forthrightness and the disclaimer I could tell your background, mainly because of how you define hip hop. It seems you define hip hop by street cred, but honestly street cred is what companies have pushed to define hip hop. Early hip hop…sugarhill gang, melly mel, furious five wasn’t so much about being hardcore it was just talking about things non-urbanites didn’t see or hear. In many instances black men did not have a voice and the music of rap provided that. Now a days people are so desensitized by things that are occurring in and out of their circles that people think because they’ve heard about the streets for years—thus, the next thing that comes out has to be harder and/or more spectuclar/controversial. Conversely people that are from urban settings can sometimes be desensitized to things that are happening outside of their realm of existence. Survival is high up on the Maslow needs chart, therefore if something is going on in another country a lot of times people don’t talk about it, because they are trying to survive. Many rappers talk about survival—what that looks like is oh so different. Mos Def and Talib are highly educated brothers (talib’s parents are college educators and his mom is an author). They both have been mentored in music by people like QTip, The Alkaholics, and a slew of others that had record deals way before they signed with Rawkus. The availability of those artists to nurture them before they had a deal also helps them articulate what they know and are passionate about in a way that people can find palatable. So can Christian rappers learn from them? Yes. Can other rappers copy them? No, not if you don’t have the same background.

    When one learns about other cultures in a good high school you can feel passionate about speaking of survival and world topics. When you travel to other countries and do shows you can speak intelligently about an issue. Background is key. Artist have to do what speaks to them and represent who speaks to them in the way that they are created and in a way that’s true to their background. I have street stories, but unless i embellish them or make them my redundant message–my street cred from a suburban kid might be questioned (that’s ironic in and of itself). whereas when i go home i’m good.

    Hip hop should be and historically was about telling one’s story like the African griots of old that told stories to a drum beat. For many Christian rappers that learned how to survive from reading the Bible what else should they speak about? They tell their stories of survival. That’s not a failure. That’s a success. Honesty and character while preaching with boldness. That’s a success.

    Do we need growth in the genre? YESSSS!!! More diverse topics? YESSSS!!!! Truths to societal ills? YESSSS!!! More exposure? definitely.

    So I hear you Scott, but I don’t think this article should call the music a failure from an artistic standpoint let alone a spiritual, nor do I think a disclaimer at the beginning means you shouldn’t grow in your knowledge. I can’t wait to see you learn more about hip hop (and this is not a diss) and Christian hip hop, because I feel that your voice is needed. I just echo other comments that as of right now, many of the comments above would hold more weight if you had more exposure and developed a more well rounded listening base. Come to rapfest (www.rapfest2000.com) in the Bronx, New York on August 9th!!! That would be a great start.

    God Bless
    O

  • Alan Noble

    Props to Oppose for a gracious comment.

  • Ryan Gollner

    Hey, this is Sundance- hip hop artist and one of the all time post dominators at Sphere of Hip Hop. ;)
    @ Scott-
    I am not going to flame you for having an opinion, or for not knowing enough about your history either. Why? Because that’s not really the issue at stake here.
    What IS at stake, is that the commercial viability of the art itself is beginning to fade away. We have seen a dramatic decrease in mainstream sales, and Christian Hip Hop has never really been but a sub-genre in the CMI (Christian Music Industry) anyways. Our numbers are pretty low in comparison to other forms.
    This unfortunately makes it difficult to make the music come off in a way that will “fit” with what the CEO’s believe is what the industry needs. And every thought the mainstream or CMI will have is forever dominated to a large degree by what will sell.
    So the road forks from there. Whether mainstream or it’s ostracized red-headed stepchild known as Christian, we have real business obligations to fulfill, and THAT, I submit, is the battleground.
    Look at the Israelites. They won many-a-battle, but one thing they did NOT do is NOT fight. And that’s where some of the problem lies. We over-spiritualize our destinies to the point where we really believe that if we just pray enough, the “magical platinum fairy” is going to finally come down to our wack bedroom studio, and “blow us up”. That’s not really God’s style, to me. God’s style is more often than not about blessing the work of a man’s (woman…) hands and slowly steering his life, than just making “magic” for no reason.
    So my main point is that Christian hip hop guys need to get their money right. And the church as a unified vehicle in which to do this is about as fail as they come in this point of history, so you all must find new ways to achieve it besides Church. Mayyybe even go out to *gasp* secular venues? (sorry for the sarcasm, it’s only underscored by my bitterness!)
    My second point does come back to what you brilliantly put about the one dimensionality of these Hip Hop Ministers. I LOVE that someone not even fully, fully, immersed in this culture picked up on this. It’s a career killer, really. How many ways can you spin and sell this one story? And yet we do have to tell it, so where does that lead us? To better song writing. And face it- rapping and song writing are very close to being almost separate skill sets that are not mutually exclusive in most cases. What sells records…what draws in fans? Real songs. Real stories. That’s where hip hop fails many times. How many people in the general population are going to watch me over the course of my 15+ year career grab my package (for Jesus) and tell them to “put ya hands up” repeatedly? It just stops being interesting.
    I think where we are at now is truly on the brink of pure failure. We must reconnect with ourselves, and MUST take a leadership role in the Hip Hop Industry as a whole in establishing warmer and more inviting relationships with our fans. Because right now, the fans are tired. They’re over it. Your rap albums that read “like a big budget film” (brilliant quote from Pigeon John about the mainstream) about ghetto life make me want nap-time. I can’t tell if mainstream rappers hate me or value me. My favorite rapper just threw 100 album sales in the air at strippers! The record companies have been making everyone fit into this silly minstrel-like role for YEARS now. And it’s ridiculous at BEST. Blackness needs to reinvent itself on it’s OWN terms, and needs to flip the labels the bird, and whiteness needs to stfu, and be itself and just make music. Why apologize?
    Rap needs to come back down to earth… and hopefully, this new generation can do it.

  • http://www.cafesyntax.com MaxOne

    interesting stuff…

    MaxOnes last blog post..Cafe Syntax

  • Arts216

    To Scott: Quote:”When you barrage commenters and writers with machine-gun-fire loaded questions (??), it gives people the impression that you don’t actually have any questions. It sounds more like a rant.”

    Sorry I don’t have a degree in english writing.. I was not ranting just asking simple questions & you can’t even answer them..

    You seem to be attacking my posts & not others that disagree with you…If my posts came accross as hateful, they were not supposed to,I’m am merely expressing my opinion on something i’m passionate about..

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com hewhocutsdown

    Arts216

    Whatever their intent, your comments distinctly came across as antagonistic and Scott has dealt gracefully by not responding in kind. In other contexts, this is known as trolling, and is discouraged.

    While some of the questions may have validity to this discussion, and are hoping responded to, your tone and choice of words communicates volumes – in this case, a verbal attack on Scott.

    I may not agree 100% with him either (or 80%, or whatever) but that doesn’t mean we can’t dialog with grace. The collective ‘we’ just ask the same of you.

    Perhaps a rephrase of some of the questions would merit a deeper response.

    hewhocutsdowns last blog post..Celldweller

  • Arts216

    To hewhocutsdown: I don’t see how my comments came accross as antagonistic,as I said I don’t have a degree in english writing..
    I don’t see how my posts were any different from that of Jared,Mai or Alexander,they all expressed their opinion in the same manner but don’t get attacked…

    I got critisized by Scott for questioning his “Faith” because his post didn’t come across as that of a “Christian”,so I assumed he was not, but yet I get called “Antagonistic” becasue my post came across as antgonistic,which is also an assumption.

  • Alan Noble

    Here’s our comment policy:
    “CAPC reserves the right to delete comments we find distasteful, disrespectful, etc. We’ll try not to do this any more than we have to, but sometimes we just feel weird about certain things being said on our watch. For more specific guidelines, see Ephesians 4:22-5:4.”

    Feel free to post comments which disagree with any of our posts, we encourage dialog and iron sharpening iron, but please make sure that your comments are edifying, profitable, loving, and are focused on the topic, not the author.

    If comments continue to be posted which are not edifying and profitable, they will be removed.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    @Arts – Rather than just tell you that your comments are being taken as antagonistic, I thought I’d explain why. Being rather well-versed in internet antagonism, I thought maybe I could help you understand why others are perhaps misunderstanding your efforts.

    Your first comment didn’t actually appear to be that riled-up to me until you hit your stride at the end. It’s true that you come off as being a little bit patronizing at the start, but it’s the end where you win negativity points. You mention that you’re not exactly aces with English or writing, so you may not realize it but the double-question mark (??) you seem to favour does your comments a lot of damage. Double-question marks are generally read as carrying a lot of passion and mostly convey something like frank disbelief or sarcastic skepticism. Adding terms like “even” or “actually” tend to strengthen the passion or fury of a question.

    Here’s an example. If I ask:

    Do you believe in Mormonism?

    One might reasonably read me as asking a genuine question, wondering whether you are Mormon or not? However, if we change our example to:

    Do you actually believe in Mormonism??

    People will read me (whether you intend it or not) to be condescendingly asking whether you are actually stupid enough to believe in Mormonism, something I seem to be implying to be quite ridiculous.

    Therefore, when you ask Scott:

    Just a question,are you actually a Christian??

    You come off as completely patronizing (whether you intend to or not). It sounds like after having read his article that you cannot possibly imagine how he could be a Christian, that somehow his sentiments in the article seem indicators that he doesn’t believe in the gospel testimony of Jesus Christ. And most readers (and probably scott himself) will naturally find such a comment offensive and antagonistic. Whether you mean it or not.

    In later comments, you adopt a similar tactic with Alan, saying:

    So, record sales is what we are talking here then?? Because they aren’t selling out they are failures?? Guess what??People actually get saved by these “Evangelical” rappers,is that considered a failure?? Or is it just about money & popularity for you?

    Again, the use of the double-question marks (??) make it read as though you think little of the intelligence of the people with whom you are presumably attempting to converse.* Then, you bust out the “Guess what??” That makes it sound as if you’re dealing with a child or someone far beneath your present level of education. Someone who clearly knows nothing of the topic or situation at hand. Whether this is what you meant to do, your words and phrases, and writing choices hold meaning to the people reading you—and what they read from you isn’t going to ingratiate you with them. Then you ask a question that almost has to be read as you presuming unfair motivation behind Alan’s words: “Or is it just about money & popularity for you?”

    These are tactics you’ll wish to keep a rein on if you don’t wish to appear as antagonistic.

    Some other terms you may wish to avoid: clearly, obviously, plainly, certainly. These are considered charged terms and are used to demonstrate the foolishness of any who happen to disagree with you. You use “obviously” later with Scott, saying that because some hip-hop artists are trying to win souls for Christ, Scott “obviously” considers that failing.

    You mention Mai’s comment and wonder why no one chastised her for the antagonistic tone she exhibits. So far as I could tell, Scott completely ignored her post as it was pretty worthless and obviously antagonistic. Alan was actually pretty diplomatic in even granting her a response. She’d probably get more of a response if she continued interacting, but she seemed to be a one-off. Just someone who wanted to post her disgust with the article but didn’t care to follow up on the conversation. Same goes for Alexander and Jared, neither of whom had anything to add to the conversation but simply wished to register their disapproval and do so in an unhelpful manner.

    I think the reason you have been reacted to is that you seem to be following the discussion and interested in interaction. You were engaged by Scott, Alan, and hewhocutsdown precisely because you have continued to attempt to engage the conversation (and sometimes with valid points). You were originally engaged because you questioned Scott’s faith; otherwise, you may have just been ignored (at least by Scott). And many of the comments have reinforced the desire to keep you involved, but to steer you toward involvement in a more constructive manner.

    Hope this helps.

    *note: my use of “presumably” here is an example of what not to do. It forces readers to consider that I may not actually believe that you are honestly attempting to converse with Scott and the other commentors. This is the kind of thing you want to avoid if you want people to take you seriously.

