The 116 Life Ep. 35 – “Engaging Faith & Art Authentically with Sho Baraka”

On this episode of The 116 Life with Reach Records SVP of A & R, Ace Harris has a deep and insightful conversation with the legendary Sho Baraka, a rapper, author, speaker, and former pastor. Known for his transparency in his music and his early advocacy for justice and race issues in Christian hip-hop, Sho Baraka is an iconic figure in the industry.

Recoconciling Faith: The Making of Sho Baraka

Sho Baraka’s journey in music is deeply rooted in his upbringing and influences, including his mother’s involvement in the civil rights movement and his time at Tuskegee University. He shared how he grappled with the tension of reconciling his faith with his desire for social justice as a Christian artist.

Sho Baraka’s musical identity was also shaped by artists like J Dilla and Common. He even shared a humorous anecdote about feeling guilty for listening to Kanye West’s album and attempting to return it, only to realize that he had been depriving himself of good music.

Developing a Theology of Culture Engagement

Sho Baraka’s journey of developing a theology of culture engagement significantly influenced his music. He faced criticism for using other artists’ beats in his second album and a mixtape, which led him to reflect on the lack of personality in Christian hip hop. This sparked the idea for his album “Lions and Liars.”

His attendance at a play called “Screwtape Letters” further inspired him. The actor’s use of the platform to engage the audience with questions about faith and temptation resonated with Sho Baraka, who is known for his ability to creatively engage culture through his art.

Disrupting the Sound of Christian Hip-Hop

Our conversation then shifted to how Sho Baraka disrupts the sound of Christian hip-hop. He expressed his frustration with the genre being exclusively used for evangelistic purposes in the past. His use of literary devices and his ability to make thought-provoking music is something I deeply appreciate.

Addressing Controversies and Misunderstandings

A recent social media post by Sho Baraka stirred some controversy. He explained that his intention was not to attack the younger generation, but rather to address the culture as a whole. He believes that there are people within the Christian faith, including pastors and artists, who don’t truly believe in its tenets but still use the platform for their own benefit.

The Importance of Community and Accountability

Sho Baraka emphasized the importance of not being intoxicated by mainstream attention and challenged the Christian music industry to prioritize Jesus and let him inform every aspect of their work. He also called out artists who claim to love Jesus but have no affection for the church, emphasizing the need for community and accountability within the faith.

Challenges Faced by Artists in the Christian Music Industry

Sho Baraka discussed the challenges faced by artists in the Christian music industry. He emphasized the importance of artists having the courage to create music that may not fit into mainstream genres. He also highlighted the need for a balance between engaging with the mainstream culture and developing the Christian hip-hop culture.

The Power of the Internet and Creating One’s Space

Sho Baraka shared his personal experience of leaving Reach Records and creating his own space as an artist. He acknowledged the power of the internet in connecting artists with their tribes and finding their own spaces. He also expressed the desire to expand his music to reach larger platforms and discussed the importance of understanding who you are as an artist and the kind of music you make.

Click to connect with Sho Baraka! Are you an artist? Or do you know someone who is? Visit the Holy Culture Artist Resources Page for more information on submitting music to radio and tips on navigating the music business.

Sho Baraka Engaging Faith and Art Authentically


Becoming a Christian artist [00:05:12] Sho Baraka talks about his journey as a Christian artist and the challenges of reconciling his identity and musical style.

Influence of Southern sound [00:06:56] Sho Baraka discusses the influence of the southern sound in Christian hip hop and how it differed from his own musical influences.

Refusing to listen to Kanye West [00:08:30] Sho Baraka shares a personal story about initially refusing to listen to Kanye West’s music due to his faith, but later realizing he had been depriving himself of good music.

Understanding Culture Engagement [00:09:35] Sho Baraka discusses his journey of developing a theology of culture engagement.

Creating “Lions and Liars” [00:10:05] Sho Baraka shares the story behind the title of his album and how it changed the trajectory of his art.

Engaging Culture through Art [00:13:19] Sho Baraka talks about the impact of using art to engage culture, sharing a story about a play that communicated a gospel message without explicitly mentioning Jesus.

The intention behind the video [00:19:59] Sho Baraka clarifies that his intention was not to attack the younger generation but to address the culture as a whole.

The issue of authenticity in the Christian faith [00:20:35] Sho Baraka discusses how some people in the Christian faith, including pastors and artists, may not truly believe in the tenets of Christianity but still use the platform for their own benefit.

The importance of the church and fellowship [00:27:21] Sho Baraka emphasizes the need for artists to have affection for the church and be a part of a local fellowship that provides accountability, community, and diversity.

Joining a Church and the Challenges for Artists [00:29:34] Discussion on the challenges artists face when joining a church due to their growing public platform and fanfare.

Being a Servant and Stewarding Your Platform [00:32:07] Emphasizing the importance of artists being servants of the Lord and stewards of their platform, rather than focusing on their own fame.

The Need for Balance in Christian Hip Hop [00:34:05] Addressing the shift towards compromising and shifty messaging in Christian hip hop and the importance of being prophetic voices to both the world and the church.

The need for conferences and platforms [00:41:20] Discussion on the relevance of conferences and platforms in supporting and validating certain types of music.

The importance of the church [00:47:05] The speaker expresses his love for the church and its role in transforming the world.

The purpose of the church as a safe haven [00:49:08] Explanation of the church as a safe haven and the importance of being connected to it for redemption and repentance.

The deflecting behavior of Christians [00:50:08] The discussion revolves around how Christians tend to deflect compliments or praise, often attributing their success or possessions to God.

Questioning the intention of the show [00:50:22] The host reflects on whether the show was meant to criticize or challenge younger Christians, but ultimately sees it as a necessary conversation to encourage everyone to find their place in the body of Christ.

Closing remarks and farewell [00:50:53] The segment concludes with the host bidding farewell and encouraging listeners to stay connected and engaged.

Related Radio Show: 116 Life