Christian Hip Hop, Christian Rap, Gospel Hip Hop, etc has been affectionately called “CHH” for a little under a decade but for quite some time the genre has found itself at a crossroads.
I believe the battle amongst the “new school” and the “old school”, Cross Movement versus Reach Records, may be the root of it all and even still that is ONLY the surface.
The increasingly popular Hip Hop subculture for years has been accused of having an undeniable disconnect between The Artist and The Listener. Now depending on generation, background, and overall introduction to the craft this can be considered the perspective of a rapper that never caught fire, hater, or troll. I for one say this is due to an inherent lack of Identity!
Some of this isn’t the fault of any one individual, or group of individuals, due to the reality of just driving down the street in most urban neighborhoods. It’s obvious The Church has hundreds of different approaches. Every other block it’s another building claiming the same God for different reasons, tones, and overall tradition. So while Christ died for everybody it isn’t a secret that many people are dying to redefine what that means and even looks like.
For the sake of time, I won’t make this about sound doctrine (BUT IT SHOULD ALWAYS BE) and the theology that SHOULD BIND US TOGETHER. Unfortunately, those things separate us more than being at a family cookout wearing a red hat and announcing that you’re voting for Donald Trump!
So let’s stay on task and talk ONLY about music and the industry that put Christ’s name first.
Let’s go back to Cross Movement!
Many artists argue whether they would be considered actually first, but no one can argue their IMPACT.
Cross Movement, for many people, was the lighthouse for what is today called CHH.
The artists that formed this powerful movement were not only known for their rugged boom-bap sound or gritty punch lines but mission trips, sermons giving to the poor, discipleship, and more. These guys were the first to put Hip Hop in the Church and The Church in Hip Hop, which is a good thing…. right?!?!?
This is where it gets dicey because this was the beginning of the creation of a duality within a genre that on the surface was very direct and specific.
The duality that lay within the foundation festered within the ranks but, as time went by, it became more and more prevalent that the “C” in front of Hip Hop was up for interpretation rather than considered concrete and supported by SOUND TEACHING… which is a controversial concept within itself.
What does all this mean….? MEECH?!?
Now, I’ll answer but let me first start with saying with “All Due Respect”.
This all means that Christian Hip Hop became CHH because the reality is Christian Rap was started by its pioneers to support Hip Hop. The movement was created to support an art form that had been deemed “Godless” by inserting Jesus jargon to validate the craft.
This doesn’t mean edification didn’t happen because it did!
This does not mean the gospel wasn’t taught because it was….. It doesn’t even mean that Christ wasn’t put on the forefront because he was…… BUT in all truth, the means didn’t justify the ends because at the end of the day CHH WAS CREATED TO SAVE HIP HOP NOT SOULS!
The Souls were a byproduct of speaking and teaching the Gospel.
It’s almost impossible to teach and speak of the gospel and somebody not hear the TRUTH and is made free. At the very least, those with ears to hear would have had a seed planted or watered and something happening after that starts a life focused on God. So what I’m trying to say is that, while some amazing things have happened, will happen, and can happen…no matter how many people have been used by God it doesn’t negate an UGLY TRUTH.
The genre that put His name on high was created in hopes to prove Hip Hop could be good!!!
To prove Hip Hop could have a SOUL!!
So these guys that LOVED HIP HOP decided they could prove rap’s importance to storytelling by using the Gospel as the vehicle to drive home their true point: Rap is not evil…. just the artists and their messages are!
Now a disclaimer: Rap is not evil by definition. Culture, environment, content, and its biggest stars SHOW DIFFERENT!
So was it wrong for Christians to start rapping about God? NO
It just doesn’t ignore the TRUE nature; THE GENRE THAT PUT THE “C” in front of Hip Hop might have had an AGENDA.
Truth is, CHH’s “WHY” isn’t the same “WHY” for somebody just rapping about their lives that are dedicated Christ!
As the craft progressed, the appearance of Christianity was less a requirement as it was a gimmick.
The genre thrives with Christian doppelgangers of the world’s favorite stars.
Throughout time, massive debates and exodus caused by the mention of SCRIPTURE or the standards from the Bible have been normal in the CHH arena amongst its audience, biggest stars, and the blogs!
The scrutiny of the audience became a box that no artist wanted to fit in while the co-signs of anti-Christian content pushing rappers became the seal of approval in the genre that once “SAID” they were in the world but not of it…turning around and desperately clamoring for its approval!
Now that I have set the table I can tell you my revelation and why I have to apologize to the genre and its artists in general.
I read a post on twitter from a Christian rapper that explained the difference between Gospel music and rap and CHH. For the first time it actually hit and stuck.
“Christian Artist doesn’t mean Christian by Faith”!
The thought entered my mind harder than a missile fired from close range and did just as much damage as it would if it hit a building. Every notion I had before came tumbling down. See this was a reality that I ignored or couldn’t fathom in the past that now made so much sense. I realized that me, and other Christians, had been the ones with the problem all along.