    The Danes last blog post..20080528

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com hewhocutsdown

    Thanks Dane, these were exactly the indicators saying to me ‘this sounds more like starting a fight than a conversation’. Like The Dane said, if a conversation is what you’re after, we’re more than willing to have it; we don’t want to patronize you or your opinions, but neither do we want to allow flagrant disrespect.

    You were ‘targeted’ because you were involved. That’s a good thing. :) I hope you stick around.

    By the way, I have no affiliation with Christ & Pop Culture aside from reading it periodically, and I’ve enjoyed the comments thread on this article. Hope you don’t take offense; if you follow some of the Dane’s suggestions you’ll be on a great start!

    Peace

    hewhocutsdowns last blog post..Celldweller

  • http://scottedwardschultz.blogspot.com/ Scott Schultz

    There has been a lot of goings on in this thread and I don’t want to ignore the many good contributions from Alan and the Dane and especially from Oppose and Sundance, but to take it in a slightly different (and possibly productive) direction, I’d like to take Deep Space Five as a case in point.

    I’ve already shared that I’m a Mars ILL fan. I also used to be an Ill Harmonics fan, and I know that Playdough was definitely the better of the pair. I own the The Night We Call It a Day and I’ve listened to it pretty thoroughly. There are definitely some high points to that album. A number of those tracks are on my iPod playlist. As much potential as I might perceive in those emcees and DJs, and as much as I might enjoy parts of their music, I still consider the album to be aesthetically mediocre.

    I should clarify that in asserting the “failure of Christian Hip Hop” I am not saying “Christian Hip Hop sucks.” I think a lot of people got that impression from this piece and that seems to explain their utter incredulity that I would make sweeping dismissals of their favorite genre. I actually like Christian Rap.

    I think it could be better though. I suggested a couple ways that Christian Rappers could improve by pointing to the merits of a classic hip hop duo.

    I also raised some points that I think are quite important. For instance, I know of a single Presbyterian-ish rap group. I know of no Anglicans, no Lutherans, no Roman Catholics, no Greek Orthodox rappers. Now, granted, it has been pointed out to me over and over throughout this thread that I’m an ignorant dummy. But from the vantage of my ignorance, I get the impression that the Christianity of Christian Hip Hop is the religion of American Evangelicalism, a religious phenomenon that has seemingly no end to its ails. I find that extremely relevant to our discussion here and it was a bit of a hidden point that I’d hoped someone would have caught on to.

    So… any takers?

    Scott Schultzs last blog post..Placing the Sermon

  • ahred

    I’ll take you up on that.

    “I get the impression that the Christianity of Christian Hip Hop is the religion of American Evangelicalism, a religious phenomenon that has seemingly no end to its ails.”

    For the most part you’d be correct, but not entirely. This is a hip hop generation defined by using what is available and “remaking” music into it’s own style or genre. In the same sense, I believe the same thing is happening with the christian hip hop community. As we view, and sample,the religious ideaology of our fathers,we are committed to reclaiming them by chopping and replaying them in a way that becomes more relevant to the current “pop culture”. We are concerned with representing diverse denominational viewpoints, but not just for the sake of diversity.

    As we have experienced, firsthand for me, the christian hip hop culture has matured through it’s own season of denominationalism. There was a time when we had “schisms” within. Do you FREESTYLE? Do you BATTLE? Do you reference scripture, or just tell stories? We actually had conferences,in the mid 90′s, that were exclusively geared for unity in the genre. There was much division. And after growing through that and fighting for a unified voice, I believe we have progressed beyond the schisms and present a much more unified voice, in message if not artistry.

    Hip Hop, of the christian variety is not a place to discuss theological variance and difference, any more than ANY creative outlet or vocation is a place held exclusively for the definition of denominational difference. It is more a place to voice, through music, life and how Christ has intersected us, arrested us and informed our worldview. We are not theology dispensers, at least most of us aren’t. We are artists. Artists use art to express what our language can’t.

    When you suppose that DS5(manChild is Catholic), LA Symph, TR’s (myself being a founding member) have the intention of evangelising through music you do yourself a disservice. While evangelism may happen because of these groups, it may not have been the intent. It most likely was simply, “I rap and I believe in Jesus, here’s what it sounds like.” The rest is just fallout. We never attempted to propagate (sp?) our denominational views, we never really presumed to know our theological tenets of faith. We just believed and rapped. As we have grown older, and matured in the Lord it has become more vital to our relationship to be able to articulate what we believe and why we believe it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that our art is the vehicle to do so. That’s better left to the pulpit. And don’t presume every mic is a pulpit. It’s not so. Not anymore so than ANY vocation is a pulpit.

    The assumption that any stage is a stage for evangelism comes from American Imperial Evangelism (you like that one?). It is what most of us fought our way out of. Having charisma,voice, creativity, and influence; many of us were pushed towards a “proper” ministry or pulpit. We resisted, as that pulpit would limit the scope of our art. We found expression through hip hop.

    You don’t see the Presbyterian, Anglican, Methodist qualities in our music, simply because our music isn’t for expressing the finer details of our faith. It’s more for how Jesus works in us, around us, through us and inspite of us as we move through this life.

    It’s pretty simple.

    To be honest, I sense a bit of frustration with the american brand of evangelism. I share your frustration. I just got back from Africa where you can see the negative influence of the “Faith and Prosperity” version of the Gospel. It has our African hip hop brothers in bondage, not to mention the church as a whole. It’s an ugly legacy, American Imperial Evangelism. One we are trying hard to undo. Hip hop is our tool and contribution to the battle.

    Experiencing hip hop in the Christian community in Cameroon makes it hard for me to subscribe to your “failure” stance on Christian Hip Hop for a couple reasons. First, there is no such thing as Christian Hip Hop there,it’s all just hip hop. Some done by Christians some not. Second,the influence that American Christians in Hip Hop have is TREMENDOUS. We were able to communicate to the non christians because of our ARTISTRY. They actually felt our passion through our professional performance and presentation of our music. They responded much more to us because of our style than our message. Our “style” of hip hop is valued much greater overseas than it is here in America. The Platinum Brand of American Hip Hop is offensive to most hip hop heads overseas. Our style and professionalism comes from experience in the trenches. Giving shows to the few, rocking for years in obscurity – just for the sake of rocking- left us with the experience necessary to reach through national, cultural and language barriers. That’s success. (I can give greater detail to success through the international experience, if you’re interested ahred5.1@gmail.com.)

    In fact our lack of success in American pop culture has led us to success overseas where the more traditional style of hip hop is valued and celebrated. Everyone has a role, we have been fortunate to find ours, or embrace ours.

    Christian Hip Hop lacks many things necessary for success in America. From where I sit, that’s not a knock on creativity, professionalism or performance. It’s just a matter of preference. We’ll get better. But remember, the faux-spirituality of the conscious hip hop movement will always, by it’s inclusive nature, reject the message of exclusively Jesus as The Way to the Father.

    Christianity will always the American Brand of Platinum Hip Hop Culture. We are in the MUSH POT!!! Feel ME??? Check Remeber the Future -FUTURE SHOCK 1996

    Peace Scott.

    ahred strange indeed
    Future Shock ’92
    Tunnel Rats ’94
    Sphere of Hip Hop since it began!

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com hewhocutsdown

    Amen bro

    To add a little to that, I would argue that

    a) Evangelicalism is sort of the LCM of Christian belief for many (NOT all) denominations. Two people may come from different Lutheran Synods, but they can agree on Christ.
    b) Secondly, it is the evangelicals who have really pushed for a ‘Christian’ subculture – delving into film, television, music, literature, even comics and theater. A huge amount of the time it sucks, because the art is in front of the horse (the art is essentially propaganda for the message). This is inherent to most evangelical art, period; hip-hop within evangelicalism therefore takes on the same qualities.

    So that is why I would argue why you’re seeing what you’re seeing, Scott.

    But the comment that ’90% of everything is crap’ is true for many circumstances; the mainstream is hardly different, the crap just smells different.

    Are there exceptions? Hell yeah, both in mainstream (as you’ve caught) and in the Christian subculture of sorts. But they are, by definition, exceptions, and they are what they are by NOT submitting to what generally defines the mainstream or CCM.

    Listener is a great example – fantastic but way out there, and definitely not following any trends, just making beautiful art. Aesop Rock on the mainstream side is the same. Lifesavas straddle both sides of the fence. Tunnel Rats dropped a bombshell from inside CCM in the form of ‘Tunnel Vision’ (imho, still one of the best hip-hop albums of all time, period).

    So, yeah. There are merits to your argument but a more full view explains why you’re seeing what you’re seeing, and that it’s far from the whole picture.

    Peace

    hewhocutsdowns last blog post..Celldweller

  • http://www.frpontifex.com Pontifex

    I was just talking with a good friend about this very topic using Matisyahu as my example.

    Here is an example of an Orthodox Jew whose message is very strong. He doesn’t shy away from what he wants to say, and at times it is preachy. However, at times he’s had the number one song on ITunes and he just finished a tour with 311.

    My point, if you make good quality music, that has well thought out hooks and lyrics people will listen to you, no matter what you are talking about.

    It’s time that Christians do not hide behind the excuse that, “People don’t listen to me because of my message.” No, they don’t listen because it’s not catchy. It doesn’t move the heart and emotions.

    I do not agree that hiphop cannot be used to communicate the Gospel. Best believe the devil is using every medium to communicate his message and he is doing it very affectively.

    We must raise the level of determination and seek to create beautiful art first and foremost and then share a message.

    Sidenote: I really do not know how you can say that manChild is not going about it correctly. He certainly is not preachy and is a brilliant lyrical artist. What do you want? It sounds like you have allowed Mos Def to eclipse all the other art out there.

    I’ve had that happen when I really get hooked into something amazing. Just my opinion…

  • Alan Noble

    Scott (From Future Shock),

    Thanks for the contribution. It’s interesting hearing how Christian music is working itself out internationally. I still wouldn’t say that Christian Hip-Hop is a success quite yet.

    The ugly truth is that the top sellers of Christian Hip-Hop are making exactly the kind of evangelical Hip-Hop that Scott (the author) was referring too. As people have read this post they’ve taken this idea of “failure” to mean that absolutely no Christian Hip-Hop group has made good music. But that’s not the point. Obviously there are great exceptions. The point is that for the rest of the world, outside our relatively little underground scene, Christian Hip-Hop is American Imperial (nice title by the way) Evangelism. Really, in a similar way that mainstream secular Hip-Hop is American Imperial Consumerism.

    I know, for example, that several people have tried to call Scott (the author) out for citing DC Talk as early Christian rap. DC Talk is not really, legitimately Hip-Hop. Okay, sure to us heads, but to the rest of the Church in American, DC Talk founded Christian Hip-Hop, like it or not. When I was growing up in the church, my friends and I only knew of DC Talk for rap. That’s reality. It’s lame, but it’s what happened. And in a similar way, for most Christians DC Talk, KJ52, TobyMac and maybe Crossmovement are Rap, and that’s it. In fact, when I started doing Hip-Hop people would say stuff like, “Oh, like Toby Mac?” and then I would groan.

    So what do we need to do about this situation? Because something needs to get done. Part of what needs to be done, I believe, is learning that ultimately art is not and has not ever been made to share the Gospel. That simply is not its function. Just has an engineer’s function is not to share the Gospel through blueprints. However, as Scott (from Future Shock) points out, if the artist is a believer, their worldview will simply (and honestly) come through, which will tell the Truth about the world. I think that is an important step in avoiding the dangers that Scott (the author) outlined of evangelizing via hip-hop. And many, if not most underground groups are doing that.

    But still more needs to be done to make Christian Hip-Hop better. This is where I plug my own post on the site What to do about embarrassingly bad Christian music.

    For myself, Christian Hip-Hop (which I am a part of), is a failure until get to the point were the genre is known for quality and excellence. As it stands, there are a few, dope, hardworking groups in the trenches doing it right. But for most of the Church, these groups are unknown, and even more disturbingly, most of the church prefers (theologically) the openly evangelical groups that currently define mainstream Christian Hip-Hop–the exact groups that Scott (the author) was writing about.

