Thank You, CHH.
When I was 13, you could pretty much always catch me listening to hip-hop. I mostly listened to Wu-Tang Clan (like they say, “Wu-Tang is for the children!”). I had never stepped foot into a Church. I didn’t pray. I believed in God, but I didn’t know anything about Him. I just hoped I would be good enough to get into Heaven all while living a life that was all about me. I told people I was a Christian because that’s what almost everyone says living in the Bible-Belt. I was clueless about all things relating to Christianity and honestly, I was okay with that. Life was decent enough.
Then someone in my circle died when he was 15 years old. His funeral shook me.
“Why did he have to die?”
“Why didn’t I apologize to him for the conflicts we had?”
“Will a Pastor have to lie at my funeral in an attempt to comfort my family?”
I hated the questions but I hated the answers even more. I knew I needed change.
I was invited to a church not too long after that, but I declined. Jesus and Church just wasn’t my thing. But when I heard there would be free food and girls there, this 13-year-old had a change of heart! I went and actually enjoyed it. After two years of learning about Jesus, I became one of His followers.
My whole life changed. I was a completely different person, but I still loved hip-hop (the beats, rhymes, culture). And to be honest, I wrestled with that a lot. I thought becoming a Christian meant that I had to drop hip-hop and pick up Michael W. Smith instead. So, while looking to purchase my first Christian album, an employee asked me if I had ever heard of Lil’ Raskull.
- “He’s a Christian rapper…”
- “He raps about Jesus. You should check him out!”
So, I did.
And through that, I found Gospel Gangstaz, Urban D, KJ-52 & Sons of Intellect. There was T-Bone, Tunnel Rats, Peace 586, Sup the Chemist, DIRT, GRITS, and Pettidee. As I looked for more, I found more. Artists like ETW, IDOL Kings, the entire Grapetree Records roster and of course, The Cross Movement (“lookin’ like a Christian Wu-Tang”).
I was so encouraged by what I heard. And more importantly, I grew in my faith. Many of these songs taught me Bible verses, challenged my perceptions of life and invited me to seek God more. Since the Christian Hip-Hop (CHH) community was still relatively small at the time, I was able to create friendships with a number of artists and others believers online (S/O HolyCulture, GodzHouse, DaSouth & HipHopZone) and also off-line at concerts.
It was community. And from that community I felt like WE were winning when GRITS and The Cross Movement individually made it on BET’s Rap City and when E-Roc was on MTV’s show The Cut. And WE all were shocked when MTV’s Total Request Live played only the first verse KJ-52’s song, “Dear Slim” and made it seem like it was a diss-track but still excited it was showed. The commUNITY won and grew together.
God used CHH and the community to help me through some pivotal times in my life as a teenager and into adulthood. After listening to The Cross Movement’s Human Emergency album, I gave a sermon at my Church relating the story of the Good Samaritan to a present-day human emergency. After speaking this message, I was invited to do a ride-along with a Police Officer who heard the message. It was in his patrol car where I received my call to law enforcement.
I’ve seen the sacrifices many have made to put a quality album together firsthand. I’ve worked for a CHH record label, I've been a booking manager and helped manage both DROP CD Projects for Holy Culture. I’ve experienced only a small percentage of the dedication most artists put in. Their sacrifice is magnified by constant late nights, separation from family during tours, fatigue, violation(s) of contract or not getting paid the agreed amount, relentless highs and lows and dipping into their own wallets to make a project happen.
In recognizing all that you have given up for the sake of the Gospel, much of which is unseen by the general public, I’m grateful. Now I desire to go to Church to fellowship with other believers. I pray. I believe in God and have a relationship with Him. I tell others I’m a Christian because I am one. I’m continually growing in faith and knowledge and desire to know more. And honestly, I’m not okay with pretending to be “okay.” I want to live a real, transparent life. I pray others are impacted like I’ve been and share the same gratitude.
Thank You, CHH. But, even more, Thank You JESUS!!!
Note: This article isn’t written to glorify CHH over God but rather to encourage the many hardworking individuals within the genre and remind us all of the impact we can have through our gifts and talents.