LeCrae was right about us people!
I’ve assumed the music was FROM the body when it was actually made FOR the body of Christians that loved hip hop but just wanted a little cleaner version of it!
Good doesn’t mean Godly because “good” can still be shrouded in pride of self!
All these thoughts started rushing into my mind. Old conversations with artists that didn’t end well returned to the top of my mind and it all makes so much sense.
THIS WAS WHY…profanity in Christian Hip Hop wasn’t a clean-cut conversation.
This is why an artist can be offended when their audience is judging them based on an assumption of beliefs versus only seeing them for an artist and receiving their art as just that.
Think about it like this, nobody really believes Denzel Washington is a dirty cop or a retired assassin that can kill you with anything in his reach. Nobody is haggling Ben Affleck to protect Gotham because we all know he’s acting and despite the fact that actors take on many personas, and take them very seriously, they are not assumed or held to the standard of those characters after the scene is over or for the sake of a great opportunity to paint a picture…AFTER THE MUSIC STOPS.
This is the disconnect I think that is happening between the listener and its artists.
We don’t understand one another because we entered the entire space wrong and under false pretenses.
- This explains why an artist will leave the genre and their lifestyle from that point will be played out on social media as someone that may have never adopted the Christian faith despite the fact they once embraced the Christian music scene.
- This explains why an artist within the genre, that puts Christ in front of Hip Hop, can celebrate Cardi B but will attack a believer that is confused at why a Christian artist is sharing her content and how that is NOT a problem!
- This is why many “Christian artists” consider success by secular collaborations and mainstream popularity even if their images and messages have to be tweaked.
- This is how a Hebrew Israelite can be a Christian rapper.
- This is how racial issues can set the subculture on fire while false teaching and martyred Christians barely make anybody’s “RAP RADAR”.
So with everything being said, I’m not just here to rag on CHH because I actually love the concept and many artists in the culture. Of course (Christian disclaimer whenever a standard is being mentioned) I AM NOT PERFECT or WITHOUT SIN! I am actually writing because I had a revelation and wanted to share a solution to my brothers and sisters in the body as well as to all my dope artists that make music for the Body! (It is a difference and that’s okay)
I am here to end the many fruitless debates and clear the air amongst platforms for the Body, and those in the Body, that are confused to why debates of the best rappers in secular Hip Hop dominate media cycles while Christ centered content is few and far between.
I have devised a solution that will make both sides happy.
For example: let’s be honest, a “Christian Weezy” is sober, doesn’t cuss, still has the long dope dreads and cool clothes – which isn’t a sin – and is safer to listen to than the REAL THING.
Now the argument can be raised that Christian Weezy’s appearance and content can be a stumbling block that may even create a thirst for someone to want the real thing, but that’s an opinion that can be supported by scripture…that’s not what we’re talking about.
This is about ending the fights, animosity, the CHH diss-tracks and sub-tweets, and making us a happy family again.
I honestly just want CHH to be great again and the only way to do so is reintroducing itself to its fans with a quick and easy re-brand.
Put the “C” after the “HH”!
Hip Hop for Christians……or maybe even Christian Bop….like Kidz Bop but for churchy people. This way there is no assumption of anything other than music.
It’s like turning on a song made in the world about sex that is changed a bit for the audience and takes out sex and says “love” or “gushy”…or something close enough to give you a taste but different enough to not satisfy your flesh completely. It’s the safest way to censor sin in a way that legally makes it okay to consume and can be given to children!
I really think by changing the location of this, obviously minor, letter, a lot of confusion can be erased.
I also think this rebrand can be very helpful for those looking for something specific.
This will help us to not think that we have to settle for something vague because it is nothing worse than buying one thing and getting something totally different. This change helps the artist and the listener to understand each other and eradicate unspoken expectations that KILL RELATIONSHIPS!
Putting that “C” where it belongs puts everything in perspective and will help the genre move forward.
This allows the nostalgic listener to understand there are levels to this and not to hold people to unfair standards. As a believer, this also helps us understand that it is people we should be PRAYING for instead of assuming they should be POURING into us.
This kills every supposition and places the focus on the music and not doctrine or theology.
My hope for this is that the adjustment will allow the listener to recognize the differences.
HHC is a working title but I’d love feedback.
There are enough creatives in this space to make this happen.
So when you’re reading this I pray it’s helpful and inspires you.
If you’re an artist that has been accused of denying the faith, just because of the misplacement of a letter, let me be the first one to apologize and encourage you. Allow me to tell you that, as great as the genre is, Christ in your life is even greater and I pray you accept Him. The truth is, we shouldn’t force someone to be something just because of their profession and we shouldn’t just assume people are something either.
That’s dangerous and unfair.
In closing, let’s keep having these discussions in the right forum so that we can gain understanding and build. Listen HHC has a dope ring to it and I think it would really catch and it’s totally free.
This is my gift to the genre!
– The Listener and writer that just happens to be Christian.