    Man, that was supposed to be a short comment. Sigh….

  • http://scottedwardschultz.blogspot.com/ Scott Schultz

    @Ahred – Wow. Thanks for that. You are my new best friend. I find it very encouraging to hear that that sort of maturity is blossoming across the underground.

    @Pontifex – I’d actually been teasing around in my head some ideas for a Matisyahu post here. I think he’s a very intriguing case. I enjoy him quite a bit and he’s given me a lot to think about.

    I didn’t mean to sound overly condescending about manChild. I already mentioned in this thread that he’s my all time favorite emcee. Now finding out that he’s a Catholic makes that even more interesting for me.

    I guess the only thing that I find frustrating about manChild is that he still seems to conceive of his work as “Christian Rap.” Certainly his vision of “Christian Rap” is much different than the “Evangelical Hip Hop” I identified in the original post, but I think he does some violence to his work by not completely casting off the rhetoric of transformationalism. Rap is not a thing to be “christened.”

    I want to be very clear that I believe the gospel transforms culture. But I think this occurs through much more subtle ways. I’ve worked in coffee for almost five years and I believe that my work there is “Christian” work both in how I do my job, and why I do my job, but I would be reluctant to ever describe myself as a “Christian barista” (though I am that). There is nothing clearly discernible about my cafe skills that would suggest to a customer that I am a Christian unless they talked with me for a decent length of time.

    I know my criticism might sound a bit trite and maybe it is, but it’s an important distinction for me. Don’t read too much into my criticism of him, though.

    @Alan – Yes.

    @hewhocutsdown – I think I might pick up Tunnel Vision if its as good as you say it is.

    Scott Schultzs last blog post..Placing the Sermon

  • ahred

    First let me clarify one thing….the signoff of my post “Peace Scott” was a shout out to Scott the author. My name is not Scott. My name is ahred, my crew is Future Shock.

    That being stated….i shall proceed…

    To Alan,

    The ugly truth is that no one cares about the top sellers in the Christian Market, no one except the money changers in the temple (that’s right, I said it). Who’s buying KJ52? Toby Mac? Church kids, that’s who. It’s their access to what they consider the “trend” of hip hop. They use it as a guilt-free experiment with urban culture. And while there is truth in those records, those records are not TRUE to the art form. Those records are not really even TRUE to AIE (american imperial evangelism). They are TRUE to the American Imperial Consumerism (nice) that you speak of. The colony just happens to be Christian Pop Culture. That is the CCM culture, not art culture.

    What I think the issue is, is lumping the “artcore” christian rappers in with the CCM rap industry. Those two things co-exist, but are two completely different animals. Take Pigeon John for example, he developed a huge fan base through LA Symph and his initial solo efforts, now he is marketed as a general market artist through Quannum Records. He’s a Christian artist, but not exclusive to the christian culture. KJ52, on the other hand, is a punchline on VH1′s “Most Non Hip Hop Hip Hop Moments”. Only being relevant to the CCM crowd. Those two guys can have a mutual respect, even love for one another, but be opposite in their approach to their art. One putting art out for the sake of art or being an artist, the other working through his art to evangelize. Maybe KJ’s “Dear Stan” or whatever it was, will lead the way to Christ for Eminem. Who knows? But would I have done that? Never, not for marketing or for message. What that type of “art” is to me, is more the “art” of marketing rather than the art of music. Brilliant strategy that led to big number sales, which is what the business of Christian Music thrives on. And this could be a whole separate post, but the CCM machine is the minor leagues to mainstream america. They are trying to attain the status of American Cult of Personality Celebrity worship, but in the name of Christianity, not Christ. “We can be cool, just like the world” is their approach. The result waters down the Gospel AND the artform. Lose/Lose proposition.

    That is what we have to separate, the artistic voice and the marketing voice of the Christian artist. We keep it “artcore” and sacrifice the notoriety and financial gain, as do most “secular” (i hate that distinction) art-centered mc’s. Other people go after the fame and notoriety, whatever.

    To me, this issue is more about the Christian approach to Art, than it is about “Christian Hip Hop’s failure”. I am not trying to establish Christian Hip Hop, i tried that in the early 90′s. I’m trying to make good music and live the life of Jesus Christ. And I know that MANY mc’s share my conviction. As an artist, I face the same challenges that all artists face, SELLING OUT! whether to the CCM crowd or the consumerism of Pop Culture. It’s a struggle.

    Does CCM culture need, dare I use the term, revival? Sure. There needs to be a relinquishing of the “Christian” title when it comes to art. Art can’t be Christ-like, only people can be. And on that note, let others determine if we are Christ-like or Christian, let’s not be so bold as to think that we have obtained that which Christ has laid hold of us for. Let it come from a lost world, looking for an answer only found in Christ.

    kids and wife are calling, let’s pick this up another time. but i’m feeling the dialog here.

    Peace Alan. (not my name, but a shout to the poster)

    ahred strange indeed. (my name) ;)

  • Alan Noble

    Ahred,

    “Art can’t be Christ-like, only people can be.”

    Is that a quote from someone? Cause if not, when I use it I need to cite you. What a great way to really sum up the issue.

    And I don’t know why it was that I didn’t catch that you were saying Peace to Scott not, Peace, Scott. Too early in the morning? Perhaps.

    Anyway, I think you’re dead-on with what you are saying. I guess I just would like to see the CCM hip-hop experiment stopped, since as you point out it’s bad music and bad theology. But lets not start down that CCM-bashing trail. It’s been done. Although the problem is still there. :-(

    It sounds like there’s still a lot be to discussed with this issue. Perhaps we can come back to it in the near future with a new post and see how we can move the dialog along?

  • ahred

    Yeah you can quote me on that one. It just kinda came out, every once-in-a-while I get lucky.

    We can always make “Boycott CCM” T-shirts!! Fight the Power.

    I’ll check in again later.

    Peace.

    ahred.

  • http://www.frpontifex.com Pontifex

    Scott, yes you did say that manChild was one of your favorites and I do not doubt that.

    You mention the word “transformationalism” as if it were a bad thing in music. The reality of the matter is that everybody is selling something, and the transformation of young kids from pumping 50 cent in their tender minds is happening everyday. 50 cent is very direct in communicating his philosophy on his human life and his relationship with other human beings, it is just packaged well. Poison is most affective when administered in tasty food. I think we as Christians are called to do the same thing only for the good. We interject Christ in the middle of a good package to transform our culture.

    I still think the center of this discussion resides in two view points, one that says hip hop is an acceptable medium to communicate the Gospel and one that says it isn’t. I say that it is acceptable, but Scott I think you make some very valid points as to the method of communication that is needed. Your work is a wonderful example. Sometimes you gotta say it with your life and it give it a soft sell. We don’t have to force feed people. It doesn’t work anyway. Peace.

  • http://www.frpontifex.com Pontifex

    I’m not a big fan of this mentality of “keeping it underground”, when many people who say that have no idea what it means.

    @ ahred I’m not ready to say that KJ52 is not being true to the “artform.” Who is it that’s defining that artform? I think he wrote that song to Eminem because he genuinely wanted to reach him. Is that a marketing strategy? I’m not ready to concede to that thought. KJ52′s music is palatable and it is packaged well. That is why it sells. Not because he’s a sell out. People like his music so they buy it.

    @ Everyone Again, I think it is necessary for all artists to stop hiding behind this facade that says “People don’t buy my music because it’s underground and because I’m keeping it real.” Nah, people like real music, they like to be inspired, they like original thought. If your music doesn’t sell it’s because you either don’t know how to market or it isn’t interesting. IMO

  • ahred

    @ Pontifex

    With all due respect, whether you’re ready for something or not does not disqualify it’s validity. I do respect your opinion, but your question as to who defines the artform catches you in the same noose. If I can’t qualify KJ’s music as outside the “artform”, then how can you call it “inside”? What we need to establish here is that there are two types of Christian’s that do hip hop, some do it for the “church” and some do it because that’s what they do or for art’s sake(and that’s not to say that they don’t glorify God with it).

    Look, I’m not dissing KJ’s ministry,or even his music. But I know that most of what he does moves through a channel of “suits” that are concerned with marketing to the CCM crowd. And KJ’s music is palatable to them and it is packaged well, to them. That actually supports what this blog is all about. The question is why aren’t there any Christian artists on par with the likes of Mos Def and Talib, as stated in the initial article. The question is not whether or not people like someone’s music, or if artists can be considered successful because of record sales. If you asked KJ if ALL of his albums contain ALL the music just like he created it, he’d most likely answer “no”. I used to know Jonah (KJ) back in the day when he was King J Mack. Over the years I’ve run into him, here and there, and I think he’s a great guy. A wonderful performer with a great heart for God. But is he creatively artistic, in my opinion, no. Is he relevant outside of CCM market? Not to my knowledge. He’s not made an impact on the hip hop community like others I know, Pigeon John, Listner, Braille, Othello, Sivion, Procussions, Surreal, Poems, etc. I could go on. He’s relevant to a small portion of the Evangelical world, a very small portion.

    I would also like to contend with your point that “people like real music” that’s why they buy it. I could not disagree more with that statement. If that’s the case then we have to concede that the BLING, CRUNK, HYPHEY b.s. that sells is “good” music. People don’t know what they like, they like what they know. You develop a taste for what you’re fed unless you seek out other flavors. It’s like my kids, who will eat chicken nuggets and fries every day for the rest of their lives. they are comfortable with it, it’s “palatable”. However it lacks the nutrition and complex textures and flavors of more developed dishes, like Chicken Cordon Bleu. Which I know they would love but are afraid to try because it looks funny, smells different, etc.

    The AVERAGE AMERICAN reads at an 8th GRADE LEVEL!!! Tell me that music isn’t marketet to that level of intelligence. Whether secular or CCM, we dumb down music to gain sales. Sure people like to be inspired, or feel good, they just don’t like to invest in something less than immediate gratification. This argument is so much bigger than this post, but i’ll stay with the music.

    I disagree with the statement “they like original thought”, no they don’t. After 15 years of working doing this, very few people even recognize original thought until it’s their own, or enough people call it “original”.

    Pontifex, please don’t take what I’m saying as dismissive of your points. I just believe that it represents a very naive perspective.

    And in case you think I’m one of those mc’s trying to keep it underground, well I’m not. I don’t care what you call my music. I’m not concerned with making music to appeal to the masses of pop culture. I work at other things within the community to raise the level of “Average” so that voices of the truly creative artists can be more acceptable to the average joe.

    I work to support my family, I don’t make music to live off. That way I can say what I want and be creative without being tied to recouping my advance or having to answer to suits.

    I’m glad my music isn’t for everyone. I put a lot of thought into my lyrics, I work hard at using language. I don’t read at an 8th grade level, so my work shouldn’t be at an 8th grade level. It’s not my job to dumb myself down, I’d rather work to raise the intelligence of others, not that I’m saying I can, but I would rather fail attempting something great than succeed at something average. That’s just me.

    I appreciate your points, and I will consider them. But I have come from the “If we make good music, people will buy it” school of thought and it just doesn’t fly. There are too many great artists out there that are not known, underground. Way Too Many!! Average music appeals to average people. That’s why the big sales numbers are attached to mediocre music, specifically in Hip Hop. For some people there is a facade to hide behind, but for others, it’s a matter of obscurity. I don’t speak for myself, or my music when I say that “genius is usually appreciated in the generations after it was created.” Van Goh sold ONE (1) painting in his lifetime. One of his painting holds the record for highest price paid for a work of art. He died in relative poverty. Appreciation takes time.

    Peace to you Pontifex. Much respect and love.

    ahred strange indeed.

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com hewhocutsdown

    Word. Much as I would love to have my daughter appreciate my Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’ album with me, it’s not going to happen anytime soon….it takes time, and deliberate effort.

    Hopefully I can read Dostoevsky with her around the same time…. ;)

    hewhocutsdowns last blog post..Celldweller

  • http://www.frpontifex.com Pontifex

    Ahred,

    I do not consider myself naive when it comes to understanding the music industry. I understand the way in which true art gets “pimped” in order to make money. IMO, I think Thomas Kinkade paintings are an example of this using another medium.

