Christian Hip Hop’s Place In Mainstream Entertainment
Published on March 17, 2021
There have long been artists with different styles that have been on the rise to create an influence in the Christian Hip Hop genre. Hip Hop music has an innate strength and ability to lead others in worship and praise. Take, for example, the group Crossfya, who use their music as a tool to inspire young people with a message of hope and positivity. They enable them to see their potential to be the change through a relationship with Jesus.
As a widespread underground genre, Christian Hip Hop has slowly begun to find its way within mainstream entertainment. It has increased in popularity through the years, with most popular artists speaking through their music about various situations with a Christian viewpoint.
Most adversities to religion or the bible may create people opposed to this genre solely for religious differences (i.e. the Christophobic). However, the mood and method of the hip-hop vibe are still very apparent even in the Christian-empowered lyrics, a very popular genre today.
Can Christian Hip Hop actually have a position in the mainstream? Or, is it a good method for relaying biblical and gospel information to others? Why are there so few Christian Hip Hop artists within mainstream entertainment? Let’s explore how some of these Christian Hip Hoppers have stamped their influence into mainstream platforms.
Andy Mineo has appeared on the Hip-Hop radio show “Sway in the Morning,” being interviewed for his album Uncomfortable. This album found the number 2 spot on the iTunes Hip Hop/Rap chart, and as number 3 overall, further demonstrating the talent that Christian Hip Hop’s influence can compete with more well-known artists.
Though some of his music seems more politically charged at face value, Mineo works in his lyrics to relate to a wide range of people. Relating real-life instances to principles within the bible is not something new, but in the form of Christian Hip-Hop music, it can tap into the minds of previously relenting disbelievers, in some cases.
Lecrae Devaughn Moore is a very popular Christian Hip Hop artist, having started his career without faith until he unlocked relevance in Christianity through some soul-searching. He has already won 2 Grammy Awards, his Best Gospel Album award for Gravity, and then a song “Messengers” that won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Music Performance/Song.
He was one of the few featured Christian Hip Hop artists to cross-over to the mainstream. His seventh album called Anomaly debuted at number 1 on both the Billboard 200 and Gospel charts back in 2014, further putting his stamp within not only the gospel genre but with mainstream artists as well.
He’s gotten media attention from the BET group, and he was also featured in The Rolling Stone as an exclusive, which highlighted that his music should most definitely be part of the mainstream. One thing that is clear is that Lecrae is destined for success in mainstream entertainment.
Nathan John Feuerstein, better known to all as the Christian Hip Hop artist NF, is another artist found within the mainstream, which may or may not be attributed to his Eminem-like sound. It is no big shocker that he is heavily influenced by Eminem as well. He is a massive influence throughout the Christian Hip Hop genre, and someone we can expect to see big things from. The lyrics to his songs actively speak about his inner struggle and to those people struggling with mental health, with prayers to God.
His albums The Search (which beat out Chance the Rapper’s The Big Day album) and Perception have both debuted on the Billboard 200, with the latter at the top of the list. His single song “Let You Down” peaked at the number one spot on Hot 100 in 2018. We can definitely anticipate hearing more mainstream tracks that generate from this chart-topping Christian Hip-Hopper.
Another initial-loving artist Kevin Elijah Burgess, known to the community asKB, actually has a degree in Theology – no surprise there – and always loved hip-hop growing up even though his parents did not approve of the genre. His albums: Weight & Glory, Tomorrow We Live, and Today We Rebel have all ranked number 1 on the Billboard Top Christian Albums chart.
Each of those same albums also did hold rankings in the Billboard 200. His song “100” won the Rap/Hip-Hop song of the Year in 2014. He is known as the one by the Grammys as “Breaking Down the Christian Rap Mold”, establishing that the message in all his music revolves around love and forgiveness, instead of the related connotation to the hip-hop genre as being harsh towards women, and praising violence. He emphasizes that the values you have and that you instill upon your own family should reflect within your music, instead of being the opposite.
CHRISTIAN HIP HOP ARTISTS ON THE RISE
Even though these artists have made their way into more mainstream areas, there are plenty of other artists within the Christian Hip Hop genre that should be recognized and some to look out for in the coming years that have had varying degrees of success, such as:
Aaron Cole – having started producing CHH at the ripe age of four, and In 2016 he was inducted into Christian Hip Hop's top media outlet Rapzilla's Freshman Class and noted by Essence Magazine as one of 16 gospel artists to watch.
Bridgewater – A more modern CHH group, they had a breakout with their EP hit “The Mixtape” in 2017, and are brand ambassadors for Pure Faith, which is a Texas-based non-profit supporting foster children.
Erica Mason – This artist is usually described as both “pretty” and “radical” and she states it’s because “To love who God made you and how God made you. It means to be Pretty from Within.”
THE MAINSTREAM STRUGGLE FOR CHH
There is a big struggle for Christian Hip Hop to find itself making a big stamp within the mainstream world. It’s difficult to pinpoint what the reason is, but most likely those controlling mainstream music might feel that Christian Hip Hop won’t appeal to the masses. That said, entertainers in this genre who are hoping to have their work noticed in the mainstream media should explore avenues for promotion.
For example, by connecting with an agency that knows all about licensing music for commercial use, Christian Hip Hop artists may find opportunities to have their tracks featured in ads, TV commercials, or films. Talk about a perfect way to spread a message to the masses unobtrusively! We’ve already seen this happen with some mainstream Christian artists, like when Lauren Daigle’s hit “You Say” was featured in a recent Apple TV+ commercial. With all of the chart-topping and mainstream-breaking Christian artists on the rise today, it seems inevitable that the music industry and mainstream culture will eventually bring these diverse viewpoints and independent thinkers into the fold.
Perhaps another reason Christian Hip Hop is not making it all the way into the mainstream quite yet could also be that the majority of listeners care more about the music and the tune and less about the message. However, music and lyrics tend to have the biggest impact when they “fit” together, as the combination is what attracts people to it. There are many tunes that have reached success and fame more notably because of their lyrics.
Messages that speak to people have a great influence on their popularity. Mainstream music seems to lack the balance of embracing these different voices and worldviews to show the progression of society into more tolerance and acceptance, another tie back into gospel teachings and paving the way for a brighter future for Christian music influence.
By Nicole McCray
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