    I am all for keeping it real in the truest sense of that phrase. We all need to be authentic when making music. There are many examples of true, intelligent, raw artists who are able to make an impact upon the market. Is it as easy? Absolutely not, but nothing worth having is easy.

    I do think you make some very valid points. I’m just not ready to give in to a mentality that one can’t sell albums unless they sell out. Call it optimism, call it faith, but I’m certainly not naive.

    p.s. that underground comment wasn’t directed at you but a second thought in that post.

    Thank you for your insights.

  • http://www.frpontifex.com Pontifex

    Furthermore,

    I do agree that the artists you mentioned, “Pigeon John, Listener, Braille, Othello, Sivion, Procussions, Surreal, Poems” are incredible artists. With each attempt they truly have a shot at carving out something that impacts the music industry at large (although that’s not the aim). I do believe that.

    I want to use my early example of an artist who keeps it real and sells huge amounts of records. “Matisyahu” Here is a faithful Jew, whose music is saturated with his faith perspective and he blasts the industry. His lyrics are intelligent, raw, and very creative, and people buy it!

    There are many educated people with multiple degrees who are hungry for music that feeds their souls. (I am one of them.) All the best to the artists out there struggling to make a difference.

  • ahred

    Pontifex,

    I’m really enjoying the dialog here. I appreciate your point(s)-of-view. I still tend to think them, if not naive then, a bit uninformed. Maybe you should clarify what you mean by “huge amounts of records” and where you are getting your information from.

    Also, it seems that you are talking out of two sides of your mind: one states that the artists mentioned have a shot at carving out something in the industry with each “attempt” ; the other says (although that’s not the aim). So what I think we should do is take each artists “attempt” for what they are attempting, not for what some of us think needs to be attempted.

    I’ve known John for 15 years, and there is not another entertainer out there that compares (in hip hop). He is a kid who seems to be wired for entertaining. He has toured with Matisyahu, he is selling records, a large percentage outside of SoundScan. He does music fulltime and takes care of his family with his earnings. He has made a significant “carving” into the music industry. What else is there for him? Do you suggest that he’s not successful because he’s not on EXTRA, or Entertainment Tonight? Does he need to win a grammy or have Neo do a hook on one of his songs? A DUI? Rehab?

    I think the problem that most people have, who want to see a Christian have success, is that they define success using the same terms that the world defines success. We cannot forget that we are in the world but not of the world. We operate by a completely different economy, God’s economy. And that means that we are not to value the things the world values. I’m sure that John would want to sell a million records, I know he is capable of doing it. But in order for that to happen, the values of the hip hop community, generally speaking, would have to change. Pop Hip Hop will never have the same values carried by Christian artists, or even conscious artists. We are diametrically opposed to the value system of pop culture in general.

    I believe that there is major significance in Christian Artists who have a high level of product and performance and have NOT “made it” by the normal standards of success. It speaks volumes of what the world wants and how it wants it. Just look at the talent in the Quannum camp (Lateef, Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, LifeSavas) That has to be the highest conccentration of talent in ANY hip hop camp, and not 1 platinum artist.

    Matisyahu, with all due respect, is not exclusively hip hop. He bleeds into other genres of music, so his appeal is also to acts that “rappers” won’t appeal to. Lets compare red apples to red apples, not red apples to green ones. And again, I would challenge your definition of “huge” amounts and where that information is coming from. Labels tend to inflate their sales, if you know what I mean.

    So to summarize; i believe that artsists that I mentioned (and not only them) have already made a significant impact on the hip hop culture, and even the music industry. I question the source of your information as to the “huge” amounts of records sold by Matisyahu. And ultimately, success is something that we need to define success by the standards of our Christian way of life, otherwise we tend to fail when it comes to practicing what we preach.

    Again, Pontifex, I really appreciate the discussion. Much respect.

    ahred.

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com hewhocutsdown

    I’m totally with Ahred. Another example (besides Matisyahu) is P.O.D. – again, rap elements, and mainstream success, but not really ‘rap’ as a genre – more as an aside.

    I also second the motion with Quannum. By far my favorite collection of hip-hop, even though it omits I: Phantom by Mr. Lif. :)

    Peace, out.

    hewhocutsdowns last blog post..Celldweller

  • http://www.frpontifex.com Pontifex

    Well, I’m sure that if I release my album and it gets any type of attention, there will be those who criticize it as not being real and outside the artform because I am a priest. I’m sure it will be labeled as a marketing strategy. haha.

    My point with Matisyahu is that he is a man pushin faith, but he has made a really strong impact on the music industry at large. Impact being music sales, radio play, fanbase etc. I still think it is a valid comparison because of my original thought. Matisyahu is not a hip hop artist and I realize that. Musical artist compared to musical artist, is not not exactly apples and oranges.

    I agree with much of what you say. I just get a little bent out of shape when the real, not real conversation gets started. I think KJ52′s new album is worth the listen. I will not say he is outside the artform or that his music is constructed simply as a marketing strategy regardless of what VH1 says about him.

    “Once you label me, you negate me.”
    Søren Kierkegaard

  • ahred

    “Well, I’m sure that if I release my album and it gets any type of attention, there will be those who criticize it as not being real and outside the artform because I am a priest. I’m sure it will be labeled as a marketing strategy. haha.”

    Absolutely, if you advertise your faith and wear your collar or robe on the cover like Run. If no one knows then maybe they’ll just consider your music. People will respond to the image that you advertise, we’re a visual nation. And there is nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you want. But don’t complain about people responding to what you show them. It’s like the old analogy of wearing a cop uniform, even if you’re not a cop, don’t be upset when people treat like a cop or have cop expectations when they’re in need of police support. Or even better, the girl at the party who gets mad because everyone is staring at her, wearing a lace body suit with a thong on and pasties. (true story) A bit extreme, but you get the picture. I’m ordained, but never mention it on my cd’s, truth be told, most people don’t know until I tell them. Even guys in my crew sometimes forget. (that might not be a good thing). You do what you think you should do, who cares if people think you’re real or not. My point with Matisyahu is that he is a man pushin faith, but he has made a really strong impact on the music industry at large. Impact being music sales, radio play, fanbase etc”

    Matis’ main marketing point is his faith, not his art. Dude used to be a beat boxer/mc back in the day when no one noticed. He only became relevant as a Jewish Reggae/Dancehall chat/singer. He was the first of his kind. The first always get’s some leeway. Kindof like the “first” white rapper most people think of, Vanilla Ice (but that’s taking it ‘to the extreme’ PUN INTENDED). Really though, I like his vibe, but his execution of his delivery definitely needs polish. I wouldn’t consider him as a great contributor in his genre, save the diversity angle of him being a practising Jew. I know many people inside the industry that believe him to be a bit overrated. Not a diss, just an observation.

    “I just get a little bent out of shape when the real, not real conversation gets started.”

    Maybe my language has construed things a bit, I’ll try to make my mindset more plain. I don’t think that KJ is NOT real, I just don’t believe that what he does is the same thing as Pigeon, ProCussions, etc. I think the concessions each artist makes is born out of a completely different set of values. For example, Pigeon could have gone the CCM route and EXPLODED with major numbers, but would he have been able to make all the same songs? Would he have been accessible to the whole Quannum crowd of college heads? I don’t think so. Could the Pro’s gone that way? Absolutely, Rawkus has been a challenge, but they had access to the field of desire. They weren’t limited to any specifically religious crowd or marketing niche. Now, could KJ do what they did? With the SAME music he’s put out? I highly doubt it. ‘Cuz if he could, he would, the suits would want the sales. But they (the suits) won’t sacrifice the built in sales of the CCM market for the risk/reward of “questionable” material that might reach that CMJ (college music journal) crowd.

    Please don’t get this twisted as a “keeping it real” conversation. It’s a blog about “failure of Christian artists to make an impact” on the level of Talib or Mos Def. My points support that a definition of success is in order as well as a differentiation of the two main approaches of the Christian artist. Determining those two things will help to clarify real failure and perceived failure. Not an issue of keeping it real. i apologize if my points seemed that flippiant or immature, it was not my intent.

    And for further clarification: There are major concessions to be made when an artist sits in a meeting to determine a record deal with a Christian “major”. There is a clear set of objectives discussed, and the method for achieving them. That’s my experience at least. And in my experience, those objectives purposed by the suits are at many times in opposition to the integrity and desired methods and intent of the artist. Some artists are able to overlook those inconsistencies, some artists are right in line with those same objectives and methods. Some artists simply refuse to do music on anyone else’s terms. You got to get in where you fit in and embrace your choice. Props to those who believe in what they do and the way they do it. Some put the message before the art, some believe the art carries the message inherent in the music. But let’s not lump them both together. And on your point of KJ, again I’m not dissing for the sake of dissing. I just don’t agree that he does what “we” do. I think it’s a completely different method with a completely different intent. Just my opinion.

    Nice quote, by the way. Love it. But I prefer it like “Once you (Record) label me, you negate me” ; ) hahahaha.

    Peace to you Pontifex, I would love to hear some of your music. Please let me know how I can get a hold of some of it.

    Respect,

    ahred.

  • http://www.frpontifex.com Pontifex

    Ahred,

    Your point is well taken. I see what you are trying to say and it is more articulate then the typical underground forum comment that bashes Toby Mac or KJ52 without substantiating an arguement. I’m not saying YOU are bashing him but that is the sentiment I experience elsewhere.

    Thank you for your insights.

  • Abel B.

    Interesting article, but I don’t think Christian rappers, if they are well formed Christians, are seeking success. If you’re familiar with Mother Teresa’s words, “God doesn’t call us to be successful, He calls us to be faithful,” you’ll understand my point. I think Christian rappers are basically seeking to be faithful to God, and at the same time they enjoy using their gifts to entertain and even encourage other Christians. I’m almost 40, I have an extensive collection of Holy Hip Hop, I enjoy it greatly. I read Augustine, John Powell, Mother Teresa, mostly Catholic spirituality because it touches me more deeply and it brings me closer in union with Christ. I don’t see Holy Hip Hop artists as my ministers or as those who provide my “sermon,” but I have received great encouragement via their music. I love it! And I don’t believe it has failed. Success was never the goal! Faithfulness (obedience)is!

  • Pingback: Anyabwile on Hip Hop; Catholics on Life « owen strachan

  • http://goannatree.blogspot.com Goannatree

    What a stimulating and interesting discussion! It was worth taking the 30 minutes to read all the comments (that is so rare in blogland)and though i feel like i have very little to add to such an erudite and fascinatingly timely discussion as this I wanted to thank you all for the encouragement that this discussion gives me. I hosted a couple of radio shows on a christian station in a former life and finding quality music was always an interesting series of discoveries and i often lamented what i had at my fingertips. I had a friend (much more knowledgeable about hip hop) introduce me to some great examples of Christian hihop that reflected the high standards of quality in terms of the music and the message you have all been discussing.
    It is great to read thoughtful and engaged posts!
    A.

    Goannatrees last blog post..ChristianColleges.com’s Top 100 Theology Blogs: Part 3 (General Theology Post No.2)

  • Pingback: Why Christian Hip Hop Is (and is Not) a Failure | Holy Culture

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com Drew

    I know I am very late to this discussion, but I was just messing around on your site as I do from time to time and came across this article.

    I should say that overall I agree with your essential points and found it to be an interesting read.

    I thought I would throw a link at you to introduce some artists that I think are doing some very cool things in the world of hip hop. Reach Records supports artists such as Trip Lee, Tedashi, and Lecrae each of which are putting out some very theologically solid hip hop.

    Here is the link: http://reachrecords.com/

    I agree overall with your concerns about much of the “Christian” music that is being put out today. Much CCM is lyrically and musically shallow. However I think that Christian hip hop, perhaps more than other genres is a great way to learn basic Christian theology. This is sort of what many of the Reach Records artist do. Shia Linne (not a Reach artist) is a great example–he wrote an entire album about the Atonement of Christ! It is solid, Scriptural, and helps Christians learn about the atonement and appreciate its far reaching implications.

    You can check out Shia Linne here: http://www.myspace.com/shailinne

    Also the Reach Records guys, also known as 116 Clique (I know that is kinda cheesy, but its named after Romans 1:16), put together a very cool album called 13 Letters. In this album they have 13 rap songs in which they give brief overviews of Paul’s 13 letters. It is solid and serves to help Christians think about and understand the overall message of Paul’s letters. I really dig it. Asthetically speaking, it may not be the best music ever, but it does what music has long done for the church when it is used rightly–it teaches us theology and encourages worship of the one true God.

    I love music that is athestically pleasing and excellently produced and performed. But I also really appreciate great hymns of the faith that teach the great truths of the faith. I think there are some hip hop artists that are doing something similar with their music and even though some it is cheesy, I have grown to appreciate it because it makes me think and even encourages me to worship! I think hip hop, more so than most other mediums more readily lends itself to teaching theology and I have grown to appreciate those who are seeking to do so.

    In fact, I am considering taking some students from my church to the Don’t Waste Your Life Tour being put on by the 116 Clique! Here is one more link: http://www.reachrecords.com/dwyl/

    Drews last blog post..Some Provocative Thoughts on the Future of the SBC

  • http://lycos.com Bea K.

    Know I’m late here, but these are really good, and quite interesting comments. I just wanted to know why those who ‘say’ they are Christians, and love Christ can’t just sing the music (hymns, rap, hip-hop, etc., with Christian lyrics of course) that shows how much they actually do love “them” (God and Jesus)?

    For so many years I’ve heard over and over again, “if you want your music to sell, you don’t necessarily have to add Christian lyrics to them”, or “the secular world really doesn’t want to hear about your God or Jesus, so tone it down and say something else”, or some other such nonsense. If you really are Christ-centered, who are you trying to ‘please’, God/Jesus or ‘the world’?

    God is the one who makes the way for each and every one of us, despite what the ‘world’ says or even thinks, but it seems as if the Bible is being ful-filled at such as rapid clip because we seem so focused on “what they’re going to say or what they even think about us”. Who exactly ‘does the drawing’ of souls to the Kingdom, God or us humans?

    Hip-hop, opera, hymns, etc., if you “truly” LOVE God and Jesus with “everything” in you, sing about it (isn’t that a form of praise as well?)and let God/Jesus do the rest. It’s not about ‘us’ people, isn’t it really about the LOVE that we say we have for the God who loved us from the beginning of time, and to let those around us know that as well? If it’s meant for them to “hear the Words in the music” they will, if not then so be it. “God is totally in control” and that’s what counts. Be blessed everyone.

  • Venson

    The only thing I want to ask is: “why are we so bent on making divisions in art/music?” Art is art. Music is music. Why trip about the details? So what if any genre is failing or not. It doesn’t matter. Well, aat least to the artist it shouldn’t. True artists/musicians understand this.

    Music is art. Both are very personal. It is very sad that this is even an issue. The problem isn’t an evangelical hiphop problem. Nor is it a secular problem. It is a HUMAN problem.

    PS. I am a former Christian hiphop artist. Now I just make music. If you want to label it…fine…but best believe I don’t/won’t.

    Thanks for letting me rant for a little bit.

    Venson

  • Venson

    oh yeah check these artist out, they are believers and in my opinion have the most balanced mix of spiritualty and raw talent.

    http://www.myspace.com/mrjmedeiros

    http://www.myspace.com/othello (has had songs on MTV’s “from G’s to gents”

    http://www.myspace.com/ohmegawatts

    http://www.myspace.com/braillebrizzy (used to open for James Brown, also has had his album rated in the Source magazine,etc…

    http://www.myspace.com/theoryhazit

    http://www.myspace.com/promisemusic

    http://www.myspace.com/vigilant1 (myself….lol)

  • KB

    I respect your opinion but as a Christian and a Christian music fan i disagree. I get the feeling that you might not understand Christianity so you probably wont feel christian rap or Christian music in general. Artists like Lecrae, Trip Lee, T-Bone and others have the chops and they bring a message of hope. Yeah its not Kanye (Thank God) but for people of faith it’s a God send.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    I get that feeling too, Scott.

    The Danes last blog post..20090417.teaParty

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    KB, Scott is a professing evangelical Christian. To question that is pretty low. Way worse than questioning your chosen musical genre.

  • http://scott-schultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    I think it’s a little freaky how many people have read this and decided that I’m probably not a Christian.

    Scotts last blog post..Additionally

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Well, they still haven’t accused you of dispensationalism. That’s when you know you’ve hit the big time.

    The Danes last blog post..20090417.teaParty

  • Alan Noble

    Scott, I think the key is that most people don’t actually read your post.

    Dane, Yes, the dispensationalist charge was a fun one.

  • http://scott-schultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    @Alan – Well, Dang. Why not? It’s a good post. Too long maybe?

    @The Dane – Yeh. Guess we can’t all be big timers like yourself. ;-)

    Scotts last blog post..Additionally

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    @Scott – You’ll get there one day! And when you breathe that rarefied air, you’ll realize that all your hard work was worth the effort and that when the Preacher proclaimed that all is vanity, he didn’t really mean All—just mostly all.

    The Danes last blog post..20090417.teaParty

  • http://www.urbanitezoutreach.com urbanitezoutreach

    God is definitely elevating Christian Hip Hop, artists, labels, and the like. Checkout: http://www.crossmovement.com
    http://www.lampmode.com
    http://www.reachrecords.com
    They are reaching believers and unbelievers with the truth of Jesus Christ. Evangelistic work is being done.

  • http://scott-schultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    This almost certainly has something valuable to add to the discussion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_Oj0-splZw&feature=player_embedded

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    It’s good to see you admit defeat like this Scott.

    p.s. I was surprised that I got more than two minutes in to that thing. I kept hoping it would get worse. And then I realized it would. It, in fact, couldn’t. And so there was no longer any need to continue.

    I guess the one thing I’m left wondering is if at any point during the performance do one of those fine examples of young men actually demonstrate this inFamous side-hug with one of the two female set pieces? Can anyone answer? I don’t really want to have to watch it all the way through to find out.

  • http://scott-schultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    Ugh. I just now figured out it wasn’t satire. That kinda dulls my point in linking it… and it makes me a little bit sad.

    p.s. There’s a couple brief side-hugs near the end. During one of them the emcee suggests just patting the girl on the back. You know, so things don’t escalate into full-blown hug action.

  • http://nerd42.net/ Nerd42

    Christian rappers are entertainers, nothing more, and should recognize this fact.

  • Lemuel

    The integrity of the msg reflects in the work that you do. If the persons view or “walk with God”is week or generic it will reflect in thier work. Also, rap and its biological twin sister,hip hop,was an artform of expression. Origionaly it was not for mere intertainment. To believe that music or the arts have ever been given to us for mere intertainment is so shallow and abussive to the arts. Thats why all areas of music and the arts have sufferd. All good and perfect gift is from God,including the gift of music. God gifted David with a gift in music,and he used it to calm the King Saul when he would get tormented by spirits. God had Ezekiel use theatrics when delivering a msg to His people. Failure to in christian music is a reflection of the churches condition in general. We all bear the blame. Disciplship,exortation, and unity in the ministry of redemtion is all of our responsibility. At least artists are trying every way they can to spread the gospel.

  • J

    Forget about it. Christian rap is sooo much better than secular rap. I’ve been a fan for a while. It has a sick beat and amazing lyrics. Lil Wayne can’t rap without cussin or talkin about vileness for his life. When u look at it, look at the main heads of each group: Lecrae vs Lil Wayne, Lecrae explains that the love of money is WRONG which was exactly what Jesus said. Wayne…just wants the benjamins. Tedashii vs Young Jeezy, Tedashii says that we should be rebels for Christ and do wats right. Jeezy just wants to be a thug. Trip Lee vs Eminem, Trip says that we should not be afraid to rep Christ and stand out and set an example. Eminem is foul, and has nothing positive to say. He talks VERY disrespectfully.When it all comes down…who’s right? I know in my heart that Christians are right(i proudly am one). The music has awsum lyrics and a tight beat.

  • http://prophetiksoul.wordpress.com Prophetik Soul

    I discovered this topic late but oh well…

    I think some valid points are made in this commentary. I have met a lot of Christian rap artists over the years. As a former youth minister, I introduced lots of kids to it. Here is my take.

    1.Evangelical Hip Hop is confessionally shallow.
    I agree with you, to some extent, with this statement. One of the reasons that Christian hip-hop is not a daily diet for me anymore is simply because there is not much variation in topics. As I study the whole Bible, I see loneliness, pride, arrogance, blessings, corruption, lust, etc. In other words, it gives us a snapshot of the true reality of the world. Very few Christian artists do this period. I suspect it also has to do with the love/hate relationship they have with Christian radio. Christian radio primarily plays ‘Jesus’ music.

    2.Evangelical Hip Hop is vocationally confused.
    I agree with this statement. I once worked for a parachurch and struggled with a similar dichotomy. How am I connected to the church? Do the youth view this ministry as church? I believe this is a larger problem in evangelicalism and simply plays itself out through the way the church and Christians express themselves.

    3.Evangelical Hip Hop is a misapplication of a medium.
    This is the statement that causes the most arguments. Hip Hop was born out of African American/Latino cultures in NYC. Therefore, it had a strong prophetic bent to it. This seems to be missing from a lot of Christian music, in general. In Hip Hop’s case, I would suggest that the market that allowed for a dc talk to exist may be the issue. DC Talk watered down rap so much so that it would appeal to mainstream (white) Christian America. If you ask many kids of color from that era, I bet they never heard of them. You had to be connected to evangelical suburban Christian culture to really know who they were (which includes Carmen, etc). As a result, the rap they introduced had a very sugary sweet Jesus kind of impact on white teen Christians with no real prophetic bent. In other words, rhyming was used mainly to entertain, not inform. By and large, the evangelical church does not respond well to the prophetic word and we know this by how they responded to MLK when he was alive.

    I would suggest that to compare Mos Def and Kweli to Christian rap is not totally fair. Mose Def and Kweli continued a long standing tradition in hip hop of lyricism and social consciousness that goes back to the 70s and 80s (Grandmaster Melle Mel, Public Enemy, X-Clan, etc). A blueprint had been laid out, it went underground for a while and they tapped into it. Quality Christian rap had NO foundation to build on (other than what secular artists did) which means it took a few wrong turns here and there. That is to be expected.

    It has definitely improved but is still being boxed in by various marketing forces.

    Check out Sho Baraka, Lacrae, Da Truth, Flame, Tunnel Rats, Playdough, etc.

    Good commentary.

  • http://scott-schultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    Thank you, Prophetik Soul, for actually taking the time to read the article before commenting on it. That doesn’t happen much around here.

    You make some good points. I think your explanation of the cause for the differences between hip hop and its christian parody is helpful.

  • http://pofgblog.com Joseph

    Up front – I’m very late to the party, and normally I wouldn’t even comment on an article this old, but I felt a strong need to post on this one. I did read all of the original article, but not all of the comments. I’m on my lunch break here, so please excuse me if my comments are repeats, or have already been addressed.

    Scott – My biggest issue with your piece is that you could have left out almost every single reference to hip-hop, and it would have been the same article. To me, it reads much more like a critique of evangelical Christianity than a critique of Christian hip-hop. As someone who grew up in, and now is a youth pastor in, an evangelical church, I have to take offense at your implication that I necessarily have a “shallow understanding of the Gospel and the world.” Your arrogance is amazing. You talk about Christian hip-hop being vocationally confused, saying, “there is a very real and present consciousness among the Christian rap artist that not only is he an “ordained” minister of the gospel, but that he depends on that fact to validate his entire project”. How many Christian rap artists have you interviewed on the subject? How much time have you spent getting to know them and their lives?

    Your obvious defense is that you said repeatedly in your first paragraph that you’re by no means an expert… If you’re not an expert, then don’t talk like you are one. And don’t set off your personal attacks on someone’s faith or abilities with a qualifier, as if that makes it okay. That’s like me saying, “With all due respect, your article sucks and you’re a terrible person.” It’s just doesn’t work.

    As to Christian rap – If you come at it from the stance that Scott does, that, if it’s not being made by someone who is probably African-American and comes from a very specific socio-economic background, then it’s not rap – yeah, you might have a hard time finding good Christian rap. If you’re a little more open-minded and simply enjoy the rap genre as good music, there are a lot of good choices. My personal favorites are Lyrycyst, Grits, and Lecrae.

  • http://scott-schultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    @Joseph – Thank you for taking the time to both read all the way through my guest post here and for leaving substantial amounts of comments. I can only make lame excuses for why it took me so long to reply to you.

    You picked on something that a lot of other people picked up on and I haven’t commented much on that. You point out that much of this article would remain in tact if all of the hip hop references were removed. There’s some truth to that. I have a confession to make: Part of my intentions in writing this were essentially subversive. I needed a prop to criticize the ills of evangelicalism and for rhetorical purposes I made Christian hip hop my foil. (But if there’s one thing to be gleaned from the comment thread, it’s that I don’t have a problem with Christian rap as such – only insofar as it manifests the negative traits of a theological-cultural trend that plagues the last forty-fifty years of the American Church.) In making CCM rap my foil, some readers took this article as an attack on Chistrians trying to rap – but the trick I was attempting was to shock the readers into such a furious state that they would read intently, only to inadvertently be exposed to ideas such as the need for sound ecclesiology, sacramentology, and biblical concepts of the will of God for their life – subjects that are very important to me. I thought Black Star provided some inspiring wisdom – albeit unintentionally, I’m sure – that offered a great insight from a queer angle, and that’s why I wrote what I did.

    It probably had a lot to do with all the Wendell Berry I was reading at the time, along with the D.G. Hart influence I was undergoing at school.

  • truWord

    I think your message was clouded with the fact you decided to throw Christian hip-hop under the bus. It’s hard for me to understand what you are trying to get at when you’re underline statement is Christian hip-hop is a failure. Using that as “shock value” seemed to kill the message you was trying to get across. I believe this too is a problem in the Body of Christ. What we try to do to get a wider audience polutes our very message. Like when Christian artis collab with secular artist, thinking this is a way to “reach” more people. With in fact it sends a mixed message of who God is and what He stands for. How would Jesus been able to point our the flaws of the pharisees if He decided to be an “official” high priest and roll with them?

    I could go on about how this article makes you look ignorant of Christian hip-hop as a whole. Like when you said CHH lacks “street cred” (look up Corey Red) or they failed to come together as a community on one project (check DJ Official “Entermission” there are others but this is most recent).Just like secular rap, there are Christian artist that are lyrically superior to their peers (ex: The Ambassador, Sho Baraka, Shai Linne, etc.) and some don’t fit the bill. There are producers that can bang out tracks just as good if not better than secular artist (DJ Official, J.R., Tony Stone to name a few) and some who may not have the resources or know-how to make the beats they desire. Since the majority of CHH isn’t founded as much as it should no matter how talented artist are because of such stigmas (articles like this aren’t helping) by the world, but more sadly the Church. They already have to fight an uphill battle that CHH doesn’t appeal to one’s flesh (well the good CHH atleast doesn’t since God’s desire is that we appeal to one’s spirit). However you admitted it wasn’t about hip-hop which seems to make your point more confusing. Especially since the article doesn’t seem to match your last post reply, (stay) tru…

  • http://scott-schultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    @truWord – I get the feeling we disagree about point #2 (see above). Honestly, about half (or more) of the people who have complained about this article seem to be coming from your angle.

    Talking about Christian Hip Hop as if it’s a matter of appealing to flesh or Spirit, as if there’s a certain message intrinsic to it, as if it’s a craft designed to “reach” people – things like that – indicate that you and I are on a very different page. Because it’s things like that that I’m identifying as “failures” of Christian Hip Hop.

  • http://scott-schultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    BTW, did anyone ever follow the link for commenter Nerd42? It’s pretty rad stuff.

  • truWord

    So I’m getting the vibe you don’t think hip-hop sound be a ministry tool? Then that would go against the notion that is not about hip-hop. I agree that our main goal as Christians is to seek God to understand our calling in Him. Some may have done that very thing to come to the understanding that that is what they are called to do. I bet if you actually sit down with a Christian rapper, you would most likely find out it wasn’t their intent to rap for the Lord in the 1st place. They sought out God thru their relationship with Him and was placed in it divinely by Him. It’s not 1 of those things where people set around and looked at secular rappers and was like “Yo! We could seriously turn heads if we used that fod God!”(lol) Some couldn’t rap before hand and some didn’t even like rap before hand. So if you’re saying hip-hop can’t be used as a ministry tool, then say it. Don’t say it’s a failure like it doesn’t measure up to some bar you have for CHH if you don’t agree with the whole idea of it in the 1st place. (stay) tru…

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    @Scott – per Nerd42 – WOW you’re not kidding. AWESOME.

  • mthetho

    Evangelical Hip Hop is confessionally shallow.

  • Disciple

    You’ve got to check out

    Juice Mason ‘Battle Of The Mind’.

    It’s a classic, and a game changer!

    There are some actually great Christian rap albums with great conscious lyrics and amazing beats

  • http://nerd42.net/ Nerd42

    Thanks for the compliments on my work as DJ Nerd42. Tell your friends :)

  • http://scott-schultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    I don’t understand why people still disagree with me:

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2010/06/24/ecclesiology-meets-hip-hop/

    Ugh.

  • http://spoonfulofhahne.com The Dane

    Scott, while up until this moment I was inclined to agree with you, The Flame’s expression on church leadership was the death knell to your argument. I’m not certain I’ve ever heard anything that made me smile as much as that just did.

  • Sean

    Hi Scott, thanks for the very interesting post, it’s obviously brought about great discussion and it’s a topic many people are passionate about… which to me means it’s a timely and relevant article (even though it’s over 2 years old now!).

    I’m a fairly new Christian, but have always loved listening to hip-hop… primarily of the east coast and underground style. I was wondering if you could give me any recommendations on Christian hip-hop artists that may either match this style or are “doing it right”, just to build my own knowledge of what is out there and who I should check out. I really am not too familiar with the Christian hip-hop scene, and would appreciate any artists recommendations you or others on this forum could give me. Thanks in advance!

    (BTW – if it helps, some artists i do / did listen to include: The Procussions, Jurassic 5, A Tribe Called Quest, Hieroglyphics, The Roots, Sound Providers, Surreal, De La Soul, The Pharcyde, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Gang Starr, Nas, KRS One, Living Legends, Souls of Mischief, Lords of the Underground, Freestyle Fellowship, Blackalicious, Afu-Ra, Styles of Beyond, US3, Digable Planets, etc.) If you can help me find any Christian artists that are similar talent-wise and stylistically, it would be a great help to me!!

    Sean

  • http://nerd42.net/ Nerd42
  • Sean

    Nice, thanks Nerd… exactly what I was looking for! Any other recommendations from anyone?

  • http://nerd42.net/ Nerd42

    Well I would also of course recommend my own Christian hip hop mashup album, “It’s Pronounced Forty-Two” feat KJ-52, who is kind of like the Christian version of Eminem. http://djnerd42.blogspot.com/2010/04/its-pronounced-forty-two-bonus-track.html

  • Prophetik Soul

    Go to You Tube and find these people:
    Theory Hazit
    Sivion
    Ohmega Watts
    Braille
    Japhia Life
    Visionari
    Playdough
    Sharlok Poems
    Phanatik (Cross Movement)
    Corey Red
    Sean Blu
    Tedaiishi
    R-Swift

  • Prophetik Soul

    Some of these folks consider themselves Christian rappers and some dont.

  • Sean

    @Prophetik – thx brotha, appreciate it! imma look them all up.

  • Sean

    Hey Prophetik, Nerd (and anyone else) – where’s the best place I can find either singles or albums to buy and download these Christian underground rap artists?

  • Prophetik Soul

    Check out dasouth.com

    Otherwise just google their names and you can find a place that sells their music like amazon.

  • Sean

    thx brotha – appreciate the responses

  • Luis

    Check out these Christian MCs brother. 1) Stephen the Levite 2) Corey Red 3) The Ambassador 4) Shai Linne 5) Evangel 6) Timothy Brindle 7) Theory Hazit 8) Lecrae 9) Sean Slaughter 10) Othello 11) R-Swift 12) Lavoisier. Just look up these artist, they spit for Christ with deep lyricism real hip hop style, the way it should be done. Talib and MD are two of my favorite secular emcees as well but don’t think that lyrical secular MCs are the only who can spit, the artist I just mentioned are lyrically talented, if you like 90s rap or other underground hip hop,then you won’t be disappointed by these artist

  • Luis

    Go out and Cop Shai Linne’s Solus Christus Project and The Atonement, Spitting for Christ real hip hop style, you won’t be disappointed

  • Christian

    Lecrae’s kinda hot right now.

  • Natalie

    I like Hostyle Gospel. I found them on itunes and I’ve been listen to them since January.

  • Babs

    Hi Scott ,
    good day day. I while searching the net for general commentary on Hip Hop and Christianity came across your article.

    I come from a black working class background and from my pre teens was into Hip Hop.
    I grew up on Hip Hop from the early days of Rakim, Krs1, Big daddy Kane, Big L , EPMD, Gang Starr , leaders of the New School, through to Nas passing through generations and the changes in Hip Hop. Seeing it meagre with Rnb ala Mary J Blige, the Gangstar rap era , east – west coast feuding , the rise and fall of greats like tu-pac , Biggie smalls .
    I could go on on. lets just say for a black British guy who used to rap and occasionally still does in church, I know a thing or 2 about Hip Hop.

    I’m also a born a Christian now. one thing I have done is given up listening to Hip Hop. Mos Def who you speak about was one of my favourite contemporary rappers Black on both sides was my first introduction to him. I thought he’s was a genius.

    Now reading you article (though now almost 3 years old ) 3 things immediately grabbed me:

    1. You as you evidently confessed have limited understanding and historical understanding of Hip Hop

    2. You never mentioned if you are a Christian yourself in the article and seem to have even limited understanding of Christianity

    3. What was your motive for writing the article ? ; an attempt to have a bash at Christianity , an attempt to have a bash at as you describe them “peculiar sect of Christianity known as “evangelicalism.” i.e evangelicals …or were you simply finding a platform though slightly misguided to express your fascination with Mos Def .

    Id like to point out a few things to you

    Google defines Evangelism as : The spreading of the Christian gospel by preaching or personal witness.
    this in one swoop addresses a few of your points:

    …But evangelical hip hop tells a lie by reducing that single theme of the entire cosmos to something so dimly existential as yours and mine own “personal relationship with Jesus.” in addition ..Yes Christianity is about witnessing yours and mine personal relationships:

    Revelation 12:11
    11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

    ….Evangelicalism is generally characterized by post-fundamentalist disinterest in confessional concerns of the Church, and even formal ecclesial institutions in general, focusing the brunt of its energy, rather, on the more missionary tasks of evangelism and conversion of individuals….

    Id like to know your position in terms of Christianity , unfortunately you didn’t expound on that so that remains a mystery.

    One thing you should accept though , regardless of what people say about Hip Hop; i.e: its a way of life , its a culture etc….
    Hip Hop is still music. It has been used to express opinions , commentary , abuse , build , glorify all via music,
    the music genre that it is.

    not matter what you say it is just a style of music. The people informed are the ones who give it character and the life form it is now. so the culture lives through them. Coming on to Christian Hip Hop . All Christians are meant to witness and don’t require some kind of celestial ordaining . In the Christian Bible there’s something that is called

    “The great commission ” in Matthew 28 16- 20:

    19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    This is the first basic requirement of all true Christians. Spreading and sharing of the gospel of Jesus. Even if you chose to rap it through music . text it via a phone , face book it , tweet , preach over the TV , speak on the radio , email it .
    It doesn’t matter. Only a prude would ignorantly say it is meant to be via only a certain source or via a particular method.

    Romans 8 says the following :
    Romans 8: 5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
    9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

    So I guess it means no matter how you judge Christian Rap (bearing mind Mos Def is more of a social commentator not a Christian rapper ) its purpose is to touch hearts . If one song only changes one person in the whole world, its function has been completed.

    Christian rappers ( if you ask any of them ) are not putting music out there to compete with secular rappers, but to put the name of Jesus out there.

    also In conclusion I can point you too many parts of the bible where it was said way back 2000 years ago that as well as genuine preachers there are fake ones. The onus is on the listener to have a spirit of discernment and choose what is real and what isn’t the bible says :

    Matthew 7:

    15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    The point is this. Genuine believers of Christ are meant to use any platform available to spread the gospel.

    With it being this long Scott , you may have changed your stance , but if not , some food for thought for you

  • http://amplifiedrecords.com Kevin

    Nice article and comments. Christians that perform rap and hip hop are years behind secular artist because of early resistance from the Church organizations. The talent pool is just now developing. I would like to add one artist that has not been mentioned – Mr. G Reality. His 3rd national release “Stronger than Ever” has done everything you (Scott) stated was missing. The lyrics surround real life and Christ as the answer, not finger pointing and bible beating! Old School grooves with lyrical content that is real and relatable. All of the musical selections are top industry quality not simple bass and drum beats. “Stronger than Ever” even includes some Chicago steppers songs and family reunion type tracks. Mr. G Reality is a true rapper that is a Christian man. The entire album can be enjoyed by the Church and the streets and the reviews show it. Take a listen http://amplifiedrecords.com. If you search Mr. G Reality you will see a lot of his old stuff, which is good, but on “Stronger than Ever” he found his voice and his niche. Music can be medicine or poison depending on the lyrics. Mr. G Reality’s Stronger than Ever is pain and heart medicine for both the world and the saved the streets and the Church!

  • http://nerd42.net/ Nerd42

    > “Christians that perform rap and hip hop are years behind secular artist because of early resistance from the Church organizations.”

    Don’t you think being a knock-off genre that is trying to “Christianize” something invented elsewhere might have more to do with that?

  • http://amplifiedrecords.com Kevin

    Please everyone that accepts Christ as your Savior please support music that follows and believes in Jesus!

  • http://nerd42.net/ Nerd42

    > “Please everyone that accepts Christ as your Savior please support music that follows and believes in Jesus!”

    1. Music can’t believe in Jesus, or indeed in anything. Only a person can.

    2. Please everyone, please support music that is good. Period.

    3. Please, everyone that accepts Christ as your Savior, please don’t support music that follows and believes in Jesus if it sucks. Because alot of it does.

  • tom gloves

    This a rare interview of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at the same place.

  • dbdmuzik

    I do christian rap music and this is a ministry. This ministry is a tool that is reaching lost souls.
    People are getting saved as well as through Christian Rock country ECT.. People are being led to Christ. Why try t pick logs out of peoples eyes when you got a big cedar tree in yours. Just sayn. No one is perfect but we are covered in the Blood of Christ. WHich means we are right in Gods eyes. I could pick on alot of ministries they aint doing this right and that right but truth is we will never do anything right. We have been screwing up since the Begining of Time. Judging one another and this aint right with him or her. Ya know what what about you and i what about our ministries what flaws do i have in mine or you have n urs. To compare Christian messengers to Worldly artists is stupid. Kingdom messengers are nothing Like Worldly LOL. We are dead to what they love and appreciate. NUFF SAID.

  • http://goodokbad.com/ Seth T. Hahne

    Make Mine Marvel.

  • http://johanneschillan.tumblr.com/ StutteringHand

    Haha, I love how this article has created so many years of discussion. As tragic as this is to me, I’d have to agree with your article — almost entirely. I’ve really struggled finding “Christian” hip-hop artists that have broke any sort of relevant or interesting ground in the genre. Most of it rotates around the same theological buzzwords over and over again, and it lacks the poetry of hip-hop at its essence. Poetic books in the Bible never even hashed out doctrine in such a bland and artless manner. I’d have to disagree with your dismissal of Gospel Gangstaz though, haha, maybe because that’s because this skateboarder I really like named Lennie Kirk used one of their songs in a montage of his and I relate their work to The Chronic for some reason (an album I really enjoyed). But I really don’t have a substantial list of hip-hop artists that I feel have artfully used their relationship with God to inspire artistically credible hip-hop music. And I think that might go back to your point of hip-hop being the inappropriate medium, though I’m really hoping I find more artists to prove me wrong. This really just surprises me. There’s so much amazing and ingenious hip-hop music out there, there has to be good stuff made by artists who’ve been transformed by Christ. Someone please enlighten me! I mean, I’m really into this producer named Clams Casino now… and i like Shabazz Palaces and Main Attrakionz… but I can’t find any Christian hip-hop artists that are remotely close to the contextual relevance of secular hip-hop artists I like (such as those I just mentioned). I’d love recommendations, I appreciated a few of the recommendations made in the comments above, but most of them were older artists. I haven’t found any new artists I really like. I think Shad’s okay though, if that counts.

  • Tricia Eberhard

    LOL, I think we’ve all heard that one Dawn. It’s hard not to keep moving on to something else but I think for anyone wanting to create a full-time income, they really needed to stick to one thing until it works.

  • fb

    ( timothy brindle) lampmode recordings check him out!

  • eric eisener

    I feel this issue of Christian Hip Hop. It seems to come out of a more evangelical/right wing bend, and I’m more into rappers that have a social conscience, I’ve yet to find a quality Christian hip hop artist with a social conscience, where there focus isnt on conversion but on things of the kingdom.
    Some artists that I’m really into include K’naan , Lupe Fiasco (both come from Muslim backgrounds).
    K-Os, (comes from a Jehovahs witness background).
    I also listen to chiddy bang just because they are a fun listen, not much as far as depth, just catchyness. though the mc for them did do a trip in nigeria i think a few years back, and rapped on the hardships of there.

    Does anybody know of Christian artists that are comparable to these artists?

  • rebornXsoldier

    This is absolute crap in every way. It is little more than a weak attempt to attack evangelicals under the guise of an informative article. I’m not going to waste anymore time than I already have writing this to explain it to you because the odds of you even caring what I have to say seem astronomically slim when you and your fan club pat each other on the back for writing this kind of completely ignorant steaming pile.

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    Okay cool!

  • http://scott-schultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    Maybe the best comment ever. :-D

  • Seth T. Hahne

    Scott has a fan club!!! Apparently zombieSoldier hasn’t read the comments here…

  • WiseMocha

    Whether I agree with the article in its entirety or not, it was still a good read. I agree that Christian Hip Hop tends to skip over social consciousness, as does a very large segment of the Christian Church today. I also agree that Christian Hip Hop would probably be more effective if it were more personal, but not with the cliche of the “Jesus saved me!” message; a more allegorical delivery would improve the genre’s artistic identity. Before anyone takes offense to what I just said, of course the message of salvation through Jesus Christ is crucial in these modern times, but if you are familiar with traditional and contemporary Gospel music, you will find that the artists within these genres can be as direct as actually using scripture in their material, but still manage to have a delivery that is free of the beat you over the head, “you better get saved” message that I feel when I hear Christian Hip Hop… I’m usually thinking, “OK, man, but I’m saved already!”

    I know I am WAY late to the game, but I wanted to raise the question about whether Hip Hop/Rap has a place in the church at all. I don’t personally have a problem with it, but I have heard several intriguing arguments against Christian Hip Hop. With that said, I was wondering if anyone has viewed or is at least familiar with a series called ‘The Truth Behind Hip Hop’ by G Craige Lewis. If so, I would appreciate your thoughts on the series. Thanks and God bless.

  • Phil Diesel

    I know I’m really late with this reply and I don’t know where you stand on this issue today but I came across this article somehow (you know how the Internet goes) and I thought I’d share my two cents.

    It’s a shame to see even more division in the Church through articles like this. It’s one thing to be a music critic, it’s another thing to dismiss an entire music ministry (Christian hiphop) and compare it to secular artists like Mos Def and Taliban Kweli. I grew-up in a socio-economic climate similar to many hiphop artists, right outside of West Philly in Upper Darby. I’m an ex-graffiti artist, skateboarder, and I came-up on a steady diet of Biggie Smalls, Wu-Tang, Blackstar, Mobb Deep, and many other secular hiphop artists. To say hiphop influenced my entire life would be pretty accurate. The world is blinding, subtle, and seductive. The ideals conveyed by secular artists are the path to destruction. I lived it for about 10 years. Illegal drug abuse, alcohol abuse, fornication, adultery.. I’m guilty of it all. It’s only by the grace of God that He called me out of that dead lifestyle and filled my life with His love and grace. My point in saying that is I’ve realized that it’s essential for us as Christians to guard our ears. Music is not simply entertainment, it is a very influential tool that can either be used to bless others and build them up, as true Christ-centered hiphop artists do, or lead you down a lonely, empty path of destruction as secular hiphop does. I’m not nieve enough to think that everyone that labels themselves a Christian artist are what they say they are. Unfortunately, there are wolves in sheeps clothing that will try to sneak into the flock. On the other hand, I do believe that God has gifted plenty of artists that are Christians with a passion to reach the lost by using the gifts they’ve been blessed with. Some examples are the Cross Movement, Grits, FLAME, Lecrae, Thi’sl, 116 clique and others. What you take into your body through your eyes (and ears) will be in your heart. You know songs get “stuck in your head”, and what gets stuck in your head will get stick in your heart. In closing, think about this, music basically originated in Church as worship and the world took it and ran with it, and like the world completely removed God from it and made it it’s own. But back to my point about worship. We invite the presence of God into our midst through praise (music) and worship. Think about how powerful of a tool that makes music. It can either be used to build-up and edify ones soul or lead one down a broad path of destruction.

    Not trying to attack you my brother, but being one that’s been heavily influenced by music in either positive or negative directions, I clearly see how great an influence it can have on ones life.

  • Phil

    This article is spot on, you need to look up a guy called Karl Nova, check his stuff on youtube or just go to his bandcamp http://karlnova.bandcamp.com his take on being an MC and a christian is interesting

  • Monielle

    Hey! I just randomly came across your article. Check out an artist named Swoope, and group called High Society Collective, and Hello Revolution, also a guy name Theory Hazit. Would love to know your thoughts :)

    Grace&Peace

  • http://www.signal-7.com Andrew Parker

    Talib & Mos are depraved.

    Talking about the salvation that comes through Jesus is not “reductionism”, it is LIFE ITSELF.

    If you are truly finding yourself fed by Talib & Mos I would challenge you that perhaps you haven’t tasted the king’s feast.

  • http://goodokbad.com/ Seth T. Hahne

    “In his debut post, Scott Schultz…”

    *smiles*

  • Joy Parker

    LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

  • Luke

    Without a personal relationship with Jesus we can not be saved. Think of a earthly relationship between a boyfriend and girlfriend. Without talking to each other and having a personal relationship they will not last long together. The same thing goes with God. The bible describes Jesus as our friend. In the gospel Jesus calls us his friends too(John 15:15). Its all so obvious, God created us for relationships, all humans need love, and God is love(1 John 4:7,8). He loved you enough to send his Son to die for your sins, and he is wanting to have a relationship with you, not just sit up on His throne in heaven and send lightning bolts out of his fingertips. What you call utter failure i call Gods chosen people leading others to a personal relationship with Jesus, the only way to get to heaven. Christian rap is not as popular as secular or “non-christian” rap because if it was then it would not require being any different then the world. us as christians must be in this world but not have it. You have to chose God, and i won’t always be easy, it’s all part of God’s plan though.

  • Daniels Angel

    I believe scott has not tasted to see that the Lord is good… “I.e.kings feast” I’m guessing scott, that u come from a “religious” backround but haven’t fully experienced the “spirit” of God flowing through your heart and soul, therefore u call yourself christian to avoid feeling “afraid” of your own inner conviction of doubt… for if u were trully a christian u would be in love with Jesus and want to do all u could to spread the message of redemtion and His sacrifice and Amazing Grace! And resurection, “todays easter” ;-)…. Evangelism, has been attacked in your “article” but I thank u for posting this….
    Because now I have never felt so sure of my destiny and calling to bring the “Gospel” in the form of Hiphop/poetry/spoken word in a way that is “infiltrative” to the enemys camp! “Music industry” I will bring my testimony, the exposure of evils scemes,and even the exposure of the hypocasy and even blasphomy of “Religion” and the Church! Which is US The children of the light, believers in Christ, “Not a religious force and or bulding! Ima bring all this to light in a way that is appealing to the “street” the “lost” and even the Church,” which isn’t all bad” some just need a little more “Love” and less “religion” and they also need to believe the “words of the Bible” and not create their own version of salvation! -Daniel aka ANGEL, “A.merica N.eeds the G.ospel to E.mulate L.ove” Not Religion! Amen. Grace and Peace. -InChrist4life- ANGEL

  • Daniels Angel

    A.N.G.E.L. I inherited the name Angel from my mother, who was an Arstist, singer, songwriter who named herself Angel she was “unknown” but none the less talented. “She came to me in “person” after she passed, with the message, “BE HAPPY BECAUSE I AM” she said this 3x… “my Angel mom!” I had retired from secular rap some years back, “unknown” but talented! ;-) until 1.5 years ago when God basically showed me that He is the one who planted these dreams, gifts, passions, and abilities in me! And I didn’t see success in “conscious” rap because my music didn’t line up with my heart, therefore the passion needed to become successful was not present. But now that I have reunited with God, and trully placed my life in His hands, thru Christ Jesus, lamb of God, savior of man., now His Fire lines up with my passion, and His plans for me line up with my dreams! GOSPEL “RAP” IS AS ORDAINED BY GOD, As 7deadly sin glamorising Rap is 100% derived from the devil itself! Amen. P.s. I have seen evil, and experieced Gods Holy presence, I am chosen and anointed, ordained and called, and rap music/spoken word just happens to be what this Gen. X, latter day messanger, child of God, living breathing evengelist was meant to use for Gods mission! Now if their are some things Christian Rappers need to work on that is just the “human” element at work, but the ministry is Devine! Amen. Much Love! ANGEL

  • Daniels Angel

    And may all who happen apon this message have a blessed life in harmony with the Love of God which was made manifest in the presence of His son Jesus, and made complete with Christ’s obediance in going all the way to the cross to not only “pay for sins” but so that He may draw all that feel compassion “in their heart” for what he did for us, and save ALL who like “children” are willing to believe! By faith we are saved and not by works, although faith without works is dead, because all who trully believe in Jesus will at the very least, live their “christianity” out in the form of love for one another as Christ has loved us, and forgiveness for one another as God has forgiven us thru Christ… Amen. HAPPY AND BLESSED EASTER! And let us not forget theGreat comission, Rap music is only ONE, of many venues for the Gospel! <3 -Daniel

  • justanotherson

    Wow this article is like 4 yrs old but I stumbled upon it so I figure I should reply with some artists that I enjoy in the “Christian Hip Hop, Christian Rap” culture.

    D-Maub – nice fast flow. out of Cincinnati
    Enlitement – debut video “Farewell” is on youtube and is crazy good!
    Trip Lee – one of my favorites right now. you cant go wrong with this mc.
    Lecrae – another good artist on my current playlist.
    a few others would include , Da Truth, Flame, Canton Jones, Lyrical Disciplez, Ambassador…

    I will note that what I took from the article is that the author seemed to feel that Christian Rap was limited to one theme and so therefore was like the same thing over and over.. well I disagree strongly.. not only are the beats and arrangements (the music) different but the lyrics are always impressing me at how the artists keep the words holy but also tell a story of their lives.. Some artists take it further than others and some keep their lyrics to almost all straight from the word of God. So whether you are inspired by writing or rapping from the Bible or whether you feel comfortable rapping to us about how you fell to adultery and then took a sabbatical and found the way again(I wont mention the artist name but anyone who knows the Christian rap culture will know who I mean) .. i like it all.. Christian Rap/Hip hop that is.

    So maybe when this article was written Christian Rap was kinda stagnant but as of April 2012 it is alive and well! I hope you all that read this, especially the author will listen to T-haddy feat. Lecrae – Holy Ghost Fire (on youtube) and Enlitement – Farewell (youtube) along with other well known artists I mentioned above.

    Hope this helps someone.

  • Bryan

    I took the time to read over the article and bunch of the comments afterwards. I find it funny though that Scott is right that the Christian is somewhat lacking character in their music. However, I think you should do a little more research on good Christian Hip-hop. If you read Krs-one’s bio, it simply talks about how God changed his life and he made a switch, so you check his newer music. I don’t really like the newer hip-hop they have these days, its all about as lil wayne would say, “Girls, money, and weed.” On that note, I like old school music and mostly underground stuff like apathy, jedi mind tricks, and immortal technique. Those artists are all about speaking their mind and telling their life stories. With that being said, you guys should check out these Christian Hip-hop artists like L.A. Symphony, T-bone, The cross movement, Flame, and then look up local Christian hip-hop artists on Reverbnation.com. Keep in mind I like a lot of their older songs.

    I don’t know what Gospel Gansta site you went on, but all of the orginal songs they made were out to kids that were in the system, you should read the bio’s on the them too. Here’s my favorite song by them:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHfoU_LOz-I

  • Nia

    Let’s bring some happiness to this post!!! Here are some free links to download Christian Hip Hop God Bless you All!: http://lovemyword.blogspot.com/, mtvchristianhiphop.weebly.com/, http://www.jesusfreakhideout.com/downloads/freemusic.asp

  • Katy Loughman

    You guys should check out http://www.formvote.com

  • Pingback: trivago

  • sovereignty soldier

    I can only guess you are a Catholic. As such you love to attack Christians as that is the spirit of Catholicism which is NOT Christian. Protestants believe in Gods Word not the decrees of men. We don’t bow or idolize former Hitler Youth. We don’t break Gods Commandments as the Roman church does. We do not need a man or even Mary to interceed for us or to confess our sins to a man. We pray straight to our God and Creator. Our church never compromised with pagan religions to grow ourselves as Constantine did. Real Christians observe the fourth commandment as it does begin with “Remember”, as if many would forget.
    As for you’re assertion Christians have no business using hip hop as a medium I would say go back further than your idols “Mos Def”. Original rap was about social injustice and change. It wasn’t until the illuminati took ownership of various labels that the message went from a positive and uplifting one or even just a dance message, to negatives! Addressing your opinion about the message being the same in all the Christian rap, it isn’t! You must be listening to the sell outs who sign to illuminati labels for the money. Underground is all about truth and exposing the things done in darkness. It exposes and comes out swinging at the masonic and illuminist signs, symbols, and M.O as well as the satanic empire being built all around us everyday(New World Order). We as Christians, are charged with many missions including exposing darkness and holding to the Truth. After all Jesus is the Truth!

  • Love4Art

    Mainstream Art vs. Indie Art NOT Secular Art vs. Christian Art

    Are you seriously going to compare DC Talk to Mos Def? Seriously? You might as well have compared Mos Def to Kesha, Justin Bieber, or some other main stream crap artist.

    I think the bigger issue here is not Christian artist vs. non-Christian artist, but rather mainstream vs Indie or underground artist. Mos Def is not a main stream artist by any means where as DC Talk is about as (Christian) main stream – cookie cutter crap music as you can get. If you want to compare a Christian artist to Mos Def who can actually stand his own ground check out Stephen the Levite. Fresh beats and sound doctrine.

    Worldview Defines the Value of Art (Art=Subjective NOT Objective)

    The next underlying issue ultimately falls upon your own perspective of the universe. You’re going to see art that comes from artists who share your worldview to more likely come off as deep and introspective and see the opposite with art that expresses a worldview you give less value to. A true Christian believes that all purpose, meaning, talent, and life come from God so a secular worldview actually comes off as “shallow” to the Christian.

    As much as I dig Mos Def’s (now Yasiin Bey), his worldview comes from Islam which is any many ways antithetical to the heart of Christianity. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that there is violence in both the Bible and the Qur’an, but look at the prophets/messiah’s of both. Also look at the transition the two books make.

    Mohammed lived a life of conquest and violence. His followers were equally violent and hence in today’s world we now have terrorists who were influenced by the life of Mohammed. An islamic martyr is a name given to radical suicide bombers who take both their own lives and the lives of others believing that this will earn them a place in paradise where they will get limitless virgins to de-virginize for the rest of eternity. Christ lived a life a peace all the way until he was crucified. His apostles followed in his footsteps and likewise lived a life of peace until they were murdered. A true “radical” Christian loves his enemies no matter what and does not return violence for violence. The “prize” at the end of the rainbow in Christianity is God himself, not virgins, not material wealth. Additionally, a true “radical” Christian doesn’t spread hate like the crazy Westboro Baptist Cult.

    I Just Love Good Music

    I will say that even as Christian, I still will listen to secular artists who do more than just sing about “booty booty booty booty rock’n everywhere rock’n everywhere rock rock’n everywhere” such as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Macklemore has some really goofy songs like “Thrift Shop” which is cool because he doesn’t take himself too seriously all the time. However, he also has some really deep – personal songs like Otherside which talk about friends he had who overdosed.

    I know I went off on a rant there about Christianity vs Islam, but seriously check out Stephen the Levite. If you like Mos Def, I’m thinking you will 90% of the time, every time, like his tunes.

  • Lincoln

    The title of your article should have been “The Failure of White Middle Class Evangelical Hip-hop”. Cause without talking seriously about Grapetree records artists, T-Bone, D-Boy, The Dynamic Twins, and so on, you are ONLY talking about whatever white mainstream Christian culture thought was worth paying for.
    Says the guy who’s typing this while he listens to “Jam the Hype” Radio, one of many Christian rap radio stations on Live365.

  • Lincoln

    Seriously though, I’m not hating, but race is a HUGE factor in what white culture feels will and won’t sell, and evangelical culture mirrors U.S. culture instead of changing it. Most mainstream christian radio stations won’t play any Christian music beyond the AC format, unless they can squish it in at midnight for a couple of hours.

    So when you have a genre like Christian rap, where all of the artists doing the best work are people of color, but the radio stations won’t play them, and the bookstores won’t stock most of their stuff, and instead focus on acts like DC Talk and KJ-52, then you do end up with a sanitized, whitened, stripped down version of what Christian rap is.

    And it’s going to affect how you see the success or failure of the genre, unless you challenge yourself to dig deeper and listen to other artists.

  • http://www.geckogo.com/profile/140023219 alcohol effects on rhumothoid artritse

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after going through some of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m certainly happy I stumbled upon it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!

  • http://wiki.answers.com/Q/User:Ovidiu_Stroe servicii curatenie

    Hello,I am your brand-new faithful target audience,thank you with regard to sharing so competent feuilleton!

  • Pingback: [SONG + VIDEO] Lecrae (feat. Big K.R.I.T. and Ashthon Jones) x ‘Mayday’ « the urban alternative.

  • http://www.adresse.nl/ Zakelijke Adressen

    I’m satisfied, the way with words-at all along with the structure on your own weblog is in fact the majority of educational.

  • kris

    i’m not a christian…
    but if christians are to be known by their love then by all the replies…i guess just about everyone here’s like me. hilarious to see these replies. you guys like bad and you stab your own. now i’ll step back and let you keep showing your hate toward each other.

  • kris

    *bad music

  • Rebel

    Great article, but Mos Def is a Muslim and Talib Kweli is agnostic.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X